Likud’s Reuven Rivlin elected president of Israel

Winner given tepid backing by Netanyahu in contest riddled with subterfuge

Newly elected Israeli president Reuven Rivlin makes a speech after the presidential vote at the Knesset yesterday. Photograph: Amos Ben/Getty Images

Newly elected Israeli president Reuven Rivlin makes a speech after the presidential vote at the Knesset yesterday. Photograph: Amos Ben/Getty Images

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:01

Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin, a member of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, has been elected the country’s president following a vote by the Knesset.

A former speaker of parliament, he defeated his rival Meir Sheetrit in a run-off by 63 to 53. Rivlin succeeds veteran Israeli political figure Shimon Peres (90) who will step down from the largely ceremonial position next month.

Although Israeli heads of state are not directly involved in political decision making, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Peres used the presidency to advocate for peace with the Palestinians, often taking a more dovish stance than Netanyahu.

The election follows what some analysts have described as one of the dirtiest campaigns in the history of the country’s most popular office, during which two prominent candidates withdrew after being placed under investigation.

Despite being a member of Netanyahu’s party, his election is seen as a defeat for the PM who had gone to extraordinary lengths to oppose him before finally advancing a lukewarm endorsement. That included a campaign to have the presidential election delayed, or even have the post of president abolished or stripped of its only real constitutional role – determining who is first invited to form a government after elections.

It reached a moment of high-farce when the PM called the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to press him to stand, apparently unaware that Wiesel was not an Israeli citizen and was therefore ineligible to stand.

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