The Jerusalem Post
A photo for the record: Israel’s 36th Government
For most of the past 18 months, reporters and photographers were denied access to events at the President’s Residence due to coronavirus restrictions. Even on the rare occasions when they were admitted, their numbers were extremely limited, and entry was subject only to advanced registration.
On Monday, however, the President’s Residence flung open its doors, and media representatives flocked in droves to record the traditional photograph of the incoming government with the president.
Traditionally, the new government is approved by the Knesset in a nighttime vote, and its ministers visit the president for a festive reception and a group photograph to record the momentous occasion. But this year it was slightly different.
After the new government gained the confidence of the Knesset, albeit by a single vote, a cheer and applause went up in the plenum, and there was singing and dancing in the streets of major cities. But the ministers were in no rush to go to the President’s Residence along with their spouses, partners and aides.
The suspicion is the delay was because President Reuven Rivlin, a soccer fan, wanted to watch the Copa America Brazil-Venezuela match on Sunday night.
So after a night’s sleep, the members of the government trickled in on Monday for the scheduled photograph, and the number of media representatives kept mounting for the occasion.
Eventually, the ministers filed out of the reception room, led by Energy Minister Karin Elharrar. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman was close behind and took his place directly behind the highbacked chair reserved for Rivlin.
The other ministers assembled around and behind him, except for the leaders of the parties in the coalition and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who stood in the front row directly behind the chairs reserved for Rivlin, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz had trouble finding his place, and because he is the tallest minister in the government, ministers in the two rows behind him had to maneuver their positions so that they could remain in the eye of the camera.
After they were all properly assembled, Bennett, Rivlin and Lapid entered the hall, with Bennett waving to the phalanx of reporters, photographers and camera operators. Bennett and Lapid shook hands with all the coalition leaders and with one or two other people.
Rivlin weaved his way through the three rows, shaking hands with everyone and kissing all the women, for whom this was a positive experience of “Me Too.” After all, how many women can boast of being kissed in public by the president of Israel?
Rivlin dallied for so long that his spokeswoman, Naomi Toledano, was forced to call him to order and request that he take his seat.
Rivlin happily clasped hands with Bennett and Lapid.
After the photo shoot, in sharp contrast to former occasions of this kind, there was no sumptuous buffet, and spouses, partners and older children were not present. Nearly everyone simply went back to work.
The notable exceptions were Shaked and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, who stayed behind to give interviews. Regardless of when the next elections may be held, these ministers have already started their reelection campaigns.
The traditional photo is one of a reducing number of tasks in Rivlin’s diary. He has only a little over three weeks in office before his term ends and he makes way for his successor, Isaac Herzog.
In the brief period Rivlin has left, he hopes, for the last time, to accept the credentials of new ambassadors. He is also scheduled to visit the US at the invitation of President Joe Biden, but a date for that visit has yet to be announced.