Accusations against Katsav could jump-start presidential race

The sexual harassment allegations regarding President Moshe Katsav could have a significant impact on the next races for president and prime minister. Katsav was elected by the Knesset to a seven-year term on July 31, 2000. A year before his successor is chosen, potential candidates have begun preparing their campaigns. The list of possible candidates is expected to include Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (supported by Kadima), former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), and National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor). Vice Premier Shimon Peres has also been mentioned, but only in the unlikely event that he could run unopposed. If Katsav were forced to resign and the race was moved up, it could help Lau, because Kadima still enjoys firm control of the coalition. By next summer, as the date for the implementation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's West Bank realignment plan nears, the coalition and Kadima itself could begin unraveling.