Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President- elect Reuven Rivlin began working through their past problems and settling their differences in an effort to build a positive working relationship Wednesday in a meeting at Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.
The two-hour meeting was the first in more than a year between the two men. It came a day after Rivlin won the presidency by 10 votes, despite not receiving clear and unquestionable support from Netanyahu, the leader of his party.
“They fixed their problems from past years,” a spokeswoman for Rivlin said after the meeting. “They agreed to leave their past behind.”
Rivlin said after the meeting that he and the prime minister “were obligated to full and productive cooperation on behalf of the State of Israel and its citizens.”
Netanyahu emphasized the things he and Rivlin share in common, such as both being Jerusalemites, sons of professors and fans of the same soccer team.
“We’ve gone through many things in life together and now we will put aside our differences and work for the sake of the State of Israel’s future,” the prime minister said.
The meeting came as Netanyahu faced harsh criticism from inside Likud for openly opposing Rivlin’s candidacy until two weeks before the race and then taking steps that undermined the party’s candidate.
Rivlin’s campaign manager, Likud MK Haim Katz, said the prime minister should be ashamed by his behavior and added that Likud “did not act like a party.”
Netanyahu met with multiple Likud ministers and MKs Wednesday in an effort to rehabilitate his image in the party that was harmed due to his behavior in the presidential election.
The prime minister admitted to making mistakes in his handling of the race, in which he repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to draft a candidate to run against Rivlin.
In closed conversations Wednesday, Netanyahu said he had cast ballots for Rivlin in both rounds of voting in Tuesday’s race.
His associates denied reports that he had sent coalition chairman Yariv Levin between the rounds to seek support from haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MKs for Rivlin’s opponent, Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit.
Sheetrit had counted Netanyahu as one of his supporters in the secret-ballot votes.
The haredi MKs ensured Rivlin’s election by giving him nearly unanimous support, citing Sheetrit’s support for anti-haredi legislation throughout his long political career.
Rivlin also received surprising support from MKs who backed former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik in the first round of voting. Itzik asked her supporters to back Sheetrit, but her campaign manager, Yisrael Beytenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum backed Rivlin, despite the fierce opposition of her party leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
A meeting between Rivlin and Liberman is expected to take place to settle their differences following Liberman’s return from his trip to Africa. Liberman said during the campaign that he would support “a candidate who was not Rivlin.”
Rivlin’s replacement in the Knesset, MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, has received an offer from Liberman to be appointed as Israel’s ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based alliance of developed that countries that promotes policies aimed at improving the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
Shama-Hacohen said Wednesday that he had not yet decided whether to accept the appointment because his wife and children opposed it.
But he said he was qualified for the post after serving as chairman of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee and denied that the offer was part of a “dirty political deal.”
If Shama-Hacohen takes the job, he would be replaced in the Knesset by Liberman’s ally, former Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller. Shama- Hacohen has been critical of Likud and is considered close to former welfare and social services minister Moshe Kahlon, who is forming a party that is expected to run against Likud in the next election.
“The Likud does not do enough on socioeconomic issues,” Shama- Hacohen told Israel Radio Wednesday, saying that he would not rule out joining Kahlon if he formed a socioeconomically focused party.
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