Kadima: Peres may not have majority needed for presidency
Former chief rabbi Lau may run for pres.; Peres says will not run unless ensured majority needed to win.
The debate over who will be the next president is heating up, as President Moshe Katsav said Monday he is likely to resign if indicted.
The question of who would replace Katsav arose around three months ago, when the affair was first revealed. The scandal died down two months ago, only to be rekindled as the possibility of indictment looms near.
Senior Kadima officials fear it will be hard to ensure a Knesset majority to support Vice Premier Shimon Peres as the next president. Peres was nominated on Monday as a second candidate for presidency, along with Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, who is also vying for the role. It appears that former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau may also join the race.
Peres was not nominated by Kadima, but rather by the party he led for years, Labor. Labor MKs proposed Peres' candidacy after Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer decided not to run, thus leaving the Labor party without a viable candidate. While Labor MK Colette Avital is interested in the position, she does not have the support needed to win the vote for presidency.
If Peres does decide to run, he will be up against Rivlin, a former Knesset speaker popular with MKs throughout the political spectrum, including coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki of Kadima. Yitzhaki has recommended that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert back Rivlin, rather than his Peres, who belongs to his own party member.
According to sources in Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party supports Rivlin for now, but should Peres decide to run, "it would be a difficult decision." Regarding the prospect of Rabbi Lau's candidacy, the Shas officials said the party would have a problem with the public as an ultra-Orthodox party if Shas does not back him.
The Prime Minister's Office said Olmert will not address the issue until the Katsav affair is resolved, but party members have approached Olmert and suggested he back Peres as the party's candidate. Kadima has yet to decide which candidate to support in the event that Katsav resigns.
According to Kadima officials, Peres has agreed to run as the party's candidate. But senior Kadima members fear that even if Peres is supported by the party, his chances of winning are slim and it may be best to avoid public ridicule in the event that Peres loses, as this would be the second time he loses the bid for presidency.
Peres received positive feedback Monday, as he was approached by MKs from Kadima, Labor and Meretz, who said he should run for president. However, his advisor Yoram Dori said the issue is not even on Peres' agenda. Political figures who discussed the matter with Peres say he will only consider running if he is ensured a majority in the Knesset. In the meantime, Olmert's aides are also examining the possibility of supporting a candidate who is not a member of Knesset.