Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) may join a crowded field of candidates running to succeed President Shimon Peres in an election that will be held in May or June, his associates said on Wednesday.
The race already includes MKs Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and Nobel Laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman. Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud), former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik and Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit may also run, as may other candidates.
“He is considering whether to run for president, but he has not made a decision yet,” Landau’s spokeswoman said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman have been looking for a candidate to support. Both have poor relationships with Rivlin and Shalom, and Netanyahu has reportedly ruled out former foreign minister David Levy.
Landau, 70, has been close to Netanyahu since they studied together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He was in the Likud for decades before leaving for Liberman’s party.
Yisrael Beytenu officials said Landau has been under pressure to run for a while. Sources close to Shalom and Rivlin both said Landau joining the race would help their candidate and hurt the other.
Landau would have no problem gaining the endorsements of the 10 MKs needed to run, because there are 11 MKs in Yisrael Beytenu and Liberman would compel all of them to endorse him.
Other party leaders, including Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, joined Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid in deciding not to endorse a candidate and not to enforce faction discipline when the MKs elect the next president.
Bennett had considered running Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, but he backed down from the idea after Sharansky’s potential candidacy did not gain momentum.