Six presidential candidates submitted their candidacies for election to the post Tuesday, as the Knesset geared up to choose from its largest field of hopefuls ever.
Front-runners Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), both Knesset members, submitted their candidacies Tuesday morning, along with Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner.
Former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik and Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Shechtman also officially entered the race for the largely symbolic post on Tuesday afternoon.
The six candidates had already announced that they received the required 10 signatures of support from MKs to qualify as candidates, and thus were able to formally submit their candidacies to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
The president will be picked by the 120 Knesset members in a confidential vote set for June 10.
A seventh candidate, former foreign minister and Likud stalwart David Levy, was weighing whether or not to also join the race, but later announced he would not be running.
Rivlin submitted 16 signatures and Ben-Eliezer 13.
“I’m here as one with security experience, but mostly [I have worked] in politics and government,” Ben Eliezer told the press after submitting his signatures. “I intend to influence in any way I can.”
The race to find a successor to the incumbent, Shimon Peres, whose term ends on July 27, has been marked by gossip and controversy over several months.
Earlier this month, Hebrew media reported that Netanyahu was aiming to postpone the elections for up to six months, during which time he could push through a law abolishing the presidential office — an idea quickly shot down by Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, a key coalition partner.
Two week ago, a negative campaign video targeting front-runner candidate Rivlin was sent anonymously via email to all of the 120 Knesset members.
The video purported to show Rivlin grouped alongside “wheeler dealers,” including the recently sentenced former prime minister Ehud Olmert, the incarcerated former president Moshe Katsav, and former finance minister Avraham Hirschson, who served time for embezzlement.
The clip also features news clippings about Rivlin from the past, and features the caption “How much does it cost to buy a Knesset member in Israel?”
Meanwhile, Ben-Eliezer, another top candidate, was accused of gambling in London between 1999 and 2002, during his tenures as deputy prime minister, communications minister, housing minister and defense minister.
National Infrastructures Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) was thought to be considering a run, but backed out last week after failing to gain Netanyahu’s backing. He had been damaged by allegations that he had sexually assaulted a woman who worked under him 15 years ago when he served as science minister.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.