Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin received a clear message on Sunday from sources associated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the latter's intentions are not to support Rivlin's third term as Knesset speaker.
According to a source in the Knesset, "Rivlin already understands what is happening; he said that Netanyahu plans to dismiss him."
The source also said that "Rivlin has many public affairs privileges and significant public standing. His conduct as Knesset speaker was beneficial to the parliament and to democracy – this is also Netanyahu's issue with him. It could very well be that Netanyahu will be pressured by the public reverberations that Rivlin's dismissal will cause and he will reconsider the dismissal at the last minute."
Rivlin as Knesset speaker (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Senior Likud-Beiteinu officials said that Netanyahu recently promised him his support as an agreed upon candidate, prior to the factional vote on a candidate on its behalf and before it is brought before the Knesset plenum for confirmation.
Over the weekend, however, Rivlin received messages that Netanyahu was not interested in him as a candidate. In a phone call between the two, it was deduced that Rivlin's days in the position, being temporarily filled by Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, are numbered.
According to Likud sources, Rivlin recently asked to meet with Netanyahu in order to understand the prime minister's position, but the Prime Minister's Office evaded his request. "The mere evasion of a meeting and the lack of a public declaration by Netanyahu on the subject make things clear; Netanyahu is dismissing Rivlin," said a senior Likud official.
"The two have had a complicated relationship, which included things that Rivlin said and Netanyahu has not forgiven. This is the reason he does not want him for an additional term. Rivlin already understands – Netanyahu is dismissing him."
Rivlin's last term as Knesset speaker was his second, and during the term, he expressed his opinion on the coalitional stance regarding issues he viewed as fundamental. Part of the time, Rivlin and Netanyahu's relationship was tense, but they tried to cooperate.
A few months ago, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, who had previously expressed interest in the speaker position, began enlisting support for his candidacy opposite Rivlin. Amongst other parties, he gained the support of Yisrael Beiteinu and of the more right-wing members of the Likud.
However, Rivlin has gained the support of the Arab and leftist parties, who claim that he served in a stately manner.
Rivlin's associates said that either way, he will remain in the Knesset and fill his position even if as an ordinary MK. The Likud-Beiteinu candidate is expected to be confirmed in the factional meeting prior to the swearing in of the new government this week. If there are no last-minute changes, an attempt will be made to confirm Edelstein's candidacy in Monday's factional meeting.
Aside from the position of Knesset speaker, which Rivlin wants to continue filling, his name has risen as a possible presidential candidate following the retirement of Shimon Peres.
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