Former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres died at age 93 on 28 September 2016, over two weeks after suffering a severe stroke.
Shimon Peres - public servant, parliamentarian and the eighth Prime Minister of the State of Israel - was responsible for Israel's nuclear program. He was elected by the Knesset on June 13, 2007 to serve as the Ninth President of Israel, and took the oath of office on July 15. Peres was born in Byelorussia in 1923 and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of eleven. He grew up in Tel Aviv and attended the agricultural high school at Ben Shemen. Peres spent several years in Kibbutz Geva and Kibbutz Alumot, of which he was one of the founders, and in 1943 was elected Secretary of the Labor-Zionist youth movement.
Shimon Peres was closely associated with the development of defense capabilities. In the late forties he joined the Haganah and was assigned responsibility for manpower and arms. During and after the War of Independence, he served as head of the naval services, and later headed the defense ministry's delegation to the US. In 1952 he joined the Ministry of Defense and a year later - at the age of 29 - was appointed Director-General, a position he held until 1959.
In 1959 Peres was elected a Member of Knesset and served until his election as President in June 2007. From 1959 to 1965 he served as Deputy Minister of Defense. Among his achievements were the establishment of the military and aviation industries and the promotion of strategic ties with France - a "special relationship" that culminated in strategic cooperation during the 1956 Sinai Campaign, which he masterminded.
Shimon Peres distinguished himself as a political figure in internal politics as well. In 1965 he left the ruling Mapai party together with Ben-Gurion and became Secretary-General of Rafi; three years later, he was instrumental in reuniting these labor factions. In 1969 Peres was appointed Minister of Immigrants Absorption; from 1970 to 1974 he served as Minister of Transportation and Communications; and during 1974 he was Minister of Information. For three years following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Peres again played a central role in Israel's security as Minister of Defense. He revitalized and strengthened the IDF and played an important role in the disengagement negotiations that led to the 1975 Interim Agreement with Egypt. He was behind the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation and authored the "Good Fence" concept, promoting positive relations with residents of southern Lebanon.
Peres briefly served as Acting Prime Minister following the resignation of Prime Minister Rabin in 1977. Following the defeat of the Labor party in the 1977 general elections - after thirty years of political hegemony - Shimon Peres was elected party chairman, a post he held until 1992. During this period he was also elected Vice President of the Socialist International.
Shimon Peres served two non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister. His first tenure was from 1984 to 1986 in the National Unity government, based on a rotation arrangement with Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir. From 1986 to 1988, he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and from November 1988 until the dissolution of the National Unity Government in 1990 - as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. He focused his energies on the failing economy and on the complex situation resulting from the 1982 war in Lebanon. He succeeded in enlisting the support of the Histadrut for the difficult steps needed to reduce the annual inflation rate from 400% to 16%. Peres was also instrumental in the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon and the establishment of a narrow security zone in southern Lebanon.
After the return to power of the Labor party as a result of the 1992 elections, Shimon Peres was once again appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. He initiated and conducted the negotiations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles with the PLO in September 1993 - which won him the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, together with Rabin and Arafat. Further negotiations with the Palestinians brought about Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and some areas of Judea and Samaria and the establishment of limited Palestinian autonomy, as decided in the Interim Agreement . In October 1994, the Treaty of Peace with Jordan was signed. Peres subsequently strove to promote relations with additional Arab countries in North Africa and the Persian Gulf - part of his vision of a "New Middle East."
Shimon Peres' second term as Prime Minister came in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995. The Labor Party chose Peres as Rabin's successor, and the Knesset confirmed the decision with a vote of confidence, supported by both coalition and opposition members. Peres served as Prime Minister for seven months, until the general elections held in May 1996. During this trying period, Peres strove to maintain the momentum in the peace process, despite a wave of terrorist attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers against Israeli civilians.
Shimon Peres continued to serve as chairman of the Labor Party for a year after the party's election defeat. In June 1997, former Chief-of-Staff and Labor Member of Knesset Ehud Barak was elected chairman of the Labor Party. In October 1997 Shimon Peres created the the Peres Center for Peace with the aim of advancing Arab-Israeli joint ventures.
Peres served as Minister of Regional Cooperation from July 1999 until March 2001, and in March 2001 was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister in the National Unity government headed by Ariel Sharon, serving until October 2002 when he resigned together with the other Labor ministers. Peres served as Vice Premier to Ariel Sharon from January-November 2005, when Labor resigned from the government.
Prior to the elections to the 17th Knesset, Peres left the Labor Party to join the newly founded Kadima. He served as Vice Premier, Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galillee from May 2006 until June 2007.
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