Einstein Declines

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Twenty-four hours after Chaim Weizman, Israel's first President, was laid to rest, the enterprising editor of Israel's evening Maariv, in a signed editorial, proposed as his successor "the greatest Jew alive: Einstein."

The idea caught on: perhaps Israel might get a second president as big as the first. Quipped a government statistician: "He might even be able to work out the mathematics of our economy and make sense out of it." To peppery Premier David Ben-Gurion, who loves learning and knows, moreover, the value of an imposing name, the idea sounded fine. While Israel's President has only small powers at home, abroad he could be an important symbol of a struggling new state which needs both aid and sympathy. Characteristically, without bothering to consult either his cabinet or party, B-G cabled Israel's ambassador to the U.S. to sound Einstein out.

Forgotten in the enthusiasm was the fact that Einstein, though sympathetic to Israel, had never been an ardent Zionist; he believed in a bi-nationalism that meant "friendly and fruitful coexistence with the Arabs." He does not even know Hebrew, official language of the new state.

Able, chubby Envoy Abba Eban got on the phone to Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. Einstein, 73 years old, a naturalized U.S. citizen, listened, paused, and then gave his regretful no. The next day he wrote to Eban that he was deeply touched by the Israeli offer, but never undertook functions he could not fill to his satisfaction. He liked studying the physical world, he added, but, "I have neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings."


Open quoteHe has no guts.Close quote

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