Call to Order / Peres' Relentless Campaign

If they would just leave them alone. This phenomenon could be called "Peres' relentless campaign," whose victims are MKs who would have liked to vote today for Reuven Rivlin or Colette Avital, but have instead buckled under the pressure and announced they will vote for Shimon Peres, or merely hinted they'd do so - anything to make them get off their backs. There are two such victims in Meretz: Haim Oron, who everyone is convinced planned to vote Rivlin, and Ran Cohen, who intended to vote for Avital. Kadima has between three and six such MKs. There is an unknown number of them in the Pensioners Party, but it is clear that the faction chairman, Moshe Sharoni, wanted to vote for Avital.

Shas' honor. There is a unique subset of campaign victims within Shas. Two of them approached Shas chairman Eli Yishai, proposing to show their ballot to him moments before they slip it into the ballot box. In Shas, everyone is convinced there will be no defectors, because Knesset members know that those who violate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's commands will receive divine punishment. The question is whether there are Shas MKs who think voting for Peres is a much greater sin than violating the rabbi's commands. It's important to note that it is not only Peres' honor that's on the line, but Rabbi Yosef's as well. If Peres loses, Shas MKs will immediately be suspected of defecting and causing his failure. Even in politics, where trust is scarce, it will be seen as a party that cannot be trusted.

The Labor mystery. The election is to take place today, but there are still many things we don't know. The biggest mystery is the Labor Party itself. It appears the party has decided to vote Avital. But two questions need answering here: One, how many Labor MKs who promised Avital their vote will end up voting Peres in the first round? The Avital camp estimates that three will switch sides; Peres' camp predicts between seven and eight. These defectors will to a large extent determine the gap between Rivlin and Peres. Because if there is one thing that's almost certain it's this: If Avital runs, most of her votes will come from the left and, therefore, Rivlin will take the first round.

Tipping the balance. The second question is far more important. Labor cannot acknowledge (officially, at least) that Avital will not make it to the final round, and the party, therefore, also cannot yet decide which way to vote should she end her bid. The result will be that Labor's 19 MKs will have the freedom to vote for Peres or Rivlin. How many of them will vote Rivlin because they have an unsettled account with Peres? How many will submit an unmarked ballot because they don't forgive Peres for setting up Kadima? Estimates range between three and six MKs. Shelly Yachimovich supports Rivlin openly, and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Amir Peretz are known within Labor to be hostile to Peres. And so Labor is the party that will tip the balance and ultimately decide the election.

Deal or no deal? United Torah Judaism's (UTJ) six MKs have excellent reasons to vote for Rivlin. Avraham Ravitz's daughter-in-law is Rivlin's parliamentary aide; Meir Porush and Rivlin are friends; and Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman know him from his long tenure on the Knesset Finance Committee. The question is whether the coalition will strike a deal with some UTJ MKs in return for a vote for Peres, and what it will give them as quid pro quo.

The Arabs are not in anyone's pocket. The left assumes the Arabs are in its pocket. In practice, it doesn't work that way. Some claim that four of the 10 Arab MKs will vote Rivlin because of the fair treatment he gave them during his term as Knesset speaker. When a Hadash MK was asked to explain why Arab MKs are not concerned that they will go down as Rivlin supporters, he said the Arab public doesn't really like Peres. Usually no one in the Knesset cares about the positions of MK Abbas Zakur (Ra'am-Ta'al), Wasal Taha (Balad) or Hanna Swaid (Hadash). Many in the Knesset may not even know they exist, but in the presidential elections, they carry exactly the same weight as Ehud Olmert or Benjamin Netanyahu. The Arab factions postponed their decision until yesterday (Ra'am-Ta'al and Hadash) and today (Balad), but even after they decide, the way their MKs actually vote will remain a mystery.

Glamorous isolation. The prevailing view is that Avital will drop out after the first round when it becomes clear that she has no chance of winning. That will leave Peres facing off against Rivlin in the second round, with each needing 61 votes to win. However, in the event of many abstentions (among Arab MKs, for example), it is not entirely clear that this mission is possible and the race may go into a third round of voting. The Basic Law on the President says that a president emerges if in such a situation one of the two candidates drops out and only one candidate proceeds to the third round, in which he runs alone, facing a simple aye or nay vote. The question is whether this is the correct reading of the law. Moreover, would Peres prefer that Avital exit the race after the first or second round? And finally, how many rounds of voting will we have today?