Yoel Marcus
Haaretz (Opinion)
January 4, 2013 - 1:00am


On the eve of the establishment of the state, David Ben Gurion proposed to Albert Einstein that he serve as the first president of the State of Israel. To this day it is not really clear what Ben Gurion's motive was in appointing an internationally renowned scientist to this position. The gossip of the time had it that Ben Gurion would be willing to appoint even the owner of the neighborhood kiosk as long as Chaim Weizmann wasn't appointed to the position, in light of their past political conflicts. Einstein refused, Weizmann accepted his fate of serving in an office where "the only place where I'll be able to stick my nose is my handkerchief."

Weizmann and his wife Vera did their job in a statesmanlike manner, and kept quiet. Since then every president has chosen his own path. As someone who as a military commentator predicted the victory in the Six-Day War, Chaim Herzog was a president with his hand on the pulse of the security situation, and was also popular among foreign military attaches. Ezer Weizman, nephew of the first president, retained his mischievousness even as president and was also, incidentally, the first president to clash with Benjamin Netanyahu - during Bibi's first term as prime minister.

The presidents' official duties prevented them from going beyond granting pardons, receiving credentials from diplomats, and here and there having receptions on holidays. It wasn't exactly a back-breaking job.

Lately, with the approach of the election, and the threat that the political arena will turn sharply to the right, there is a feeling of unease in the President's Residence. Shimon Peres, a politician through and through, is angry at the government's behavior on matters pertaining to peace. On these issues the government should be recruiting friends rather than infuriating enemies, Peres was quoted as telling the Foreign Ministry's annual ambassadors' conference in Jerusalem. In the silence that reigned in the hall, Peres dropped one bomb after another: "The belligerent approach should be transformed into one of moderate rapprochement. ... As a diplomat, it's always better to be a lion in a sheep's skin, rather than to be a sheep, roaring like a lion, scaring the whole world. ... The role of our diplomacy has always been to stretch out a hand to anyone willing to talk," said Peres. He added: "I've known Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] for 30 years, he's open and ready for rapprochement."

Shimon Peres, known for his slow speech and his moderate style, has recently been raising his voice even in private conversations. It's quite uncharacteristic of the man who broadcasts calm to reach a point where he can't control himself. During one of his visits to the President's Residence, Bibi brought along his wife Sara in the hope of calming the atmosphere during the official conversation. The result was that Peres shouted at both of them.

He was particularly angered by what he had heard at the conference of Israeli ambassadors, which has been grabbing headlines recently. The fuse was lit by our ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, of the basso profundo voice, who criticized the wisdom of bringing up the construction plans at E-1 immediately after it was decided to grant the state of Palestine observer status at the United Nations. Instead of accepting the criticism and taking it into account, National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror burst out with something to the effect that if the government's policy doesn't suit you, either go into politics or resign. Nobody stood up to protest.

The ministry's deputy director-general, Ran Curiel, pacified Amidror by saying: "The applause [for Prosor] was not in opposition to government policy, but an attempt to understand the logic behind the government's decisions." The ambassadors' conference challenged the government's policy. Perhaps even the government.

Likud spokesmen claim that Peres is joining the battle against Bibi. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Whining is not enough for a president. If Peres considers the situation urgent, and he is truly worried about the danger that the extreme right-wing leadership will come to power and lead us to war - he should resign from his position here and now, so that he won't be a partner to the treachery, so that he won't enter history as the one who tasked Bibi with forming the next government.


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