Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) is expected to soon enter the crowded field of candidates running for president in an election that will be held in May or June, Likud sources said Wednesday.
MKs Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) are the only candidates who have obtained the endorsements from 10 lawmakers necessary to run.
Former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik and Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit are close as well, but outsiders like Nobel laureate Dan Shechtman and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner have struggled to obtain support.
Many Knesset members who have remained neutral in the race for president are expected to endorse candidates over the next few days now that three controversial bills were passed into law in the Knesset this week.
MKs from several parties were waiting to see how the presidential candidates voted on the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription law, referendum bill and electoral reform legislation.
The votes are expected to impact decisions on who to support by Yesh Atid, Shas, United Torah Judaism and possibly also Yisrael Beytenu.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that will be published on Friday that he saw no reason to hurry with the party’s endorsement.
But he told Channel 2 Ben- Eliezer was not an option for his party, because he did not participate in the vote on the draft law.
“Someone who was defense minister cannot sit outside when there’s a vote on drafting haredim to the IDF,” Lapid said. “A man cannot be president if he does not come and give his principled stance on something so important.”
Ben-Eliezer may have gained support from some haredi MKs, who aligned themselves with Labor over the past week.
But United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman said he would not remove his endorsement of Rivlin, which he issued before Rivlin voted for drafting yeshiva students.
“Changing your mind after you gave your word is a sin,” Litzman said. “Anyway, when it comes to many key issues for us, all the candidates are the same.”
Rivlin said he voted for the law because he was reassured that no yeshiva students would be thrown in jail for learning Torah, not because faction discipline was imposed.
“One who wants to be president should not be under pressure for how to vote in the Knesset,” he said. “In all my years in the Knesset, I always voted with my conscience.”
In a sign that he has no hope of obtaining support from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Rivlin heckled the prime minister’s speech on the referendum law at the Knesset on Wednesday.
He also upset Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman by criticizing the electoral reforms.
Liberman said his faction would decide next week whether to field Tourism Minister Uzi Landau as the party’s candidate or back someone else.
“We’re checking all options in and out of the Likud Beytenu faction,” Liberman said. “We are seeing who will have the best chance to win.
If it’s Uzi Landau, we will work for him.”
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