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Scandals won’t delay presidential vote in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s presidential election will proceed as scheduled despite lawmakers’ requests for postponement after another candidate quit amid fraud allegations.

The 120 members of the Knesset are scheduled to vote Tuesday for president, a mostly ceremonial post. The winner for the seven-year term will succeed Shimon Peres starting next month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several lawmakers called for the race to be pushed back three weeks, until the last possible date, to allow Labor Party lawmaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to rejoin the race if he is proven innocent of accusations that he illegally received millions of shekels from private sources and used the money to buy a luxury apartment in Jaffa.

Ben-Eliezer pulled out of the race on Saturday, one day after being questioned by police.

“With a very heavy heart, I have made the decision to withdraw from the race for the presidency,” Ben Eliezer wrote in a Facebook post Saturday. “I have had my good name since the day I was born, and it is my intention to keep my name, honor and truth.”

In announcing his decision to hold the election as scheduled, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said, “The harsh atmosphere that continues to surround the presidential race stirs up dissatisfaction with the process and casts a heavy shadow on the candidates and on the Knesset. The ‘first citizen’ has to be the ‘first citizen’ in integrity, trustworthiness and morality, and to reach the position of president in the most honest and guileless way possible.”

Last month, Energy Minister Silvan Shalom decided to end his bid for the presidency after allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced; the allegations were never substantiated.

The other candidates include Likud Party lawmaker Reuven Rivlin, the former Knesset speaker who is considered the front-runner; former Supreme Court judge Dalia Dorner; Kadima party lawmaker Meir Sheetrit; Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dan Shechtman; and former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik.

On Sunday, the remaining candidates began disclosing their wealth and holdings.

 

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