Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom will not run for president after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not back his candidacy in a meeting Monday, sources close to both men said Wednesday.
The sources told Channel 2 that despite two positive meetings, Shalom could not persuade Netanyahu to endorse him, and without the prime minister’s support he would not have a meaningful chance of winning.
Shalom, despite not having officially declared his candidacy, had been considered among the leading candidates vying to fill the position currently held by President Shimon Peres after he leaves his post July 27.
However, recently dismissed allegations of sexual misconduct have cast a shadow over Shalom’s prospects.
Shalom was first questioned by police in late March after a former employee alleged that he sexually assaulted her 15 years ago. Both the police and the state prosecution sought to reinforce the allegations with additional complaints from other women, without which further action was problematic due to the statute of limitations. A second possible victim was later found, but she adamantly refused to lodge a complaint, and the attorney general decided to close the investigation shortly thereafter.
Shalom called the accusations part of a political conspiracy aimed at removing him from the race, and he has hardly been the only candidate besmirched in a race that has often been marred by scandal and controversy.
Most recently, last week, a negative campaign video targeting Reuven Rivlin, who officially announced his candidacy on Monday, was sent anonymously via email to all of the 120 Knesset members, who select the president.
Rivlin, a veteran Likud leader, has also been at the center of controversy surrounding speculation that Netanyahu is firmly against his bid due to their past differences and Sara Netanyahu’s reported dislike of him.
Fellow contender Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was recently accused of gambling in London between 1999 and 2002, during his tenures as deputy prime minister, communications minister, housing minister and defense minister. Ben-Eliezer later said he was certain one of the other presidential candidates had leaked the information to Channel 2, and said private investigators had been hired to dig up dirt about him.
The race has remained wide open particularly because Netanyahu has yet to make his preference known.
As the June 10 vote nears, a number of outsider candidates still have their hats in the ring as well, including Dan Shechtman, a Technion professor who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry, and Dalia Dorner, a retired Supreme Court justice. Two other longshot candidates are Meir Shitreet, a former finance minister, and Dalia Itzik, another former speaker of parliament.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.