When Likud MK Reuven Rivlin congratulated President-elect Shimon Peres at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Knesset office on Wednesday, Rivlin surprised Peres by thanking him for defeating him.
"Thank you for putting me in the Guinness Book of World Records as the man who lost to you," Rivlin said.
Rivlin was alluding to a long-standing urban myth that Peres is in the Guinness Book for most electoral defeats, for his eight losses from 1974 to 2005. Peres's record for futility may in fact be in the history books, but the story is untrue. He is not in Guinness.
"I am afraid we don't monitor the mentioned record, as elections differ in size, frequency and ruling in each country, so its impossible to compare like for like and measure it for a record," Beatriz Fernandez, the international brand manager of Guinness World Records, told The Jerusalem Post from the company's headquarters in London.
Fernandez said the company did keep political-related records for heads of state, but only for "things like oldest, youngest, longest serving, etc."
Peres, who is set to turn 84 in August, was elected to a seven-year term that will end when he is almost 91. He is older than Queen Elizabeth II (81) and Cuban President Fidel Castro (80). He will pass up Japanese emperor Hirohito, who died at age 87, and Konrad Adenauer, who was chancellor of Germany until he was 87.
But he is apparently not the oldest head of state to be elected or to serve. amon de Valera was reelected president of Ireland when he was 84, in 1966. Malietoa Tanumafili II, the reigning monarch of Samoa, died recently at age 94.