Magazine article Newsweek

Uneasy Hawk: Peacemaker Peres Squirms as Israel Steps Up Assassinations

Magazine article Newsweek

Uneasy Hawk: Peacemaker Peres Squirms as Israel Steps Up Assassinations

Article excerpt

Outwardly, Shimon Peres is his usual picture of elegance and control. The previous day Israeli helicopter gunships had struck ferociously at the West Bank town of Nablus, killing several Hamas figures but also two Palestinian children. Now Foreign Minister Peres, just back from an official visit to Peru, gamely defends Israel's latest hit. No, Israel does not have an assassination policy, he says, but suicide bombers must be stopped before they begin their missions. The words are practiced but ring halfheartedly. For five months now, Peres, who once made peace with the Palestinians, has been an awkward partner in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hawkish government. Now he's fidgeting, unraveling and reknotting his blue silk tie. Pressed on what advance knowledge he had of the operation, Peres allows: "The sheer fact is that I was abroad. I was abroad and incommunicado."

At the age of 78, why does Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, want this job? The question looms larger as Israel's response to Palestinian violence grows more aggressive. Peres hopes his partnership with Sharon can halt the steady slide toward war. "I feel myself responsible... to bring an end to blood, to fire, to hatred," he told NEWSWEEK. Throughout his 50-year political career, Peres has been both a dreamy idealist and a cunning tactician. But now even some of his oldest allies think he's the one who's being used. Yossi Beilin, long the most dedicated of his political disciples, says Peres has become a "fig leaf" for the government's worst policies in the West Bank and Gaza, tarnishing his legacy. …

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