Peres won No­bel Prize but peace stayed elu­sive

The Is­raeli el­der states­man died on Wednes­day at age 93 fol­low­ing a stroke

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Jerusalem

Shi­mon Peres, who died on Wednes­day at the age of 93, never re­al­ized his vi­sion of a new Mid­dle East built upon a 1993 in­terim peace deal he helped shape with the Pales­tini­ans.

But Is­rael’s el­der states­man won world ac­claim and a No­bel Prize as a sym­bol of hope in a re­gion long plagued by war fu­eled by deep re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions.

Peres was hos­pi­tal­ized fol­low­ing a stroke two weeks ago and his con­di­tion had im­proved be­fore a sud­den de­te­ri­o­ra­tion on Tues­day, doc­tors said. In an­nounc­ing his pass­ing, fam­ily mem­bers said that he did not suf­fer pain, and as a last act af­ter death, he do­nated his corneas for trans­plant.

“Don’t for­get to be dar­ing and cu­ri­ous and to dream big,” Peres urged first-graders at the start of the school year in a post­ing on his Face­book page ear­lier this month. The com­ment seemed to sum up his own credo.

In a ca­reer span­ning nearly seven decades, Peres, once a shep­herd on a kib­butz, or com­mu­nal farm, served in a dozen cabi­nets and twice as Labour Party prime min­is­ter, but he never won a gen­eral elec­tion out­right in five tries from 1977 to 1996.

“I am a loser. I lost elec­tions. But I am a win­ner — I served my peo­ple,” Peres, who held the largely cer­e­mo­nial post of pres­i­dent from 20072014, once said in a speech.

He shared the 1994 No­bel Peace Prize with Is­rael’s late prime min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin and Pales­tinian leader Yasser Arafat for a 1993 ac­cord that they and their suc­ces­sors failed to turn into a durable treaty.

When a far-right Jewish Is­raeli op­posed to the peace deal as­sas­si­nated Rabin in Novem­ber 1995, the torch passed to Peres.

But Pales­tinian sui­cide bomb­ings that killed dozens of Is­raelis and an ag­gres­sive cam­paign by Likud bat­tered Peres’s rat­ing and he lost the 1996 elec­tion to Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu by less than 30,000 votes.

In 2000, the fail­ure of fi­nal­sta­tus peace talks with the Pales­tini­ans and the erup­tion of a Pales­tinian up­ris­ing rife with sui­cide bomb­ings fur­ther dam­aged Is­rael’s left and Peres’s lead­er­ship prospects.

In 2005, Peres left the Labour Party to join then Prime Min­is­ter Ariel Sharon’s new party, Kadima, which had spear­headed Is­rael’s uni­lat­eral pull­out from the Gaza Strip ear­lier that year. Fol­low­ing Kadima’s 2006 elec­tion vic­tory, Peres served as vi­ceprime min­is­ter.

Born in 1923 in what is now Be­larus, Peres im­mi­grated to Bri­tish-ruled Pales­tine with his fam­ily a decade later.

Is­rael’s found­ing fa­ther David Ben-Gu­rion groomed him for lead­er­ship. He over­saw arms pur­chases and man­power in the Ha­gana, the Zion­ist fight­ing force, be­fore Is­rael’s es­tab­lish­ment.

Peres is widely seen as hav­ing gained nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties for Is­rael by procur­ing the se­cret Di­mona re­ac­tor from France while De­fense Min­istry di­rec­tor-gen­eral in the 1950s.

As de­fense min­is­ter he over saw the dra­matic 1976 Is­raeli res­cue of hi­jacked Is­raelis at En­tebbe air­port in Uganda.

Peres was pop­u­lar in his first term as prime min­is­ter in 1984-86 as part of a pow­er­shar­ing pact with Likud. He pulled troops back from Le­banon, nor­mal­ized re­la­tions with Egypt and cut in­fla­tion from 445 per­cent a year to be­low 20 per­cent.

De­spite his key role in build­ing Is­rael’s de­fenses, Peres never gained broad pop­u­lar trust in his se­cu­rity cre­den­tials as Rabin, his Labour ri­val and for­mer army chief, or Sharon en­joyed.

Peres wrote sev­eral books in­clud­ing En­tebbe Di­ary, The New Mid­dle East and Bat­tling for Peace. His wife, So­nia, died in 2011. He is sur­vived by two sons and a daugh­ter.

Don’t for­get to be dar­ing and cu­ri­ous and to dream big.”

Shi­mon Peres, who served in sev­eral po­lit­i­cal roles in Is­rael over the years and was hailed world­wide as a peacemaker.

JERRY LAMPEN / REUTERS

Shi­mon Peres (cen­ter), shows his No­bel Peace Prize flanked by co-re­cip­i­ents Yasser Arafat, the late chair­man of the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion, and then-Is­raeli prime min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin, in Oslo, Nor­way, in 1994. Peres was Is­rael’s for­eign min­is­ter at the time.

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