Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, the Labor party's presidential candidate, decided to suspend his bid for the job on Saturday amid investigations into large amounts of money he received for unknown reasons while serving as a member of the Knesset.
"I guess they assassinated (my run for president)," said Ben-Eliezer in an announcement acquired by Ynet. His retirement from the race comes after his comments on Friday: "As someone who's fought all his life, I don't intend to quit this time either, until the truth comes out."
"And maybe this instance will lead to soulful reflection and the rotten culture of 'targeted assassinations' that have become our lives... can stop," said Ben-Eliezer.
Ben Eliezer was taken in for five hours of questioning on Friday, relating to his purchase of an apartment worth at least NIS 8 million in Jaffa. After his decision to quit his campaign, Ben Eliezer said, "On Friday, in the final stretch of a long campaign, four days before the Knesset vote for president, for which, in all modesty, I was the leading candidate, I was called to a meeting with the police within 20 minutes to check the sources that financed (the purchase) of my apartment."
"I answered everything that I was asked. And I promised to return and back up (my statement) with documents and evidence. I'm back and I stress what I said to the police and what I said myself to the media recently - every shekel that went to pay for the apartment is transparent and known."
Ben-Eliezer added that he had been pondering his next move since the investigation began: "In the last 24 hours I considered what I should do. Should I go against my nature, raise my hands, and drop out of contention? My candidacy for presidency is the reason for this wave of slander which has targeted me.
"Should I surrender and give whoever stands behind this exactly what he wants? And there are those who would say retiring from the race is an admission to the allegation, one which I have no intention of making. On the contrary, I have no doubt that the truth will see the light of day soon."
Ben-Eliezer reminisced about his contribution to the country. "At the age of 12 I made aliyah alone. For 30 years I served my country as a fighter and a commander in the IDF and for 30 years as a public servant. I served as minister seven times, including as defense minister, as a stand-in for the prime minister, and even as the chairman of the Labor Party.
"Eight months ago I decided to compete for the presidency of the State of Israel. I say this in spite of my humility: I am the most experienced and the most fitting candidate, whose achievements for this country are the most significant and most diverse."
Ben-Eliezer then recounted his candidacy through his eyes. "From the moment I announced my candidacy for the role, the aggressive slander and the coordinated mudslinging campaign has not stopped – a campaign whose entire purpose was to prevent me from running for and becoming president of Israel."
Ben-Eliezer wrote that he took the decision with a heavy heart. "My good name has accompanied me since the day of my birth, and it is my intention to maintain my good name, my honor, and the truth.
"I have full faith in the legal and justice authorities of the State of Israel, and I am confident that at the end of the investigation the legal authorities will confirm what I already know – I have no broken the law, my sources of income have been and still are known and transparent, including the information on the loan I received, which can be substantiated with documents, have been known to various state authorities.
"Despite my decision, I will fight to make sure all the right questions are investigated: How long did various state authorities hold the information? Why was an investigation opened now, of all time, merely days away from the end of the race, when I have been living in this residence for over a year?"
He criticized the timing of investigations right as public figures prepare to run for election. "Legal questions aside, we as an advanced and democratic society must have a deep debate about our conduct. Has the new politics which we have long yearned for become about turning public figures into punching bags? Is it acceptable that legal authorities will be used by those with an axe to grind to influence the democratic processes of this country?"
Ben-Eliezer also wrote in his announcement that he believes in the importance of the presidency as an institution. "One person, who from the moment he is sworn in united and consolidates the people, stands as a representative of every layer of the population and asa symbol of our state," he wrote.
He explained why he decided to drop out of the running, even though the investigation only opened recently. "As was explained to me by various sources, the Attorney General and the police will not make any decision in the coming days. On the other hand I do not want this election, which has already been polluted beyond all belief by mudslinging and slander, will be delayed and may lead to a change in a Basic Law.
"I hope that the 'targeted assassination' that I have been through will be the last affair in the current cycle, and even in future runs. I wish the best of luck to the many candidates."
Labor Party members of Knesset will meet Saturday night in Tel Aviv for a special convention in the wake of MK Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer's retirement from the race for presidency.
At the meeting the MKs will decide whether to allow the faction members to vote individually or to unify support behind one of the five remaining candidates.