Netanyahu Meets With President-elect Rivlin to Patch Up Ties

After trying in vain to foil Rivlin's candidacy, the PM congratulated him a day after his victory.

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President Reuven Rivlin, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Reuven Rivlin, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with president-elect Reuven Rivlin in his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning and congratulated him on his victory.

Until yesterday, relations between Netanyahu and Rivlin had been completely severed. They tried to bridge the gaps so that they would be able to work together in the future.

“We have known each other for several decades,” Netanyahu said at the end of the meeting. “We are both from Jerusalem, the sons of professors who were brought up on Jabotinsky’s teachings, and we have much more in common, such as our favorite soccer team. We will be working together for all of Israel’s citizens. We went through a great deal together in our lives, and I am sure that now we will be able to put aside the things that were not as good, and work responsibly for the future of the State of Israel.”

Rivlin said, “The prime minister and I are committed to full and fruitful cooperation for the State of Israel and the people of Israel.”

But people who spoke with both men over the past few days had difficulty believing that Rivlin would forget the intensive efforts Netanyahu made to defeat him in the second round of the campaign.

Rivlin won in the second round of voting in the Knesset, defeating MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnuah), receiving 63 votes, while Sheetrit got 53. In the first round of voting, Rivlin received 44 votes to Sheetrit’s 31. Dalia Itzik received 28 votes, while retired judge Dalia Dorner garnered 13 and Prof. Dan Shechtman got only one.

Less than a full day after his victory, Rivlin returned to the Knesset yesterday. He will continue using the modest office he used as Knesset speaker for the time being. The security arrangements for him, which were halted when he stopped serving as Knesset speaker, were resumed yesterday. He walked around the Knesset building and even joined a debate that was taking place in one of the auditoriums, where he received loud applause. “This was the moment Rivlin understood that the time had come to say goodbye, that his time in the Knesset was over, that he would not be walking these halls anymore. He was very touched,” officials of his bureau said. Yesterday evening, he attended a dinner for a recently-married couple at the home of MK Aryeh Deri, whose support for him and his party in the second round won Rivlin his victory.

President Barack Obama congratulated Rivlin on his victory last night. A statement issued by the White House in the president’s name read in part: “President-elect Rivlin has a long and dedicated record of public service and we look forward to continued strong ties, to the benefit of both our nations, under Mr. Rivlin’s presidency.”

The statement also mentioned outgoing president Shimon Peres. “As President Shimon Peres nears the end of his term, he can look back on a remarkable legacy of courage, conviction, and compassion,” the statement read. “He has dedicated his extraordinary life to the cause of peace, and I look forward to welcoming him in Washington later this month where he will receive the Congressional Gold Medal.”

In an address he gave shortly after being elected, Rivlin said, “The confidence you have put in me obligates me to cease being a party member. I am no longer partisan but rather a man of the nation, one of the people. He added, “The law requires me to leave the home we share [referring to the Knesset] in favor of the home of all Israelis [the President’s Residence].”

Rivlin referred to the ups and downs that accompanied the presidential race, saying, “The public’s confidence in the institution of the presidency was hard hit. It is our duty to rehabilitate and restore it. I thank my fellow candidates, who added dignity to the campaign, and hope that they will continue in public service.”

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