The June 10 presidential election will begin in earnest Tuesday when six candidates will submit the 10 endorsements required to run to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein ahead of the midnight deadline.
Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman and former Supreme Court judge Dalia Dorner received their final endorsements Monday from Deputy education minister Avraham Wortzman (Bayit Yehudi) and MK Pnina Tamnu-Shata (Yesh Atid) respectively, completing the endorsement phase of the race.
“Until now it has been all rehearsals, and now it is time for the show,” Shechtman said.
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon ruled Monday that there was no problem with receiving endorsements from MKs who have stated publicly that they do not intend to vote for the candidate they endorsed, clearing the way for Shechtman and Dorner to run.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman are not expected to field an outside candidate, ending speculation about a possible run by former foreign minister David Levy.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog mocked Netanyahu for seeking so many candidates.
“The prime minister has asked everyone to run for president except for Pope Francis, but there is still time,” Herzog told his Labor faction.
Netanyahu’s associates still say that the most likely scenario is that he will not support any candidate.
But there have been more and more indications in recent days that Netanyahu, Liberman, and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid will work behind the scenes to help former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik.
Liberman gave permission to two of his MKs to back Itzik.
Sources in Yesh Atid said Lapid’s chief of staff Hillel Kubrinsky has been actively pushing Itzik’s candidacy.
Netanyahu canceled a meeting set for Monday with Likud MK Haim Katz, the campaign manager for former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, the only Likud candidate.
Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin said the race for president was not raised in a meeting he held Monday with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who offered last week to mediate between Netanyahu and Rivlin.
Rivlin did meet Monday with Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and his faction in the hopes to obtain support from most of the Orthodox MKs in the Knesset.
Former Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Eric Yoffie attacked Rivlin in Haaretz Monday, complaining that when Rivlin ran for president seven years ago, he refused to call him rabbi.
He challenged Rivlin to clarify if his views had changed since he called a Reform service “idol worship and not Judaism” 25 years ago.
A source close to Rivlin responded that he “has always received Rabbi Yoffie respectfully and will continue to have a wonderful relationship with Diaspora Jews.”
In the Haaretz article, Yoffie endorsed solar pioneer Yosef Abramowitz, an announced candidate who did not succeed in obtaining support from any of the 120 MKs.
Abramowitz posted a picture with Netanyahu’s wife Sara on his Facebook page Monday and boasted spending time with her at an awards ceremony. But Likud sources said the chances of Netanyahu deciding to back Abramowitz at the last minute were extremely low.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the director- general of the Reform Movement in Israel, said the candidates for president had called him rabbi and been respectful to him.
“I expect all the candidates for president to respect the Jewish world,” Kariv said. “Rivlin has been more hostile than the others but I hope things have changed with him.”
Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit and Shechtman said they saw no reason not to call Reform rabbis by their title.
“If in the eyes of their constituents he or she is a rabbi, he or she is also a rabbi for me,” Shechtman said.