A Nobel Prize-winning chemist, a former Supreme Court judge and an IDF Major-General were among the six Israeli presidential finalists confirmed this week.
The half-dozen hopefuls are bidding to succeed 90-year old Shimon Peres next month, in elections that are due to take place on 10 June.
But despite the strong field, it was Peres’ former presidential rival Reuven ‘Rubi’ Rivlin (pictured, right) who was being seen as the clear front-runner to serve the next seven-year term.
A veteran Likud MK, Rivlin was first elected to the Knesset in 1988, serving as a minister in 2001-2003 and later as Speaker from 2003-2006 and 2009-2013.
He stood for the 2007 presidential elections but lost out to the more dovish Peres, for a role that is largely ceremonial and constitutional.
However, the race is not a done deal, with the more left-leaning Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer also in with a chance. A former Labour Party leader, he entered the Knesset 30 years ago after retiring from the IDF.
Diplomatically he has some cards to play, and his close ties to prickly Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may be useful at a time when the two countries seek to rebuild a soured relationship.
Other candidates include Prof. Daniel Shechtman at Technion, ranked the second favourite in terms of popularity. His public profile soared in 2011, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry. If elected, he would be the first ‘non-politician’ president since Ephraim Katzir in 1973.