Israel’s 10th president, Reuven Rivlin, took the oath of office in a small ceremony at the Knesset on Thursday evening, while fighting continued between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
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Due to the ongoing Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and the dozens of Israeli civilian and military casualties, Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein decided to limit the guard of honor and to cancel the cocktail party in the Chagall State Hall, which traditionally follows the swearing-in.
Rivlin will begin his term on Monday, but the ceremony was brought forward so it would not be held during the first days of the Hebrew month of Av, a traditional time of mourning.
The guests of honor at Thursday’s ceremony were mayors and local council heads from areas bordering the Gaza Strip. Contrary to normal protocol, they sat in the plenum hall itself, alongside Knesset members.
Knesset Members of Arab parties did not attend the ceremony. They announced that they were boycotting the official event not in protest of Rivlin personally, but of the fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and the deaths of Palestinian civilians there.
After Rivlin was sworn in, two shofars was blown.
Rivlin told Haaretz on Wednesday that he had decided not to postpone the ceremony despite the hostilities in Gaza. “Under no circumstances should the transfer of office be postponed,” he said. “Were we to do this, we’d be playing into the hands of those who wish to disrupt our lives. On the other hand, passing the baton from the outgoing to the incoming president should not be a major event – it pales in comparison to the ongoing (military) campaign.”
Rivlin added, “At a time when the law dictates the transfer of office from the ninth to the 10th president, we are in a situation in which personal feelings are subdued in relation to events affecting the entire nation. The campaign in Gaza is a war by any definition. A difficult war.”
Rivlin resigned from the Knesset immediately after being elected in June. On Wednesday, only one day before being sworn in, he made his last appearance at a committee meeting. The incoming president came before the Knesset Finance Committee, which unanimously approved his choice of President’s Office manager – attorney Harel Tubi, 37, from Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim in Gush Etzion. Tubi was the head of Rivlin’s staff while the 74-year-old served as Knesset speaker, and is considered a close confidante.
Outgoing president, Shimon Peres, has announced that he will lead a large company that seeks to invest in projects connected to peace in the Middle East.