Analysis: Shimon Peres - larger than life

A retrospect of the ninth president of Israel's political career.

Israel's Shimon Peres, 93, dies in Tel Aviv
Shimon Peres's 70-year political career was not only unique for Israel but also unparalleled anywhere around the world.
The former president was already fighting and winning political battles in the Young Labor Movement in 1945 as a protegé of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Decades later, he was still fighting and winning, inspiring countless people around the world along the way.
In his final public address before complaining about a headache and going to the hospital, Peres urged a crowd of hi-tech leaders to not waste time arguing.
“The future is more important than the past,” Peres said in ironic final words for a man with such a storied history.
The last of Israel’s founding fathers, Peres first entered the Knesset and served as deputy defense minister in 1959. He played an active role in nearly every key decision in Israel’s history, serving as a minister in most governments, prime minister twice and president.
Looking back, Peres saw his greatest victories as building Israel’s purported nuclear capability in the 1960s, stabilizing Israel’s economy after years of hyper-inflation in 1985 and his presidential victory in 2007.
Peres would also include the Oslo peace process as a victory, even though its results were not what he had envisioned. That peace process remains the most controversial endeavor of his career, but no one can argue that it did not change the facts on the ground forever.
Whenever he was asked about his greatest regret, he would cite the 1987 London agreement he reached with King Hussein that would have given Jordan sovereignty over most of the West Bank and responsibility for the Palestinians living there. Prime minister Yitzhak Shamir stymied the deal reached by then-foreign minister Peres and the Jordanian option for ending the conflict ended there.
While his victories ultimately overshadowed his losses, Peres for many years fought the image of a loser given to him by his political opponents. Stunning defeats in the Knesset elections of 1977, 1981 and 1996, and in the 1992 Labor leadership race, forever stung for him, but he always bounced back.
A retrospect of Peres’s political career is incomplete without the unfortunate rhetorical question he asked the Labor Party central committee in May 1997: “Am I a loser?” To which the crowd replied “Yes” in unison.
Still, many of the same Labor activists tried to get him to come back years later.
Peres’s final battle was for his own survival, and those who visited him in the hospital said he fought valiantly.
Ironically, what was urged of him was to do what his closest associates admitted he has never been able to do: rest.
At the age of 93, Peres woke up daily at 3:30 a.m. for his morning reading and exercises and kept a packed schedule until late at night. Even on the day he was hospitalized, he had multiple high-profile meetings, including one with the heads of Facebook and a lengthy interview on stage with his son Chemi before the crowd of international hi-tech leaders.
Peres went to Sheba Medical Center because his head hurt, but hours later he tried to leave the hospital and go back to work. It was only after he was prevented from leaving Sheba that he suffered his stroke.
Dr. Rafi Walden, Peres’s son-in-law and personal physician, said doctors induced him into a coma because the sedation forced him to rest.
Resting was not easy for Peres, just as it would have been hard for others to do what he succeeded to do for decades. Peres’s associates were convinced that had he been taken out of the coma, he would have demanded to leave the hospital.
Even in his unsuccessful final battle for his health, Peres proved he was larger than life.