Netanyahu delays endorsing presidential candidate

In turn, Liberman waiting for prime minister to endorse; Yesh Atid waiting until after draft bill; elections expected to take place in summer.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, January 12, 2014 (photo credit: Courtesy PMO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, January 12, 2014
(photo credit: Courtesy PMO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not endorse any candidate in the race for president until after the Knesset returns from its extended spring recess on May 12, a source close to him said on Monday.
“He’s intentionally taking his time to see what direction things take in politics,” the source said.
Netanyahu remaining on the sidelines will make it harder for Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) and Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) to decide whether to run.
Landau will have time to try to persuade Netanyahu to back him when he spends the next three days with him in California and on the plane back to Israel.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said last week that he would wait to endorse any candidate until Netanyahu makes a decision.
He said he would be fine with waiting until May.
Liberman has barred his party’s 11 MKs from endorsing any candidate until Netanyahu decides.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid has forbidden the 19 MKs in his faction from endorsing any candidate, except for Social Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, who will back his brotherin- law Kadima faction chairman Meir Sheetrit.
MKs in Yesh Atid said Lapid was waiting until after the electoral reforms and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bills pass into law next week.
After that, the Yesh Atid faction is set to hold a formal discussion about when its MKs would be able to endorse candidates.
“We know we will be permitted to vote according to our conscience,” a Yesh Atid MK said.
“Whether we’ll also be able to publicly endorse candidates according to our conscience remains to be seen.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.