Reuven Rivlin / From Betar to Knesset Speaker

Reuven Rivlin has come a long way since serving as the chairman of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team (during the team's glory days in the 1970s) to becoming the 14th speaker of the Knesset.

Rivlin, the son of Professor Yosef Yoel Rivlin, an expert in Islamic history who translated the Koran and The Thousand and One Nights into Hebrew, began his public career in Jerusalem's city hall (working there from 1978-1988). He aspired to become the successor of long-time Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, but failed to win support from his Likud colleagues.

In 1988, Rivlin was elected to the 12th Knesset and was considered one of David Levy's close associates. Rivlin's assignments during his first Knesset term included the House Committee, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and the State Control Committee.

Rivlin failed to secure a realistic spot on the Likud ticket in the 1992 Knesset elections and returned to a private law practice, while maintaining his political involvement as chairman of the Likud branch in Jerusalem. Again, he sought to challenge Kollek for the mayoral post, but Ehud Olmert won the party's nomination instead.

Rivlin returned to the Knesset in 1996, but only after the late Eliyahu Ben-Elissar yielded his seat to become Israel's ambassador to France. Rivlin was very active during this second term in the legislature and had worked his way into the top 10 in the Likud list by the time the next Knesset elections were held, in 1999.

During the 15th Knesset, Rivlin served as Likud party whip and deputy speaker, and again stood out as one of the most industrious MKs. One of the controversial laws he spearheaded offers the possibility of early parole for prisoners who have completed half of their sentence (instead of two-thirds). This measure was dubbed the "Deri Law" - since it was ostensibly aimed at winning early release for the jailed Shas leader Aryeh Deri. (Rivlin argued that he had initiated this legislation in 1988, long before Deri was charged and convicted.)

Another bill he sponsored would have allowed Israelis living abroad to vote in elections. This proposal encountered stiff opposition and did not become law.