Ron Pundak, an architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords, died Friday at the age of 59 after a long illness.
He was chairman of the Israeli Peace NGOs Forum and a former CEO of the Peres Center for Peace. He held a number of positions in the IDF, including in Military Intelligence, and in the early 1990s was a journalist for Haaretz.
He was involved in the opening of secret channels of communication between Israel and the PLO that led to an official signing of the accords between the two sides in Washington in September 1993.
President Shimon Peres mourned Pundak’s death on Friday, saying he had been a “warrior for peace until his final breath.”
“He was a man of values, and an intellectual,” Peres said. “He dedicated his entire adult life in efforts to achieve peace with our neighbors. For peace he was willing to sacrifice his life and dedicate every moment of his life.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is Israel’s lead negotiator in the current peace talks with the Palestinians, wrote on her Facebook page on Friday that there were heroes of war, but Pundak was a hero of peace.
“A Zionist man who believed in peace and worked toward it and until his last day, and wished to contribute to achieving it and was not deterred by extremists, cynics and the hopeless” is how Livni described Pundak.
MK Zehava Gal-On, head of Meretz, said Friday that Pundak had showed there was an alternative to the “extremist” policies of the Right and the policy holding that there is “no partner” on the Palestinian side.
“He taught us all that a creative, non-conservative and non-hesitant approach was required in order to achieve peace,” Gal-On said.
Former Foreign Ministry director-general Uri Savir, who served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords, expressed regret for the death of his colleague.
“It is a great loss for the peace camp and for Israel,” Savir said of Pundak, whom he first met in Copenhagen en route to the negotiations in Oslo.
“He was very fiercely motivated, on one hand, to create a very viable peace process with the Palestinians, while on the other hand he was very aware of Israel’s security needs,” Savir said.
Israeli musician David Broza mourned Pundak’s passing.
“I am very sad to announce the passing of my oldest and closest friend Ron Pundak,” Broza wrote Friday. “He was a great friend, a brilliant mind and a brave leader. A visionary of the peace process and the architect of the Oslo Accords.”
Jerusalem Post columnist and peace activist Gershon Baskin wrote on Friday that Pundak’s death was a great loss to his family and to all who loved him.
“His loss is great to all of the people of this land Israelis and Palestinians,” Baskin wrote.