Rivlin rises from the mud as Israel's president – their de Klerk?

June 12, 2014
Sarah Benton

Two opinion pieces from Haaretz; Rachel Lever thinks Ruvi’s anti-racism augurs well.  For the facts, a report from Reuters.

Israel’s new president, on the right wing of Likud, is 73-year-old Reuven Rivlin. He opposes the creation of an independent state of Palestine. Photo from wn.com

A path to presidency littered with filth

In an election that smacked of dirty politics, the party chiefs were the primary pollutants.

By Yossi Sarid, Haaretz
June 11, 2014

The end of the contest testified to its beginning and primarily to its course: The results of the first round of voting showed with certainty that dozens of MKs deceived Reuven Rivlin with promises they didn’t keep. They complain about “rot” and “contempt” but add to the ugliness themselves. Too many MKs justified their reputation yesterday.

So although there was a happy ending, all is not well – it’s actually rather bad. Although Rivlin was elected in the end, there’s a lot of work to be done to restore people’s faith, now more than ever.

Fortunately, I was not made an MK forever, and thus I was spared the duty of voting this time. I would not have voted for any of the “insiders,” those who are politicians, either because I know them or their entourages too well, or because I have ideological differences with them that cannot be resolved. It’s not enough to be a “democrat” or a “liberal” in the whole-whole Land of Israel under Orthodox hegemony. And what’s the significance of “statesmanlike,” when the kingdom of Judea and Samaria is one’s chief joy?

I would have almost certainly voted for one of the nonpolitical candidates, thus assuring their failure. Okay, you probably realize that they didn’t need me for that; their failure was assured from the start without me.

Yesterday’s election was exceptional in its secrecy compared to all previous votes. Most of the MKs kept out of the limelight in decidedly uncharacteristic fashion. They stubbornly refused to reveal how they voted, no matter how much reporters pushed them. Were they embarrassed? Did they not want us to question their motives? The divider was not meant for public figures to hide behind, just as the “right to remain silent” wasn’t meant to apply to them.

Thank goodness I’m a pensioner and don’t need to deal with this, because the journey to the President’s Residence this time was branded with the stamp of “new politics” but smacked of the same old intrigues. The journey was so filthy it was as if its route went through the gutter and the party chiefs were the primary pollutants. Once again Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Finance Minister Yair Lapid at his side, led the squad carrying a rag as a flag. If our future depends on those two, it’s no wonder that the past pulls at us, almost against our will. Give us some old-style politics, please!

On second thought – and on third and fourth – what exactly is so loud and disgusting here? This race didn’t create a new reality; all it did was reflect our existing reality. Perhaps the heavy makeup is coming off before our eyes, but the face is the same face. This is what we are, this is how we look – look in the mirror.

Good morning Israel. What did you find out that you didn’t already know? That these are your leaders? Did you find out that they do quite well for themselves between positions, and sometimes even while in them? Did you just discover that they like to hang out with the rich and famous, and to forget  whence they came and before whom they are destined to give an accounting? That’s what you wanted, and that’s what you got; you have no one to complain about but yourselves.

One more thing: Have you realized that what’s kosher can still stink? True, hedonism is not a crime, and you don’t go to jail for extravagance and greed. But a public figure doesn’t have to be convicted of something to be unfit to serve.

Yossi Sarid, b. 1940, served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment, Ratz and Meretz between 1974 and 2006. A former Minister of Education and Minister of the Environment, he led Meretz between 1996 and 2003 and served as Leader of the Opposition from 2001 to 2003.

ong live Israeli democracy! Long live the State of Israel.”

Netanyhau congratulated Rivlin on his win. “You come from the deep well of Israeli heritage, Zionist heritage, Jewish heritage, values I know well,” he said. “We appreciate the long road you and your father have made …You are the first citizen of Israel.”

Netanyahu described two primary missions Rivlin should tackle as president: “The first, to unify the nation. The second, to represent Israel throughout the world.”

Rivlin then headed to the Western Wall and to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where his parents, Yoel and Rachel Rivlin, are buried.

Born in Jerusalem in 1939, Rivlin is married and has four children. A lawyer by training, he served as director and chairman of the Beitar Jerusalem Sports Association, as a member of the Jerusalem city council for a decade and as chairman of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene. He also served as Minister of Communications in the Sharon government at the start of the previous decade.

Rivlin received 63 of 116 valid votes in the runoff, while Sheetrit received 53. In the first round, of the 119 ballots cast (MK Meir Porush was overseas), Rivlin got the most votes, 44, followed by Sheetrit with 31. Former MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima) came close behind with 28 votes, followed by former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, 13, and Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman, 1. Two votes were disqualified.

Sheetrit congratulated the president-elect, saying he is a worthy candidate, and wished him success. He said he thinks some of those who supported him in the first round voted for Rivlin in the runoff.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar welcomed Rivlin’s election. “The Knesset chose the candidate that all public opinion polls showed was most popular.” He didn’t respond to the question of why the prime minister did not support Rivlin.

Could President Rivlin become Israel’s FW De Klerk?

By Rachel Lever, One Democracy
June 13, 2014

Israel’s parliament the Knesset has elected a new President. He is Reuven (“Ruvi”) Rivlin, arch conservative, privatiser, an out-and-out opponent of a Palestinian state and exponent of an undivided Israel. He also, according to polls, has wide public support. And to top it all, he is a lifelong fan of Beitar, the football team whose favourite chant is KILL ALL ARABS.

Is this more bad news then? Is he another ultra-right flagwaving crowd-pleaser?

Well, by all accounts Rivlin is a decent individual: he stood up for Haneen Zoabi and Ahmed Tibi, Palestinian Members of Knesset reviled and howled down by the Zionist mob there. He also tried to stem the flood of repressive laws the Knesset has unleashed in the past few years. And he has said publicly that he would concede the vote to Palestinian citizens rather than re-partition the country into two states so as to preserve the ethnic Jewish hegemony of pre-Occupation Israel: “I would prefer for the Palestinians to be citizens of this country rather than divide the land.”

Most significantly, he is “appalled” by the rising tide of anti-Arab racism: “whenever I hear about a demographic threat, it comes first of all from a type of thinking that says the Arabs are a threat. And this leads to thinking of transfer, or that they should be killed. I am appalled by this kind of talk.” Arabs and Jews, he says, are “both right, each in their own way. … All kinds of solutions can be found. … We could create a system in which life is shared. … So if people say to me: Decide − one state or division of the Land of Israel, I say that division is the bigger danger … this talk about separation is keeping us from reaching a solution.”

The Presidency wields no power, but huge prestige. And Rivlin will know what to do with it: on his election as Knesset Speaker, his first action was a goodwill visit to the town of Umm el Fahm, which, with its solidly Arab population, is at the centre of the area that racist leader Lieberman fancies he will “transfer” into the West Bank by re-drawing the border around it.

Israeli journalist Dimi Reider, writing in the dissident magazine +972 during the Presidency campaign, highlights Lieberman’s comments on Rivlin, which he says “reads like the best pitch for an opposition vote Rivlin could have wished for”: “when he became speaker we realized he wasn’t what we thought. As far as I’m concerned” Lieberman says, “Rivlin cannot be our candidate for presidency. … there’s a message about going to Umm el-Fahm. It tells you something. When we tried to deny [exiled Palestinian MK] Azmi Bishara his parliamentary pension, Rivlin was against. When Faina Kirschenbaum wanted to pass a law against extreme leftist NGOs he [Rivlin] was the one to stop this, while at the same time boosting the status of Ahmed Tibi… He went against us, full on..”

Sadly, Rivlin’s election is not remotely indicative of political support for his views or his track record. He was elected despite, not because of them, and as a result of alliances and plots designed to give Netanyahu a bloody nose. And it has certainly succeeded in doing that.

Nevertheless, Rivlin’s elevation to the Presidency will change the whole conversation.

If the President of Israel is against partition, this totally undermines the view that even though it is stone dead the Two State solution remains the only game in town, the international consensus. And it does away with the accusation that the very talk of a single country is taboo, anti-semitic and even “genocidal”.

And if the President of Israel, an establishment grandee and Beitar fan, says “both sides are right”, that also pushes back at the aggressive Greater Israel racism that has been the role model and marker for generations of Israeli Jews.

Rivlin’s ideas are a long way from “one person, one vote”, which the One Democratic State movement believes is the most flexible way to live together. He thinks and talks in terms of “the Land of Israel”, which seriously contradicts the view that both sides are right, and several other such formulations are replaced in the statement above by dots… But if someone gives you a horse for free, you don’t examine its teeth to see how old it is.

The gift horse, in this case, is that Rivlin’s views represent a paradigm shift. No longer is it a matter of one state vs. two states. Now it is about what kind of undivided country it will be. The outcome of that question will be decided by the struggles to come — struggles over rights, not over borders.

At such a time, Rivlin himself might yet prove to be a “partner for peace”, perhaps even Israel’s successor to FW De Klerk who negotiated the end of South African apartheid with the ANC leaders, after a combination of Sanctions, Boycotts and Divestment and massive popular uprisings had made apartheid unsustainable.

Right-winger Reuven Rivlin elected Israel’s president

By Jeffrey Heller, Reuters
June 10, 2014

JERUSALEM — Reuven Rivlin, a right-wing legislator opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, was elected Israel’s president on Tuesday to replace the dovish Shimon Peres in the largely ceremonial post.

Rivlin, 74, is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. He has a reputation for political independence and has had a frosty personal relationship with the Israeli premier.

A former speaker of parliament, 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, Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, used the presidency as a pulpit for advocating peace with the Palestinians, often taking a more conciliatory stance than Netanyahu.

Peres, 90, ends his seven-year presidential term in July.

Unlike Peres, Rivlin has called for a confederation with the Palestinians rather than negotiating an independent state for them – something Palestinian leaders have long rejected.

U.S.-shepherded peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians seeking statehood in Israeli-occupied territories collapsed in April amid bitter mutual recrimination.

Despite his opposition to a Palestinian state, Rivlin won the endorsement of Israel’s left-wing Haaretz newspaper, which noted in an editorial on the eve of the ballot that he had long advocated Jewish-Arab cooperation.

In an interview last month with The Times of Israel website, Rivlin promised that, if he became president, he would not seek to intervene in the decisions of the country’s elected politicians on peacemaking or other issues.

Choking back tears at a ceremony in the Knesset after the vote, Rivlin echoed that pledge, saying: “The faith you have shown in me today, in all corners of this house, obliges me to shed, from this moment on, my political role.”


Last month, Netanyahu floated a trial balloon on the future of the presidency, ordering his advisers to sound out cabinet colleagues on suspending the vote and evaluating the need for the position, political sources said.

Some political analysts suggested that Netanyahu was concerned that a victory by 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 vote. That makes the president – whose duties otherwise carry little power – a key player in coalition-building.

Congratulating Rivlin at the Knesset ceremony, Netanyahu cited their common history in right-wing politics.

“I know you will do your utmost as president to meet the two-fold mission of unifying the nation and showing unity in the face of external challenges,” Netanyahu said. “I promise, as a prime minister from a similar background, to work with you.”

Born in Jerusalem, Rivlin, a former communications minister, is married and a father of four. A lawyer by profession, he is an avid football fan and a vegetarian.

The campaign for the election of Israel’s 10th president was marred by rumours of foul play and mudslinging.

One leading candidate, veteran Labour politician Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, pulled out of the race on Saturday after police questioned him about alleged financial malpractice.

Ben-Eliezer denied any wrongdoing and said he had been “deliberately targeted” by enemies out to sabotage his bid.

Peres, an internationally respected statesman, restored prestige to the post after he was elected in 2007 to replace Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape in 2010 and is serving a seven-year prison term.

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