Photo Credit: Courtesy the Knesset; Et Hazamir via Wikimedia
Prof. Shimon Sheetrit (L) will compete against Minister Amir Peretz for Israel's presidency

Former Minister Shimon Shetreet on Monday announced officially that he will run for President of Israel, saying, “In these complex times of crisis and a deepening rift, Israel needs a person with experience and judgment who can faithfully fulfill this important role.”

The presidential election is expected to take place in June of 2021, ahead of President Reuven Rivlin’s conclusion of his seven-year term in July 2021. The date of the election will be determined by the Speaker of the 23rd Knesset, at which time the Knesset plenum will convene and elect the 11th president of the State of Israel by a secret ballot.


The Knesset’s vote for the country’s president traditionally involves an arms wrestling match between the opposition and the prime minister, often ending with the parties out of power being able to enlist the votes needed to frustrate the plans of the powers that be. Rivlin was elected after having been engaged in an internal battle with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who demoted him from his position as Speaker of the Knesset. Rivlin’s election was an opportunity for all the anti-Bibi MKs to even the score (like we said, the vote is done by a secret ballot).

This time, Shetreet’s candidacy would conflict with Netanyahu’s alleged plans to reward Minister Amir Peretz for jumping ship with his minuscule Labor party to the Likud coalition government. With his move, Peretz gave up his political future, and the presidential appointment would permit him a graceful, crowning achievement (literally).

Now, with Shetreet’s declaration, it looks like the Knesset would be happy to draw some blood from both Netanyahu (if he is still the PM next summer) and Peretz, who has made many enemies on the left with his desertion.

Professor Shimon Shetreet served as Minister of Economics and Planning and Minister of Science and Technology in Yitzhak Rabin’s 1992 government. He lost the latter portfolio in June 1993 when it was given to Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni, but had also become Minister of Religious Affairs in February 1992, so that cushioned the blow. When Shimon Peres formed a new government following Rabin’s assassination, Shetreet continued as Minister of Religious Affairs, but had to give up his Economics and Planning portfolio.

In the 1996 elections, Shetreet lost his Knesset seat and his cabinet post (that’s when Netanyahu defeated Peres). In 1999 Shetreet was appointed to deputy mayor of Jerusalem, a post he held until 2003. He currently heads the Hebrew University Sacher Institute of Legislative Research and Comparative Law, and holds the Greenblatt chair. He has also served as visiting professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Tulane University, and the University of San Diego.

Back in August, Amir Peretz said in an interview that he wants to become president because “this is one of the places where you can contribute to the unification of the people.”

Of course, the Israeli left is still smarting after Peretz unified them out of existence, bringing down to nothing the mythical Labor party which ruled Israel for two decades after the formation of the state.

“There is no doubt that our president is doing an excellent job – and everything is in due time,” Peretz said, lest he be perceived as being too eager. “It is undoubtedly a huge challenge in these days of rifts and divisions within Israeli society – to come and be the unifying and calming factor in the multitude of rifts that exist in the State of Israel.”

What’s another rift among friends…

By the way, for what it’s worth, in 1959, at age 13, Shimon Shetreet won the International Bible Contest. Amir Peretz, on the other hand, was immortalized in 2007, at age 55, by the picture of him looking through a capped binoculars and refusing to admit he couldn’t see anything.

Amir Peretz, 55, looking through capped binoculars; Shimon Shetreet, 13, wins the International Bible Contest. / Efi Sharir for Yedioth (fair use); Davar Hashavua via Wikimedia

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