Jerusalem: Israeli lawmaker Reuven Rivlin was on Thursday sworn in as the 10th president of Israel, stepping in the role filled by Shimon Peres for the past seven years.
Rivlin was sworn in at the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in a special session attended by Israeli lawmakers, former politicians, ambassadors, the chief of police, mayors of southern communities close to the Gaza Strip and other distinguished guests, Xinhua reported.
President Rivlin took the oath of office and thanked outgoing president Shimon Peres for his service to the Israeli people.
The new president spoke about the need to have a country based on civil rights for all its citizens, "secular and orthodox, Jews and Arabs, rich and poor", and talked about the need to "form a just society", which would entail a democratic dialogue in Israeli politics and society.
"We cannot turn a blind eye to extremism and violence which raised their ugly head inside of us," he said, following heightening tensions between left and right wing Israelis, Jews and Arabs, amid a Gaza operation and its preceding violent events including the murder of three Israeli teens by Palestinian militants last month, which was followed by Jewish extremists killing an Arab teen in east Jerusalem.
He also referred to the ongoing operation in Gaza, sharing the grief of the bereaved families, adding that Israel must remain a strong democracy in these hard times. "Terrorism will not weaken our spirits," he said, adding Israel "is not fighting the Palestinian people or Islam but is fighting murderous terrorism".
Outgoing president Peres thanked lawmakers for giving him the privilege to be the president for the past seven years. He said that Arabs are not enemies but that terror is the greatest threat to world peace.
He also insisted that he remains hopeful for peace and added there will not be a military solution without a diplomatic one to the conflict with the Palestinians.
Rivlin, 75, is a veteran politician from the right wing camp, known for advocating civil rights for all the people in Israel, including the Palestinians, and for the proper conduct of democracy. Upon his election in June, Rivlin said his goal is "to safeguard due process of democracy".
He has served in the Knesset since the 80's.
He had served twice as the Knesset speaker and as a communication minister in the government of prime minister Ariel Sharon in the early 2000's. He competed against Peres for the role of president in 2007, in which the latter had won.
The role of the president in Israel is mainly ceremonial without much executive power. The president is elected every seven years and cannot preside for more than one term.