Israelis, who are quite familiar with rough-and-tumble politics, were taken aback to see the race for president — a strictly ceremonial post in this parliamentary system, with lots of red carpets, windy toasts and wreath laying — turn into a political brawl, washigtonpost.com reports.
After weeks of anonymous smears and unflattering leaks, and after two of seven candidates dropped out because they were suddenly subjects of criminal investigations, the parliament chose hard-liner Reuven “Rubi” Rivlin on Tuesday as the 10th president of Israel. He will succeed nonagenarian Shimon Peres, whose seven-year term ends next month.
The president is Israel’s face to the world. On Sunday, the courtly and cerebral Peres — a peacenik by Israeli standards — met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a prayer summit with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Rivlin, 74, a veteran politician, also has pleasing manners, friends and critics say, and was a famously evenhanded speaker of parliament who tangled repeatedly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fellow Likud party member.
But unlike Peres, Rivlin is a hard-right native son who is opposed to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state and who envisions a “Greater Israel,” a Jewish homeland stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, with Jerusalem as its undivided capital.
Rivlin beat his opponent, centrist Meir Sheetrit, 63 to 53 by secret ballot in a second round of voting in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
“He is a hawk and a democrat,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “He supports a Greater Israel, but he also supports giving Palestinians not a state but full and equal rights.”