Undercover President: Photo Reveals Disguised Rivlin Strolling Through Israel

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Haaretz
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Outgoing President Reuven Rivlin, disguised on the right
Outgoing President Reuven Rivlin, disguised on the rightCredit: Nir Keidar, Courtesy of Shin Bet
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Haaretz

In a farewell gesture to Reuven Rivlin, the Shin Bet security service released a photograph on Wednesday featuring the outgoing president wearing a disguise so as to “move around Israel anonymously, without anyone recognizing him and noticing that he was the president.”

In the undated shot, Rivlin —wearing a fake beard, scarf and thick toupee— was surrounded by undercover agents belonging to the Shin Bet Operations Unit.

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“For several hours, the president enjoyed complete anonymity alongside Shin Bet operatives, who are well trained in covert work,” the agency said in a statement thanking the tenth president for “years of significant work for the State of Israel.”

President-elect Isaac Herzog is to be sworn into office Wednesday afternoon in a special Knesset session. Both Herzog and outgoing President Reuven Rivlin are expected to address the special session. 

After the ceremony at the Knesset, there will be a reception at the President’s Residence, during which both Herzog and Rivlin will present the senior advisory teams and deliver greetings.

Unlike former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who has not yet left the prime minister’s residence – Rivlin prefers to move out of the official residence on the last day of his term and is scheduled to do so at 8 P.M. Wednesday. 

Rivlin has spent the past few weeks taking leave of the security services and other state agencies. At a farewell ceremony at the Israel Defense Forces HaKirya base in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Rivlin said: “When they said that Israeli society had lost its way, that we had lost direction up the road, I found it in you. Like a soldier in navigation, you were my waypoint to the values of Israeli hope.”

A disguised Reuven Rivlin escorted by Shin Bet agentsCredit: Shin Bet

Rivlin also spoke on Tuesday with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who had called to congratulate him on his retirement.

As president, Rivlin sought to unite

A lifelong member of the Likud, Rivlin served as Minister of Communications under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from 2001-2003. He later served as Knesset speaker under Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu. He was elected to the presidency in 2014, succeeding Shimon Peres.

As president, Rivlin sought to be a unifying figure, often referring to the need for comity between Israel’s “four tribes” – secular people, the religious Zionists, the ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis.

While the presidency is a largely symbolic position, one of the office’s key functions is giving politicians the mandate to form a government following an election, an assignment which Rivlin carried out multiple times during his tenure as Israelis went to the polls four times between 2019 and 2021.

In March, Rivlin declared that the country’s ongoing political crisis was “harming and weakening our democracy to a certain extent, but it will not beat us” and called on politicians across the spectrum to “hear the Israeli people and their call for out-of-the-ordinary coalitions, collaborations that cross sectors, working in a serious and dedicated way for the good of all of Israel’s citizens.”

Rivlin traveled to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden on Monday as part of a farewell tour which included meetings with congressional leaders, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and representatives of the organized Jewish world.

During his U.S. visit, Rivlin was filmed visiting New York’s Central Park. He was not wearing a false beard or wig.

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