Former Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich said yesterday that she intended to vote for MK Reuven Rivlin for president.
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Yacimovich’s support for Rivlin has been an open secret within the Labor faction. She recently declined to sign on to support fellow party member Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who received signatures from other Labor members in his bid for candidacy.
“Rivlin is the most appropriate and suitable candidate for the position,” Yacimovich stated yesterday. “He is an exemplary democrat, honest and uncorrupted, modest in his personal manner and statesman-like in his conceptions and public conduct. One doesn’t have to speculate on how he will behave as president. Even as someone from the right-wing, whose opinions are often the opposite of mine, he passed the test, standing like a solid rock in defense of democracy.”
Yacimovich referred to several instances during the last two Knesset terms in which Rivlin opposed legislation of anti-democratic laws. She commended him for his firm stand against the economic Arrangements Law, and for joining the opposition in its objection to natural gas exports from new offshore fields.
In addition to Yacimovich, Meretz MK Ilan Gilon also announced his support for Rivlin, but refused to be interviewed on the subject. Rivlin’s associates believe that other MK’s from these parties as well as several Arab MK’s will support him.
There are some on the left who are criticizing this support of Rivlin. One labor MK stated that “there is no chance I will vote for Rivlin, even though I haven’t yet decided who I will support. How can we put someone who doesn’t believe in a two-state solution as the state’s window dressing? What message will that give?”
Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said that he would not support Rivlin, since the latter had opposed establishing committees for investigating human rights organizations, as well as opposing rescinding the pension of an Arab MK who escaped from Israel to avoid an investigation. Lieberman objected to Rivlin’s visit to the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm as his first official visit as Knesset speaker.
The crossing of party lines as contemplated by Yacimovich and Gilon is unusual. Typically, a coalition candidate vies with an opposition one. All six current candidates have support from both left and right. Thus, Benjamin Ben Eliezer believes he will get some support from Yisrael Beiteinu and Dalia Itzik hopes to get ultra-Orthodox votes.
Outsiders Shechtman and Dorner also expressed optimism. The Arab and ultra-Orthodox parties could tip the balance, but are undecided yet. In any case it’s unclear if party chiefs will be able to impose their choices on their MK’s.