Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog and Miriam Peretz, who rose to public prominence after two of her sons were killed during their army service, have announced their candidacy for Israel’s next president.
The deadline to submit a candidate for the presidency was Wednesday at midnight. The Knesset will elect the president in a secret ballot on June 2.
Herzog, 60, a former leader of the Labor Party and the son of the late Israeli president Chaim Herzog, is considered the frontrunner in the race for president. He collected signatures of support from 27 Knesset members and is expected to also obtain the support of right-wing lawmakers for the largely ceremonial position.
“I believe that the next president of the State of Israel will have to mend the rift between us, preserve the shared lives of all of us here, the pillars of our democracy and ensure that every one of the country’s citizens, of every religion, gender, national background or age” feels that they belong and are equal, Herzog said.
Peretz, 67, secured signatures in support from 11 lawmakers, including only one from the center-left in parliament, Yael Ben Moshe of Kahol Lavan.
Former Knesset member Yehudah Glick, who had announced that he would run for president, said on Wednesday evening that he was removing himself from consideration. “I wanted to bring new energy to the institution of the presidency and wasn’t successful,” he tweeted. “[I] wish great success to all of the excellent candidates,” he said, adding that with god's help he hoped to make the world a better place and to help “unseen populations.”
Former Knesset member Michael Bar-Zohar, who failed to obtain the necessary 10 signatures from Knesset members needed to run, announced that he was dropping out of the race and throwing his support behind Herzog.
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Singer Yehoram Gaon, who expressed an interest in the role, also dropped out of the out after failing to obtain the necessary signatures. Former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who served as acting president following the resignation of Moshe Katzav, also decided not to run after determining that she was unlikely to win.
Thus far none of the parties in the Knesset have endorsed either Herzog or Peretz. Likud, which did not put forward a candidate of its own, will give its Knesset faction members a free vote (which is by secret ballot in any event), as the Meretz and New Hope parties have.
The prospect of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu running for president is now off the table. Netanyahu currently stands trial for corruption charges and would gain immunity from prosecution as president. In recent years, political sources have raised the possibility that Netanyahu would run for president or pitch a candidate of his choosing, but he denied any intention to do so.