Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with the heads of the parties in his coalition on Thursday to consult on how to handle next month’s vote for president.
Sources present at the meetings declined to say whether Netanyahu is still trying to delay the Knesset vote, looking for an outside candidate, or would end up supporting National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, who has not decided whether to run.
Channel 2 reported that Shalom returned from Rome on Thursday and spoke to several politicians about the race. Officials close to him are pressuring him to run, despite sexual harassment allegations against him that were dismissed due to lack of evidence.
The report said Yesh Atid told Shalom that his support from MKs in the party had not been harmed by the allegations against him.
“Silvan’s candidacy has had hope all along,” said coalition chairman Yariv Levin, who backs him. “He just needs to decide whether to run.”
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein closed the sex crimes investigation against Shalom on May 7 on two main grounds.
First, the initial probe was started due to allegations of sex crimes by Shalom against an employee from around 15 years ago – meaning no indictment could be filed because too much time has passed. Second, although the police were told of several other alleged incidents of sex crimes by Shalom in more recent years, also against employees, each incident had a roadblock that prevented prosecution.
The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister newspaper Ma’ariv Sof Hashavua reported that former foreign minister David Levy was also still considering running.
The report said he would run if he is backed by Likud Beytenu, Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi.
Meanwhile, Likud sources denied a report that Netanyahu had decided to try to remove a key power from the presidency by initiating legislation to automatically let the leader of the largest party form a government. According to the current law, the president asks the leader of a party who has the best chance of forming a government to do so.
The change is supported by Yesh Atid, Hatnua and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz but opposed by Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi and key figures in the Likud, including Netanyahu’s No. 2 in the party, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar.
Likud officials said Netanyahu may be considering such a move but he had not made a decision. A source in Yesh Atid said that if Netanyahu backed the idea, he should have included it in electoral reforms that were passed two months ago.