Shimon Peres: 1923 – 2006
Shimon Peres, Nobel prize winner and true giant of Israeli politics, passes away at 93. Mr Perez served as prime minister twice , once as president of the state of Israel and won a Nobel peace prize.
“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” Mr Obama declared about Mr Perez in a White House statement.
Peres held virtually every senior political office in Israel, including three terms as prime minister and stints as foreign and finance minister. He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reaching an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Some people called Shimon Peres the eternal immigrant. He arrived in Israel at age 10. Shimon Peres was always the new immigrant who had to try harder than everyone else. So he felt he had no choice but to outlast them all. Mr Peres broke nearly all the Israeli political records of longevity. He served as Knesset member for over 47 years, no one else comes even close. He is the only man to have ever served in all four top government jobs − defense, foreign and finance minister, as well as prime minister. Shimon Peres reached the top again and again, won the Nobel Peace Prize. But it was never enough and he always wanted to keep going.
He was too young to be one of the founding fathers of the state, who immigrated as pioneers in the early part of the 20th century. And he was unlucky to have come to Israel before his Zionist parents decided to emigrate. It didn’t matter that he had arrived in mandatory Palestine only at the age of 10. He could never quite shake the vestiges of that Polish accent and a fussiness for his appearance. He always felt he had to prove himself.
Oslo Peace Accords
In more than six decades of political life his defining achievement was as one of the key architects of the Oslo peace accords. For these he was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1994 with the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Those peace agreements – signed in Washington in 1993 and Taba, Egypt in 1995, – foresaw the creation of a Palestinian state. They were named after the Norwegian capital where the two sides launched eight months of secret negotiations in which Peres played a key role. With Peres’s death the last of that trio has now gone.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said: “He worked tirelessly for a two-state solution that would enable Israel to live securely and harmoniously with the Palestinians and the wider region. Even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace.”
The Clintons said they had “lost a true and treasured friend” and that Israel had lost a leader “who championed its security, prosperity and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on Earth”.
They called him “a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation, not conflict”.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called Peres a partner in reaching a “peace of the brave”. He also said he “exerted persistent efforts to reach a just peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life.”
“I am an admirer of Shimon Peres since many years. His never ending willingness to ‘give peace a chance’ is at the same time humble and courageous “