Knesset Plenum Set to Choose Israel's New State Comptroller

Many MKs said they were unaware of the other two candidates and thought Jerusalem District Court Judge Joseph Shapira was the only one.

The Knesset plenum is scheduled to vote on the next state comptroller on Monday. On the starting blocks are three candidates: Jerusalem District Court Judge Joseph Shapira, Supreme Court vice president Justice Eliezer Rivlin and the president of the Institute of Internal Auditors, Shlomo Kalderon. Kalderon is considered the longest of long shots.

Shapira, considered the favorite, was put forth by a cross-aisle coalition that included caucus heads Zeev Elkin (Likud ) and and Dalia Itzik (Kadima ), as well as MKs Yariv Levin (Likud ) and Roni Bar-On (Kadima ). The group roped in Netanyahu and then-Kadima chairwoman and MK Tzipi Livni fairly early on. Shapira's application was accompanied by the signatures of around 70 Knesset members, a few of which were deleted when it was determined that they had signed the petitions of more than one prospective candidate for the position.

With 36 years on the bench, including 13 on the Supreme Court, Rivlin is by far the most experienced candidate. He has the support of the opposition parties, and is expected to win the votes of Labor and Meretz MKs.

In contrast to the 70 MKs who signed Shapira's qualification petition, only 11 signed Rivlin's - just one more than the 10-signature minimum. In the past few days Rivlin has been talking to MKs and reminding them of his professional background.

Even though the scales are clearly tipped in Shapira's favor, Knesset figures note that the vote is a secret one and the contest is still open. One Knesset figure said that MKs are often on the fence in the first round of voting, when they try to determine the mood of their colleagues. He said that if Shapira does not get at least 61 votes in the first round, voting could change in the next two rounds.

When Shapira's candidacy was announced Elkin, Levin and Itzik told Haaretz about their efforts to find a candidate who could garner broad support and would not be labeled as being in a particular camp. Shapira attracted support from across the coalition and the opposition before the establishment last week of the national unity government, but over the past week several MKs have admitted that they signed his petition without knowing much about him beyond his being a district court judge.

Many MKs said they were unaware of the other two candidates and thought Shapira was the only one. A few said that after learning about Rivlin and Kalderon they would revisit their support for Shapira. Some MKs appeared not to care about the identity of the state comptroller, or the fact that all it would take to put up a candidate to their liking was to find nine other like-minded MKs.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu ) said he was unaware of that possibility. "I support what the coalition decides," he said, and when asked whether he had looked into Shapira's positions Misezhnikov said, "He's the sole candidate. If there were a few I would have checked him out."

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud ) said: "I know [Shapira] is a district judge and that's it. He wants to run for state comptroller, his position is respectable in my eyes, so I signed. On Monday we'll listen and make a decision. My opinion isn't in anyone's pocket," Kahlon said.

"I was asked to sign, so I signed," he said when asked why he supported a candidate he might not vote for, adding, "It doesn't oblige me to vote for him - otherwise they wouldn't hold a vote, everyone would get MKs to sign and become state comptroller," Kahlon said.

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon (Atzmaut ) had this to say: "A decision was made by a majority of the coalition and we are part of the coalition. I asked questions when they came to get my support, of course. I don't know him. Not personally. I've never met him," Simhon said, adding that he was told that Shapira is a good judge with a good temper who understands how the system works, "all the things people usually say about candidates."