Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin was officially awarded the Scholar-Statesman Medal by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The Scholar-Statesman Award celebrates outstanding leaders who, through their public service and professional achievements, exemplify the idea that sound scholarship and a discerning knowledge of history are essential to wise and effective policy and the advancement of peace and security in the Middle East.
Previous recipients include former US President Bill Clinton, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and King Abdallah II of Jordan who sent a special video message to President Rivlin on his award.
In bestowing the award on President Rivlin, the Institute’s executive director Dr. Robert Satloff said that it was a privilege to honor President Rivlin for his “commitment to integrity, commitment to tolerance, to unity, and to hope”.
The President then spoke in conversation with Dr. Satloff via Zoom, which was broadcast to the Washington Institute’s supporters and a wide audience of leading policy, academic and media figures, in place of the annual dinner which could not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic. The president thanked Dr. Satloff and all at the Washington Institute, for the award, which he noted was a great privilege to receive.
In their discussion, the president spoke about the resilience of Israel’s democracy, the recent seismic changes in the region, and about his hopes for a future end to the conflict with the Palestinians based on mutual trust and respect.
President Rivlin explained the importance of democracy in Jewish tradition, “Democracy is democracy. When we talk about a Jewish democracy, the Talmud Rabbis, the Talmud philosophers had a lot of differences of opinion to say the least, and the decision was the decision of the majority.”
He added, “Israel is a Jewish democratic state. Not less Jewish, and not less of a democracy. Even 120 members of the Knesset, the whole Knesset, cannot change the nature of Israel as a Jewish state, and cannot change the nature of Israel as a democracy.”
Rivlin welcomed the recent normalization agreements signed between Israel and three Arab nations, brokered by the White House, and spoke of the need to build trust with the Palestinian Authority.
“We have to find a way in order to understand: we are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together. We have peace with the Egyptians for more than 40 years, we have peace with the Jordanians for the last 27 years – we have peace with the King, with the president, with the administrations, sometimes we have peace with the armies when we need to uphold the security of the whole region.
“But we don’t have peace between the peoples, and as long as we don’t have peace between the people, it is really something that cannot bring us to real peace, to real understanding.”