Dr. Yehuda David, best known as the doctor who fought the Muhammad al-Dura libel, threw his hat into the already-crowded presidential race on Tuesday.
“All the tools I obtained throughout my life push me to give my all to national service,” David said.
“Everything I did in micro so far, I want to do in macro.”
Muhammad al-Dura was shot to death in the Gaza Strip in September 2000, becoming a symbol of the second intifada. Television station France 2 aired footage showing the 12-year-old and his father, Jamal al-Dura, caught in a crossfire between soldiers and terrorists at the Netzarim junction and claimed they were targeted by the IDF, but the report’s accuracy was widely called into question.
Seven years later, David told Israeli and French media that he treated Jamal al-Dura in 1994 as a surgeon at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and that the injuries Dura said he sustained from IDF fire were actually the result of a gang attack in 1992.
Dura sued David in France for libel and violating doctor-patient confidentiality, but the doctor won in an appeal in 2012.
“I said to myself, if I know the truth, I have to continue fighting until the end,” David said. “I couldn’t stand that Israel’s good name and that of our soldiers was sullied, especially as someone who still does reserve duty.
“I follow every mission through until the end and don’t stop until I succeed. If I enter an operating theater, I can stay 36 hours until I succeed.
That’s the education I got and those are the characteristics a president needs,” David said.
The presidential hopeful said he would use the position to fight delegitimization of Israel, and anti-Semitism, and that he does not see the current president dealing with those issues.
President Shimon Peres’s term ends in June. The Knesset will elect a successor for Peres by secret ballot to be held between the end of May and the end of June. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will not set a date for the contest until the Knesset returns from its Passover recess on May 12. The final date to enter the race must be after that, but many have already officially declared their candidacy – including MKs Reuven Rivlin (Likud), Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua) and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), as well as former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, Nobel Prize winner Prof.
Dan Shechtman and former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner. National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) and Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) are thought to be considering joining the race.
David was born in Algiers in 1953 and moved to France at age eight.
When he was 23, he moved to Israel, and nine years later he served in the IDF as a doctor. In 2012, he was a candidate in the Bayit Yehudi primary, but dropped out two days before the vote because he had cancer.
“I thought I was stronger than the sickness, but I wasn’t,” David admitted. “I could have become an MK, but then I may have been an MK who died, so at the last minute I decided to take care of myself… I beat cancer and I am healing.”
As for support from the Bayit Yehudi, David expressed optimism that the party’s MKs would give him some of the 10 signatures necessary to run.
“I know I have their support,” he said.
However, spokespeople for Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked said neither of them was committed to supporting David’s candidacy.
MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) said David called him to ask for support, but the lawmaker advised him not to further split the field of candidates on the Right.
David criticized the politicization of the presidential race, saying he knows it will be difficult to win when there are political interests at play.
“The situation is not right and is not respectful to the institution of the presidency. This needs to be changed,” he said. “I won’t name names, because all the candidates are worthy, but the people who have been in the Knesset for years may not have the same talents as those who are not, but they have political backing… That in my opinion is intolerable and many people agree with me.”
Also on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman hinted he may support former foreign minister David Levy, the father of MK Orly Levy-Abecasis (Yisrael Beytenu) for president.
“[Yisrael Beytenu] won’t make a decision before we know [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s stance,” Liberman told Army Radio.
“If he lets us vote freely, or if he doesn’t support any candidate, I think David Levy is a serious and respectable candidate.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.