It chose Rivlin, a former parliament speaker and Cabinet minister, in a secret runoff ballot Tuesday, over longtime legislator Meir Sheetrit, by 63 to 53.
Rivlin now faces the difficult task of succeeding Shimon Peres, a Nobel peace laureate who brought the position international prestige.
The job of the presidency is largely ceremonial. But Rivlin's political views could be a liability.
He opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, putting him at odds with the international community and even his own prime minister.