Presidential candidate Shimon Peres turned to a higher power on Wednesday in his quest to end his long string of electoral defeats.
Rather than rely on the support of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik alone, Peres appealed straight to God Himself when he announced his candidacy in a special meeting of the Kadima faction. Peres referred to God three times in the speech, surprising members of his faction.
"I want to ask the Holy One Blessed Be He to give me a long life, if only to enable me to justify the compliments you gave me," Peres said in his opening sentence to the faction.
"I am a believing man and as someone involved in building the country since before it was founded, with God's help, I can say that Israel is strong," he added later.
God was omitted from the official transcript of the speech released by Kadima.
Peres's spokesmen said he had referred to God in past speeches when he was not running for office, but his political rivals were more skeptical, accusing him of repenting at a convenient time.
"It's all futile and I pity him," National Union MK Zvi Hendel said.
Shas and United Torah Judaism MKs said Peres's epiphany would not impact his chances of receiving their support in the June 13 race against MKs Reuven Rivlin and Colette Avital.
"For Rivlin, those words are part of his lexicon all year-long," UTJ MK Avraham Ravitz said.
"Recognizing the creator of the earth is commonplace for the leaders of other countries. The president of the United States does it. His words are proper for a man who wants to represent the entire country."
Shas chairman Eli Yishai said that "if Peres truly believes in God's help, he will have a good chance of receiving it."
Fellow Shas MK Shlomo Benizri added that "he will have help from God above, but he will need a lot more help from below in order to win."
Peres spokesman Yoram Dori responded that "after living almost 84 years, he has a right to thank God."
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