Rivlin: Obama not visiting Knesset is 'worrying'

US Republican: Decision to skip speech at Knesset is "unfathomable."

Rivlin 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rivlin 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
US President Barack Obama’s decision not to visit the Knesset is “worrying,” former Knesset speaker MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said ahead of Obama’s arrival in Israel on Wednesday.
“Three American presidents have spoken on the Knesset stage, as well as [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat and leaders from Europe,” Rivlin said. “President Obama should speak to the people of Israel through its elected representatives.”
According to Rivlin, Obama’s decision not to address the Knesset is a cause for concern because it shows that he does not have faith in the representatives of the nation to which he is speaking.
US presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush addressed the Knesset. President Richard Nixon visited the legislature, but did not give a speech on its stage.
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Rivlin, at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Security Council leader Yaakov Amidror, reached agreements with MKs to prevent them from interrupting the US president or demonstrating against him over Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard’s continued incarceration, were Obama to visit the legislature.
“Unfortunately, despite these agreements, which were reported to the Americans, President Obama decided not to visit the Knesset, a decision which is in bad taste,” he said.
The former speaker also protested the reasoning for Obama not visiting the Knesset, which is that in his last visit to Cairo, he did not address the Egyptian parliament.
“Comparisons to Egyptian democracy are unfair,” Rivlin said. “The Knesset is a symbol of Israeli sovereignty, and with all due respect to the president, it cannot be ignored.”
He wondered, “What would happen if an Israeli leader refused to give a speech in Congress, and chose to do it in Princeton University, instead?” On Tuesday, US Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) wrote a letter to Rivlin, expressing dismay with Obama’s decision not to give a speech in the Knesset.
“It is most unfortunate that the president has decided to bypass the parliament of the State of Israel, reportedly due to concerns over being shown disrespect in any such address,” Lamborn wrote. “As you are well aware, previous presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have not hesitated to speak before the Knesset.”
Lamborn added that it is “unfathomable why President Obama should break with such a traditional norm during his first visit to the Jewish state as president.”