Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom are to meet for a third time in under a week on Wednesday to make a final decision on whether Shalom will join the race for president.
Their two-hour meeting Monday morning did not result in an immediate endorsement, leading to speculation in the Likud that Shalom would not end up entering the race. Netanyahu asked Shalom whether he was running, and Shalom conditioned it on the prime minister’s support, which he reportedly did not receive from him at this stage.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein set the election Monday for June 10
, citing the need to end quickly an election that had become so dirty that it was harming the reputation of the Knesset. Edelstein’s decision to hold the race on the earliest possible date harmed Shalom’s chances of obtaining enough support.
Shalom was counting on votes from MKs in Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, and Yesh Atid.
But most Yesh Atid MKs already announced their support for other candidates in a faction meeting Monday.
Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, Shalom’s journalist wife, took out her frustration with the dirty nature of the race in a Twitter post she removed shortly thereafter. She wrote that she was “starting to get disgusted by the political spin, lies, huge amount of money spent, and delusional stories” in the election.
In the post, she appeared to lash out at Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, Shalom’s rival for votes in the Likud, writing “go ahead and make David Appel president.” Appel, a real estate developer friend of Rivlin, served a prison sentence for bribery.
The race led to a sexual harassment investigation of Shalom, but charges were dropped. Knesset members who intend to support Shalom if he runs said they saw the case as dead. But Meretz MK Michal Rozin, a former director-general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, was overheard in the Knesset saying if Shalom runs, there would be a serious campaign against him by women’s groups.
People who spoke to Shalom Monday received the impression that he had not yet decided whether to run. He told them he would make his decision based on both political and personal reasons.
The latest day for Shalom to join the race would be next Tuesday, the final day for candidates to submit to Edelstein the 10 endorsements from MKs required to run. Should Shalom choose to run, he could easily obtain endorsements from MKs in Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, and Yesh Atid MK Yifat Kariv, who used to work for him.
The only MKs who already obtained the 10 endorsements are Rivlin and Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit and former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik are not expected to have trouble obtaining enough endorsements by next week.
But other outsiders were still facing difficulties Monday, even after Yesh Atid distributed its endorsements. Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman had endorsements from only six MKs, and former Supreme Court judge Dalia Dorner had even fewer.
Rivlin and Ben-Eliezer sent letters to MKs Monday asking for their support. Itzik, who never officially announced her candidacy, is keeping a low profile, but she is thought to have support in multiple parties. Sheetrit complained about a Channel 10 report probing him, saying it came from one of his rivals.
“Whoever would sling mud is not fit to be president,” Sheetrit said.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid urged his MKs to endorse Itzik, Shechtman, and Dorner to enable them to run. But MKs in his faction expressed support for Rivlin and Shalom.
“Based on the promises I received, I believe I can get enough endorsements,” Dorner said.