Amid harsh criticism for his decision regarding Elor Azaria’s request for clemency, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin clarifies that he knows “difficult decisions must be made” and that he expected the controversy which he believes to be part of an “orchestrated move.”

President Rivlin

President Rivlin Photo Credit: Miriam Alster, FLASH90/Channel 2 News

Less than a day after his decision to reject Elor Azari’s request for clemency was announced, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin faces harsh criticism. Yet in a conversation with his associates, the president reportedly clarified that he was not surprised by the storm his decision caused. “Difficult decisions must be made,” the president stated.

Following the announcement and the resulting storm on social media, thousands of calls were made today (Monday) to the President’s residence. While speaking with his aides Rivlin added that “sometimes decisions must be made that not everyone likes,” and made it clear that he expected the controversy.

However, despite his reassuring statements, politicians who spoke with the president say that Rivlin believes that much of the discourse against him is inauthentic. According to those same politicians, although the president doesn’t think illustrating him in a keffiyeh and criticizing him is illegitimate, his impression of what is happening over social media is that it is an orchestrated move.

A doctored photograph of Rivlin in a keffiyeh

A doctored photograph of Rivlin in a keffiyeh Photo Credit: Facebook Screenshot/Channel 2 News

As reported previously by JOL, Rivlin’s decision not to grant Elor Azaria clemency caused an uproar on Israeli social networks. Among angry posts and disgruntled attacks, a doctored photograph of Rivlin wearing a keffiyeh began circulating on Facebook. The keffiyeh, a square head scarf traditionally worn by Arab men, became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism in the 1930s. The Israel Police decided to open an investigation into the image’s origins this morning (Monday).

Shortly after announcing his decision yesterday, Rivlin’s Facebook page was quickly inundated with negative comments blasting his decision and personal attacks against the president himself. Most notable was a retouched photo of Rivlin wearing a keffiyeh. “You will be remembered forever as a president who never stopped acting against his people,” one person wrote. “You are a president of 20 percent of the people, a president without a people.”

The decision also drew severe criticism from some senior government officials including Culture Minister Miri Regev and MK Oren Hazan (Likud) and was even met with a petition from former MK Sharon Gal.  Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein condemned those who spoke out against Rivlin this morning and said: “If you think that will get you more votes for the Likud, you are mistaken.”