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After Dirty Campaign, Rivlin Promises to Rebuild Public Trust

President-elect Reuven Rivlin vows to be 'a man of the people', as he bids farewell to the Knesset.
By Shlomo Piotrokovski and Ari Soffer
First Publish: 6/10/2014, 5:28 PM

Israel's President-elect Reuven "Ruby" Rivlin has promised to be "a man of the people, and pledged to "rehabilitate" the presidency, after what observers have branded the dirtiest presidential race in Israel's history.

Rivlin, who was elected as Israel's 10th president in a second round of voting in the Knesset Tuesday, admitted that he would need to work hard to rebuild the public's trust after a campaign marred by alleged dirty tactics and controversies over corruption.

Just days before the vote Labor party candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was forced to resign amid accusations of corruption, that surfaced mysteriously just a few days before the poll.

Prior to Ben-Eliezer bowing out, Rivlin's fellow Likud MK Silvan Shalom quit the race after mysterious allegations of sexual assault were lodged against him. Many observers were extremely skeptical at the time, considering the circumstances and timing of the sudden complaint - which came 15 years after the alleged incident had occurred.

police investigation subsequently cleared Shalom, but he left the race shortly afterwards.

The series of apparently orchestrated blows to prominent candidates led to claims of foul play, although nothing has yet been proven.

In his acceptance speech Rivlin acknowledged the campaign had been difficult at times, and vowed to rebuild the public's trust in the presidency.

"Today we have reached the end of a tough election process. The trust of the public during the presidential elections absorbed a hard blow, and it is our duty to rehabilitate and restore it."

In an attempt to begin mending that damage Rivlin took the opportunity to thank his rivals for "adding character" to the race, and to "wish them (well) in continuing to work on behalf of the public."

The veteran Likud MK also bid farewell to party politics, calling the Knesset his home and thanking all his colleagues and Knesset staff.

"For seven Knesset terms I have sat here - during two of them I had the honor of standing at the helm (as speaker). At this moment I begin my separation from this place," he said.

Addressing MKs, he continued: "I merited your trust today; I merited the trust of the Israeli public through you."

"The trust that you have given me today from all the sides of this house, obligates me to shed from this moment the robe of politics," he continued, as he prepared to leave his role as a Likud MK and take on the role of president - which is supposed to be an apolitical one.

"I will be forced to also leave my political home, the Likud, as the law obligates me. That trust obligates me not to be a man of a (political) party... I am a man of the people."

Rivlin also thanked his wife and supporters, and summed up his speech with the words: "Long live Israeli democracy; long live the State of Israel!"

After a surprisingly close first round of votes, in which no one candidate received an outright majority, first-place Rivlin was forced into a runoff with Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit, who came second.

Rivlin clinched victory in the second round, with 63 vote's to his opponent's 53, making him Israel's 10th president.