The race to succeed Shimon Peres as president of Israel will begin in earnest Monday afternoon when Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announces a date for the election.
In his meetings with candidates over the past week, Edelstein told them the race would be held on a Tuesday or Wednesday in mid-June, which they took to mean June 17 or 18. Candidates asked for the race to be held as late as possible to give them more time to receive endorsements from MKs.
By law, the Knesset speaker has to announce the date at least three weeks before the race. Candidates need to announce their candidacy and submit the signatures of 10 MKs who support them two weeks before the race. MKs can sign for only one candidate.
A week before the election, Edelstein will announce the candidates and their supporters.
The only candidates who have so far obtained the 10 endorsements necessary to run are Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, who lost to Peres seven years ago, Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit.
Former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik is close to drafting enough signatures. Former Supreme Court judge Dalia Dorner and Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman have obtained a few endorsements. Other potential candidates have not received any yet.
Following Edelstein’s announcement, Yesh Atid is expected to formally decide not to support any candidate, freeing its 19 MKs to make endorsements.
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom declined to comment Sunday on a report that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had decided to quietly back him and enable him to receive the support of 11 Yisrael Beytenu MKs.
Sheetrit’s candidacy took a hit Sunday when he became the latest candidate to have been the subject of an investigation by a media outlet.
Channel 10 reported that he paid a former housekeeper NIS 250,000 for two years of work as part of a secret agreement.
A spokesman for Sheetrit responded that there was a financial dispute between the Sheetrit family and the housekeeper, who was fired. He said the dispute was resolved through negotiations and was kept secret at the family’s request, according to standard procedure.
“We are sorry to see what our political rivals could stoop to and we are shocked to see how far the race for president has fallen,” the spokesman said.
Shalom faced a criminal sexual harassment investigation that was dropped. Ben- Eliezer was the subject of corruption allegations. A video accusing Rivlin of “trying to buy Knesset members” was sent to MKs.
In a speech in Tel Aviv Saturday, Ben-Eliezer called the race for president the dirtiest election he had ever seen.