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Rivlin: Obama’s Knesset Snub ‘Worrying’

Former Knesset speaker says President Obama’s speech venue choice sends message of mistrust.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/19/2013, 7:19 PM

Speaker Rivlin
Speaker Rivlin
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin expressed concern Tuesday over United States President Barack Obama’s decision not to speak in Knesset during his visit to Israel this week. Instead, Obama will speak in the Binyanei Hauma convention center in Jerusalem.

“President Obama must speak to the Israeli nation directly, but opposite its leaders,” he said. ‘When President Obama avoids the Knesset in Jerusalem, that’s a worrying sign, it’s a statement of lack of faith in the representatives of the nation he’s addressing.”

Three previous visiting American presidents spoke in Knesset, he noted, as did former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and multiple European leaders.

Rivlin revealed that he had obtained commitments from several MKs that they would not disrupt Obama’s address were he to speak in Knesset. “Unfortunately, even though the Americans had copies of the agreements in their hands, President Obama decided not to come to Knesset,” he said.

“What would happen if an Israeli leader refused to speak in Congress, and chose to speak in Princeton University instead?” he asked.

Rivlin previously expressed concern over Obama’s choice of Chuck Hagel as his Secretary of Defense, and criticized the U.S. leader for a “complete lack of understanding… about the roots of the conflict and the events in the Middle East” after the Democratic Party stopped declaring that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.