Peres’ associates, however, refused to give confirmation. “We don’t pay attention to speculations. It is still too early to discuss.
In the past few days, the battle for the presidency country has quietly taken off. “There is no doubt that this is a very important sphere for (Kadima), after the victory in parliamentary elections. This is another vertex in the party’s road to becoming established in the Israeli government,” Kadima members said.
Not only Kadima members are looking forward to the coveted position of Israel’s ninth president, the appointment of which is slated to take place in July 2007.
Some are already shuffling the names of possible candidates. Among them Shimon Peres of Kadima, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Labor, Rabbi Yisrael Lau, and former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar have been mentioned in the Knesset halls.
Israel’s last presidential election in July 2000 took place after former President Ezer Weizmann retired from the post a few months earlier. In those elections, current President Moshe Katsav ran against Peres and beat him out in the Knesset vote by 63 to 57, despite predictions that Peres would win. Since a new law was passed in 1998, the tenure of an Israeli president is for seven years, rather than for five years as it had been up until then.
These days Kadima officials have started to push Peres’ candidacy despite the fact that is unclear whether Peres himself - who said many times that he plans to devote his time in the current cabinet to the task of developing the Negev and Galilee - wants the post. With that, a senior Kadima official noted, Peres may be more interested in the post if Olmert can guarantee him wide Knesset support to avoid a humiliating defeat like the one he experienced in 2000 when he lost to Katsav.
Peres, 83, has served in most of Israel's governments since 1969. Before that he was right-hand man to David Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol. Peres also served as Israel’s prime minister in Yitzhak Shamir’s rotating government and after Yitzhak Rabin’s murder in 1995.
“He is an excellent candidate for the job, and Kadima should start preparing his candidacy. Peres could again raise the institution of the presidency and return it to its former glory,” a senior member of Kadima said, who hopes to lead the initiative in the upcoming months.