Elie Wiesel: Netanyahu Pressed Me to Run for President

In an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth, Wiesel says he was approached by Netanyahu who told him 'everything is set, you just need to say yes.'

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Elie Wiesel, October 31, 2012.
Elie Wiesel, October 31, 2012.Credit: Michal Fattal

Elie Wiesel said in an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth this weekend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressuring him to make a bid for the presidency, even though he does not have an Israeli citizenship and cannot officially run for the position.

In the interview, Wiesel told journalist Nahum Barnea that Netanyahu telephoned him three times in New York and told him, “You will be the president of the State of Israel. It's all arranged. All you have to do is say yes. It’s important to Israel. It’s important for the Jewish people.”

Wiesel told Netanyahu politely that he would consider it.

“Failing to get the positive answer he wanted, he started putting pressure on me through mutual friends,” Weisel said in the interview. “The pressure was heavy, but I know how to withstand pressure. One of the people who put pressure on me said, ‘Your father in Heaven will see you elected president of the State of Israel. Don’t you want him to be proud of you?’ But to say yes? To be the president of Israel? Oh, come on. That's not for me. I write books. I’m not cut out for that.” When Wiesel was asked whether he was flattered by the suggestion, he said he was happy that he had so many friends who wanted him to run.

Wiesel, 86, was deported with his family to Auschwitz by Hungarian fascists in 1944. His parents and sister were killed in the Holocaust. He lives in New York and comes to Israel for brief visits only.

Netanyahu notified Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin two days ago of his decision to support him in the presidential elections. The announcement came after failing in his attempts either to find an alternative candidate, to abolish the presidency or to put off the elections by six.

Netanyahu, whose relationship with Rivlin has been contentious over the past few years, called him and said: “We have undergone many things in our lives, better days and days that were less so, and I hope that we will have better days. I waited to see the final list of the candidates, and as prime minister and chairman of the Likud I express my support for your candidacy.”

After the conversation, Rivlin issued a statement saying: “I thank the prime minister for his support for my candidacy for president of the State of Israel.” 

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