JERUSALEM, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Israeli lawmaker Reuven Rivlin was sworn in as the tenth president of Israel on Thursday evening, 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 and the Supreme Court, mayors of southern communities close to the Gaza Strip and other distinguished guests.
President Rivlin took the oath of office and thanked outgoing President Shimon Peres for his loyal service of the Israeli people and a lifetime of achievements in the efforts to better the life of Israelis.
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 the 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.
The inauguration ceremony was held at a more modest format than initially planned due to the 17-day fighting in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the deaths of more than 700 Palestinians, 35 Israelis and wounded more than 4,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.
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 is married, has four children and he had 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.