Netanyahu denies trying to cancel presidential race

Following radio report, PM says elections will still take place; President Shimon Peres is opposed to extending his tenure as president.

Benyamin Netanyahu faction meeting (photo credit: KNESSET CHANNEL)
Benyamin Netanyahu faction meeting
(photo credit: KNESSET CHANNEL)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denied an Army Radio report Wednesday that he wants to extend President Shimon Peres’s tenure by a year, cancel an election set for spring, and enact a law taking the right to elect the president from the Knesset and giving it to the people.
The report said Netanyahu wanted to take such steps because the public supported them and because he did not approve of prospective Likud candidates Reuven Rivlin and Silvan Shalom.
But a minister who spoke to Netanyahu about the matter said the prime minister had denied any connection to the report.
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin said it did not matter whether the report was true, because such a bill cannot pass.
“That idea has no chance whatsoever,” Levin said. “There is not enough time or support to pass it.”
President Shimon Peres is opposed to any change in the law regarding the tenure of the president that would enable him to remain in office longer than the seven years for which he was elected, the President’s Office said in a statement.
Peres has a number of plans in connection with the Peres Center for Peace, in addition to which he has received numerous invitations to visit countries around the world after completing his term on July 27. Current heads of state and of major organizations and institutions abroad want to have Peres as an honored guest – with or without an official role or a title.
“The process has already begun,” Labor’s presidential candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Channel 10 in response to the report. “It’s not easy to change the system at the last minute.
It would have to be for the next presidential election, not this one.”
Other presidential candidates declined to comment.
Prior to the election of Israel’s eighth president, the law permitted a president to serve two consecutive five-year terms before stepping down.
Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s highly popular fifth president, stepped down after one five-year term because he wanted to return to politics, and resumed his political career as both a member of Knesset and education minister.
Ezer Weizman, Israel’s seventh president, who also enjoyed great popularity, was found to have committed a fiscal violation for which he could no longer be prosecuted due to the expiry of the statute of limitations, but, given the circumstances, he could no longer function as president. At the time he was already serving the second year of his second term, and the law was changed in accordance with that period of service, so that a president is now elected for a single seven-year term, instead of a five-year term with the option to serve another five years.
After Peres was elected, there were rumors that he would try to get the law changed so that he could remain in office indefinitely, but he made it clear from the start that he did not want to serve beyond his legally allotted term.