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Fact check: Post mischaracterizes photo of Biden kneeling with Israeli officials

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The claim: Joe Biden kneeled before Israel President Reuven Rivlin

A photo of President Joe Biden kneeling in a meeting with Israeli officials is being mischaracterized to suggest the gesture was a pledge of fealty.

Posts circulating on Instagram and Facebook show Biden on one knee, head bowed as outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his chief of staff, Rivka Ravitz, look down on him during a June 28 White House meeting.

The posts said the photo shows the president as he "kneels before" Rivlin, but that’s not true. The photo is authentic, but the claimed context is wrong.

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Several media outlets have reported that Biden kneeled as a sign of respect to Ravitz’ being a mother of 12 children. None of them mention the act as a gesture of support for Israel or Rivlin.

One version of the claim, a screenshot of a tweet shared on Instagram on July 6, has accumulated more than 2,500 likes.

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USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the claim on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Biden defended his decision to end the war asking, "How many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?"
Biden defended his decision to end the war asking, "How many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?"

White House meeting

Rivlin and Ravitz were at the White House for Rivlin’s final overseas trip as president before he was to be replaced by the country’s new president, Isaac Herzog.

While the photo does show Biden kneeling in front of Rivlin and Ravitz, the context offered in various accounts from reporters shows he wasn't kneeling "before" Rivlin as those posts claim.

The gesture actually was meant for Ravitz, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

During the meeting, Rivlin told Biden that Ravitz oversees a household of 13 in addition to her duties as his chief of staff, according to the newspaper. Biden, a father of four, responded by taking a knee before Ravitz “to express his admiration,” the newspaper reported.

The moment was captured in a photo credited to Haim Zach in the Israeli Government Press Office.

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Reuters cited multiple Israeli reporters confirming that Biden knelt after learning about Ravitz’ large family. Israeli news outlet Yedioth Ahronoth tweeted the photo on July 2, saying Biden had “jokingly” kneeled before Ravitz after learning she was a mother of 12. That appears to match the mood shown in the picture, as both Rivlin and Ravitz are smiling.

Ravitz told Israeli journalist Sivan Rahav Meir that Biden also showed her a photo of his mother after kneeling, according to the reporter’s July 4 Facebook post.

News reports about the meeting said Biden told Rivlin the U.S. would not tolerate a nuclear Iran.

None of those accounts mentions Biden’s kneeling as a pledge of “unconditional support.” Biden did express his backing for Israel, but not to that extreme.

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Biden instead “conveyed his unwavering support” for Israel during his meeting with Rivlin, according to a White House readout issued after the meeting.

Our rating: False

The claim that Biden kneeled before Rivlin is FALSE, based on our research. Biden wasn't kneeling "before" Rivlin, he was doing it as a lighthearted show of respect for Ravitz, who is the mother of 12 children.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Photo of Biden kneeling with Israeli officials mischaracterized

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