Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to hold a meeting with supporters of presidential candidate Reuven Rivlin Monday, a day before the deadline for candidates to enter the June 10 election.
Netanyahu has considered a long list of potential candidates, excluding Rivlin – the only Likud figure who has entered the race.
Sources close to Netanyahu said they believe the most likely scenario remains that the prime minister may not publicly endorse any candidate – and continue to work behind the scenes to sabotage Rivlin, with whom he has sparred for many years.
Nevertheless, Rivlin’s campaign manager, Likud MK Haim Katz, said he still believes the prime minister could be persuaded to back his nemesis.
Katz has received requests to mediate between Netanyahu and Rivlin from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Transportation Minister Israel Katz and other senior figures in the party.
“If I didn’t think we could convince the prime minister, I wouldn’t be trying so hard,” Haim Katz said Saturday night. “I hope we will succeed in getting his support and then [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman keeps his promise to endorse whoever Netanyahu backs.”
Katz said he hoped obtaining the support of Netanyahu and Liberman could give Rivlin the backing of the 61 MKs necessary in the first round of voting to avoid a second round, though other Rivlin associates said they realized that with five or six candidates in the race, such a goal was not very realistic.
Not obtaining Netanyahu’s support could result in Rivlin receiving a consolation prize of votes from haredi (ultra-Orthodox) MKs, who are not expected to back a candidate who has the support of the prime minister.
United Torah Judaism faction chairman Ya’acov Litzman has endorsed Rivlin, but other haredi MKs said they could not vote for him because he voted for the haredi conscription bill.
A surprising number of haredi MKs have been backing female candidates for president.
After former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner received an unexpected endorsement from Shas MK Amnon Cohen, former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik received support from Shas MKs Ya’acov Margi and Nissim Ze’ev, as well as the only haredi lawmaker in Yesh Atid, Dov Lipman.
“The time has come for a female president of Israel,” Lipman said. “The role of the president is to unite the nation and the state and to represent us in the broader world. Aside from the fact that I believe that Dalia is a dignified representative for our country, the members of Knesset who signed for her include Jews, Muslims and Christians, right-wing, center, and left-wing, haredim and secular, veteran Israelis and new immigrants. This is true and wide unity, demonstrating that she embodies what the presidency should be: Warm and unifying from within, and dignified representation of Israel to the world.”
Lipman’s Yesh Atid colleague MK Yifat Kariv announced Saturday that she would endorse Dorner, bringing the former judge her seventh endorsement of the 10 required to run.
Kariv had intended to back Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom, who is her former employer, but he decided not to run.
She praised Dorner for advancing women’s rights, most notably in a court ruling that enabled women to become fighter pilots in the Israeli Air Force.