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Today in History: Shimon Peres

Today there were 4 events in the history of Israel, all intertwined in Shimon Peres: Golda’s resignation in 1974, the London Accords in 1987, the dirty trick in 1990, and Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996.

Shimon Peres was born in 1923 to an affluent Jewish family in Poland, who immigrated to Israel as part of the Fifth Aliyah when he was 8 years old. He married in 1945 and became a senior member of the Haganah movement (although he never served in the army), and with the establishment of the state he was already well-acquainted with the security leadership, and close to Ben-Gurion himself. In 1952, he became the Director General of the Ministry of Defense, and was of utmost importance in establishing ties with France and the establishment of the Israeli nuclear program. In 1959, he became a member of the Knesset for Mapai, and later in Rafi and in the ‘Ma’arach’, and under Golda Meir he became a senior cabinet member. When Golda resigned in April 1974 due to the failure of the Yom Kippur War, Peres became a leading candidate for prime ministership, but lost the internal elections in the party to Yitzhak Rabin, and settled for the position of defense minister. Rabin resigned in 1977, and Peres became the sole leader of the Israeli left – but in the opposition, after losing to the right led by Begin in 1977 and 1981. In the 1984 elections, the left saw an opportunity to return to power after the First Lebanon War and the replacement of Begin with Yitzhak Shamir. The Result: A Tie.

 

In light of the challenges of the hour, Peres and Shamir agreed on a unity government and rotation. Peres was the first prime minister until 1986, and in his role Israel withdrew to the security strip in Lebanon, carried out the Jibril deal and the Moses Operation, and introduced comprehensive economic reforms. In Shamir’s two years as Prime Minister, Peres was Foreign Minister, and in April 1987 he reached the London Accords with King Hussein of Jordan, in which he tried to lead negotiations with the Palestinians in Jordanian representation. But Shamir torpedoed the move, and immediately thereafter the first intifada began, and Jordan immediately renounced the representation of the Palestinians, and thus eliminated the “Jordanian option.” In the 1988 election, Shamir gained a strong advantage over Peres, but preferred to continue in a unity government without a rotation with Peres instead of reaching compromises with the religious parties. Peres agreed and became a finance minister, but he grew frustrated with Shamir’s security policy, and in March 1990 he came together with the religious parties the ‘dirty trick’ to form an alternative government. Shamir’s government fell, but Peres eventually failed to form a government in April after two ultra-Orthodox MKs stood down, and Shamir re-established a government. The trick reduced Peres’s popularity, and he lost the Labor party primaries to his old rival Rabin, who won the 1992 election.

In the Rabin government, Peres became Foreign Minister, and from 1993 became the driving force behind the Oslo Accords to establish the Palestinian Authority and promote peace with Israel. In 1994 he also pushed for a peace agreement with Jordan, and in the same year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin. After the assassination of Rabin in November 1995, Peres found himself again as Prime Minister, and new elections were set for May 1996. The six months in office were been particularly challenging, with a wave of attacks across the country and Rockets in the north. Peres decided to launch an operation (grapes of wrath) in April, in which Hezbollah was severely attacked by air and artillery; the operation was halted two weeks later with a ceasefire agreement and the death of many Lebanese civilians. The attacks and the operation damaged his image again, and in the elections, Peres lost to Benjamin Netanyahu on a percentage point and returned to the opposition. This seemed to be the end of his career, having been replaced in the left-wing leadership by Ehud Barak in 1999 and losing in the 2000 presidential election; in 2005 he lost again in the election of the Labor leadership (this time to Amir Peretz) and retired to the Kadima party. But finally, he won the big prize when he was elected President of the State in 2007, after 48 years in the Knesset. As president he became less of a politicain and a unifying figure; he left office in 2014, and died two years later.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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