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Rivlin skips Jerusalem theater reopening over Netanyahu’s attendance

For 3rd time in week, president cancels appearance after learning PM will be there; his office says the event has ‘a political tone’ ahead of next month’s elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and President Reuven Rivlin attend a ceremony in memory of deceased Israeli presidents and prime ministers held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and President Reuven Rivlin attend a ceremony in memory of deceased Israeli presidents and prime ministers held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 17, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin canceled a planned appearance Tuesday evening at the reopening of the Khan Theater in Jerusalem after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to attend.

It was the third time in a week Rivlin has scrapped a public appearance due to Netanyahu’s attendance at events where the president was set to be the guest of honor, The Times of Israel’s sister site, Zman Israel, has learned.

Rivlin was scheduled to attend the performance of “Blithe Spirit,” the first production since cultural institutions were allowed to reopen this week as part of a rollback of coronavirus restrictions. However, his office issued a statement announcing Rivlin’s cancellation shortly after the Prime Minister’s Office said  Netanyahu would be at the theater.

“Unfortunately the president will not be able to attend the ceremony as he does every year, after it turned out that that the format would have a political tone in the spirit of the election period,” the statement said, referring to the March 23 Knesset elections.

Israelis attend a performance of ‘Blithe Spirit’ at the Khan Theater in Jerusalem on February 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Sunday, Rivlin canceled his appearance at an event marking 72 years since the raising of the “Ink Flag” at the Red Sea port of Eilat, which Netanyahu attended. Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, who was courted by several political parties but ultimately decided not to run in the upcoming elections, also decided to cancel, citing the political tone of the event.

Rivlin also canceled his attendance Tuesday at the annual memorial ceremony at Tel Hai, but later visited the northern town at a separate time to honor those killed in the 1920 battle.

The President’s Residence said Rivlin will find another time to visit the Khan to pay tribute to the theater and Israeli arts and culture.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post and meant to be non-partisan, with the president tasked with tapping a Knesset member to form a government after elections.

Netanyahu and Rivlin have a famously bitter personal relationship. Netanyahu has previously accused Rivlin, a former lawmaker from the premier’s Likud party, of plotting to choose someone besides him to put together a coalition, a claim denied by the president.

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