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Shimon Peres Elected Israel's President


Shimon Peres has been elected Israel's ninth president in a second round of parliamentary voting for the largely ceremonial post. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, Mr. Peres has held virtually all of Israel's top civilian jobs, without ever having won a national election in his six-decade political career.

Shimon Peres, an 83-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, will be sworn in on July 15 for a seven-year term as Israel's president, a largely ceremonial post that has come under a cloud of scandal in recent years.

Mr. Peres, won 86 out of 120 parliamentary votes in the second round of a secret ballot, after his two opponents withdrew when it became clear that he was the sentimental favorite for the position. Speaking a short while later he pledged to try to serve as a unifying force for Israelis.

Mr. Peres says the office of the presidency is larger than any one man, and that he believes the vote to elect him president was one made out of friendship.

Mr. Peres lost the last race for president in 2000, when in a stunning political surprise a prominent rabbi swung votes to a virtually unknown politician from the right-wing Likud Party, Moshe Katsav.

Earlier this year, Israel's attorney general said he planned to indict Mr. Katsav on charges of rape and abuse of power, based on sworn testimony from several women who worked in the president's office. Mr. Katsav, who says he is innocent, has yet to be formally charged, but he stepped down from the presidency several months ago to fight the charges.

Mr. Katsav's predecessor, Ezer Weizman, also left before his seven-year term ended, after he was implicated, but never charged, in a case in which he was alleged to have received more than $300,000 in gifts from a wealthy French businessman.

Ephraim Ya'ar, of Tel Aviv University, says Shimon Peres is a good choice to restore credibility to a tarnished office.

"He has been able in recent years to overcome in recent years a lot of the personal animosity and also the internal cleavages [of Israeli politics], so I think in this respect he will be widely accepted by the Israeli public, and I think in this way he will restore, at least to some extent, wounds the institution of the presidency suffered in recent years," he said.

During his career, Mr. Peres has served as Minister of Defense, Finance, and Foreign Affairs and has twice held the office of Prime Minister. But he never won a national election to the office of prime minister, serving in a caretaker capacity, most notably in the 1990s after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist.

He shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mr. Rabin, and with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, for helping to craft the 1993 peace agreement that led to the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule.

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