Shimon Peres was one of Israel's longest serving and most distinguished politicians. He was the first person to have served as both Prime Minister and President of the Jewish State.
Peres (born August 2, 1923) was born in Wieniawa, Poland (now Vishniev in Belarus) and immigrated to Mandatory 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. In 1944, he returned
to Kibbutz Alumot, where he worked as a farmer and shepherd.
In 1947, after having been conscripted by David
Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol to the Haganah Defense Forces, Shimon Peres was assigned responsibility for manpower
and arms, an activity which he continued during the early part of Israel's War of Independence. A year
later, in 1948, Shimon Peres was appointed head of Israel's navy and at war's end, assumed the position of Director of the Defense Ministry's
delegation in the United States. While in the United States, he studied
at the New-York School for Social Research and at Harvard.
In 1953, at the age of 29, Peres was appointed by Prime
Minister David Ben-Gurion to the post of Director General of the Defense Ministry, a position
he held until 1959. During that period, he shaped the special relations
between Israel and France,
and established Israel's electronic aircraft industries, as well as
its nuclear program.
In 1956, Shimon Peres masterminded the Sinai
In 1959, Peres was elected to Israel's parliament,
the Knesset, and remained
a member until elected President in June 2007. From that year, and until 1965, he served as Deputy
Defense Minister. In 1965, together with David
Ben-Gurion, he left the Mapai Labor Party and became Secretary General of Rafi (Israel Workers List). In 1967, he was instrumental in forming a union
between Rafi and Mapai, giving birth to the Labor Party.
In 1969, Shimon Peres became Minister of Immigrant
Absorption, as well as undertaking responsibility for the development
of the occupied territories. From 1970 to 1974, he served as Minister
of Transport and Communications. In 1974, after acting for a period
of time as Minister of Information under Golda
Meir's government, Peres was appointed Minister of Defense, replacing Moshe Dayan, a position
he held until 1977.
While Minister of Defense, he revitalized and strengthened
the Israel Defense
Forces, and participated in the negotiations of the second 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 - Peres was elected party chairman, a post he held until 1992.
During this period he was also elected Vice President of the Socialist
Peres proposed the establishment of a National Unity
Government after the 1984 elections. Peres served two non-consecutive
terms as Prime Minister.
His first tenure was from 1984 to 1986, 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."
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.
Following the assassination of the late Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin on November 5, 1995, Shimon Peres became Prime Minister
and Minister of Defense (November 1995), continuing to serve in this
capacity for seven months, until the May 1996 elections. 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.
In 1996, he founded The
Peres Center for Peace. The Center's mission is to help build an
infrastructure for peace by and for the people of the Middle East that
promotes socio-economic development, while advancing cooperation and
mutual understanding. These goals are pursued by developing joint, cooperative
projects between Israeli and Arab partners in the fields of economy,
culture, education, healthcare, agriculture and media.
Peres continued to serve as chairman of the Labor
Party for a year after the party's election defeat until June 1997 when former Chief-of-Staff and Labor Member
of Knesset, Ehud Barak, was
elected chairman of the Labor Party.
From 1996 to 1999, Peres served as a member of the Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and in 1999 he was also made Honorary
President of the Socialist International. Peres served as Minister of Regional Cooperation from
July 1999 until March 2001 when he 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
In January 2005, Shimon
Peres was appointed Vice Premier. In November 2005, Peres
was defeated by Amir
Peretz in an election
for the leadership of the Labor
he was quitting the party after more than
60 years to help Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon pursue peace
with the Palestinians. Prior to the elections to the 17th
Knesset, Peres joined the newly
founded Kadima. In May 2006 Shimon Peres was appointed
Vice Prime Minister, Minister for the Development of
the Negev and Galillee.
On June 13, 2007, the Knesset elected Shimon Peres to serve as the Ninth President of Israel for a seven year term, marking the first time in the nation's history that a former Prime Minister was also elected as President.
Exactly five years later, on June 13, 2012, US President Barack Obama awarded Peres with the "Presidential Medal of Freedom," the United States' highest civilian honor, for his "meritorious contributions to world peace."
Shimon Peres suffered a serious stroke on September 13, 2016, and was put into a medically induced coma at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv. He passed away two weeks later on September 27, 2016, at age 93. U.S. President Barack Obama flew to Israel to attend his funeral and ordered all flags on U.S. federal property to be flown at half-staff through sunset on September 30, in memory of the last of Israel's founding fathers. Over 80 foreign leaders attended the funeral of Shimon Peres, on September 29, 2016.
Shimon Peres authored ten books, including The
Next Step (1965); David's
Sling; Entebbe Diary (1991), The
New Middle East, For
the Future of Israel and Battling
for Peace; A Memoir. Peres was married to Sonya (born Gelman) and
had a daughter (Zvia), two sons (Yonathan and Nehemia) and six grandchildren.