The race to succeed President Shimon Peres will heat up by the end of the month when Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid intends to permit his faction’s 19 MKs to endorse candidates, Channel 2 reported Wednesday night.
Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer obtained the 10 endorsements from MKs required to run two months ago.
But since then, the race has been stuck because the leaders of Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu had barred their MKs from endorsing candidates and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom’s candidacy awaits decisions by the police and state prosecution on the sexual harassment allegations against him.
Four candidates have obtained endorsements of MKs but not the required 10: Former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit, Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman, and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, solar pioneer Yosef Abramowitz, and Israel defender Yehuda David all want to run but do not have the support of an MK yet in the election that will be held between the end of May and end of June.
Yesh Atid officials could not confirm the report. MKs in the party said they had not been told about a faction meeting taking place before the Knesset returns from its extended Passover recess on May 12.
But candidates expressed satisfaction with the possibility of the Yesh Atid MKs endorsing them. One candidate speculated that the report was an indication that Shalom had decided not to run, because Lapid was thought to be seriously considering endorsing him.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said his faction’s endorsements were waiting for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision on who to support. Netanyahu is not expected to decide on a candidate until the Knesset’s recess ends.
Shechtman intends to run radio ads after Passover urging the public to persuade MKs to let him run for president.
“This report is good news,” a source close to Shechtman said. “Danny is the ultimate candidate for Yesh Atid. He fits the party’s agenda like a hand to a glove. We will be happy to get their endorsements.”