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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Photo of Israeli president in Palestinian scarf sparks probe

Reuven Rivlin had on Sunday refused to pardon Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian as he lay on the ground in March 2016

Israeli police launched an investigation after a picture of president Reuven Rivlin wearing a Palestinian scarf emerged. In this picture, he is seen at the Spain-Israel Business Meeting at Confederation of Spanish Industry's headquarters in Madrid on November 7, 2017. Javier Lizon / EPA
Israeli police launched an investigation after a picture of president Reuven Rivlin wearing a Palestinian scarf emerged. In this picture, he is seen at the Spain-Israel Business Meeting at Confederation of Spanish Industry's headquarters in Madrid on November 7, 2017. Javier Lizon / EPA

Israeli police announced on Monday an investigation after a Photoshopped picture of president Reuven Rivlin wearing a Palestinian scarf emerged amid anger over his decision to reject a soldier's pardon request.

Mr Rivlin had on Sunday refused to pardon Elor Azaria, the soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian as he lay on the ground in March 2016.

Right-wing politicians criticised Mr Rivlin's decision, and culture minister Miri Regev went as far as saying that he had "abandoned Elor Azaria and harmed the pardoning institution".

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Mr Rivlin's Facebook page quickly filled with messages of support but also scathing criticism, with responders telling him he was "no longer my president", as one wrote, or accusing him of "fawning to appease your Arab and Left wing friends", as another said.

Populist lawmaker Oren Hazan of the ruling Likud party — the same Mr Rivlin was a member of in parliament and later as a minister — called on Mr Rivlin to resign, and said pardoning authority should move from the presidency to the parliament.

Police said they had launched the probe after an image of Mr Rivlin wearing a keffiyah scarf was distributed on social media.

The badly Photoshopped picture features a smiling Rivlin on the backdrop of books, with a Palestinian symbol and the words "Reuven Rivlin a traitorous Jew-boy may his name and memory be accursed" in Hebrew.

The statement did not elaborate on those being investigated nor the possible crime committed.

Posters of Israeli slain premier Yitzhak Rabin in a keffiyah had appeared before his assassination by a Jewish extremist in 1995.

The image was meant to equate Rabin to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who wore a keffiyah regularly, and imply he was betraying Israel's interests.

Opposition head Isaac Herzog of the Labour party published Mr Rivlin's doctored image next to Rabin's.

"We all know how it starts, we all know how it ends," he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Rivlin's office meanwhile postponed an olive harvesting event at the presidential residence in Jerusalem set for Monday morning, citing "inclement weather," despite clear skies.

Azaria is due to remain in prison until October 2018.

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