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( , born Szymon Perski on 2 August 1923) is the ninth and current President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years. Peres was elected to the Knessetmarker in November 1959 and, except for a three-month-long hiatus in early 2006, served continuously until 2007, when he became President. In November 2008 he was presented with an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.

Born in Wiszniewomarker, in Polandmarker (now Belarusmarker) in 1923, Peres moved with his family to Mandatory Palestine in 1934. He held several diplomatic and military positions during and directly after Israel's War of Independence. His first high level government position was as Deputy Director-General of Defense in 1952, and Director-General in 1953 through 1959. During his career, he has represented five political parties in the Knesset: Mapai, Rafi, the Alignment, Labor and Kadima, and has led Alignment and Labour. Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the peace talks which he participated in as Israeli Foreign Minister, producing the Oslo Accords. Peres was nominated in early 2007 by Kadima to run in that year's presidential election, being elected by the Knessetmarker for the presidency on 13 June 2007 and sworn into office as the first former Prime Minister to be elected as President of Israel on 15 July 2007 for a seven-year term.

Biography

Early years

Shimon Peres was born on 2 August 1923 in Wiszniewomarker, Polandmarker (now Višnievamarker, Belarusmarker), to Yitzhak (1896-1962) and Sara (b. 1905 née Meltzer) Perski. The family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian at home, and Peres learned Polish at school. He now speaks English and French in addition to Hebrew. His father was a lumber merchant, later branching out into other commodities whilst his mother was a librarian. Peres has a younger brother, Gershon.

Peres's grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, a grandson of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, had a great impact on his life. In an interview, Peres said: "As a child, I grew up in my grandfather’s home… I was educated by him… my grandfather taught me Talmud. It was not as easy as it sounds. My home was not an observant one. My parents were not Orthodox but I was Haredi. At one point, I heard my parents listening to the radio on the Sabbath and I smashed it."

He studied at The New School in Greenwich Villagemarker, New York Citymarker.

British Mandate

In 1932, Peres' father immigrated to Palestine and settled in Tel Avivmarker. The family followed him in 1934. He attended Balfour Elementary School and High School, and Geula Gymnasium (High School for Commerce) in Tel Avivmarker. At 15, he transferred to Ben Shemen agricultural schoolmarker and lived on Kibbutz Gevamarker for several years. Peres was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumotmarker. In 1941 he was elected Secretary of Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement, and in 1944 returned to Alumot, where he worked as a dairy farmer, shepherd and kibbutz secretary.

Personal life

In 1945, Shimon Peres married Sonya (née Gelman), who has preferred to remain outside the public eye throughout his political career. They have three children: a daughter, Zvia Valdan, a linguist and professor at Beit Berl Teachers Training College; and two sons, Yoni (born 1952), director of Village Veterinary Center, a veterinary hospital on the campus of Kfar Hayarok Agricultural School near Tel Aviv, and Hemi, chairman of Pitango Venture Capital, one of Israel’s largest venture capital funds. Peres has 8 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Sonya Peres was unable to attend Shimon's inauguration ceremony due to ill health. Peres is a first cousin of actress Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perski).

Military and defense



In 1947, Peres joined the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases. In 1952, he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Defense, and in 1953, at the age of 29, became the youngest ever Director General of the Ministry of Defense. He was involved in arms purchases and establishing strategic alliances that were important for the State of Israel. Owing to Peres' mediation, Israel acquired the advanced Dassault Mirage III French jet fighter, established the Dimona nuclear reactormarker and entered into a tri-national agreement with France and the United Kingdom to initiate the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Political career

First steps in politics

Peres was first elected to the Knessetmarker in the 1959 elections, as a member of the Mapai party. He was given the role of Deputy Defense Minister, which he fulfilled until 1965. Peres and Dayan left Mapai with David Ben-Gurion to form a new party, Rafi which reconciled with Mapai and joined the Alignment (a left-wing alliance) in 1968.

Political milestones in the 1970s

In 1969, Peres was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption and in 1970 became Minister of Transportation and Communications. In 1974, after a period as Information Minister, he was appointed Minister of Defense in the Yitzhak Rabin government, having been Rabin's chief rival for the post of Prime Minister after Golda Meir resigned in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. During this time, Peres continued to challenge Rabin for the chairmanship of the party, but in 1977, he again lost to Rabin in the party elections.

Peres succeeded Rabin as party leader prior to the 1977 elections when Rabin stepped down in the wake of a foreign currency scandal involving his wife. As Rabin could not legally resign from the transition government, he officially remained Prime Minister, while Peres became the unofficial acting Prime Minister. Peres led the Alignment to its first ever electoral defeat, when Likud under Menachem Begin won sufficient seats to form a coalition that excluded the left. After only a month on top, Peres assumed the role of opposition leader.

Political milestones in the 1980s

After turning back a comeback bid by Rabin in 1980 Peres led his party to another, narrower, loss in the 1981 elections.

In 1984, the Alignment won more seats than any other party but failed to muster the majority of 61 mandates needed to form a left-wing coalition. Therefore, the Alignment and Likud agreed on an unusual "rotation" arrangement in which Peres would serve as Prime Minister and the Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir would be Foreign Minister .

A highlight of this time in office was a trip to Moroccomarker to confer with King Hassan II.

In rotation with Shamir

After two years, Peres and Shamir traded places. In 1986 he became foreign minister. In 1988, the Alignment led by Peres suffered another narrow defeat. He agreed to renew the coalition with the Likud, this time conceding the premiership to Shamir for the entire term. In the national unity government of 1988-1990, Peres served as Vice Premier and Minister of Finance. He and the Alignment finally left the government in 1990, after "the dirty trick" - A failed bid to form a narrow government based on a coalition of the Alignment, small leftist factions and ultra-orthodox parties.

Political milestones in the 1990s

From 1990, Peres led the opposition in the Knesset, until, in early 1992, he was defeated in the first primary elections of the new Israeli Labor Party (which had been formed by the consolidation of the Alignment into a single unitary party) by Yitzhak Rabin, whom he had replaced fifteen years earlier.

Peres remained active in politics, however, serving as Rabin's foreign minister from 1992 and without Rabin's knowledge, began illegal secret negotiations with Yasser Arafat's PLO organization. When Rabin found out, he let them continue. The negotiations led to the Oslo Accords, which would win Peres, Rabin and Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize.

After Rabin's assassination in 1995, Peres again became Prime Minister. During his term, Peres promoted the use of the Internet in Israel and created the first website of an Israeli prime minister. However, he was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu in the first direct elections for Prime Minister in 1996.

In 1997 he did not seek re-election as Labor Party leader and was replaced by Ehud Barak. Barak rebuffed Peres's attempt to secure the position of party president and upon forming a government in 1999 appointed Peres to the minor post of Minister of Regional Co-operation. Peres played little role in the Barak government.

Political milestones in the 2000s

In 2000 Peres ran for a seven-year term as Israel's President, a ceremonial head of state position, which usually authorizes the selection of Prime Minister. Had he won, as was expected, he would have been the first ex-Prime Minister to be elected President. He lost however, to Likud candidate Moshe Katsav.

Following Ehud Barak's defeat by Ariel Sharon in the 2001 direct election for Prime Minister, Peres made yet another comeback. He led Labor into a national unity government with Sharon's Likud and secured the post of Foreign Minister. The formal leadership of the party passed to Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and in 2002 to Haifamarker mayor, Amram Mitzna. Peres was much criticized on the left for clinging to his position as Foreign Minister in a government that was not seen as advancing the peace process, despite his own dovish stance. He left office only when Labor resigned in advance of the 2003 elections. After the party under the leadership of Mitzna suffered a crushing defeat, Peres again emerged as interim leader. He led the party into coalition with Sharon once more at the end of 2004 when the latter's support of "disengagement" from Gaza presented a diplomatic program Labor could support.

Shimon Peres with Donald Rumsfeld


Peres won the chairmanship of the Labor Party in 2005, in advance of the 2006 elections. As party leader, Peres favored pushing off the elections for as long as possible. He claimed that an early election would jeopardize both the September 2005 Gaza withdrawal plan and the standing of the party in a national unity government with Sharon. However, the majority pushed for an earlier date, as younger members of the party, among them Ophir Pines-Paz and Isaac Herzog, overtook established leaders like Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Haim Ramon, in the party ballot to divide up government portfolios. It turned out that elections could not be held in June, as planned, when a scandal erupted over possible fraud in registering party members. The investigation of this scandal delayed elections until 9 November 2005.

Irrespective of before or after the delay, Peres continually led in the polls, defying predictions that rivals would overtake him. His bitter exchanges with opponents began when former Prime Minister Barak began backing the holding of primaries early that year, as Amir Peretz and Haim Ramon, two staunch anti-Barak Knesset members vowed to support Peres at any cost to defeat Barak. In a bizarre change of events, Peretz soon declared his own candidacy, a move viewed by Peres as the greatest betrayal.

Though Peres continued to trade nasty barbs with Barak in the newspapers, his feud with Peretz soon superseded that, especially when Barak pulled out of the race in early October. One of Peretz's main charges against Peres was that he neglected socio-economic affairs as a member of the Sharon government, and did not fulfill his statement that Labor had joined the coalition with only the intent of seeing through the Gaza Withdrawal. Peres lost the leadership election with 40% to Peretz's 42.4%.

Joining Kadima

On 30 November 2005 Peres announced that he was leaving the Labor Party to support Ariel Sharon and his new Kadima party. In the immediate aftermath of Sharon's debilitating stroke there was speculation that Peres might take over as leader of the party but most senior Kadima leaders, however, were former members of Likud and indicated their support for Ehud Olmert as Sharon's successor.

Labor reportedly tried to woo Peres back to the fold. Peres announced, however, that he supported Olmert and would remain with Kadima. Media reports suggested that Ehud Olmert offered Peres the second slot on the Kadima list, but inferior cabinet positions to the ones that were reportedly offered to Tzipi Livni. Peres had previously announced his intention not to run in the March elections. Following Kadima's win in the election, Peres was given the role of Vice Prime Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev, Galilee and Regional Economy.

President of Israel

Shimon Peres in December 2007 reflecting on his legacy and whether he will seek a second term.


On 13 June 2007, Peres was elected President of the State of Israel by the Knesset. 58 of 120 members of the Knesset voted for him in the first round (whereas 38 voted for Reuven Rivlin, and 21 for Colette Avital). His opponents then backed Peres in the second round and 86 members of the Knesset voted in his favor, while 23 objected. He resigned from his role as a Member of the Knesset the same day, having been a member since November 1959 (except for a three month period in early 2006), the longest serving in Israeli political history. Peres was sworn in as President on 15 July, 2007.
In November 2008 Peres received an honorary knighthood of the Order of St. Michael and St. George from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace in London.

Political views

Peres was at one time considered something of a hawk. He was a protégé of Ben-Gurion and Dayan and an early supporter of the West Bank settlers during the 1970s. However, after becoming the leader of his party his stance evolved. More recently he has been seen as a dove, and a strong supporter of the notion of peace through economic cooperation. While still opposed, like all mainstream Israeli leaders in the 1970s and early 1980s, to talks with the PLO, he distanced himself from settlers and spoke of the need for "territorial compromise" over the West Bank and Gaza. For a time he hoped that King Hussein of Jordan could be Israel's Arab negotiating partner rather than Yasser Arafat. Peres met secretly with Hussein in London in 1987 and reached a framework agreement with him, but this was rejected by Israel's then Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Shortly afterward the First Intifada erupted, and whatever plausibility King Hussein had as a potential Israeli partner in resolving the fate of the West Bank evaporated. Subsequently, Peres gradually moved closer to support for talks with the PLO, although he avoided making an outright commitment to this policy until 1993.

Peres was perhaps more closely associated with the Oslo Accords than any other Israeli politician (Rabin included) with the possible exception of his own protégé, Yossi Beilin. He has remained an adamant supporter of the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian Authority since their inception despite the First Intifada and the al-Aqsa Intifada . However, Peres supported Ariel Sharon's military policy of operating the Israeli Defence Forces to thwart suicide bombings.

Often, Peres acts as the informal "spokesman" of Israel (even when he is in the opposition) since he earned high prestige and respect among the international public opinion and diplomatic circles. Peres advocates Israel's security policy (military counter terror operations and the Israeli West Bank barrier) against international criticism and de-legitimation efforts from pro-Palestinian circles.

Peres' foreign policy outlook is markedly realist. For example, to placate Turkey, a Muslim country in the region with a history of being friendly towards Israel, Peres is reported to have explicitly denied the Armenian genocide. Calling Armenian allegations of genocide "meaningless," Peres further stated, "We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide." The Israeli Foreign Ministry, in addressing the controversy these remarks had created, later suggested that Peres had been misquoted, and that he "absolutely did not say, as the Turkish news agency alleged, 'What the Armenians underwent was a tragedy, not a genocide.'"

Peres and Iran

On the issue of the nuclear program of Iran and the existential threat this poses for Israel, Peres stated, "I am not in favor of a military attack on Iran, but we must quickly and decisively establish a strong, aggressive coalition of nations that will impose painful economic sanctions on Iran." He added, "Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear weapons should keep the entire world from sleeping soundly." In the same speech, Peres compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his call to "wipe Israel off the map" to the genocidal threats to European Jewry made by Adolf Hitler in the years prior to the Holocaust. In an interview with Army Radio on 8 May 2006 he remarked that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map".With this remark, Peres drew unusually stiff criticism from an analyst on Israel's state television, Yoav Limor, for talking of destroying another country. "There is a broad consensus that it would have been better if Peres had not said this, especially now," Limor said. "I'm quite sure Israel does not want to find itself in the same insane asylum as (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad."

Books

Shimon Peres is the author of eleven books, including:
  • The Next Step (1965)
  • David's Sling (1970) (ISBN 0-297-00083-7)
  • And Now Tomorrow (1978)
  • From These Men: seven founders of the State of Israel (1979) (ISBN 0-671-61016-3)
  • Entebbe Diary (1991) (ISBN 965-248-111-4)
  • The New Middle East (1993) (ISBN 0-8050-3323-8)
  • Battling for Peace: a memoir (1995) (ISBN 0-679-43617-0)
  • For the Future of Israel (1998) (ISBN 0-8018-5928-X)
  • The Imaginary Voyage : With Theodor Herzl in Israel (1999) (ISBN 1-55970-468-3)


References

External links




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