Israel elects Reuven Rivlin as new president
JERUSALEM // Reuven Rivlin, a right-wing legislator opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, was elected Israel’s president on Tuesday.
He will replace the dovish Shimon Peres in the largely ceremonial post.
Mr Rivlin, 74, is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. He has a reputation for political independence and has had a rocky personal relationship with the Israeli leader.
A former speaker of parliament, Mr Rivlin defeated Meir Sheetrit of the moderate Hatnuah party by a vote of 63-53 in a run-off in the legislature, after none of the original five candidates won an outright victory in a first round ballot.
Although Israeli heads of state are not directly involved in political decision-making, Mr Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, used the presidency as a pulpit for advocating peace with the Palestinians, often taking a more dovish stance than Mr Netanyahu.
Mr Peres, 90, ends his seven-year presidential term in July.
Unlike Mr Peres, Mr Rivlin has called for a confederation with the Palestinians rather than negotiating an independent state for them – something Palestinian leaders have long rejected.
Last month, Mr Netanyahu floated a trial balloon on the future of the presidency, ordering his advisers to sound out cabinet colleagues on suspending the poll and evaluating the need for the position, political sources said.
Some political analysts suggested that Mr Netanyahu was concerned that a victory by Mr Rivlin, who once publicly accused the prime minister of showing disrespect to parliament, could make him more vulnerable in a future general election.
No single party has ever won an outright majority in a national poll. That makes the president, whose duties otherwise carry little power, a key player in coalition-building.
A lawyer by profession, Mr Rivlin is also known for his determined defence of democracy and civil rights which earned him the respect of the left and even members of Israel’s Arab minority.
Considered to be among the Likud’s most hawkish members, Mr Rivlin has never hidden his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state and is a staunch backer of Jewish settlements.
Commentators say that Mr Peres’s departure from office is likely to switch the presidency’s focus from international affairs to more domestic matters.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse
Updated: June 10, 2014 04:00 AM