MK Amir Peretz: Peres’s life, Israel’s history

His perpetual optimism and hope will inspire future generations to believe that Israel deserves better than its status quo.

Shimon Peres (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shimon Peres
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is hardly a public figure in Israel who did not work with him and there is no single issue that Peres did not engage.
I got to know him while serving as a young mayor in my hometown, Sderot. The fact that the city became one of the most fruitful sources for musical talents in the country was therefore anything but coincidental. At the time, Peres was prime minister; his commitment to the city’s education system has not been matched since.
Already then I came to know his unique ability to fit in with royal and presidential courtyards around the world, and at the same time to feel at home on the production line in Sderot’s factories.
Following Rabin’s assassination in 1995, I campaigned alongside Peres in his run for the premiership.
Contrary to many of his supporters’ advice, he refused to exploit the tragedy of Rabin’s death to besmirch the entire right-wing camp. This might have cost him the 1996 election, but Peres refused to tear apart the nation for political gain. Following the loss to Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres did not slow down or became any less relentless in his pursuit of his vision.
It is no secret that despite our many years of working together, we at times worked against each other. Things became shaky particularly when both he and I made bids for the leadership of the Labor Party in 2006.
The primary ended with Peres partnering with prime minister Ariel Sharon in Kadima. However, I believe Shimon Peres thought he was acting in Israel’s best interest.
Personal rivalries were not part of Peres’s blueprint and pettiness was not part of his work plan.
Indeed he provided me with great advice, which I keenly listened for during cabinet meetings. This demonstrated how politics and the framework of a particular party were merely the means to fulfill a vision, rather than the vision itself.
For that I hold him in great admiration.
As Peres left the President Office in 2014 we held several intimate meetings. We discussed everything: the past which was full of successes and disappointments, but mainly the future, hopes and dreams.
The determination was steadfast, the zeal was unshaken, and the concern for the common good knew no borders.
Peres evinced no trace of despair.
Criticizing from the sidelines was never a something he indulged in.
He knew that as a leader his role was to change reality – and not merely to passively and helplessly observe it.
The State of Israel had lost one of its greatest leaders. The story of the contribution of Peres to the country’s security, economy and democracy will be told in the coming days, weeks and years.
His perpetual optimism and hope will inspire future generations to believe that Israel deserves better than its status quo. The love of people, the ability to transcend ego for the good of the country, the unmatched curiosity and pursuit of peace – all of these constitute Peres’s true legacy, upon which we shall educate our children and grandchildren.
The writer is a member of Knesset, and a former leader of the Labor Party and defense minister.