Daily Israel Report

'The Presidency Has Turned Into a Joke'

Former MK Eliezer Cohen weighs in on presidential elections to Arutz Sheva, calls for presidential role in government to change.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/22/2014, 9:40 PM

President Shimon Peres
President Shimon Peres
Flash 90

Former MK Eliezer Cohen spoke to Arutz Sheva Saturday night about the media storm surrounding presidential elections, stating that the position is a "joke" and that the post's role in the government is due for a change. 

"The process of choosing the president by the coalition structure rather than the quality of presidential candidate ... [means that] the presidency here is a joke," Cohen stated. "In the last election [I participated in], between [Shimon] Peres and [Moshe] Katsav, I supported Peres - unlike the rest of my party - and was even reprimanded over it." 

Cohen, who served two terms as an MK for the Yisrael Beytenu party he helped to found, also related that the presidential elections process is not nearly as secretive at it seems.

"They count the votes and it becomes obvious who voted for whom," the former MK stated. "People who voted for the 'wrong' candidate are immediately reprimanded over it."

"And in all this I ask today, 'who needs the post of President'?" he added. 

Instead, Cohen stated, Israel's President should have more control - and have a similar role to the Presidents of the US and France.

"We need to have a constitution and a president who will run the country and the government," he said. "The President would appoint a ministerial cabinet and the Prime Minister on a professional basis [like he does now] - but also, like in the US, run the army and make important decisions." 

Several politicians have pointed out recently that the position of President is largely a figurehead post, including Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (HaTnua), and MK Zevulun Kalfa (Jewish Home).

The presidency is reportedly costing the State of Israel an enormous amount of money every year, opponents to the position claim, citing statistics that Peres held a birthday party last year that cost 2 million shekels ($450,000), and that his state-funded budget in 2012 was 62.7 million shekels ($17.19 million), 3 times the budget of 2000.

The initiative picked up speed earlier this month, when Kalfa introduced a bill suggesting that the position be cancelled. In presenting the bill, he charged that the functions of the president are largely ceremonial, and can be performed by existing governmental authorities such as the foreign ministry and Knesset chairman. During a seven year term, the president signs every law and international treaty, but does not wield actual executive power.