Binyamin Ben-Eliezer Quits Israel President Race Under Cloud

Withdrawal Could Clear Path for Reuven Rivlin

By Reuters

Published June 07, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, one of two leading candidates to succeed Shimon Peres as Israel’s next head of state, withdrew from the race on Saturday, a day after police questioned him under caution over a loan he had received.

The move appeared to smooth the path to the presidency of Reuven Rivlin, a former speaker of parliament with whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a rocky relationship.

Ben-Eliezer, a former general and defense minister and a veteran Labor lawmaker, denied any wrongdoing and said he had been “deliberately targeted”, but declined to say who might have tried to sabotage his campaign.

“From the moment I announced my candidacy for the post, there has been an incessant, timed campaign of smears and slander whose intention was to prevent me standing for the post of president. With a heavy heart, I have decided to withdraw from the race,” Ben-Eliezer said in his statement.

Legislators will elect a new president on June 10, with five candidates in the race. When announcing the date last month, speaker Yuli Edelstein said the campaign had begun with smears against several contenders.

“The post of president of Israel is important, and it is aimed at healing rifts in the nation … This hasn’t been the kind of campaign we wanted to see,” Edelstein said.

Netanyahu raised eyebrows last month when he floated the idea of abolishing the presidency, but the suggestion angered lawmakers across the political spectrum and was flatly rejected by senior ministers.

POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE

Some political analysts linked the maneuver to the candidacy of Rivlin, who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, but has a reputation for political independence. An opinion poll last week made him the front-runner.

A Rivlin victory in the campaign to succeed the 90-year-old Peres could make Netanyahu more vulnerable in a general election. Israeli law grants the head of state - whose duties are usually largely ceremonial - the power to choose a legislator to try to put together a government.

No one party has ever won an outright parliamentary majority in a national poll, making the president a key player in coalition-building.

In a letter to fellow legislators on Monday, Rivlin, 74, stressed “the importance of a president as a builder of bridges between parties in dispute”.

“If the Knesset is the home of debate, controversy and decision, President’s House is the home of cooperation, dialog and compromise,” he wrote.

Rivlin, a lawyer, was first elected to parliament in 1988 and served as communications minister between 2001 and 2003. Others standing are former finance minister Meir Sheetrit and Nobel chemistry laureate Dan Shechtman.

Peres, Israel’s most respected statesman, has been president since 2007. He took over from Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape in 2010 and is serving a seven-year prison term.

The list of candidates is completed by Dalia Itzik, a centrist lawmaker, who as Knesset speaker was caretaker president when Katsav stepped down, and Dalia Dorner, a retired Supreme Court justice


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.