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Israel’s 9th President Shimon Peres Dead at 93

After a two-week battle for his life having suffered a stroke, Israel’s ninth president and former prime minister, Shimon Peres, passes away

Peres celebrating his 93rd birthday with soldiers from Military Intelligence (photo: Yosef Avi Yair Angle)


Israel’s ninth President, former Prime Minister and Nobel Prize winner,  Shimon Peres, passed away at age 93.

His son, Chemi, confirmed his death Wednesday morning at the hospital where Shimon Peres had been treated for a stroke the past two weeks. He was in a medically-induced coma until his passing.

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Chemi Peres said “Today with deep sorrow we bid farewell to our beloved father, the ninth president of Israel. Our father’s legacy has always been to look to tomorrow. We were privileged to be part of his private family, but today we sense that the entire nation of Israel and the global community share this great loss. We share this pain together.”

Peres, one of Israel’s most prominent politicians and diplomats, played a major role in the nation’s history from its very inception and was a big proponent of the peace process and two states solution. He will be buried in a state funeral in the plot on Mt. Herzle dedicated to the nation’s great leaders.

Peres was married to the late Sonia Peres who died in 2011. They had three children: Nehemia (Chemi) Peres, Tsvia Walden, Yonatan (Yoni) Peres.




Peres was born Szymon Perski – a relative of Lauren Bacall a.k.a. Joan Persky – on August 2, 1923 in Vishnyeva, Belarus, which at the time was part of the Second Polish Republic, to a wealthy secular family. His father Yitzhak was a timber merchant, while his mother Sara was a librarian and a teacher of Russian.

The family – mother Sara and younger brother Gershon – immigrated to the Land of Israel, Tel Aviv city, in 1934. Peres studied at the Ben Shemen agricultural school. He met Sonia in Ben Shemen and they got married in 1945.


Between the years 1941 to 1944, Peres served as the national secretary of the Socialist youth movement Hanoar Haoved.  It was while serving in this post that Peres became acquainted with the heads of the Jewish settlement in Palestine and became David Ben-Gurion’s political protégé.



In 1947, Peres was recruited by Levy Eshkol to joined the Haganah, underground headquarters, where he was responsible for personnel, defensive acquisitions and military research.

In 1949, he was appointed the head of the naval service in the Defense Ministry, and in 1950 he was made the director of the Defense Ministry’s delegation in the United States.

In the 1950s, he studied at New York University and later at Harvard University.

In 1952, Peres returned to Israel and was appointed the deputy director-general of the Defense Ministry. A year later, he was made the director-general. His greatest achievement as head of Israel’s fledgling defense apparatus, was to promoted the construction of a nuclear reactor in Dimona with French assistance, and turn Israel into a nuclear power. He helped develop Israel’s aviation industry- today Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

In 1953, at age 29, Peres was appointed as Director of the Defense Ministry by Ben-Gurion.

In October 1956, during the Sinai War (called Kadesh Operation), a collaboration of Israel, France and Great Britain to take over the Suez Canal from the revolutionary government in Egypt. Peres emphasized Israel’s loyalty to France and the fact that a strong Israel is necessary to the French national interest, as the Egyptians were conducive to the Algerian FLN underground whose aim was to expel the French from North Africa.




Peres’ biographer Michael Bar Zohar:

The birth of the Dimona nuclear plant was an exciting tale of intrigue, as the promise to provide the technology was made by French Defense Minister Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury, but on the date set for singing the secret deal, the French government collapsed in the National Assembly.

Peres was waiting for Bourgès in his chambers with a bottle of whisky, only to discover that his host was a goner and that his likely successor, Gen. Charles de Gaulle, objected to spreading French nuclear know-how. Peres took advantage of the fact that Bourgès would on occasion tell his wife that he was in a meeting with the Israeli visitor when he was actually meeting with his lover, and demanded to cash his chips with the fallen politician. They agreed to backdate the agreement to the day before, when Bourgès still had the authority to sign it. The Frenchman said “D’accord” and the deal to set Israel up as the sole nuclear power in the Middle East was signed — fraudulently.

In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset as member of the ruling Mapai Party, and continued to serve as MK and in various ministerial positions, including as prime minister, almost uninterruptedly for 48 years.

In 1965, peres joined Ben-Gurion’s new party, Rafi (Israeli Workers List) together with former Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan. He was appointed the party’s secretary-general and served as a Knesset member.

After the 1967 war (Six-Day War), he broke away from his mentor Ben-Gurion and played a central role in uniting Rafi and Mapai to form tha Alignment, that would go on to become the Labor party,  now also known as the Zionist Camp.

In the Knesse Peres served as the minister of immigrant absorption; the minister of transportation and communications; the information minister.

He was also tasked with economic development in Judea and Samaria.




Peres,   center,   with Yitzhak Rabin to his left and Yitzhak Navon to his right at a Labor party meeting in 1984 (Photo David Rubinger)


Peres,   sitting,   signing the Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat,   US President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin looking on (Photo Avi Ohayon,   GPO)


Arafat,   Peres and Rabin receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (Photo Sa'ar Yaakov,   GPO)


Aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Peres challenged Yitzhak Rabin for the chairmanship of the Labor party, but Rabin won. This was the beginning of a long, bitter political rivalry between the two. In 1974, Peres was appointed the defense minister in Rabin’s first government. 18 years later Peres became close partner when Rabin was elected prime minister for the second time in 1992.

In 1976, it was Peres as defense minister, who pushed Rabin to consent Operation Entebbe, to release the hostages of an Air France flight in Uganda.

In 1977, after Rabin stepped down in the wake of a foreign currency scandal involving his wife, Peres was appointed acting-prime minister and the chairman of the Labor party, a position he kept until 1992.


Peres with Menachem Begin at an election debate in 1977 (Photo David Rubinger)


In 1977 elections, for the first time in Israel’s history, Likud’s Menahem Begin was elected. Peres lost to Begin again in 1981.

After the 1984 elections, Alignment and Likud formed a unity government, and Peres was appointed prime minister for two years, after which he was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir as part of a “rotation arrangement.”

While serving as Prime Minister Shamir’s foreign minister, Peres negotiated a peace agreement with Jordan’s King Hussein and launched the London Agreement, which included a joint Israeli-Jordanian administration of the West Bank. Agreement which was torpedoed by Shamir.

In 1990, Peres attempted to form a narrow government made up of the left-wing factions and the ultra-Orthodox parties. But the move, known as “The Dirty Trick, ” failed when the ultra-Orthodox parties backed out, leaving Peres no choice but to resign from the unity government. This sent his party back to the opposition.

In 1992, Labor, led by Rabin, won the elections. Despite their long-term rivalry, Rabin appointed Peres to be his foreign minister. It was in this role that Peres held secret negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat, which eventually led in the August 20, 1993 to the Oslo Accords. He also played a role in securing the peace agreement with Jordan.

The agreement, which gave Arafat dominion over the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria. on November 4, 1995, on the eve of the next elections, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated and Peres became the acting prime minister.

In 1996, Israel held elections once more—this time voting directly for prime minister. Peres, who ran against Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, lost by a small margin.

At that point Shimon Peres founded the Peres Center for Peace, and although he continued to serve in the Knesset and was member of Ehud Barak’s security cabinet, his goals have changed.

In 2005 Peres resigned from the Labor party to join Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government.


Then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosting Peres at his palace in Cairo in 1986 (Photo David Rubinger)




Peres with US President Barack Obama (Photo Moshe Milner,   GPO)


In 2007 he was elected by the Knesset to be Israel’s ninth president. His seven-year term as president ended in 2014, and he was succeeded in this role by Reuven Rivlin.

In 2008, he was made an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2012, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Barack Obama.

Peres maintained his rigorous schedule and his indefatigable global activity after the end of his term in 2014, until, two weeks ago. His body succumbed to a stroke.

His death marks the end of Israel’s generation of founding politicians. He will be remembered for his great contribution to the Jewish State’s military supremacy as well as a symbol of peace in the Middle East. May his memory be blessed.

AP, Jni Media, Ynet News and JBN staff contributed to this report.



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