Likud MK Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday picked up endorsements from Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and Ofir Akunis (Likud), a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, strengthening his bid to succeed Shimon Peres as Israel’s next president.
“I supported Rivlin in the past and I endorse him today as well,” Ariel said, according to Israeli news source Walla. “MK Rivlin is the right person for the job. I am sure that he will connect to all parts of the Israeli people and be the president for everybody. There is no disputing that this is a modest man who deserves to be the state’s president.”
Rivlin, who has also put up a campaign website, had previously been endorsed by Interior Minister Gideon Saar, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely, and Likud MKs Haim Katz and Tzahi Hanegbi.
Thus far, Daniel Shechtman is the only other candidate who has declared publicly, but Likud cabinet minister Silvan Shalom and former Labor party chairman and defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer are known to be seeking support behind the scenes for a run.
In order to be considered by the Knesset, candidates must collect endorsement signatures from 10 MKs. Israel’s presidency is largely a ceremonial position.
In a Times of Israel poll conducted in December of who the public would like to see as the next President, Rivlin came in second to current President Shimon Peres at 22% of respondents, followed by Ben-Eliezer (11%), Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky (8%) and Silvan Shalom (6%). The last two candidates, former foreign minister David Levy and former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, both polled under the 3.5% margin of error.
Shechtman announced his aspirations January 17, after the poll was conducted.
President Shimon Peres will end his seven-year term as Israel’s head of state in July, just days before his 91st birthday.
Stephan Miller contributed to this report.