Welcome to the President's Residence, to the traditional reception held on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I'm very pleased to have this special opportunity to welcome you here and to open up this house, to you all, members of the diplomatic corps based in Israel.
We do not celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, with street parties or with dancing late into the night. The Jewish people celebrates the New Year as a family holiday and a time for soul searching.
Following the events of recent months here in Israel, this period leading up to Rosh Hashanah - a period traditionally devoted to looking deep into our souls - takes on a special meaning this year.
In consideration of the fighting in the south, the people and leaders of Israel had to make difficult decisions: On one hand we had to protect our citizens, our homes and our land, while on the other hand, we faced the responsibility to avoid harming the innocent, as far as possible. Inside Israel, the Israeli society faced also a big challenge. We had to maintain our responsibility to enable free speech while supporting the people who were fighting to bring security to the people of Israel.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the past, wars took place between countries, but in recent decades, we have had to confront a new form of warfare: warfare waged between countries and terrorist organizations.
We all know that in war, there are no winners. There is always harm and death. However, in war between a terror organization and a sovereign state, the terror organization is always in a "win-win situation."
When the terrorist organization succeeds, in causing harm to the country that is fighting against it, then according to its own point of view, it has gained a victory. And if, in response to its actions, it succeeds in drawing the country into aggressive military action where innocent women and children are killed, then here again, according to its own point of view, it has gained a victory that will also bring with it the sympathy of public opinion.
Excellencies, distinguished guests,
Israel is a country governed by the rule of law. Furthermore, Israel recognizes the enormous importance of international law, and the importance of strictly obeying the laws of war.
Today, however, the international legal system is facing a new type of challenges, a new type of war that is taking place throughout the world. It now needs to provide a comprehensive and relevant judicial response to these new wars.
The international laws of war can no longer ignore this new situation, that is so very different from traditional forms of warfare. Those laws of war must be adapted so as to become more appropriate for the new reality, that now exists.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellencies,
The State of Israel is not at war with Islam. By the same token, the State of Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people. I believe that the great majority of Palestinians who live in Gaza are innocent. If the choice was theirs, they would choose to live in a flourishing country with a blooming economy and peaceful relations.
The citizens of Gaza are no different from the citizens of Berlin, Paris, Mexico City, New Delhi, Bucharest or Brussels, they too want to live in peace and security. The fact that one and a half million Palestinians are being held hostage by 30,000 Hamas terrorists is a human tragedy.
Today, 65 years from its establishment, Israel is a social and economic miracle.
The State of Israel is not found only in the heart of the Middle East. Israel holds out its hand, everywhere, to friendly nations who need assistance during times of disaster. The State of Israel is found in the heart of the dry lands of African deserts, in Latin America, in Europe and in Asia. Israel can be found in the heart of computer processors and in the hi-tech industry throughout the world. You can find Israeli inventions and developments in hospitals in your countries, in the computers you use, in aid programs to fight drought, to desalinate sea water and to advance agriculture.
You, the ambassadors who are living here, in our country, who are familiar with what is going on here, know this very well. As ambassadors serving here and also as our ambassadors, it is important that you bring the message of Israel to your own. When you talk about the State of Israel, please bring the diverse character of Israeli society. Present Israel in all its true complexity.
Israel is not just a place of conflict, it is a place of life, of a strong economy. It is a place not trapped in the past, but looking forward towards a promising future.
I recently celebrated my 75th birthday. I was born here, and my grandchildren are the ninth generation of my family in this country. I myself, like my father, my grandfather and my great, great grandfather before me, grew up in Jerusalem.
For all of that long period we shared our lives with the other residents of this land, with all the many communities and beliefs. There have always been ups and downs, in relations between Jews and Arabs and there will continue to be.
There will be a real change for the better in relations between Arabs and Jews only when both parties accept that we are not been doomed to live here together, rather, it is our destiny to live here together. As President, one of my most important tasks is to make the members of Israeli society truly listen to each other, to be more open, more tolerant, more liberal. This, mainly in relations with the Arabs who live among us, the Arab population of Israel.
The State of Israel, the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, is the home, of all that were born here, all those for whom this country is their homeland. The Arab citizens of Israel must also find in the State of Israel a home, as their right, not as a favor; they must share full and equal rights and recognition,and must also play a true role in advancing and developing this country.
I pray that during this coming year, the gateways of all our hearts will be open to listening, to cooperation and to mutual commitment.
I pray that during this coming year we shall listen to a symphony of the many voices that shape us, as a state, as a society and as human beings.
I wish you all a very happy and blessed year.
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