Israel’s presidential race kicks off — despite Netanyahu

The Knesset will elect a new president for Israel on June 10.

Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s decision to call the vote in two-and-a-half weeks effectively ended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s short-lived attempt to abolish the presidency.

Although he belongs to the prime minister’s party, the current frontrunner, Reuven “Rubi” Rivlin, is not expected to receive Mr Netanyahu’s endorsement given the lingering hostility between the two.

Labour’s Benjamin Ben Eliezer is the only other candidate to receive the necessary signatures of 10 MKs to launch his candidacy, although Hatnuah MK Meir Sheetrit is expected to gain enough signatures in order to run.

Also expected to join the fray are former Knesset Speaker Dalya Itzik and the Nobel Prize winning Professor Dan Shechtman.

Energy Minister Silvan Shalom’s campaign was derailed by allegations of sexual harassment, and he has reportedly withdrawn his candidacy. Police have closed the case but threats of further allegations have emerged. According to Ynet, Mr Netanyahu’s refusal to back him against the favourite Mr Rivlin was a key factor in his decision not to run.

President Shimon Peres is scheduled to end his seven-year term on July 27. His packed schedule in the remaining two months includes a reception for Pope Francis, who will be visiting Israel next week, and a state visit to Washington.

This week, the American House of Representatives approved legislation that will allow the US to award Mr Peres the Congressional Gold Medal.

Last updated: 4:45pm, May 22 2014