Rivlin starts presidential campaign by blasting Peres
Former Knesset speaker slams Kadima initiative to end secret-ballot voting.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin officially announced his candidacy for president on Monday with a sharply-worded letter attacking his primary opposition for the position, Vice Premier Shimon Peres.
Rivlin blasted Kadima's initiative to end secret-ballot voting in the Knesset for the next president, which is intended to help Peres defeat Rivlin.
"There is no need to mince words on the improper tricks that are intended to diminish the Knesset's authority to select the next president," Rivlin wrote his Knesset colleagues. "The opposition from across camps and the sharp condemnation have made clear that the MKs will now agree to make the selection process for the president into a showcase of conditional democracy."
Rivlin said the presidency was in crisis and the right person to fix the institution was someone like himself who sees the office as the pinnacle of his career and not someone like Peres, who was only seeking the post "as a consolation prize" because he had failed to get elected prime minister.
He said it was important that the president be able to relate to evacuees from Gush Katif and Sderot residents who have been under fire from Kassam rockets. Peres downplayed the threat a year ago when he denounced Sderot residents for whining over what he called "Kassam-shmassams."
Rivlin emphasized his own strengths of being "authentic and natural" and his ability to display a human touch without patronizing. He compared Beit Hanassi to the Western Wall, as places where the people of Israel should feel free to cry.
A source close to Peres said he agreed that the president had to be accepted by the various sectors of Israeli society, suggesting that Peres fit that definition better than Rivlin.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Kadima faction that it's important to help Peres win the presidency, "using full force, brains and especially determination to guarantee his victory."
He said it was important for the faction to unite behind him.
Labor MK Colette Avital has also announced her candidacy. Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has not made a final decision on whether to run.
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