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Significant Lives

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Former Israeli President, Prime Minister Shimon Peres Dead at 93

September 28th 2016

Israeli flag and clouds

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres died early Wednesday morning at the age of 93, according to Hebrew media reports.

His condition had deteriorated on Tuesday, two weeks after he suffered a major stroke, and his family was summoned to his side at Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer Hospital to say their final goodbyes.

Peres, who also served in a host of other government positions, was most recently the Jewish state’s president from 2007-2014. He emigrated from Poland to Palestine in 1932, before the founding of modern Israel in 1948. He was considered the last of Israel’s founding fathers.

He led the creation of Israel’s defense industry, negotiated key arms deals with France and Germany and was the prime mover behind the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons. But he was consistent in his search for an accommodation with the Arab world, a search that in recent years left him orphaned as Israeli society lost interest, especially after the upheavals of the 2011 Arab Spring led to tumult on its borders.

Chosen by Parliament in 2007 to serve a seven-year term as president, Mr. Peres had complicated relations with the hawkish government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, elected in 2009. While largely a ceremonial post, the presidency afforded Mr. Peres a perch with access and public attention, and he tried to exert his influence.

For someone who was dogged for decades by a reputation for vanity and back-room dealing, Mr. Peres ended his years in public office as a remarkably beloved figure, promoting the country’s high-tech prowess and cultural reach, a founding pioneer who set an example for forward thinking.

Never at a loss for a bon mot in his Polish-accented Hebrew, English and French, Mr. Peres said of his transformation: “For 60 years, I was the most controversial figure in the country, and suddenly I’m the most popular man in the land. Truth be told, I don’t know when I was happier, then or now.”

In his efforts to help Israel find acceptance in a hostile region, Mr. Peres’s biggest breakthrough came in 1993 when he worked out a plan with the Palestine Liberation Organization for self-government in Gaza and in part of the West Bank, both of which were occupied by Israel.

After months of secret negotiation with representatives of the P.L.O., conducted with the help of Norwegian diplomats and intellectuals, Mr. Peres persuaded his old political rival Yitzhak Rabin, then the prime minister, to accept the plan, which became known as the Oslo Accords.


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