Colette Avital. Candidacy a joke
Photo: Niv Calderon
Shimon Peres. Support in Shas
Photo: Ronen Boidek
Reuven Rivlin. Favored by Netanyahu
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Rav Ovadia Yossef. Yet to decide
Photo: Israel Bardugo
Labor Party wants Peres, calls Avital to forego candidacy
Labor Party minister explains: 'There is no chance that Peres will run for presidency, and Labor Party won't vote for him,' and adds, 'Colette is having fun with her candidacy. It is also comfortable for Amir Peretz, who announced that he supports her.' Process to make vote for president an open vote to start at beginning of next week
Senior officials in the Labor Party, including ministers, said Thursday night, "Colette Avital will need to reconsider her candidacy for president." Developments in President Moshe Katsav's sex scandal and the fact that Vice Premier Shimon Peres decided to run for presidency even if there is a secret ballot changed the picture of who is going to run, according to them.
One of the Labor Party ministers said to Ynet: "Colette will need to consider the issue in order to allow the Labor Party to support Peres. In addition, she doesn't have the capability of recruiting the majority needed to be elected president. As time passes, it is becoming clear, just as in the past, there will be two candidates: Reuven Rivlin and Shimon Peres. The Labor Party in this case will have to support Peres. Nothing can be done – one must think in terms of realistic politics."
One Labor Party official said: "Colette's candidacy is a joke. No one is really considering her, with all the respect that I have for her."
Labor Party sources even said that those who support Rivlin prefer Avital to run in order to hurt Peres' chances. According to them, 'The Members of Knesset who support Colette today are actually deliberating between her and Peres. Therefore, she will have to retract her candidacy in order not to hurt his candidacy."
Another Labor Party minister estimated that Avital will retract her candidacy the moment Peres officially announces that he is running.
According to him, "Avital knows that her candidacy is virtual. At the moment, she is enjoying the game even though she stands no chance." The minister noted: "There is no chance that Peres will run and the Labor Party won't vote for him. Colette is currently having fun with her candidacy, and this was also comfortable for Peretz who announced that he supports her. However, he supports her only as a means of blocking her support for Ehud Barak."
Shas may go to Peres, Likud dividedWhoever thinks that in the absence of Avital's candidacy the entire Labor Party will support Peres is mistaken. As long as the presidential vote is done by secret ballot, some Labor Party MKs will vote for Rivlin. Take, for instance, MK Shelly Yacimovich who has already announced that she will support him, and has also said as much in a conversation with Avital.
Within Kadima the number of MKs who support Rivilin is not insignificant. Leading this group is Kadima Faction Chairman Avigdor Itzchaky, who has already announced that Rivlin is his preferred candidate.
A Labor Party MK explained: "When there is a secret ballot, everyone does what ever he wants. It is impossible to promise that 19 or 29 MKs will vote one way or another. President Herzog, who was a Labor Party member, was elected by secret ballot during a Likud administration. There is no significance to coalition discipline in a secret ballot."
Therefore, in the coming days and weeks, Kadima members, led mainly by PM Ehud Olmert, will try to change the law according to the bill proposed by MK Yoel Hasson that will switch the vote from a secret to an open ballot, thus significantly increasing Peres' chances of being elected seeing as Labor Party, Meretz, and Kadima members would all have to support him in such a case.
As of now, it is unclear if the bill will be passed. When similar efforts were made in the past, Shas opposed them. Shas has said that they will continue to oppose a change out of concern that this will create a "snowball effect in other issues as well."
Kadima estimated, however, that "everything depends on the prime minister and the effort he makes to ensure the ballot is open. The coalition partnership has an interest that the coalition will continue to be in power. Therefore, an understanding can be made on this issue. It depends on how much Olmert really wants this to happen."
With or without a closed ballot, one of the big questions is how will Shas behave during the election of the next president. Sources in the party said that Rav Ovadia Yossef has yet to make a final decision on the issue. However, most of the senior Shas officials, including ministers Eliyahu Yishai and Ariel Atias, support Peres.
"Shas has an obligation to him for what he did for the world of Torah," said a source in the party.
Last time the choice was much harder. Therefore, it was ultimately decided upon to support the Sephardic, traditional candidate. From their perspective, supporting Peres "will be a message to the rest of the parties that it is worthwhile to form alliances with Shas. This will be a message of whoever is loyal to Shas and the world of Torah will gain support."
However, Shas believes that in the coming period right-wing officials, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, will put pressure on Rav Ovadia Yossef to support Rivlin. Shas has mentioned that this shouldn't be taken since Likud is currently leading in the polls, noting that Shas must also look toward the future.