Reuven Rivlin

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Reuven Rivlin
Reuven Rivlin as the president of Israel.jpg
10th President of Israel
Assumed office
24 July 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Preceded by Shimon Peres
Speaker of the Knesset
In office
10 March 2009 – 22 February 2013
Preceded by Dalia Itzik
Succeeded by Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
In office
28 February 2003 – 28 March 2006
Preceded by Avraham Burg
Succeeded by Dalia Itzik
Minister of Communications
In office
7 March 2001 – 28 February 2003
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Preceded by Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Succeeded by Ariel Sharon
Personal details
Born (1939-09-09) 9 September 1939 (age 76)
British Mandate of Palestine
Political party Likud
Spouse(s) Nechama Shulman
Children 4
Alma mater Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Reuven "Rubi" Rivlin (Hebrew: רְאוּבֵן "רוּבִּי" רִיבְלִין, [ʁeʔuˈven ʁivˈlin]; born 9 September 1939) is an Israeli politician and lawyer who has been President of Israel since 2014. He is a member of the Likud party. Rivlin was Minister of Communications from 2001 to 2003 and subsequently served as Speaker of the Knesset from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2009 to 2013. On 10 June 2014, he was elected as President of Israel.[1]

Rivlin is a strong supporter of minority rights, particularly those of the Arab citizens of Israel.[2] He is opposed to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rivlin is fluent in Arabic.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Reuven Rivlin was born in Mandatory Palestine to the Rivlin family, descendant of students of the Vilna Gaon, the son of Rachel "Ray" Rivlin and Yosef Yoel Rivlin, who created the first Hebrew edition of the Koran[5] and who was a candidate for third president of Israel.[6] The Rivlin family has lived in Jerusalem since 1809. He received a law degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and worked as a lawyer. He is married to Nechama Rivlin, and has four children.[7]

He has been a vegetarian since the late 1960s.[8]

Rivlin is well known as a supporter of the Beitar Jerusalem football club, sometimes described as "The-Most-Seasoned-Beitar-fan," [9] ever since he first saw a game of Beitar in 1946 when he was seven years old.[7]

Political career[edit]

He was first elected to the 12th Knesset in 1988, and served as Likud chairman from 1988 to 1993. He lost his seat in the 1992 elections, but returned to the Knesset following the 1996 elections. Reelected in 1999, he was appointed Minister of Communications in March 2001, serving until February 2003, when he was elected Knesset Speaker following the 2003 elections. During his term as speaker, he was criticized for breaking the tradition of political neutrality of the post; he was one of Ariel Sharon's harshest critics regarding the disengagement plan, and had a public confrontation with Aharon Barak, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, concerning the court's authority to declare legislation illegal.[10]

Rivlin was reelected in 2006 and 2009. He ran in the 2007 election for President as the Likud candidate. He withdrew after the first round of voting when it became clear that Kadima MK Shimon Peres had sufficiently broad support to inevitably win in a run-off. In the 2014 presidential election, Rivlin defeated Meir Sheetrit in a run-off.

On 30 March 2009, the Knesset voted Knesset Member Rivlin as speaker with a majority of 90 votes of the 120.[11]

For his first official visit as Knesset Speaker, he chose the Arab-Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, just south of the Galilee. He was accompanied by MKs Uri Orbach (The Jewish Home) and Afu Agbariyah (Hadash), a resident of the city.[12][13]


Swearing-in ceremony of President Reuven Rivlin of Israel

Rivlin was elected as Israel's 10th president on 10 June 2014 receiving the support of 63 MKs in a runoff vote against MK Meir Sheetrit. In his bid to become President, he won support from both Arab legislators who appreciated his courtesy, and from right-wingers like Naftali Bennett and Danny Danon, who join him in a desire to make the West Bank a part of Israel proper.[14] Rivlin was sworn in on 24 July 2014 replacing Shimon Peres.[15] Upon his election as the 10th president, he immediately ceased being a member of the Israeli Parliament.

On March 25, 2015 Rivlin, in his role as president, officially chartered Benjamin Netanyahu with the assignment of forming a new government following elections the previous week. In his remarks during the ceremony, Rivlin noted that the first priority of the new government should be to mend the frayed relationship Israel's government has with the United States, and he expressed his disapproval of Netanyahu's election day exhortation that Arab voters were being bused to polling booths by NGO's and were voting "in droves." “One who is afraid of votes in a ballot box will eventually see stones thrown in the streets,” said Rivlin. Other critical issues he recommended the new government address included establishing greater stability to avoid early elections and “healing the wounds, mending the painful rifts, which have gaped open in the past years, and widened further in the course of this recent election.”[16]

In July 2015, following Rivlin's condemnation of the firebombing of a Palestinian home by suspected Jewish extremists that resulted in the death of a Palestinian toddler, Rivlin received death threats. Rivlin labelled those who committed the violence as "terrorists," lamenting that his own people had "chosen the path of terror," and that Israel was lax in confronting Jewish religious terrorism and Jewish extremists.[17]

Views and positions[edit]

Reuven Rivlin with Bogdan Borusewicz during his official visit to Poland (2014)

Views on minority rights in Israel[edit]

Although considered to be a nationalist and hawkish on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rivlin is well known as a supporter of minority rights, particularly those of the Arab-Israelis. As speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin made his first official visit to the Arab-Israeli city of Umm el-Fahm, often portrayed as a locus of anti-state and pro-Palestine sentiment and agitation.[18]

On a number of occasions, Rivlin has defended minority rights in Israel. In June 2010, Rivlin found himself in the center of a controversy after ignoring the advice of a committee that recommended the removal of Balad MK Haneen Zoabi for having participated in the Gaza flotilla earlier that year. Many wished to see Zoabi banned from the Knesset for participating in activities deemed contrary to the interests of the state, while others believed that removal of an elected politician by other politicians would undermine democratic principles. Rivlin's actions in defending the parliamentary rights of Zoabi were criticised by many MKs and the Israeli right-wing, but Israeli and foreign liberals praised Rivlin for his courage in defending Israeli democracy.[19] The same year, a group of almost 40 rabbis on government payroll called on Jewish Israelis to not rent apartments to non-Jews. Rivlin protested this declaration, saying, "In my opinion, their statement shames the Jewish people. If such a thing were said in relation to Jews anywhere on the globe, a hue and cry would be raised in Israel on the need to stand up against anti-Semitism." When asked about conditions for African refugees detained on Israeli soil, Rivlin stated, "As a democrat and a Jew, I have a hard time with concentration camps, where people are warehoused." [20] In 2013 Rivlin slammed the racism he witnessed by some fans of the Beitar team who chanted anti-Arab, anti-Muslim slogans when two Muslim players were added to the team. He committed to work to put an end to the club’s anti-Muslim discrimination.[21] In his new role as President, Rivlin spoke to a gathering of academics and told them, "Israeli society is sick and it is our duty to treat this disease." He is hoping to address what he sees as an epidemic of racism in Israel directed at Arabs.[22] In November 2014 Rivlin cancelled the scheduled performance of Amir Benayoun after the well-known Israeli singer released an anti-Arab song.[23][24]

However, he has not always promoted equal rights for women. For example, in 2000 Rivlin supported legislation that would make it illegal for women to wear prayer shawls and would impose a prison term of up to seven years if they did. The law was not passed, but Rivlin's support of it caused an estrangement between him and his American-Israeli feminist cousin, Lilly Rivlin.[25] And in 2008 many Israelis were upset to learn that the Knesset choir sang the "Hatikva" at a welcoming ceremony for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown without the female members of the choir because the presence of women singers might offend the sensibilities of Haredi MK's. Rivlin admitted that as Knesset speaker he was careful not to invite women choir members to sing so as not to create a conflict with the Haredim, who would claim that "a woman's voice constitutes sexual incitement." [26]

Views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict[edit]

Rivlin is known to be strongly opposed to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has voiced support for a version of a one-state solution. He is described as a staunch supporter of Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.[27] On 29 April 2010, he said that he "would rather accept Palestinians as Israeli citizens than divide Israel and the West Bank in a future two-state peace solution".[28] This position, reflecting an idea of both the radical left and radical right in Israel, is considered controversial, but has also been praised as recognising current realities in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.[29]

After taking over as the President, Rivlin said Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people or Islam but is fighting murderous terrorism.[30] He pointed out that Palestinians could not be expected to accept a two-state solution where "one state is an invincible superpower and the other is sub-autonomous,"[31] while declaring that "West Bank settlements are as Israeli as Tel Aviv."[32]

Views on Judaism[edit]

Although secular himself, he has been critical of non-Orthodox movements in Judaism. Rick Jacobs, leader of the Reform movement in the United States, called Rivlin's views "harsh and rather unenlightened."[33] In 1989 Rivlin referred to Reform Jews as "idol worshippers" and as recently as 2007 refused to call Reform Jewish rabbis by their title.[34][35] Prior to becoming President, he opposed granting equal status in Israel to Reform or Conservative Judaism.[36] In a Knesset session in 2014, Rivlin said that if non-Orthodox conversion standards were adopted, Jewish status would be based on "a civic definition rather than a religious definition," echoing a Knesset speech he gave in 2006 when he declared:”“I have no doubt, and my positions are known, that the status of Judaism according to halachah (Jewish law) is what has kept us going for 3,800 years. Besides it there is nothing.”[37]

However, in more recent meetings with Rabbi Jacobs, Rivlin has demonstrated a higher degree of respect.[38] Rivlin seemed to be mending the frayed relationship with the Reform movement, when, in November 2014, he welcomed at his residence over 50 Reform leaders on the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and told them, "We are one family and the connection between all Jews, all over the world, is very important to the State of Israel."[39] Nevertheless, Rivlin became embroiled in a major conflict with non-Orthodox streams of Judaism when he refused to allow a Conservative rabbi to officiate at a bar mitzvah service at his residence for disabled children, who are all graduates of a special program operated around Israel by the Conservative movement.[40] He later hosted representatives of the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish communities for a joint study session at the President's Residence.[41]

Positions on the Armenian Genocide[edit]

Rivlin at one time actively campaigned for Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide, giving speeches on the topic.[42] In 2012, he said “It is our moral duty to remember and remind of the tragedy that befell the Armenian people, who lost more than a million of its sons during the First World War, and we must not make this a political issue. I am aware of the sensitivity of this issue. But let us be clear: This is not an accusation of Turkey today or of the current Turkish government.”[43] However, it was noted in 2014 that as president of Israel, he is quietly distancing himself from the campaign for Israel to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and chose not to sign the annual petition, which he previously did. Concerned about the possible negative reaction of Turkey if the president signed the petition, unnamed officials of the Foreign Ministry welcomed what they called Rivlin's "statesmanship."[44]


  1. ^ "ynet מבית"ר ירושלים לבית הנשיא: מי אתה רובי ריבלין? - חדשות". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
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  10. ^ "Knesset Speaker backs bill to overturn laws struck down by Israel's Supreme Court". Haaretz. 8 April 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  11. ^ Somfalvi, Attila (March 31, 2009). "Netanyahu names Likud ministers". Ynet. 
  12. ^ Fendel, Hillel (April 19, 2009). "Likud and Jewish Home MKs Visit Umm el-Fahm". 
  13. ^ "Knesset speaker: Umm al-Fahm is an inseparable part of Israel". Haaretz. April 19, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Israel’s One-State Reality". 2014-11-17. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  15. ^ Arens, Moshe (2014-06-10). "Reuven Rivlin is elected Israel's 10th president - National - Israel News". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  16. ^ Netanyahu Told to Mend Ties With Washington The New York Times, 25 March 2015
  17. ^ Threats against Rivlin wish him fate similar to Sharon, Rabin The Times of Israel, 1 Aug 2015
  18. ^ Klein, Amy (2013-01-24). "The Rebranding of Umm al-Fahm". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  19. ^ "Under siege too". The Economist (Economist Group). 17 June 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  20. ^ "Knesset Speaker: Racist rabbi's letter shames the Jewish people". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  21. ^ Beck, Jonathan (2013-01-27). "Knesset speaker Rivlin slams Beitar soccer fans' anti-Muslim racism". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  22. ^ Sales, Ben (2014-10-23). "Israel’s Rivlin seeks to cure ‘disease’ of racism | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  23. ^ "Reuven Rivlin Cancels Appearance by Israeli Singer After Anti-Arab Song –". 2014-11-25. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  24. ^ Beck, Jonathan (2014-11-25). "President cancels singer's gig over 'racist' song". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  25. ^ "After Vote, Spotlight Shifts to Reuven Rivlin –". 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  26. ^ "'Hatikva' belongs to women, too". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  27. ^ "Report: Hawkish new Israel president ready to meet Abbas | Maan News Agency". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  28. ^ Zrahiya, Zvi (2010). "Israel official: Accepting Palestinians into Israel better than two states". Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  29. ^ Reider, Dimi (2014). "Why the Left's best president might come from the Right". Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  30. ^ "Reuven Rivlin sworn is as 10th president of Israel". IANS. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  31. ^ "Israeli politics: The left’s Likudnik". The Economist. 29 August 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  32. ^ "Rivlin: West Bank settlements are as Israeli as Tel Aviv". Jerusalem Post. 1 September 2015. 
  33. ^ "President-elect Rivlin: Will you now respect our Reform movement?". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  34. ^ Sales, Ben (2014-06-02). "Reuven Rivlin, Israeli presidential front-runner, champions pluralism in politics but not Judaism | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  35. ^ "Reuven Rivlin Elected President of Israel". 2014-06-10. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  36. ^ Beck, Jonathan (2014-11-12). "Rivlin greets Reform Movement leaders as 'family'". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  37. ^ Reuven Rivlin, Israeli presidential front-runner, champions pluralism in politics but not Judaism Jewish Journal, 2 June 2014
  38. ^ "President Rivlin and Reform: Drawing Closer, Despite Differences". 2014-07-31. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  39. ^ "Reuven Rivlin Tells Reform Leaders 'We're One Family' –". 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  40. ^ Rivlin invites non-Orthodox rabbis to his home in bid to mend rift Haaretz, 16 July 2015
  41. ^ [1] Times of Israel, 23 July 2015
  42. ^ "Knesset Speaker working to boost recognition of Armenian genocide". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  43. ^ "Rivlin: We Cannot Ignore the Armenian Genocide - Inside Israel - News - Arutz Sheva". 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  44. ^ Beck, Jonathan (2014-12-05). "Rivlin backtracks on Armenian genocide recognition". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Avraham Burg
Speaker of the Knesset
Succeeded by
Dalia Itzik
Preceded by
Dalia Itzik
Speaker of the Knesset
Succeeded by
Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
Preceded by
Shimon Peres
President of Israel