(photo credit: Matthew Wagner)
Israel's next president will be elected in a secret-ballot vote on June 13 in the Knesset. But according to forecasts, the race will really be decided Thursday night when the Shas Council of Torah Sages decides how the faction's 12 MKs should vote.
Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is said to favor Kadima's candidate, Vice Premier Shimon Peres. But before making a final decision, he will consult with the members of the council, rabbis Shalom Cohen, Shimon Baadani and Moshe Maya.
"Something very out of the ordinary would have to happen for us not to support Peres," Shas faction chairman MK Ya'acov Margi said Monday. But Shas chairman Eli Yishai favors backing Likud MK Reuven Rivlin.
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday called Yishai to ask him about the likelihood of Shas supporting Rivlin.
Meanwhile, several MKs appear on both lists of supporters that Rivlin and Peres presented to Yishai last week, leading to confusion over which candidate those MKs actually support. MKs Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List), Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Shai Hermesh (Kadima), and Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Yisrael Hasson and Yosef Shagal (Israel Beiteinu) appear on both lists.
Israel Beiteinu is expected to vote for Rivlin, but some of its MKs have expressed doubt over electing a Likud MK president.
Rivlin, Peres and Labor candidate MK Colette Avital are concerned about the double-listed MKs, and suspect they are just the tip of the iceberg.
"We know that there are many, many MKs who are not going to vote with their parties," said an official close to Avital. "It is a closed vote and, as we know, a lot can happen."