Meir Sheetrit, a Knesset member representing the center-left Hatnua party, joined the race to succeed President Shimon Peres on Wednesday. He is the third presidential hopeful to obtain the 10 signatures of support from MKs required to run.
Two other candidates, MKs Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), have also both garnered enough signatures to participate in the elections on June 10. The president will be picked by the 120 Knesset members in a confidential vote.
Meanwhile, veteran politician David Levy, a former Likud foreign minister who hasn’t held a Knesset seat in 2006, said that he would consider coming out of retirement to campaign for president if he saw sufficient public support and if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rallied behind his campaign.
“There have been many requests, and the matter requires careful consideration,” Levy told Ynet. “It is a lofty position. If I’l feel that it unites most of the people, then a run would be worthwhile.”
Sheetrit, who has held seven ministerial positions since he was first elected to the Knesset in 1981 — in the past he served as an MK for Likud and Kadima — received the backing of Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni and fellow party members when he announced his intention his run in February.
Although Sheetrit remained tight-lipped on Wednesday as to who among his fellow parliamentarians — beyond Hatnua’s five MKs — had put their names on his ticket, media reports said he had likely enlisted endorsements for his candidacy from his brother-in-law Welfare Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) and other Yesh Atid and Shas MKs.
The race to find a successor to the incumbent Peres, whose term ends on July 27, has been marred by scandal and controversy over the past several months.
Earlier this month, Hebrew media reported that Netanyahu was aiming to postpone presidential 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.
Last week, a negative campaign video targeting Rivlin was sent anonymously via email to all of the 120 Knesset members, who select the president..
The video purported to show the Likud candidate grouped alongside “top machers” — a Yiddish word that can be roughly translate as “wheeler dealer” — including the recently sentenced Ehud Olmert, the incarcerated former president Moshe Katsav, and former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, 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?”
Ben-Eliezer was recently accused of gambling in London between 1999-2002, during his tenures as deputy prime minister, communications minister, housing minister and defense minister.
Another rumored hopeful, National Infrastructures Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud), recently faced a public accusation that he had sexually assaulted a woman who worked under him 15 years ago when he served as science minister. Following an investigation, police closed the case, but sources said on Wednesday that Shalom had nevertheless decided to drop his campaign. He held two meetings with Netanyahu in recent days but failed to obtain the p[rime minister’s endorsement.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.