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New president for Israel

June 10, 2014

Lawmakers in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, have chosen Reuven Rivlin as the country's next president. Rivlin will succeed 90-year-old Shimon Peres, who is stepping down.

Image: Reuters

The Knesset on Tuesday voted for veteran lawmaker Reuven Rivlin (pictured, right) to become the 10th president of Israel.

Rivlin, a former Cabinet minister and parliament speaker who is a stalwart in the ruling Likud Party, won the secret runoff ballot against veteran legislator Meir Sheetrit by 63 votes to 53.

"I think the people's will was manifested," said Rivlin of the final vote.

Earlier in the day, three other candidates were eliminated in a first round of voting by the 120-member Knesset.

Right-wing stalwart

Rivlin, 74, has a reputation as a right-wing legislator who is against the formation of a Palestinian state and supportive of Jewish settlements. He is said to have a rocky relationship with fellow Likud member, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who at first opposed his campaign for president.

But Rivlin is also known for his quirky sense of humor and staunch defense of democratic principles and civil rights, which have won him support both on the left and in Israel's Arab minority. He favors cooperation with Arabs and making more Palestinians citizens of Israel.

The presidential campaign was marred by rumors of scandal and foul play, with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein last month saying the race was "defined by mudslinging".

Ceremonial post

Rivlin will take up the largely symbolic job of president from Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres, whose work brought the position international recognition. Peres took over as president in 2007 after replacing Moshe Katsav, who was convicted on rape charges.

Despite the ceremonial nature of the role, the president does hold some key powers including the ability to issue pardons for criminals and appointing the prime minister after elections.

Israel's president is typically expected to serve as a moral compass for the country and rise above politics.

Rivlin will begin his work as president from July.

se/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)