World Bulletin/News Desk
Reuven Rivlin, a right-wing legislator opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, was elected Israel's president on Tuesday and will 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 rocky personal relationship with the Israeli leader.
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.
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.
Last month, 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 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 poll. That makes the president - whose duties otherwise carry little power - a key player in coalition-building.
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."
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 soccer 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.
Several weeks ago, another presidential hopeful decided against declaring his candidacy after authorities opened - and subsequently closed - a sex crimes investigation against him.
In the rough-and-tumble world of Israeli politics, the president is supposed to stay above the fray and promote national unity and moral values.
Last Mod: 10 Haziran 2014, 17:44