July 25, 2014 - 09:35 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres ended his term as President of Israel on Thursday, July 24, the Associated Press reports.
Peres handed the ceremonial but high-profile presidency over to Reuven Rivlin, a legislator from the hawkish Likud Party.
"I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families," Peres, 90, said in his speech at the handover ceremony. He blamed the Islamic militant group Hamas for starting the current war by firing barrages of rockets at Israel, but also emphasized that "Israel is not the enemy of the people of Gaza."
Rivlin's theme was similar: "We are not fighting against the Palestinian people, and we are not at war with Islam," he said. "We are fighting against terrorism."
In sharp contrast to Peres, however, Rivlin has long been an opponent of efforts to establish a Palestinian state, the AP notes.
Israel's president is meant to serve as a unifying figure and moral compass — while executive power rests with the prime minister, currently the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rivlin, 74, a stalwart in Netanyahu's Likud Party, has said he will turn the presidency's priorities inward, focusing on domestic issues, such as the rising cost of living and affordable housing. While Rivlin is respected as a champion of civil-rights, he does not support the creation of an independent Palestinian state and has been a longtime supporter of Jewish West Bank settlements.