President Reuven Rivlin (L) with then Vice President Joe Biden in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Flash90/Yonatan Sindel) (Flash90/Yonatan Sindel)
Reuven Rivlin with Joe Biden

Popular Israeli head of state invited by Republican and Democratic lawmakers to speak to Congress this year.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin received an invitation Thursday from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to speak at the U.S. Congress before the end of his term this July.

Rivlin was elected by the Knesset in 2014 to be the ceremonial head of state and his seven-year term ends on July 9. It is unclear whether Rivlin will be able to make the trip due to coronavirus restrictions in the U.S., even though he has been inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine.

The veteran politician, a member of the Likud party, is widely popular in Israel. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1988 and served twice as speaker of the house.

There was no immediate response to news of the invitation from Rivlin’s office, as he is currently finishing up a whirlwind three-country mission to Europe accompanied by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

Rivlin and Kochavi met with leaders in Germany, Austria and France to discuss the growing threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and concern over the International Criminal Court (ICC) decision to open a criminal investigation against Israel.

The British pro-Israel organization BICOM noted that it is rare for an IDF Chief of Staff to accompany the president on a diplomatic trip abroad. It is also unusual for Rivlin to be leading a diplomatic initiative, which is generally the domain of the prime minister.

Netanyahu is busy campaigning before next week’s national elections in Israel.

Rivlin slammed the ICC for abusing international law to single out Israel.

“The decision by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for possible war crimes is a dreadful misapplication of international law,” Rivlin wrote Thursday in an op-ed published in the French newspaper Le Figaro. “A court established to deal with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community is being used as a political weapon. It is a morally and legally bankrupt decision.”

“Since the prophets declared ‘Zion will be redeemed with justice’ (Isaiah 1:27), international law and justice have been at the heart of the Jewish people’s vision. Jews were active in the creation of a framework of international law,” Rivlin noted. “Jews and Israelis, motivated by the horrors of the Second World War, were at the forefront of the establishment of today’s international legal bodies, including the International Criminal Court itself.”

Rivlin said Israel is “deeply committed” to ensuring that war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity are never allowed to go unpunished and said that Israel had established beyond any doubt “that we are both able and willing to investigate ourselves when allegations of this kind are brought.”

“For us, these are not just dry, abstract questions of law. The soldiers and civilians that the ICC is threatening to investigate are our children and grandchildren, our neighbors and friends,” Rivlin wrote. “We will do everything we can to protect them, just as they protected us when asked to do so. At the same time, we will hold ourselves to the highest standards of international law, even when that requires the most painful decisions.”

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