(photo credit: AP [file])
President Moshe Katsav's opponent in the 2000 presidential race, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, revealed on Wednesday that he could have exposed sexual harassment allegations against Katsav ahead of the race, but decided against it.
Peres said he had been presented with complaints from women about Katsav, as well as allegations of criminal ties, but he ordered his associates not to make any use of the charges and to allow the race to be held solely on the two men's qualifications for the job.
"I don't regret my decision, even now," Peres told reporters in the Knesset cafeteria.
In his first comments on the presidential race since Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's decision on Tuesday to charge Katsav with rape, Peres signaled that he hoped the presidential race would take place as soon as possible, for the good of the country.
"The situation looks bad," Peres told his associates. "It can't continue like this. They're making fun of us all over the world."
Sources close to Peres said he would definitely run again for president if the vote in the Knesset were held by open ballot. They denied reports that Peres had made a final decision to run even in a secret ballot vote.
In a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office late Tuesday night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's aides and top Kadima MKs decided that for the good of the party, they should pressure Peres to run for president regardless of how the vote was conducted. But Kadima strategist Eyal Arad said he would advise Peres not to run in a secret ballot vote.
A Likud MK mocked Peres for believing MKs who tell him they will support him in a secret ballot vote, just as he did in 2000.
"I pity Peres, because he believed people last time too," the MK said.
"With old age, you sometimes lose your senses and start believing what you imagine." The race for president will be postponed if the Knesset House Committee decides on Thursday to allow Katsav to suspend himself for three months and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik becomes acting president.
Such a scenario would increase the likelihood of Itzik running for president herself.