3 years into his presidency, Peres is still charging ahead

The soon-to-be 87-year-old works an 18-hour day.

By
July 15, 2010 07:49
3 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres 311. (photo credit: AP)

President Shimon Peres, who turns 87 on August 2, shows no signs of slowing down.

The presidency is supposed to be a largely ceremonial position with little clout and not too much activity, but Peres has often tried to resolve crises.

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Peres, who on July 15 completes the third year of his seven-year term, is a workaholic who needs little sleep and works an 18-hour day. He is always dreaming up new projects and meeting with the people who can implement them. In numerous meetings with foreign leaders and interviews with foreign media he puts Israel’s case to the world.

He meets regularly with the nation’s political leaders and heads of the security and defense establishment.

He receives thousands of letters, many of which he sees, but all of which are handled by his office, often with numerous follow-ups.

In addition to all that, he frequents the theater, concerts and music festivals. He is also a voracious reader and a news junkie.

Aside from all that, he finds time to write poetry.

Peres met on Wednesday with journalists who cover events at Beit Hanassi, reviewed the past three years, and spoke of his plans.

During his three years in office, Peres had 700 meetings with heads of state, prime ministers, parliamentary leaders, special envoys and heads of international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union.

Peres has given around 600 interview to foreign media in addition to the many spontaneous and pre-arranged interviews that he gives to Israeli reporters.

Peres launched his own YouTube channel in December 2009. He’s had 300 meetings with top brass responsible for Israel’s security, in addition to which he’s visited army, navy and air force bases, toured intelligence headquarters and participated in umpteen IDF ceremonies.

He also visits wounded soldiers in hospital, and the families of soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty. He has been very supportive of the family of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit.

He’s paid 27 state visits abroad and 113 visits to settlements and regional councils in Israel, making a point of meeting new immigrants, the weaker sectors of society, minority communities, scholars, entrepreneurs, scientists and people working in hi-tech.

At Beit Hanassi, Peres has hosted more than 260 events including the annual memorial for Yitzhak Rabin, the installation of the new government last spring, and the annual bar mitzva ceremony for those whose father or mother died on active service in the IDF,.

Projects that he encourages with the full approval of the government include opportunities for academic study toward a degree for everyone serving in the army; integration of the Arab community into the work force and society; hi-tech studies for Arab students; R&D exchanges and cooperation between Israeli researchers and those of other countries; and the annual Facing Tomorrow mega conferences that bring some of the world’s finest minds to Israel.

Peres took a modest attitude to his achievements, crediting his staff and insisting that it was a team effort in which “we’re sensitive to all that concerns the public.” He has no hankering for a return to political life. He prefers to look forward rather than back.

Speaking of the work of his office, Peres said: “We have no desire to manage anything.

We just want to help where we can.”

He emphasized the importance of Jewish unity and Jewish values, and said that Israel must meet the challenges of making itself attractive to Diaspora Jews.

“The first chapter in the Zionist saga is over. We are no longer a haven. Jews live relatively well in the world and in order to bring more Jews to Israel we have to be attractive and competitive.”

Much of the exchange between Peres and the reporters was off the record, but he did agree to go public on the subject of Schalit and was cautiously optimistic that even though reaching an agreement with Hamas would be difficult, the day that Schalit returns home would not be long in coming.

Asked what he would do when his term comes to an end in four years, Peres replied that science is moving at such a rapid pace that he was certain that sooner or later there would be fitness clubs for the mind as well as for the body.

“When that happens, I’ll be the first to sign up,” he said.


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