Netanyahu Wanted Elie Wiesel for President, Reports Say

PM began phoning ministers to get support for Wiesel only hours before the deadline for submitting candidacies, according to reports.

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Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel.
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel.

In a last-minute attempt to avoid having to support MK Reuven Rivlin for state president, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered approaching Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel, according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu finally endorsed Rivlin late on Wednesday, apparently after failing to obtain sufficient signatures for Wiesel’s candidacy. Rivlin is now considered the leading candidate in the election, which will be held on June 10.

According to the reports, Netanyahu began phoning ministers on Tuesday night, only hours before the deadline for submitting candidacies, in an effort to get the required 10 signatures for Wiesel. Among the ministers he contacted were Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Benett.

He did not attempt to contact Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose support for her Hatnuah Party candidate Meir Sheetrit was public knowledge.

The initiative fell through when Netanyahu was unable to get the requisite number of signatures, many ministers having already endorsed other candidates. It was unclear from the reports whether Netanyahu actually broached the idea with Wiesel.

When speaking with the ministers, Netanyahu did not mention that Wiesel was not a citizen of Israel, which is a prerequisite for an Israeli president, according to the reports.

It was not the first time that Wiesel had been mentioned as a potential president. Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert approached him in 2007, but nothing came of it.

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