Chief Rabbi Lau to run for Presidency
Formal announcement to come after fate of President Moshe Katsav is decided.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 18, 2006 01:27
2 minute read.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has decided to run for president and will announce his decision as soon as the fate of President Moshe Katsav has been decided, a source close to Lau told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night.
Lau had been rumored as a presidential candidate for months but he has not made any official statement on the issue. A source close to Lau said he would make a formal statement announcing his candidacy following Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's decision on whether to indict Katsav, which is expected within the next three weeks.
Analysis: Why be president, anyway?
The onus on Mazuz (Oct. 17 editorial)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he would be interested in seeing Lau as president in a speech he made a year ago in an event at the Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel marking the release of the rabbi's most recent book. Olmert was vice prime minister at the time, and he has given indications that Lau remains his candidate now that he is prime minister.
Speaking to reporters on his flight to Moscow on Tuesday, Olmert said that Kadima's preferred candidate did not have to be someone political, and that he in fact would prefer someone not identified with any party.
Olmert refused to be drawn into the presidential sweepstakes, saying it would not be "right" for him to comment on a preferred candidate, especially since President Moshe Katsav's tenure doesn't end until the summer of 2007. Asked specifically about the candidacy of his longtime nemesis, Reuven Rivlin, Olmert said he was not dealing with individual names but that he had not ruled anyone out.
The prime minister is set to meet next week with Labor MK Colette Avital, who wants to be Israel's first female president. Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya dean Amnon Rubinstein, who was seen as a possible Kadima candidate, decided not to seek the post. Vice Premier Shimon Peres also said Tuesday that he was not interested in running.
"I am satisfied with my current job and I am not looking for a new position," Peres said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.
One senior Kadima official close to Olmert suggested Monday that Likud MK Natan Sharansky might be the ideal candidate. Olmert gave credence to the rumor when he praised Sharansky at length in a speech at the Knesset plenum.
But Sharansky ruled out running in an interview at his Knesset office on Tuesday. He said he would not get a chance to vote for the next president because he intended to quit the Knesset on November 15, but that he supported front-running candidate Rivlin, his colleague in the Likud.
"I want to make it clear that I am not a candidate," Sharansky said. "Rivlin is a 10th-generation Israeli descended from the Vilna Gaon, he has strong Zionist beliefs, he is a principled person and, at the same time, he was a good manager as a Knesset speaker."
Sharansky said he was looking forward to his new position as head of the Institute for International and Middle East Studies at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based academic institute, but he did not rule out a return to politics.
"When American Jews have asked me why I don't run for prime minister or president, I have said that if a million Jews come from America I would be prime minister," Sharansky said. "Nefesh B'Nefesh is making progress in bringing people, so you never know."
Jerusalem Post correspondent Herb Keinon contributed to this report from Moscow.