Shimon Peres reads a newspaper during the Ambrosetti workshop in Cernobbio, Italy, September 2012.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Peres was born in Wiszniew, Poland, in what is now Belorussia, in 1923 and emigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1934 with his family.
He was brought into the Haganah by David Ben-Gurion in 1947, and was put in charge of recruitment and acquisition of arms for the nascent state.
In 1952, Peres became Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense and guilefully purchased arms for the Jewish state, despite various international restrictions at the time, forming a strong alliance with France which sold Israel Dassault Mirage III fighter jets and other war materiel.
In 1956, Peres laid the foundations for both the Sinai invasion and Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program, when he led Israel to sign the Protocol of Sevres whereby France, Britain and Israel agreed to topple Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser through an Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula and a French and British occupation of the Suez Canal. In return for Israeli help, the French agreed to supply Israel with a research nuclear reactor at Dimona which, allegedly, became the central component of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset for the first time as a member of the Mapai party and became the Deputy Defense Minister.
In 1974, Peres became Minister of Defense in the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during which time he was supportive of the settlement movement and helped establish the first Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Ofra, in 1975. He would later turn against the goals of Jewish settlement in the West Bank as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
In 1977, Rabin stepped down as prime minister due to a scandal over his wife’s foreign currency bank account, and Peres became the acting prime minister, but was defeated as head of the Alignment party in the general elections that year by Likud leader and new Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
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In 1981, Peres at the head of Alignment was narrowly defeated again in the general election that year, after opposing and criticizing Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
In the 1984 general election, Alignment headed again by Peres became the single biggest party in Knesset but could not form a governing coalition and so entered into a national unity government with Likud, with Peres and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir agreeing to hold the prime ministership for two years each, starting with Peres.
In 1988, Alignment with Peres at its head was defeated by Likud.
In 1992, Rabin had become head of the Labor Party and won the general election that year, appointing Peres as Foreign Minister.
In 1993, prompted by his Deputy Minister Yossi Beilin, Peres helped nurture the evolving initiative to form a peace agreement with the Palestinians, ultimately ratified as the Oslo Accords and signed at the White House in Washington on September 13, 1993.
In 1995, Peres became acting prime minister after Rabin was assassinated by Israeli extremist Yigal Amir for signing the Oslo Accords and conceding territory to the Palestinians. A spate of Hamas suicide bombings in 1993, 1994 and 1996 dented public support for the Oslo Accords and the Labor party, with Benjamin Netanyahu at the head of Likud narrowly defeating Peres in the direct election for prime minister in 1996.
In 2000, Peres was defeated by Moshe Katzav in the elections in Knesset for president.
In 2005, Peres as head of Labor joined the government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to support his disengagement plan from Gaza, which was enacted in August 2005. He subsequently left the Labor party and joined Sharon’s newly formed Kadima Party in November 2005.
In 2007, Peres was elected President of the State of Israel by the Knesset.
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