President Rivlin and President Obama

First, some background.

To most objective observers, Arutz Sheva is on the right of the political spectrum in Israel. The far right to some. It is not mainstream, and so far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence, has a somewhat restricted audience.

It occasionally publishes worthwhile material, but such as with the venomous Guardian, you need to wade through a lot of dross.

And in that regard, it is important to note that so often as is practically possible, I try not to ‘shoot the messenger.’ In other words, I want to look at the story, check the facts, and think about it for myself, before I reject something just because it has been written by a particular person, or published in a particular place.

Now down to business.

President Rivlin has some tough shoes to fill. Peres seemed to be able to step between the cracks most nimbly. Rivlin has made a decent start, but with one or two cracks very definitely stood on. For example, his encounter with the Conservative religious movement was not handled well. On the other hand, I thought he was statesmanlike with the issue of discrimination against the Ethiopians.

Rivlin won’t cowtow to Bibi, and on several occasions has said things that put hime in direct conflict with the Prime Minister. So Bibi’s supporters are not always Rivlin supporters.

Arutz Sheva has an article about Rivlin’s marking of Jordanian Independence Day:

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If you read the article, you will get the flavor of Arutz Sheva’s dislike of Rivlin or the Jordanians or both. Some of the points made are valid. But it is not fair to criticize Rivlin for being a diplomat and avoiding controversy. There was no need for Rivlin to create a storm by rubbing the Jordanians’ noses in it. However, I do hope that in private sessions, Rivlin will make clear how Israel views some of the nonsense Jordan has been getting up to.

But if you view the Arutz Sheva home page, you will see how somebody has decided to add a telling caption to the synopsis:

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You may take it that “Our own Obama?” is not an indication of respect for either Obama or Rivlin. It is telling that people with this political viewpoint are trying to suggest Rivlin may be as bad as Obama. (And if the leaks from Michael Oren’s new book are half true, Obama has been bad, bad, bad towards Israel.) This little mark is a useful reminder of the issues that loom large in Israeli politics. Here there are also undercurrents of racism or Islamaphobia: Rivlin is like Obama because he is sympathetic, or not at war with Islam the religion. And in these quarters, that’s not a plus.

There’s nothing significant in the events reported on, but it is probably material that Rivlin can expect this type of comparison (and insult!) from the right. He won’t care, for now. But he will know these are the risks of being in his role. One veteran Israeli told me that Rivlin will do whatever he thinks is right (correct!) regardless of the criticism, and will make efforts to take the Israeli public with him. Clearly that includes the Arab citizens. So his remarks about Islam are not just window dressing.

Definitely a case of ‘watch this space’ for further developments.