Shimon Peres, the godfather of Israeli politics

Profile: Shimon Peres, father figure in Israeli politics

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Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (2009)
Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (2009)

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres passed away early Wednesday after suffering a massive stroke.

Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (2009)
Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (2009)
The 93-year-old was the last remaining statesman from Israel’s founding generation. The roles he played in his life came at major turning points for the Jewish state which was established in 1948. The story of his personal life is closely intertwined with Israel’s development as a state.

Peres was born as Szymon Perski in 1923 in a Polish town now known as Vishnyeva in Belarus. In 1934, he and his family immigrated to Israel, then known as Palestine.

His nearly 70-year political career covered almost every role in the political arena, including president, two terms as prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, finance minister, chairman of the Labor party, and leader of the opposition in the parliament.

His last political term ended two years ago when he stepped down as the president, a largely ceremonial role.

In 1994 he won a Nobel Peace Prize together with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. They won the prize for the interim peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking after his stroke to Israeli Channel 10, Peres’ biographer Professor Michael Bar Zohar said that Peres is “like a phoenix. He has fallen 20 times and each time got back up again and reinvented himself.”

While his image is that of a dove who champions compromises toward the Palestinians in an effort to reach peace, his early years in Israel’s Defense Ministry earned him the credit for building the country’s military might.

Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1990’s, Peres was very popular abroad. His ideas for regional peace were seen as groundbreaking and inspirational. But in Israel, he always struggled for popular recognition.

Throughout his career, he made many controversial political maneuvers which tainted his image in the eyes of the Israeli public.

Former colleague and member of the Israeli parliament, Colette Avital, told Israeli Channel 10 after Peres was hospitalized that Israelis “owe him a lot. He is one of the greatest statesmen of our generation.”

For the Israeli public, losing Peres is the loss of a father figure that many looked up to. In recent years he provided a moderate voice that rose above the petty politics that once characterized the Israeli political discourse. Enditem

by Keren Setton, Xinhua/News Ghana

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