Shimon Peres Running for President

After months of indecision, veteran statesman Shimon Peres, father of the Oslo process, has decided to run for President of Israel.

Hillel Fendel,

Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres

After months of indecision, veteran statesman Shimon Peres, father of the Oslo process, has decided to run for President of Israel.

After weighing a run to succeed Ehud Olmert as Prime Minister, Peres finally came to the conclusion that despite the Winograd Commission's findings, Olmert is not planning to resign - or be toppled - any time soon. Peres therefore decided to offer his candidacy for the presidency.

Peres's chief supporter in the Knesset, Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, began collecting the ten MKs' signatures necessary for the nomination this morning (Monday). The first to sign was Prime Minister Olmert, followed by several Kadima MKs and one from the Pensioners Party.

Rivlin and Avital
Two other MKs are running for President: Ruby Rivlin of the Likud and Collette Avital of Labor. It is assumed that supporters of Peres will exert strong pressure upon dark-horse Avital to withdraw her candidacy, as her support comes mainly from the left and is expected to eat into Peres' votes.

The election will be held in a secret ballot among the 120 Knesset Members on July 13.

Several months ago, supporters of Peres tried to pass a law to render the election open and not-secret. It was felt that a secret vote would hurt Peres's chances, enabling MKs to take the "politically correct" position of supporting the "elder statesman" while actually voting otherwise.  An open vote, on the other hand, would force MKs who promised to support Peres to actually do so. 

In the previous election seven years ago, several MKs who promised to vote for Peres presumably did not do so, and President Moshe Katzav (now self-suspended) defeated him by a 63-57 vote.

In any event, it currently appears that Peres has more support than Rivlin. The Kadima party will officially endorse Peres this afternoon, even though many Kadima MKs are former Likud party colleagues of Rivlin. Most of Labor is expected to support Peres as well, as is the case in Meretz, the Pensioners, and the Arabs. The Likud and the religious parties are largely expected to support Rivlin. Only Shas, with 11 critical MKs, has not yet made clear whom it will support.

His Rich Past
Nearly 84 years old, Peres has served in the Knesset consecutively since 1959, except for a short period last year for technical reasons having to do with his switch from Labor to Kadima. He has served, more than once, as Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Communications, Transportation, Regional Development, Information and more.

In 1992-3, under then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, Peres negotiated what became the Oslo Accords with members of the PLO.  The secret talks were against Israeli law at the time, in that contacts with terrorist organizations were forbidden.