Likud Minister Silvan Shalom is likely to drop out of the race for the presidency after failing to win the support of either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
In recent discussions held within Likud in recent days, Shalom said that without their support, he would not vie for the post in the election set to take place on June 10.
Likud MK Reuven Rivlin has already announced his bid for the presidency, but bad blood between him and Netanyahu has ruled out the possibility that the prime minister would throw his support behind him. However, support for Rivlin within the party has risen.
The head of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs Committee and Likud strongman MK Ze'ev Elkin, who was considered to be one of Shalom's biggest supporters, recently signed a document expressing support for Rivlin.
Shalom, who was Netanyahu's reported favorite for the presidency, was cleared of allegations of sexual misconduct two weeks ago, after the attorney general investigated a claim recently lodged with the police alleging that Shalom had sexually harrassed an employee during a stint as deputy prime minister 15 years ago.
Shalom denied the allegations, which those close to him said were part of an organized campaign aimed at harming his chances of winning the presidency.
Senior political sources within the Likud said Wednesday that, "it is strange that (Netanyahu) rejects (Shalom's) candidacy as long as there is no better candidate. On the other hand, Netanyahu does understand that if he (Shalom) does not, than there might not be room for an additional candidate to surface."
Likud MK Miri Rager, who supported Shalom in the presidential race said, "I'm sorry to hear that Silvan Shalom removed his candadacy in for president. As I've said before, from the moment that Silvan isn't running, I will support Rubi Rivlin."
The Shas party decided to give all the candidates an equal amount of votes, though the party will later choose one nominee to back for the position.
Head of the party, Aryeh Deri, told MK party members, "Divide our signitures between the candidates so that everyone gets a chance."
Senior members of Likud claim that Netanyahu is working to convince former foreign minister David Levy to contend for the presidency.
Levy, who is married with 12 children, resigned from politics in 2002 after failing to acquire a viable position on Likud's electoral list that would guarantee him a spot in the 17th Knesset.
During his career, which began in 1969 and gained steam with the Likud's rise to power in 1977, Levy served as served as Minister of Immigration and Absorption (1977-79), Minister of Housing and Construction (1979-90; 1981-84 also Deputy Prime Minister); Foreign Minister and Vice Premier (1990-92); and Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (1996-98).
His daughter, Orly Levy-Abekasis, is currently a prominent MK for Yisrael Beyteinu, and is known for her eagerness to tackle social and women issues head-on. His son, Jackie Levy, is Beit She'an former mayor. In 2007, upon celebrating his 70th birthday, Levy indicated he might return to politics, but the promise never actualized.
According to a senior Likud source, Netanyahu's move to enlist Levy was a "Plan B" should Shalom decide to drop out.
"Levy was asked to join the race should Silvan Shalom decided not to run," the source explained. "For Netanyahu, a Levy run would be relevant only if Silvan drops out. If Shalom chooses not to run, it will substantially increase Levy's chances."
The candidates have until May 28 to register for the vote, which will be held two weeks later in a secret ballot among Israel's 120 Knesset members.
Yuval Karni contributed to this report