Letters to the Editor: Readers reflect on the legacy of Shimon Peres

May his memory always be for a blessing.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
We are being inundated by an unprecedented PR blitz in which Shimon Peres is presented as a national icon.
While I respected him for his record in government as being responsible for establishing a modern defense industry that led to Israel’s becoming an amazing hi-tech society, we should also remember that his efforts to force the peace process had disastrous results. By encouraging many concessions to the Palestinians, he brought about the murder of innocent men, women and children.
Peres was an outstanding personality with many accomplishments to this credit. But he was also a human being who made many terrible mistakes in his later years.
Kiryat Ono
Shimon Peres’s major error was signing the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat instead of waiting for an Arab leader interested in living alongside a Jewish state.
Arafat killed the possibility of peace by planning his intifada before the Camp David summit with Ehud Barak. The proposal gave the Arabs everything they claimed to want, except for one crucial element – it included an end-of-conflict statement, which Arafat could not accept.
He made it clear he would not bind the next generation’s right to revisit the situation. So he turned suicide bombers loose on Israeli civilians because he had always succeeded with terrorism and knew no other mode of diplomacy.
Palestinian Arabs have been hostage to their Arab neighbors for the past 100 years, and only they can set themselves free.
While US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel showed his incredible respect for Shimon Peres and the ideal of peace, his statements at the funeral reflected a serious lack of understanding of the complexities of maintaining a Jewish state.
Obama quoted the weekly Torah portion “Nitzavim,” saying, “I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse: and you shall choose life so that you will live, you and your offspring.” He suggests that by not giving the Palestinians a state, Israelis are choosing death rather than life.
The US president completely ignores the context of the quote. In this passage, Moses tells the nation that it will be blessed with life when it follows all of God’s laws in the land of Israel. This requires us to possess our land and run it according to the Torah (although I doubt that even the most rightwing party today would dare use this as its campaign slogan).
A better target for a general admonition to choose life should be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for it seems that he sometimes does encourage death as a choice.
Obama is also sorely mistaken when he says that since the Palestinians are equal in dignity, they must be equal in self-determination.
He knows that while all Americans have equal rights (from Native Americans to Evangelical Christians), this does not give every group the right to its own separate country.
Instead of correcting the White House transcript of Obama’s eulogy about Jerusalem’s disputed status, Obama should correct his world view.
Zichron Ya’acov
Shimon Peres played very significant roles in the defense of our country.
After our War of Independence, when the US State Department blocked the shipment of arms to Israel, he built up our air force with planes that he was able to get from France.
The nuclear capacity we had in our earlier years was due to his securing plans for a nuclear reactor from France and smuggling them to Israel. He was one of the main planners of the Entebbe rescue mission, and it is doubtful that it would have been initiated without his chutzpah.
Peres pushed for peace, but was always on the side of a strong defense. He was a very good defense minister. Neither political correctness, diplomacy, international law nor the laws of other countries were serious obstacles to him.
He was also a very good finance minister. Unlike many of his successors, he did not get pushed around by special interest groups. If there was any pushing to be done, it was always done by him.
He initiated numerous aspects of the settlement movement, including the Ofra and the redevelopment of Hebron. And he was an excellent president, representing us with dignity and warmth. He had the respect and friendship of world leaders. Up until his death, he was an asset to his country.
It can honestly be said that he devoted his life to the benefit of Israel. Even the greatest leader, Moses, our teacher, made a mistake.
Other leaders made even more mistakes. This should not negate the gratitude of the nation for the good that a leader has done.
May we learn the lessons of all of Shimon Peres’s deeds.
Certain moments give one’s life a historical perspective, I will never forget the signing of the treaty with Egypt, when we were new olim staying at an absorption center. We felt our aliya was well-timed and that the path to overall peace was nigh. Unfortunately, this did not materialize, but the memory of the hope remains.
Another defining moment in history we were privileged to witness was when we stood in line to vote in the election that brought Nelson Mandela to power as South Africa’s first black president. South Africa had been liberated, and although the tumultuous events since that day can hardly be described as peaceful, there is hope because the fundamental democratic principle is there.
A more recent historical moment for me was when Shimon Peres’s daughter said the Kaddish at his funeral. Her voice was clear and strong, at times leading her two brothers in honoring their beloved father.
She also included the whole world in her prayer for peace, altering the traditional mourner’s prayer that mentions only Israel.
It was really an unexpected moment of triumph in all the sadness. (Forty years ago, I defiantly said the Kaddish for my father, who had two daughters and no sons and was buried in the Orthodox tradition. I was pregnant at the time and suffered additional strain prior to the funeral wondering whether there would be a rabbinical prohibition!) Shimon Peres’s funeral was a magnificent tribute to a great hero and had many moments of triumph, but the saying of the Kaddish by his daughter was an especially triumphant moment, a wonderfully hopeful sign that we are indeed moving to a more peaceful era of religious tolerance among the various streams of Judaism in Israel.
Can anyone outside those who read the Arabian Nights believe the funeral of Shimon Peres? To have 70 nations pay tribute to him is almost unbelievable! President Obama, Prince Charles of England, Bill Clinton and Mahmoud Abbas all came.
Peres was a symbol of the State of Israel. He was always a proud Israeli, whether you believed in his philosophy or not. He innovated many necessary defense policies and attempted to speak to many foreign leaders, bringing Israel’s message to the world.
May his memory always be for a blessing.
CORRECTION: Oren Rijensky is one of the researchers who worked on the Dganit vessel described in “Technion researchers engineer lighter, faster speedboat” (September 27), where he was inadvertently identified as Erez Rizinski. We regret the error.