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President Herzog launches new initiative to prevent nation from splitting

Profoundly disturbed by the mutual acrimony between supporters and opponents to judicial reform, President Isaac Herzog will this morning launch a new initiative and a call to action in an effort to heal the rifts in the nation.

In his address to a broad-based education conference in Tel Aviv that will also be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other ministers, members of Knesset, mayors and teachers, Herzog will outline a five-year plan that should bear fruit by the time that Israel celebrates its 80th anniversary, the year in which Herzog will conclude his seven-year term of office. If the initiative proves to be successful, it will be historically recorded as Herzog’s legacy to the state.

Herzog has consistently advocated dialogue between people of opposing views. Given the current crisis, he is more convinced than ever of the necessity to not only encourage dialogue, but to provide a platform for dialogue and the civilized settling of disputes.

At a time when disagreements in Israel have reached new disturbing levels of malice and division, Herzog sees the President’s Residence, which is widely respected by all sectors of the population, as a center for discussion, debate and argument in a polite and courteous manner.

Political and societal disagreements can be settled in open discussion and with due process, he believes.Herzog is also keen to change the lexicon of argumentative discourse. He wants to eliminate insulting expressions and words of hatred and violence. In this context, he wants people to listen to each other and to acknowledge that others may have a valid point.

He has already taken the first steps by introducing discreet discussions at his official residence with leaders of political parties and key professionals.

A central forum and a firm infrastructure for diverse cultural creativity

In this sense, Herzog perceives the President’s Residence as a central forum and a firm infrastructure for diverse cultural creativity, the settling of disputes and the building of a strong Israeli society.

In tandem with this initiative, Herzog intends to establish an education center at the President’s Residence that will foster a sense of belonging among the various communities of Israel, and will assist different communities to meet and learn about each other, and thereby understand each other.

One of the reasons that he is launching his initiative at the education conference is because what children learn at an early age in the classroom, tends to stay with them. If they are discouraged from using words associated with hatred and violence, and are taught gentler expressions, they may continue to use these expressions as adults, and Herzog will have won the day.

It is no coincidence that the president is launching his initiative in the week of International Holocaust Remembrance Day – incitement of any kind begins with words.

Greer Fay Cashman