Israeli exits presidential race over graft probe

AP News
Posted: Jun 07, 2014 11:36 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior Israeli politician on Saturday dropped out of the country's presidential election days before the vote over a graft probe.

Labor party candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former general and seasoned politician, had been questioned by police over illegally accepting funds. Ben-Elieer said he was a victim of a smear campaign, noting that the allegations against him surfaced ahead of the election.

Ben-Eliezer insisted he was innocent of the accusations in a statement he posted on Facebook.

"With a very heavy heart, I have made the decision to withdraw from the race," he wrote.

Ben-Eliezer, 78, came to Israel from Iraq as a child. He maintains good relations with Arab leaders, including deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He said if elected he would try and reach out to Arab countries.

Israel's presidential election will be held Tuesday. It is a secret ballot vote among the Israeli parliament's 120 members.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Prize laureate, ends his seven-year term as the country's ceremonial head of state this summer.