In a low-key ceremony owing to the ongoing military operation in Gaza, Reuven Rivlin will be sworn in as Israel’s tenth President today, succeeding Shimon Peres who has completed his term in office.
The ceremony in the Knesset plenum itself will take place as originally planned. However, it was decided to cancel a festive reception and the honour guard welcoming Rivlin will be scaled down. A joint statement between Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said, “As IDF soldiers fight and the citizens of Israel are under missile barrages, we felt that it would be proper to conduct the ceremony in a more modest and limited way.”
Rivlin replaces Peres, who on the penultimate day of his seven-year term yesterday met with both US Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Peres is considered to be one of Israel’s most distinguished statesmen. In addition to serving as President, he was Prime Minister on two occasions and a member of 12 cabinets. As a parliamentarian, Peres enjoyed an unbroken spell in the Knesset from 1959 to 2007. For a full timeline covering Peres’s career, click here.
Rivlin was born in Jerusalem in 1939 and qualified and worked as a lawyer before entering politics. He was elected to the Jerusalem city council, a position he held until 1988, when he was elected to the Knesset with the Likud. Rivlin lost his seat in 1992 but regained it in 1996. He subsequently served as Minister of Communications in the government of Ariel Sharon (2001-2003) and as Speaker of the Knesset from 2003-2006 and 2009-2013. Rivlin personally opposes the two-state solution, but has said he would not intervene in the decisions of Israel’s elected politicians. He is also known as a staunch defender of Israeli democracy, Arab minority rights and the independence of the Knesset. For an in depth biography of Rivlin, click here.
The president performs a largely ceremonial role, but has the authority to invite a party leader to form a government following a general election.