The president of Israel is often compared to the queen of England: to paraphrase Voltaire, with little power comes little responsibility. Still, the job has been manned primarily by respectable politicians, academics, authors and other men of note (the less said about Moshe Katsav, the better).
The latest in that illustrious dynasty is the ageless Shimon Peres, or “Perez,” as Americans seem to insist on calling him, who’s been a public figure in Israel since before the state was established. Seriously, how many people can say they personally mixed it up with the likes of David Ben-Gurion?
Whether or not you’re a fan of his irrepressible optimism, strange fascination with nanotechnology, and perpetual peacemaking, you have to admit Peres has rock-solid credentials. He’ll be a hard act to follow.
(Note: If substantive analysis of the presidential race is your thing, you should probably click here. What we’re up to today is decidedly less serious.)
Alongside such achievements as founding Israel’s (alleged) nuclear program, Peres will also be remembered as the president who opened a Facebook account with Mark Zuckerberg in California in 2012 and spawned a pretty cool meme, despite having referred to the social network as “Bookface” in a speech four years earlier.
He also released an epic viral video with DJ Noy Alooshe (of “Zenga Zenga” fame) to encourage all citizens of the universe to friend him on Facebook:
In an era where Facebook and YouTube have a major impact on the course of international affairs, anyone hoping to achieve Peres’s level of influence may want to try and match his gift for technology and entertainment. Judging by the videos below, while they may have potential, our presidential candidates can still learn a trick or two from the outgoing president.
1. Let them eat cottage cheese
Dalia Itzik, the first female speaker of the Knesset (who also served twice as acting president), almost gives Peres a run for his money with her “Ten Lahem Cottage” (“Give Them Cottage Cheese”), a remix by Alooshe composed from a line she uttered during the famous 2011 social protests:
2. No, you shut up!
In 2003, another of our presidential hopefuls, Meir Sheetrit, sparred with Itzik in the Knesset plenum, telling her to shut up and threatening to “shut her big mouth for her” if she didn’t stop criticizing him. Afterward, Itzik took the lectern and, appropriately, shot back that the world has yet to see a man capable of shutting her up. If you watch carefully, you’ll spot Shimon Peres, then still a member of Knesset.
3. It’s been so very long
In 1986, way before auto-tuning could turn even the most tone-deaf of wannabes into an overnight singing sensation, Sheetrit belted out a pretty decent (though his accent in English could use a bit of work) duet rendition of “Save Your Love,” with extra lyrics about his work in the Knesset:
4. Secret Crush
Having served in parliament since 1981, including in six ministerial posts, Sheetrit is surely familiar with proper protocol and etiquette. Maybe he forgot where he was for minute when Knesset TV recently caught him playing Candy Crush during a parliamentary session:
At least he wasn’t watching porn.
5. Waiter, waiter
Another presidential candidate who could bring some comedic panache to the office is Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer, a former military man and long-serving Knesset member from the Labor Party who’s been known to crack a joke now and then. Here he tells a not entirely politically correct story about that time he was hungry and mistook Arab Knesset member Tawfiq Ziad for a waiter and ordered hummus from him:
6. Purim spiel
But the front-runner in the race is Likud MK Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin (you can read his in-depth interview with David Horovitz here), best known for serving in various ministerial posts and recently as the Knesset speaker.
Perhaps the most shocking (also, hilarious) tidbit from his Knesset career dates back to 2001, when an activist threw a pie in his face to protest the privatization of the Bezeq phone company. Sadly, footage of that incident is nowhere to be found, but here’s something almost as good: Rivlin partying with yeshiva students in Sderot on Purim:
Apologies to the non-politician candidates who didn’t make it into this list. In any event, no matter who wins the presidential vote on June 10, you can be sure that their time in office will include many interesting moments.