A file picture taken on January 13, 2011 shows at the time Israeli Minister of Trade, Industry and Labor, Benjamin Ben Eliezer delivering a speech during “The Israel Manufacturers Association General Meeting" in Tel Aviv
A file picture taken on January 13, 2011 shows at the time Israeli Minister of Trade, Industry and Labor, Benjamin Ben Eliezer delivering a speech during “The Israel Manufacturers Association General Meeting" in Tel Aviv © Jack Guez - AFP/File
A file picture taken on January 13, 2011 shows at the time Israeli Minister of Trade, Industry and Labor, Benjamin Ben Eliezer delivering a speech during “The Israel Manufacturers Association General Meeting
AFP
Last updated: June 7, 2014

Israel presidential candidate quits race after probe

Israeli presidential candidate Benjamin Ben Eliezer said on Saturday that he was quitting the race three days ahead of the vote after being questioned by police over corruption allegations.

Ben Eliezer, 78, is a member of the Labour party, who was a general in the military and later served in several cabinet posts.

"Since I announced my candidacy, there has been an aggressive and orchestrated smear campaign against me, with the sole purpose of preventing me from being president," he said in a statement.

"With a very heavy heart, I've decided to withdraw from the race," he said.

He was summoned to police on Friday at the order of the attorney general and was questioned on suspicion of illegally receiving money.

Israeli media reported he was asked about funding for a luxury home he bought in Jaffa.

In his statement, Ben Eliezer denied wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name, explaining he quit the race to prevent delays in electing a new president.

"I hope the 'targeted killing' I was subject to will be the last affair in this presidential campaign," he said.

In Israel the post of president is largely ceremonial and executive power rests with the prime minister.

Lawmakers will elect outgoing President Shimon Peres's successor on Tuesday. With Ben Eliezer's resignation, five other candidates remain -- lawmakers Reuven Rivlin and Meir Sheetrit, ex-politician Dalia Itzik, former supreme justice Dalia Dorner and chemistry Nobel Prize laureate Dan Shechtman.

Peres will step down at the end of July, just before his 91st birthday, following a political career spanning nearly seven decades.

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