President Rivlin: Against Annexation of the West Bank to Israel

Statement comes a year after he endorsed annexation and citizenship for Palestinians living in the West Bank

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin speaks during a foundation stone laying ceremony for the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Thessaloniki, Greece, January 30, 2018.
\ ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS/ REUTERS

A year after publicly endorsing the annexation of the West Bank and granting full Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living there, President Reuven Rivlin said on Monday that he opposed such moves.

Interviewed by journalist Amit Segal at Monday’s conference hosted by the newspaper Besheva, Rivlin said, “In my opinion, the only solution is an iron wall. I believe wholeheartedly that the right wing is democratic before all else. It’s clear to everyone invested in the situation that if we annex the entire country, the Arabs living in the West Bank will need to receive full Israeli rights and citizenship.”

At last year’s Besheva conference, Rivlin said, “I believe that Zion is ours and that Israel’s sovereignty should be [extended] to every site. Sovereignty over a certain territory grants citizenship to all who reside there. There’s no excuse. There cannot be one law for Israelis and another one for non-Israelis.”

On Monday Rivlin insisted he did not change his principles when the Knesset elected him president.

Asked by Segal why he is no longer popular in right-wing circles, Rivlin answered: “People think that I was elected to promote their agendas, but I was chosen by the Knesset to represent Jews and Arabs, the right and the left, and I have to make sure we continue to speak, and to speak with each other.”

Rivlin addressed the slander against him by right-wing extremists. “My whole life I’ve been on the correct side – the right. I’ve always stood by my principles, even when some of them were debated among members of the right,” he said.

The president said of his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “He is the prime minister and I am the president. He fulfills his role and I fulfill mine. It’s not as if he is my friend,” Rivlin said. When asked about Netanyahu’s appointment of Roni Alsheikh as police commissioner, an appointment Netanyahu sounds as if he regrets, Rivlin said he considered Alsheikh worthy of the appointment.