The Knesset on Tuesday chose Likud veteran Reuven Rivlin to be Israel’s 10th president. The Times of Israel provided play-by-play coverage of all the action and intrigue behind the vote.

After scandal-wracked campaign, the moment of truth

Welcome to The Times of Israel’s liveblog coverage of the Israeli presidential election.

After a campaign dogged by multiple scandals, with front-running candidates Silvan Shalom and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer dropping out amid police investigations, the Knesset vote is about to kick off.

The five contenders vying to replace the venerable Shimon Peres as Israel’s president, a largely ceremonial position, are former justice Dalia Dorner, Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Dan Shechtman, former MK Dalia Itzik, Hatnua party MK Meir Sheetrit and veteran Likud MK Reuven Rivlin.

You can read TOI political correspondent Haviv Rettig Gur’s predictions for the vote here.

Follow our play-by-play coverage here and on Twitter on @timeosfisrael.

‘Ugly campaign’ comes to an end, Itzik says

As she enters the Knesset hall, candidate Dalia Itzik says an “ugly campaign” for the presidency is coming to a close. The former Labor MK says she expects the Knesset to make a historic decision and elect a woman to the office — but made no indication as to whether she thought it would be her or Dalia Dorner.

Dalia Itzik addresses the Knesset on July 18, 2011.(photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Dalia Itzik addresses the Knesset on July 18, 2011.(photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Ben-Eliezer arrives for presidential vote

Labor Party MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who quit the presidential race on Saturday amid allegations of financial impropriety, arrives at the Knesset around 10:30, telling reporters only that he does not intend to vote for the two front-runners, Reuven Rivlin and Dalia Itzik.

Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

How does this thing work exactly?

In case you, like everyone else in Israel, need an explanation on how the byzantine vote for the presidency works, check out Haviv Rettig Gur’s primer on the election process.

A ballot box stands in the Knesset plenum ahead of Israel's presidential elections, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (photo credit: Knesset spokesman)

A ballot box stands in the Knesset plenum ahead of Israel’s presidential elections, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (photo credit: Knesset spokesman)

Peacenik ex-MK urges leftists to vote Sheetrit

Former Labor Party MK Yossi Beilin sends a letter to left-wing MKs exhorting them to vote for Hatnua party MK Meir Sheetrit.

“The presidency is unavoidably political,” Beilin writes. Will the next president celebrate the anniversaries of the founding of settlements? Will he set foot in Arab towns, or avoid them? No matter how “nice” he is, Rivlin’s right-wing views will necessarily get in the way of his presidency, and harm the country in the process, Beilin argues.

Sheetrit, he notes, was one of the few right-wingers who abstained in the narrow votes on the Oslo peace agreements in the 1990s. Without that abstention, the second Oslo agreement in 1995 would have failed to pass in the Knesset.

The full letter (in Hebrew) can be found here.

Rivlin, Ben-Eliezer embrace on Knesset floor

As the members of Knesset file into the main hall (with some still dawdling outside), presidential hopeful Reuven Rivlin and former presidential hopeful Benyamin Ben-Eliezer share an embrace on the floor.

Final predictions before vote put Rivlin ahead

Political blogger Tal Schneider is keeping tally of MKs’ support for the various candidates, and according to her assessment Likud MK Reuven Rivlin is the clear frontrunner ahead of the vote.

According to Schneider, Rivlin has 34 votes coming to him, Dorner will get 15, Meir Sheetrit 11, Dalia Itzik 10 and Dan Shechtman trails with 5.

Sheetrit may get PM, opposition chief’s votes

As MKs start casting their ballots for Israel’s 10th president, sources in the PMO tell Channel 2 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may vote for Hatnua party MK Meir Sheetrit in the first round of voting, not for his fellow Likudnik Reuven Rivlin.

Hatnua party sources tell Maariv that they also succeeded in convincing opposition leader and Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog to back Sheetrit.

What’s in Ben-Eliezer’s envelope?

In a moment of levity, the Knesset TV Channel’s official Facebook page posts a picture of Labor Party MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer after he leaves the ballot box with the caption, “What’s in Ben-Eliezer’s envelope?”

The first commenter to respond remarks — in a wry reference to the police investigation into Ben-Eliezer’s finances that forced him out of the race — “Cash?”

Netanyahu casts ballot, but will it be a Ruby Tuesday?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casts his vote, and according to recent speculation it was for Hatnua MK Meir Sheetrit. With Netanyahu’s vote, the first round of the election is roughly halfway through.

Israel Hayom editor Barney Breen-Portnoy points out that if Likud MK Reuven Rivlin wins Tuesday’s vote, it will be a Ruby Tuesday.

Rivlin, Sheetrit said to be ahead after half of Knesset votes

After over half the MKs have cast their votes in the presidential election, Walla News correspondent Omri Nahmias tweets that an MK who just left the ballot box says that the stacks of slips remaining for Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit are the shortest.

First round of voting ends

Rounding out the first round of voting, Stav Shaffir, Ayelet Shaked and Pnina Tamano-Shata cast their votes. A panel of three MKs will now tally up the 119 ballots (one MK, Meir Porush, is abroad).

MKs tally votes from first round

MKs, aides and journalists are milling about in the Knesset foyer as three of the parliamentarians tally up the ballots from the first round of voting. Stav Shaffir of Labor, Yitzhak Cohen of Shas and deputy minister Ofir Akunis of Likud are in the Knesset secretary’s office counting the slips.

They’re expected to come out with the official results any minute now. 

From left to right, Yitzhak Cohen of Shas, Stav Shaffir of Labor and Ofir Akunis of Likud and Knesset Secretary Yardena Horowitz with the ballot box. (photo credit: Knesset Spokesperson)

From left to right, Yitzhak Cohen of Shas, Stav Shaffir of Labor and Ofir Akunis of Likud and Knesset Secretary Yardena Horowitz with the ballot box. (photo credit: Knesset Spokesperson)

Rivlin and Sheetrit face off in second round

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announces the result of the first round of the presidential election. Reuven Rivlin wins the first round with 44, Meir Sheetrit comes in second with 31, Dalia Itzik with 28, Dalia Dorner with 13 and Dan Shechtman with just one.

Two of the 119 votes were invalidated because there were two slips inside the envelope.

Rivlin and Sheetrit will face off in a second round runoff, since no candidate got a 61-vote majority.

Shechtman ‘wonderful’ after dismal election showing

After winning only one vote in the first round of the presidential election, Dr. Dan Shechtman declares that he feels “wonderful.” He’s being sarcastic. He calls the result “an absolute classic.” Nobel Prize-laureate Shechtman says that the Knesset is disconnected from the will of the people.

Meretz to vote Sheetrit in runoff vote

Meretz party leader Zahava Gal-on says five of her six party members voted for Dalia Dorner in the first round, and one voted for Reuven Rivlin (MK Ilan Gilon). She says that she predicts that Meir Sheetrit, the more liberal of the two candidates in the runoff round, will receive the votes that had been cast for Dorner. Gilon will likely vote once again for Rivlin.

Dalia Itzik backs Sheetrit in second round

After her third-place finish in the first round of the election, Dalia Itzik says she respects the Knesset’s decision and congratulates Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit on their success in the first round. Itzik finished the first round with 28 of the 117 votes.

She says Sheetrit is her preference between the two and wishes him luck in the upcoming second round.

Unfortunately for Sheetrit, Itzik, who is not an MK, doesn’t have a vote in the election herself.

Shas No. 2, senior Likudnik back Rivlin

Shas party No. 2 Eli Yishai says that his party members are free to vote for whomever they like, but he will be casting his ballot for Likud MK Reuven Rivlin.

Shas has 11 MKs in the current Knesset.

Likud’s Communications Minister Gilad Erdan tells the press that his vote, too, will be going to Rivlin.

Hasson or Shama-Hacohen on deck for Knesset seat

Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit are both serving MKs, which means that whichever candidate wins in the runoff round of the presidential election will have to be replaced.

The next person in line in the Likud party list is Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who served as an MK in the last Knesset. He would replace Rivlin should the veteran Likudnik be elected president in the coming hours.

The Hatnua party would be sending former Kadima MK Yoel Hasson to the Knesset if its MK, Sheetrit, wins in the runoff.

MKs vote in runoff between Rivlin, Sheetrit

Knesset members are casting their votes in the second, and almost certainly final, round of the presidential election.

Whoever wins will replace Shimon Peres as president when he leaves his post on July 24.

Lapid, Netanyahu cast votes in presidential runoff

Finance Minister Yair Lapid steps out of the ballot box and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes Reuven Rivlin’s hand on his way to cast his vote. It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu will back a member of his own party with whom he has personal disagreements, or whether he will back Meir Sheetrit from Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party.

After roughly half the MKs have voted, rival candidates Sheetrit and Rivlin are chatting in the pews and sharing a laugh and a selfie.

Presidential candidates Meir Sheetrit and Reuven Rivlin chat in the Knesset pews as MKs cast their ballots. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Presidential candidates Meir Sheetrit and Reuven Rivlin chat in the Knesset pews as MKs cast their ballots. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Hatnua makes push to garner backing for Sheetrit

The Hatnua party is making a strong last-minute push with left-wing MKs and opponents of Reuven Rivlin on the right. Meir Sheetrit, a Morocco-born veteran MK from the center of the political map, supports Palestinian statehood and may be able to garner votes from the left end of the spectrum. Rivlin, on the other hand, is an opponent of an independent Palestinian state.

Sheetrit met with Avigdor Liberman in the last hour ahead of the vote. Sheetrit is also moving systematically among left-wing MKs, meeting with Labor’s Hilik Bar and others.

Hatnua’s Amir Peretz, meanwhile, is making the rounds of Labor MKs — he’s a former Labor party leader — to convince them to give their votes to Sheetrit.

If Sheetrit doesn’t win this, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Voting ends in presidential election

Shas’s Ariel Atias, who missed his turn at the head of the alphabet, casts his ballot and the voting is closed in the presidential election. All that remains is for the slips to be counted and for Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to announce the result.

Army Radio reports screaming was heard from Rivlin’s Knesset office during the final vote, with the former frontrunner complaining to an unidentified MK, “But you promised to vote for me.”

Sheetrit a favorite as votes tallied

Many analysts now believe Meir Sheetrit will win the race.

A former Likud MK, he moved to the center over the years, first with Kadima and now with Hatnua, and supports Palestinian statehood.

He was Israel’s youngest mayor, of Ramle, and at 65 is a veteran Knesset member. He’s of Sephardi origin, born in Morocco. His success thus far would seem to suggest that Binyamin Ben-Eliezer would have done well in this race.

Sheetrit, as the vote is proving, is personally well-liked by fellow MKs.

Selfies abound as MKs wait for vote results

A string of MKs are stepping up to Meir Sheetrit and Reuven Rivlin and taking selfies with the two presidential candidates. Meanwhile, the ballot box has been brought to the Knesset secretary’s office for a tabulation of the votes.

Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit take a selfie as the votes are counted. screen capture: Knesset Channel)

Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit take a selfie as the votes are counted. (screen capture: Knesset Channel)

Sheetrit: ‘I’ll be a president for everyone’

Reuven Rivlin has not been giving interviews. Meir Sheetrit has.

Here’s what the Hatnua MK just said to Army Radio: “I’m a centrist. I’m in favor of peace. At times of war, I’m as hawkish as they come. I’ll be a president for everyone.”

Rivlin elected 10th president of Israel

The votes from the second round are in and Reuven Rivlin is the 10th president of the state of Israel.

Knesset Secretary Yuli Edelstein announces that with 119 votes tallied, Rivlin beat Sheetrit 63 to 53 with 3 blank votes.

Rivlin thanks ‘true friends’ for presidential win

Speaking to Channel 2 after his victory, President-elect Reuven Rivlin says thanks all of his “true friends” for helping him win the office. He is asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had congratulated him yet, but the phone call was dropped.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog congratulates Reuven Rivlin on his victory and says he has the ability to be a unifying person for Israel. Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni, whose candidate Meir Sheetrit lost, congratulates him as well.

Likud MK Miri Regev tells the Knesset Channel that despite Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent Rivlin from winning the presidency, Rivlin won.

Rivlin hugged, blessed after victory

“I am not mad at anyone,” President-elect Reuven Rivlin says just before hugging Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and receiving a priestly blessing from Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.

Defeated presidential candidate Meir Sheetrit congratulates Rivlin on his victory, says he’s an appropriate person for the country’s highest office.

US, EU envoys congratulate Rivlin on win

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro joins the growing chorus of officials congratulating Reuven Rivlin on his election as president.

The EU’s Ambassador to Israel Lars Faarborg-Anderson also offered his congratulations on Twitter. 

Rivlin meets with PM, opposition chief

President-elect Reuven Rivlin is meeting with opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset speaker’s office, Ynet reports.

Rivlin says he’ll visit father’s grave

Reuven Rivlin tells Channel 2 that the first thing he’ll do now that he’s president-elect is pay a visit to his father’s grave.

Rivlin’s father, he says, was passed over to replace Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi, the second president of the state of Israel, in 1957. Instead, Ben-Tzvi ran unopposed and served another term.

Flanked by Netanyahu, Rivlin greeted by applause

Reuven Rivlin enters hall filled with dignitaries and lawmakers, accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid applause, for a toast celebrating his victory. He embraces his wife and takes a seat on stage next to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Edelstein congratulates Rivlin on his victory, wishes him the best of luck in serving as Israel’s 10th president. He says he hopes they will work together to serve the Israeli public.

“Long live the president,” he says in closing.

Netanyahu praises Rivlin, wishes him luck as president

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Rivlin and tells the president-elect that “you come from a deep and rich well” of Jewish and Israeli tradition.

“You are a man of Jerusalem and a man of the land of Israel,” Netanyahu says, point out that he has two missions as the president: uniting the people of Israel and representing Israel abroad.

Netanyahu wishes Rivlin the best of luck as the next president of the state of Israel.

Rivlin says he’s leaving politics to be ‘man of the nation’

Rivlin takes the podium to raucous applause.

“What a fight you put up,” Rivlin says, addressing Meir Sheetrit, his main contender for the presidency. He then addresses Israeli Arabs and secular and religious Jews alike.

Putting on a skullcap and reciting a prayer with a crack of emotion in his voice, Rivlin praises the Almighty for blessing Israel with peace.

“The Knesset was my home,” says Rivlin, who has served 22 years in the Israeli parliament. “I earned your trust today,” he says, thanking all 63 of the MKs, from both sides of the aisle, who voted for him.

“I was a politician for many years,” he says, but now must abandon party politics and become “a man of the nation.” The President’s Residence, which he will shortly occupy, is “the house of all Israelis,” he says.

“Citizens of Israel,” Rivlin says in closing. “I thank you for your trust. Long live Israeli democracy, long live the state of Israel.”

Peres wishes successor Rivlin best of luck

Outgoing President Shimon Peres speaks to President-elect Reuven Rivlin on the phone after the latter’s election victory and says that he stands ready to help with the transition. Peres congratulates him and wishes him the best of luck, and Rivlin says he will have a hard time filling Peres’s shoes.

Only MK to vote for Shechtman: Ruth Calderon

Channel 1’s diplomatic correspondent reports that the lone MK to vote for Nobel Prize laureate and presidential hopeful Dr. Dan Shechtman was MK Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid.

Shama-Hacohen says ready to fill Rivlin’s seat

Carmel Shama-Hacohen, the Likud party member who will fill Reuven Rivlin’s seat once he’s inaugurated as president, says he is returning to the Knesset with mixed feelings, but that he’s prepared for the task.

So after a rocky presidential campaign, with a candidate dropping out at the last minute because of a police investigation, Rivlin has been elected Israel’s 10th president.

Thanks for tuning in to our liveblog coverage of the Knesset vote, and be sure to follow up on July 24 for Rivlin’s inauguration ceremony.

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