The Knesset vote for the next president of Israel will take place on June 2, the Knesset Presidium confirmed on Monday after consulting with Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin. Candidates must collect the signatures of at least 10 lawmakers declaring their support by midnight on May 19th.
“I hope that during these complex times, the president selected is someone acceptable to the entire country,” Levin said.
Although he has yet to formally declare his candidacy, the front-runner for the post is Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Jewish Agency and former chairman of the Labor Party. Former minister Amir Peretz, who was suggested as a possible candidate, said last week that he would not run, as he is pursuing new ventures and spending more time with family. Associates of Miriam Peretz, an Israel Prize winner, have called on her to run.
Those who have already declared their candidacies are Likud MK and Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick, former minister Shimon Shetreet and former Labor lawmaker and author Michael Bar-Zohar.
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Facing trial and having failed to form a government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen by many in the political establishment as a possible contender for the presidency. However, the Knesset vote for president is by secret ballot, so the ability of party leaders to influence how lawmakers vote is limited. For that reason, the possibility of amending the law to allow for an open vote has been raised.
Netanyahu has denied in the past that he would seek the presidency. However, if he were to run and win the race, he would have immunity from prosecution. Another option for Netanyahu is to support a presidential candidate who is likely to offer him a pardon if he is convicted.
In the last vote for president in 2014, Netanyahu tried to prevent current president Reuven Rivlin's election. Rivlin, who is about to complete his term, was then Knesset speaker and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, but relations between the two were always strained. Netanyahu claimed that Rivlin along with Gideon Sa’ar, had sought to oust him from the premiership. Rivlin and Sa’ar vehemently denied this. In recent years, Netanyahu’s associates have attacked the president, claiming that he blocked the prime minister from forming a government.