Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres

JERUSALEM: Former Israeli president and elder statesman Shimon Peres, a joint winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize and an influential figure in Israeli politics for 70 years, died in hospital on Wednesday aged 93, two weeks after suffering a massive stroke.

A convinced campaigner for Middle East peace who remained energetic until his final days, Peres was mourned by world leaders and praised for his tireless engagement.

Polish-born Peres, whose family moved to then British-ruled Palestine in the 1930s, was part of almost every major political development in Israel since its founding in 1948. He served in a dozen cabinets and was twice prime minister, though he never won a general election, struggling to connect with ordinary voters. He was first elected to Israel’s parliament in 1959 and barring a brief interlude in early 2006, held his seat for 48 years, until he became president in 2007.

In every role he undertook — from forging Israel’s defence strategy in the 1950s to running his eponymous peace foundation — Peres was known for his energy and enthusiasm, even recording jokey YouTube videos into his 90s.

He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with the late former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for reaching an interim peace deal in 1993, the Oslo Accords, which never turned into a lasting treaty.

Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli ultra-nationalist who opposed the interim accords, and it was Peres who took over as prime minister after Rabin’s death.

Peres is widely seen as having gained nuclear capabilities for Israel by procuring the Dimona reactor from France while defence ministry director-general in the 1950s.

Published in Dawn September 29th, 2016

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