Rivlin favored to replace Katsav

Knesset survey reveals that Rivlin has support of some 40 MKs on the Right and good relations with the Arab parties.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 24, 2006 00:55
2 minute read.
reuven rivlin in his podium seat at knesset 298

reuven rivlin in seat 248 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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Likud MK Reuven Rivlin has the most support out of the potential candidates for president if President Moshe Katsav should decide to resign to fight sexual harassment charges against him, according to a survey of the Knesset. A Knesset vote on the next president is not set to happen until July 2007, but a Katsav resignation would expedite the process and result in a quick presidential race in upcoming weeks. Rivlin has the support of some 40 MKs on the Right and he has maintained good relations with the Arab parties. Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki said on Wednesday that he believes Rivlin is a fitting candidate and that Kadima should support him. Sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said it was extremely unlikely that Olmert would agree to support Rivlin, who has been a bitter enemy of the prime minister for decades. Olmert has instructed Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, who also detests Rivlin, to help with the candidacy of Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Lau could receive support from Kadima and religious parties, which could be enough to put him over the top. But Meretz intends to vigorously oppose Lau's candidacy and women's groups have threatened to release embarrassing stories about him. The Labor Party has two potential candidates in National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and MK Colette Avital. Ben-Eliezer also claims the support of Shas. Avital, who wants to become Israel's first female president, said Labor's institutions should meet soon to decide on Labor's presidential candidate. Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who lost to Katsav six years ago, is only willing to run if no serious candidate would run against him. It is possible that Olmert could end up urging Peres to run if he fears that Rivlin could win. Labor MK Yoram Marciano said he has collected enough signatures to force a meeting of the Knesset House Committee to start the process of removing Katsav. He said he would submit the signatures if Katsav does not quit by the end of next week. Katsav would be invited to a meeting of the house committee. Removing the president from office would require a special two-thirds majority in both the house committee and the plenum. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik would serve as interim president until a new president would be elected in a race that would be held within 45 days. If multiple candidates run for president, a run-off race would be held between the two top finishers until one candidate received a 61-vote majority of the Knesset.

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