Dalia Itzik Poised to Become First Female Israeli President

As acting president, Itzik will have all of the president's powers, including the right to grant pardons.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik is now poised to become the first female president, albeit only acting, in Israel's history.

Itzik, 54, became Knesset speaker only eight months ago. Now, should Moshe Katsav suspend himself, she will replace him until he either resigns or returns; should he resign, she will replace him until a new president is elected.

As acting president, Itzik will have all of the president's powers, including the right to grant pardons, accept new ambassadors' credentials, receive weekly reports on cabinet meetings and be briefed by senior defense officials.

The law does not state whether, while acting as president, the speaker can continue running Knesset sessions. However, during its deliberations on the law, the Knesset Constitution Committee expressed its view that it would be inappropriate for her to do so, and Itzik will presumably adopt this view.

It is also not clear whether she will move into the President's Residence or remain in her Knesset offices. However, she did decide to cancel her planned trip to Madrid Wednesday.

Itzik, who was born in Jerusalem to a family of Iraqi origin, attended a teacher's college and worked as a teacher for many years. She also chaired the Teachers Union's Jerusalem branch. She then joined the Labor Party and ran for the Jerusalem City Council, eventually serving as deputy mayor under Teddy Kollek.

In 1992, she was elected to the Knesset, and in 1999 she become environment minister in Ehud Barak's government. She later served as industry minister in Ariel Sharon's first government and communications minister during his second term of office. At the end of 2005, she was one of three Labor MKs who quit the Likud party to join Kadima, and last year, she became the first woman ever to serve as Knesset speaker.