Veteran MK Sheetrit joins presidential race

Veteran MK Sheetrit joins presidential race

Meir Sheetrit gains backing of Hatnua party, needs five more signatures to make it official

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

MK Meir Sheetrit of the Hatnua party, January 06, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
MK Meir Sheetrit of the Hatnua party, January 06, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Longtime Israeli politician Meir Sheetrit of the center-left Hatnua party announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections on Monday, throwing his hat into an already crowded ring.

“A president needs to be someone who knows the society in all its facets,” Sheetrit said during a Hatnua faction meeting. “I can speak to everyone.”

In his announcement, Sheetrit pledged to unify the various sectors of Israeli society and focus on alleviating poverty among Arab Israelis and Haredim.

Sheetrit, who has held seven ministerial positions since his election to the Knesset in 1981, and has also served in Likud and Kadima, received the backing of Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni and fellow party members.

For consideration in the April elections for head of state, Sheetrit will need an additional five parliamentary signatures.

So far seven other people have already announced their intention to run for the post, which will be voted on by the Knesset later this year.

Last week, former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, 78, won the Labor Party’s backing in the race for the next president, becoming the first candidate to gain the requisite 10 signatures from lawmakers in order to run for the position.

Ben-Eliezer, currently an MK, is a front-runner for the position. Other candidates include Reuven Rivlin and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, both Likud MKs, and former MK and Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky.

Former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, and Dan Shechtman, the 2011 Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry, are also in the running, but their chances are thought to be slim.

While the president is currently voted on by the Knesset, Israel’s Army Radio reported last Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering extending President Shimon Peres’s term by a year to implement legislation that would move the election to a public vote in the interim.

However, Peres denied the report and the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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