Netanyahu Endorses Reuven Rivlin for President

MKs will elect president on June 10; announcement comes after Haaretz poll showing former Knesset speaker is public's favorite candidate.

Reuven Rivlin, May 27, 2014
MK Reuven Rivlin, center, won Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's endorsement for his presidential bid. Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed Reuven Rivlin, a Likud MK and former speaker of the Knesset, for president Wednesday.

The Knesset will choose a president in a secret ballot on June 10.

In his lukewarm endorsement, which followed speculation that Netanyahu was considering supporting other candidates, Netanyahu said he had not endorsed Rivlin immediately because he was "waiting to see the final list of candidates."

"As the prime minister and the Likud chairman, I am expressing my support for your candidacy," Netanyahu told Rivlin on Wednesday.

Netanyahu's statement came after a Haaretz poll found that Rivlin is the public's favorite presidential candidate, beating out both a Nobel Prize laureate and a former Supreme Court Justice.

The poll, which was conducted on Tuesday, the day the candidate list closed, found that 31 percent of respondents preferred Rivlin as the next president, when Shimon Peres' term ends. Other recent polls have produced similar results.

Rivlin also won the endorsement of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party.

"Ruby is the natural candidate for president of the State of Israel," Bennett said Wednesday, describing Rivlin as Zionist, humane and sensitive.

Likud Minister Gilad Erdan called on his fellow MKs to vote for Rivlin.

"Ruby Rivlin, a man of Jerusalem who represents national and democratic values, is the most suitable and appropriate candidate to serve as president," he said.

Rivlin is running against five other candidates: fellow MKs Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), Meir Sheetrit (Hatnuah); Dalia Itzik, another former speaker of the Knesset, who last served in the previous Knesset as a Kadima MK; retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner; and Dan Schechtman, a chemistry professor who won a Nobel Prize in 2011.