Remembering Shimon Peres, Israel's Founding Father

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Monday, May 21, 2018
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an aerial view of jerusalem israel 1439884

Jerusalem, Israel


After attending agricultural school Peres worked on a kibbutz (agricultural commune) and became involved in politics at the age of 18 when he was elected secretary of a Labour Zionist movement, Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed.  In 1947 Israel's founding Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, put him in charge of personnel and arms purchases for the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. He secured a deal with France to supply the new state with Mirage jet fighters and also set up Israel's secret nuclear facility at Dimona.


Oslo Accord

Signing of Oslo Agreement


Novel Price Recipients for Peace Process
Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat

Peres was elected to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in 1959, standing for the Mapai party, the forerunner of the modern Labour movement in Israel, and was appointed deputy defence minister.  In 1965 he resigned after being implicated in a reopened inquiry into Operation Susannah, an Israeli plan to bomb British and US targets in Egypt in 1954 to try to influence Britain not to withdraw its troops from the Sinai. A review of the original inquiry into the operation found inconsistencies in the testimony, and Peres, together with Ben Gurion, left Mapai to form a new party. When Golda Meir resigned as prime minister in 1974 after the Yom Kippur war, Peres unsuccessfully fought Yitzhak Rabin for the vacant post.


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Secret Negotiations:  Rabin stood down as the Alignment party leader in 1977 after a currency scandal involving his wife but a quirk in the Israeli constitution meant he could not resign as prime minister. Peres became party leader and unofficial prime minister before leading the coalition into a defeat by the Likud party under Menachem Begin. He suffered five further election defeats, all of which resulted in him being given ministerial positions as part of a coalition government. In 1992 Peres failed to win the leadership of the Israeli Labour Party after being defeated in the preliminary stages of the contest by Rabin.


West Bank

Dividing Wall on the West Bank

The former Labour leader advocated territorial compromise in the West Bank As Rabin's foreign minister, Peres began secret negotiations with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which led to the historic Oslo peace accords of 1993. For the first time the Palestinian leadership officially acknowledged Israel's right to exist. A year later Peres became a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Rabin and Arafat. Once an advocate of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Peres became a leading political dove, often speaking of the need for compromise over territorial demands in Palestinian areas . "The Palestinians are our closest neighbours," he once said. "I believe they may become our closest friends." Peres became prime minister in 1995 after Rabin's assassination but held office for less than a year before being defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud.


temple mount

Temple Mount, Jerusalem 


Reconciliation:   In 2000 he failed in his effort to secure the ceremonial post of president, losing to the relatively obscure Moshe Katsav. When his successor as Labour leader, Ehud Barak, was defeated by Ariel Sharon in the 2002 elections, Peres led Labour into a coalition with Likud and won the post of foreign minister. He was able to extend a "safety net" in parliament to Sharon, enabling the latter to pursue a plan to disengage from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in the face of opposition from his own Likud party.



Peres and Netanyahu

Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu


Peres was president when Benjamin Netanyahu (left), an ideological opponent, was prime minister In 2005 Peres announced his resignation from Labour and his support for Sharon, who had formed a new party called Kadima. When Sharon suffered a major stroke there was speculation that Peres might have become leader of Kadima but he was blocked by former Likud members who were the majority in the party. In June 2007 he was elected president of Israel, resigning from the Knesset where he had been the longest-serving member of parliament in the country's history. He served seven years as president, before stepping down in 2014, the world's oldest head of state.


A Special Cabinet Meeting to Mourn

Special Cabinet Meeting to Mourn the Death of Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on September 27, 2016


Obama touching coffin of Shimon Peres

President Obama Touching Shimon Peres' Coffin After his Eulogy Speech


Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Israeli President Shimon Peres was remembered as a "great man" as scores of world leaders attended his funeral Friday September 30, 2016 in Jerusalem.  President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton were among 90 delegations from 70 countries paying their respects to Peres, who died Tuesday while hospitalized for a major stroke. He was 93. His flag-covered casket was carried from the Knesset in Jerusalem and escorted to the ceremony at Israel's Mount Herzl national cemetery, where a rabbi sang traditional funeral prayers. Peres served as the nation's ninth president and as prime minister, as well as in various other positions over a career that spanned six decades.


Obama and Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu with President Obama

Some 6,000 admirers, family members and international dignitaries attended the ceremony, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In a 20-minute eulogy, Obama said Peres showed that that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist ideal, and had always strived for a resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict that treated both sides equally. "Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews and must therefore be equal in self-determination," he said. He said Abbas's attendance was a reminder of the "unfinished business of peace" in the Middle East. In pointed remarks, Obama compared Peres to "other giants of the 20th century" such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who "find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment."



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President Bill Clinton Pays Respect to his Friend Shimon Peres in Israel


Shimon Peres 93