Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who has referred to himself as an “analogue president in a digital age,” took to Twitter to answer questions about politics and religion in Israel on Sunday, September 25.
The 77-year-old statesman fielded questions with the hashtag #AskRivlin. Unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s online question and answer session in May, which was flooded by Israel critics who asked about Israeli forces killing innocent Palestinian civilians and Israel’s status as an “apartheid state,” Rivlin’s session was relatively subdued.
Rivlin has a reputation as a bridge-builder between Jews and Arabs, decrying anti-Arab racism in Israel. He also an ardent one-stater, believing that Israel should ultimately control the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which would prevent a Palestinian state.
Rivlin took a few political questions, some of which he answered via short videos.
A Twitter user in Germany, Furkan Bumm, wanted to know about the chance of ending Israel’s international isolation in the Middle East, which Rivlin used as an opportunity to repeat his signature phrase that Israelis and Arabs are not doomed to live together, but “destined to live together”:
.@furkanduisbumm#askrivlinpic.twitter.com/f8PJpOeEm9— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) September 25, 2016
Journalist Jacob Kornbluh asked Rivlin if he would be more likely to accept a medal of honor from a future American president Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Rivlin answered rather diplomatically, saying “any American president” would continue the tradition of the strong U.S.-Israeli relationship.
Israel & USA share common values. The USA is Israel’s greatest friend and ally, & any American president will carry this torch forward. https://t.co/klHspYsCq0— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) September 25, 2016
The Israeli president also answered questions about food. One Twitter user wanted to know what would be served at his table at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
I grew up Ashkenzai with gefilte fish. Now with 9 grandkids; Moroccan, Yemenite, Ashkenazi, we have all the tastes of the Jewish people. https://t.co/tuir40lmdo— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) September 25, 2016
He also answered one Twitter user’s burning question about which kind of Krembo — the Israeli marshmallow treat — he prefers, chocolate or mocha? Rivlin lamented that his diet prevents him from eating them.
Sadly my diet means I can’t have either but to tell a secret… both. https://t.co/WzqtbKhbuH— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) September 25, 2016
Among the unanswered questions were a few that touched on hot button issues now roiling Israel:
Haya Eytan, an English teacher in Israel, asked whether Rivlin would consider pardoning Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who faces manslaughter charges for shooing a prone Palestinian assailant in Hebron, and whose trial is now the subject of hot public debate:
#AskRivlin As Pres. Herzog gave mercy to the Shabak ppl Re: Bus 300, R U willing to give mercy to soldier Azaria to avoid rebellion in army— (((Haya Eytan))) (@TeachESL) September 25, 2016
Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group that advocates for equal prayer rights for men and women at the Western Wall Jewish holy site, wanted to know what Rivlin could do to further its cause now that a government agreement for an egalitarian prayer space has stalled:
Mr. President, what can you do to help the women of Israel achieve equal rights to pray at the Western Wall, our holiest site? #AskRivlin— Women of the Wall (@Womenofthewall) September 25, 2016
Rivlin has 19,800 Twitter followers.
Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.