Olmert loyalists say Rivlin must be stopped

Former education minister and current Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center Dean Amnon Rubinstein will be Kadima's candidate for president, Channel 2 reporter Amnon Abramovich reported on Monday night. Kadima officials denied that Olmert had dealt with the issue. They said the prime minister would not give the issue any thought until the investigation into sexual harassment charges against President Moshe Katsav had been completed. But Olmert associates acknowledged that it was an issue of concern for the prime minister that a candidate loyal to him win the presidency whether or not the election will be advanced ahead of its current date of July 2007. Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau had been expected to be named Kadima's candidate for president, but Kadima officials expressed skepticism that Lau could obtain enough votes to beat Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, who is very popular in the Knesset and whom Olmert has personally despised for years. "We have to do what we can to make sure that the person we don't want will not win," a source very close to Olmert told The Jerusalem Post. Rivlin has the support of some 40 MKs on the Right and has maintained good relations with the Arab parties. Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki even said last week that he believes Rivlin is a fitting candidate and that Kadima should support him. National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Labor ministers on Monday that he was leaning against running for president. If Olmert does not endorse Lau, it is doubtful that he would run, leaving Rivlin and Labor MK Colette Avital as the only announced candidates. An Israel Prize winner, Rubinstein was an MK for 23 years with Dash and Meretz. He has a clean reputation, which would help Olmert, but he was also a vocal critic of Olmert's Gaza disengagement plan. Rubinstein declined to respond to the report.