Prof. Daniel Shechtman, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2011, is running for president, he announced on Friday night.
He spoke on Channel 1’s Yoman news magazine program.
The Knesset is expected to choose the next head of state in June, ahead of the end of President Shimon Peres’s tenure on July 27. If Shectman wins, he would be the first non-politician to win since biophysicist Ephraim Katzir in 1973.
A day after Shectman made the announcement, other prospective candidates began attacking him.
“There will be many candidates, so I don’t take it seriously that there is another one,” one said. “There is no proof that people who come from academia are better. You need someone who knows the politicians and who has experience to get things done. That’s why Katzir was not a successful president.”
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who has sponsored a bill requiring a seven-year cooling-off period for MKs to run for president, said he is happy Shechtman is running.
“To restore the presidency to what it should be, we must have a president who is able to unite the people,” Feiglin said.
“Science is a field that unites. Politics is a field that divides.”
During his interview with Channel 1, Shechtman was asked about his lack of experience in the political arena. He responded that his inexperience does not mean that he lacks vision. He said his desire to be president comes from being a Zionist.
Shechtman, who still teaches at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, won the Nobel for discovering quasicrystals, which have non-repeating patterns the prize committee described as “fascinating mosaics of the Arabic world reproduced at the level of atoms.”
He was born in Tel Aviv in 1941, and earned his PhD at the Technion in 1972.
Currently, the only other declared candidates for president are Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, who lost to Peres seven years ago, and Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, Hatnua faction chairman Meir Sheetrit, Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky also may run.
Candidates need to announce their candidacy and submit the signatures of 10 MKs who support them at least two weeks before the vote.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is not expected to set a date for the race until after the Knesset returns from its spring recess on May 12.
An online petition in support of Shechtman’s candidacy received close to a thousand signature by press time.