As Israel goes to the polls, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Likud party candidate and incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and top challenger Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz issued statements that were published in the Israeli press. AIJAC reprints them here. In the case of Rivlin’s statement, AIJAC provided the translation.
For a better future
President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, Yediot Ahronot, 8.4.2019
Every four years, sometimes a little less, Israeli democracy wears festive clothes adorned with ballots in all shades of the political spectrum. Naturally, every “holiday” is different from the previous one. And this “holiday” is different from its predecessors. Perhaps because of the burning issues that have come to the fore. Perhaps because of the unique feeling that this is an arduous and penetrating election campaign. And perhaps those new and veteran candidates full of fighting spirit.
Many may say that it is precisely the expectation of Israeli citizens that these elections will constitute a decisive point of change, one way or the other, regarding some of the core issues of Israeli society today.
As in any election campaign, I call upon and urge the residents of Israel to come out and realize their right and their democratic duty to vote and influence. The exercise of voting rights constitutes a commitment to our members and future generations to strive for a better future. Even if the list we voted for does not form a government at last, or will not pass the threshold – no vote is wasted or forgotten. We all listen, we all hear, and we all benefit.
But today I want to remind all of us that our civic duty does not end with a one-time vote, but with a daily struggle to improve the life of Israeli society and the status of the State of Israel.
Ten days after the elections we will celebrate the holiday of freedom and sit around the Seder table. Leaning back side by side, right, left and center voters together, will be an important reminder to all of us. Indeed, Israel is a composite of many tribes, but at the end of the day we are all one, and we all share the fate of our Jewish and democratic state. Together and separately, we are all responsible for maintaining a respectful public discourse, in which no tribe is left behind, and no position or path is sacrificed on the altar of controversy.
The rules of the democratic game protect us all, both majority and minority, and ensure that our voices are heard. In this game there are no teams and no opponents, and the winner is the entire Israeli society. Tonight when we sit down to watch the results of the returns we will know immediately if we won. If the State of Israel won. If Israeli democracy won. If the Israeli public did not give up and went to vote.
We have only ourselves to depend on
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel Hayom, 08.04.2019
We are on the cusp of a historic election that will determine the path of the nation for the next few years. The right-wing government is in danger. Right now, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz are four to five seats ahead of the Likud, and if that doesn’t change, they will smash the right-wing bloc and form the next government. It’s getting late, and the danger is real. We have only ourselves to depend on.
When you vote for me, you know that I’ll never compromise on national security. I will never uproot Jewish settlements and that Jews will never be expelled from their homes. The personal ties I have formed with Russian President Vladimir Putin are vital to our security and allow us to control our fate. My personal connections to other world leaders offers our nation wonderful possibilities. I have deep ties to U.S. President Trump, cased on mutual respect, thanks to which we have made historical achievements in only two years: the U.S. has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights; the U.S. Embassy in Israel has relocated to Jerusalem; the U.S. has withdrawn from the dangerous Iran nuclear agreement and reinstated its sanctions against Iran. Imagine how much more we could achieve if I continue to lead the country.
Thanks to the economic policies of the Likud under my leadership, Israel is becoming world power. Its credit rating is rising; the national debt is dropping; and exports are up. Unemployment is at an all-time low; monthly salaries are increasing; and your money is worth more. We are cutting back on regulation; opening markets; and investing more in infrastructure and construction than any other government. Not for nothing – 89% of Israelis say they are happy living here.
Nevertheless, the situation is worrying. This progress could come to a stop because right-wing voters are complacent and ignoring the harsh criticism from the Left. They think that a Likud victory is in the bag, so they don’t even need to go and vote. That would be a serious mistake we would regret like we regretted the mistakes of 1992 and 1999. If we don’t all join forces, Lapid and Gantz could establish a left-wing government that would put the State of Israel at risk. We must not let that happen.
We want to serve you
Benny Gantz, Israel Hayom, 08.04.2019
For 38 years, I was a soldier, a fighter and a commander. I made tough and courageous decisions. I led combat fighters beyond enemy lines and answered phone calls in the middle of the night.
As someone who marched all the way from a small moshav near Kiryat Malakhi in Israel’s south to the holiest of the holies in Israel’s security system, I can confidently say that we do things through action, not words.
In the difficult and violent Middle East neighborhood in which we live, there is no mercy for the weak. Only the strong emerge victorious. Unfortunately, our defenses have been weakened. Over 1,000 rockets were launched toward the State of Israel in 2018, as the suitcases of money, which served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insurance, continued to flow into the Hamas regime.
I ask you, citizens of Israel, for the opportunity to lead the State of Israel. I promise to bolster security, fight corruption and look out for Israelis’ day-to-day lives; to take care of the sick people in the crowded emergency rooms, students who don’t have the opportunity to succeed, neglected senior citizens and people with disabilities and the families and the young people fighting to survive despite the soaring cost of living.
As I look you in the eyes, I promise: I have come to serve you. I know your troubles, I am sensitive to your pain and I intend to wake up every morning to make sure you have it better.
Unfortunately, Netanyahu is preoccupied with himself and his personal survival. I seek to focus on what matters to you, what pains you. You. After 13 years, the time has come to tell Netanyahu,” Thank you for what you have done. We’ll take it from here.”
Our weakness in the face of our enemies and the division among us a nation are my greatest concerns. I will work to strengthen deterrence against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, not through bragging and press conferences but through actions and an iron fist.
I will act to connect and unify the nation of Israel. I will bolster Israeli cooperation and statesmanship. I grew up on Moshav Kfar Ahim, the son of Holocaust survivors. We lived together, religious and secular, Right and Left, in partnership and with a deep connection to one another. That is also where I was taught to love the people and the land, values that are part of who I am as a person and guide my actions. I know where I am going, and I know where I am from. I want to be everyone’s prime minister.
I ask you to vote for the Blue and White party. Any other ballot will allow the continued incitement and division in our society, the continued focus on indictments instead of Israel’s citizens, and our continued weakness in the face of our enemies.
To my delight, more and more supporters are joining us every day, good Israelis who seek to be part of the change and still have hope.
I love our country. I will not cede the opportunity to lead it from a place of strength and hope. This is also your chance; indeed, it is everyone’s.