Israel MPs elect Reuven Rivlin as president

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Israel's newly elected President Reuven Rivlin is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) congratulated Mr Rivlin on his election on Tuesday

The Israeli parliament has elected veteran Likud lawmaker Reuven Rivlin as the country's next president.

Mr Rivlin, a former parliamentary speaker and Cabinet minister, defeated long-time MP Meir Sheetrit, by 63 to 53 in a secret run-off ballot.

He will succeed Shimon Peres, 90, who ends his seven-year term in July.

The Israeli president occupies a largely ceremonial position and has no formal role in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Rivlin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, will become Israel's 10th president.

'Man of the nation'

He won when voting on Tuesday went to a second round.

"From this moment, I do not belong to any party; rather, I belong to everyone, a man of the nation," he told Knesset members after the poll.

"I stand here before you with a great mission. Long live the Israeli democracy! Long live Israel!"

The 74-year-old opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, putting him at odds with the platform adopted by Mr Netanyahu.

He is also a supporter of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, another central issue in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Reuven Rivlin will become Israel's 10th president
  • Born in 1939 in Jerusalem
  • Trained as a lawyer
  • First elected to the Knesset (parliament) in 1988
  • Former chairman of Betar Jerusalem sports association and loyal supporter of their football team
  • Served as minister of communications under then PM Ariel Sharon between 2001 and 2003
  • Elected Knesset Speaker in 2003 in an uncontested victory

Congratulating Mr Rivlin at a ceremony on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu cited their common political history.

"I know you will do your utmost as president to meet the two-fold mission of unifying the nation and showing unity in the face of external challenges," the PM is quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

"I promise, as a prime minister from a similar background, to work with you."

Observers say Mr Peres, a Nobel peace laureate who is popular among many Israelis, will be a hard act to follow.

Mr Rivlin, who will be sworn in on 24 July, is expected to shift the presidency's focus from international affairs to more domestic matters.