Elie Wiesel, humanitarian, Nobel Prize laureate and Chairman of The Algemeiner‘s Advisory Board, said he turned down an offer from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to succeed Shimon Peres as President of the State of Israel, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday.
In an interview, Wiesel said he was flattered, but didn’t think the job was for him: “‘Why should I be president? Leave me alone. I write books. I wasn’t meant to do that.’”
Wiesel said Netanyahu had telephoned him in New York three times: “You will be the president of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I have finalized it with everyone. Just say yes.”
“I’ll consider it,” Wiesel replied politely.
Yedioth Ahronoth, a newspaper that Wiesel worked for as correspondent in Paris and New York, wrote: “Wiesel is an amazing person. At the age of 86 he writes, lectures, fosters a foundation with his wife Marion which funds, among other things, two institutions for children in the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi. In the time he has left he does quite a lot, verbally and in writing, for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
“He has never resided in Israel, apart from his short visits here, usually during the holidays. He never asked to become a citizen. He always thought that his decision to live far away carries a price: he avoids lecturing the Israelis on how to live and who to elect, and he strictly avoids criticizing Israel even when he doesn’t approve of its actions.”
Yedioth Ahronoth wrote that on Tuesday night Netanyahu had declared a “Wiesel alert.”
“Until close to midnight, the deadline for closing the list of presidential candidates, [Netanyahu] begged the ministers of the Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Bayit Yehudi not to endorse Reuven Rivlin, because Wiesel had said yes,” the newspaper said. “Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Netanyahu claimed, had agreed to postpone the deadline by one day. Within 24 hours he would get Wiesel an Israeli citizenship and Wiesel would be everyone’s candidate.”
But Wiesel didn’t bite.
“He telephoned me three times,” Wiesel said. “When he failed to receive a favorable answer, he pressured me through mutual friends. The pressure was heavy, you have no idea how heavy, but I know how to face pressure. One of those who pressed me said, ‘Your father in Heaven will see you being elected as the president of the State of Israel. Don’t you want to make him proud?’”
Wiesel said that’s when he responded, “‘Leave me alone. I write books. I wasn’t meant to do that.’”
“Nevertheless, it’s a great compliment,” Wiesel said. “I was glad to have so many friends who want me.”