Reuven Rivlin is hardly the best candidate available to be the tenth President of Israel. But, given that the President is chosen by vote of the Knesset, not by the people, and that Rivlin is a veteran politician who knows the ropes, in the end he won. His main rival was Meir Sheetrit, a similar politician, but Rivlin is from the majority Likud Party and Sheetrit is from the much smaller Hatnuah Party, although he had Labor opposition support. Candidates like Nobel Prize winner Dan Schectman and Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, stand no chance against the professional politicians. The Knesset will always choose one of their own.
There was an unusual situation that developed when partly because PM Netanyahu had not initially supported Rivlin, the right was not strongly behind him. He won the first ballot with 44 votes, but if in the second ballot when there are only the top two candidates, if all those who had voted on the left for the other candidates, including Dalia Itzik, had put their support to Meir Sheetrit, he would have won easily. But, as soon as they saw the danger, the right pulled in all their votes, for example Shas MKs almost certainly changed sides, and Rivlin won by 10 votes, 63 to 53.
On the face of it Rivlin is not a bad choice. He is a right wing Likud veteran, who has been a political rival of Bibi Netanyahu for many years. Such rivalries run deep and so Netanyahu was against Rivlin’s candidacy, but in the end he turned around and supported him. Now that they are no longer rivals, they may actually work well together. Rivlin said the right things in his inaugural spech, that as of today he is no longer a party politician but is now a representative of the whole people.
It is unlikely that Rivlin will be considered a statesman like Shimon Peres, who retires when his term expires in June. Rivlin is not well known in international circles and does not cut an impressive figure. But, he will do the job, he will act as a figurehead, and he has some solid qualifications. He has been the Knesset speaker during two sessions and did a good job. He has sponsored many bills that support democracy and the rights of minorities. He is a very appropriate choice and will make an excellent representative of the State of Israel.