Getting Reuven Rivlin, and the Israeli Right, Wrong

November 3, 2014 | Liel Leibovitz
About the author: Liel Leibovitz, a journalist, media critic, and video-game scholar, is a senior writer for the online magazine Tablet.

Six months ago, when Reuven Rivlin was being considered for the position of president of Israel, the press eagerly painted him as a right-wing fanatic at whose hands the Jewish state would “be thrust into a dark era of international isolation.” A leading Israeli newspaper referred to him as “the Philosopher Clown.” As president, however, Rivlin has shocked his critics by, among other things, speaking out for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. Their befuddlement, writes Liel Leibovitz, comes not from some sudden change in Rivlin but from their habit of thinking in stereotypes and their cluelessness about the foundational ideology of the Israeli right:

It is dispiriting to see so many pundits opine without regard for Rivlin’s legislative record and ideological roots—his is a firm commitment to Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s teachings, which stressed in equal measure a dedication to the land of Israel and to the values of liberal democracy. But it is infuriating to know that beneath this thin veneer of ignorance lies a deeper Manichean mindset, one in which a passionate Zionist can no more be a tireless defender of civil liberties than a bull can work the showroom of his neighborhood china shop.

Read more on Tablet: