Shimon Peres Elected as President of Israel
Elder statesman Shimon Peres was elected to the largely ceremonial post of president of Israel Wednesday, capping a career that has spanned six decades and, Israelis hope, restoring dignity to a position that has been marred by allegations of rape and sexual assault swirling around the country's current president.
Peres won the support of 86 of the Knesset's, or parliament's, 120 members in a second round of voting in which he stood alone. His two rivals, Reuven Rivlin and Colette Avital, withdrew from the race after he seized a commanding lead in the first round.
Peres, an 83-year-old career politician, says he sees his new role as someone who can unite all Israelis.
"The President's role is not to deal with politics and partisanship, but to represent what unites us in a strong voice," he said during a speech at the Knesset after the final round of voting.
This is Peres' second attempt at the presidency. In 2000, he lost to Moshe Katsav in a surprise defeat. Katsav's tenure, though, was marred by allegations that he raped or sexually assaulted four employees. Katsav, who denies any wrongdoing, has not been formally charged, pending a final hearing before Israel's attorney general, but has stepped down temporarily to fight the allegations.
During his career, Peres has held every major Israeli cabinet post. He lived through six wars, was a protégé of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in crafting the Oslo Peace Accord.
Peres's reputation within Israel is mixed; some see him as a political schemer. But overseas he enjoys a reputation as a peacemaker, and Israelis hope this will help to restore prestige to the office of president. Peres is due to be sworn in July 15 for a seven-year term.
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