Shimon Peres, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year, has ruled out remaining the president of Israel after his seven-year term ends next year.
Last week, during a state visit to Mexico, he told reporters: “I will end my role as president in July 2014 and am against any attempt to extend my term or change the legislation.”
The announcement set in train speculation about whether Mr Peres will re-enter politics, and sparked an intense jockeying between those seeking to be Israel’s next president.
The day Mr Peres leaves Jerusalem, his new office at the Peres Peace Centre in Jaffa will be ready for him, and many expect him to continue as a statesman, pushing forward a two-state solution. What is less clear is whether he will actively seek re-election to the Knesset or simply endorse parties that he believes will further his diplomatic agenda.
Mr Peres was a member of the Labour party for nearly six decades before joining Ariel Sharon’s Kadima. One much-touted possibility is that he could lead a new party along with former spy chiefs Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin.
At least five veteran politicians are being mentioned as possible presidential candidates, although there have been no official announcements.
Three are vying to become the Likud candidate: former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin, Infrastructure Minister Silvan Shalom and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. Labour is almost certain to propose former defence minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, while another former Knesset speaker and ex-MK of Labour and Kadima, Dalya Itzik, is vigorously campaigning behind the scenes to become
Israel’s first female president.