Who Was Shimon Peres? The Former Israeli Prime Minister Was One Of The Most Memorable Leaders
Two weeks after suffering a stroke, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres died at the age of 93 on Wednesday. Peres had one of the longest careers in the Israeli government, serving not only as prime minister, but also as president and defense minister, as well as in many other roles. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. However, of all his accolades, Peres may be most famous for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with then-Prime-Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat for signing the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Peres was born on Aug. 16, 1923 in Vishniewa, Poland. His family's last name was originally Persky. They emigrated to Tel Aviv when he was 11. While leading a military mission in Eilat in 1944, one of his friends suggested he change his last name to "Peres," which means eagle in Hebrew, according to an account in The New York Times. Just a few years later, when Israel declared its independence in 1948, Peres was named the head of naval service. He was 27. He was first elected to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, in 1959, and served multiple cabinet roles in different administrations.
Peres was known for having a philosophical, even poetic approach to politics which stood out, especially considering his strong military background. After the Oslo Accords were signed, Peres, then Israel's foreign minister, said, “What we are doing today is more than signing an agreement; it is a revolution." He added, “Yesterday a dream, today a commitment.”
As anyone who follows the news is well aware, the Oslo Accords did not provide permanent stability to Israeli-Palestinian relations. Peres was prime minister from 1984 to 1986, and then again for less than a year, from November 1995 to June 1996, when he served as acting prime minister following the assassination of Rabin.
One of the most revered global leaders of contemporary times, Peres' death has drawn top international figures to Israel for his funeral this Friday. President Barack Obama will be one of the many in attendance. "I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend," Obama said of Peres in statement. "A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever." Former president Bill Clinton, who oversaw the brokering of the Oslo Accords, will also attend. Clinton said of Peres, "The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation.”