Peres, Shimon

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Peres, Shimon

Shimon Peres (shē´mōn pâr´ĕs), 1923–2016, Israeli politician, b. Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus) as Shimon Perski. His family immigrated to Palestine in 1934; his grandparents, who remained in Poland, were killed in the Holocaust. Before the establishment of Israel (1949) he served as manpower chief of the Haganah, the fledgling Jewish military. He subsequently was Israel's head of naval services and became director-general of the defense ministry in 1951.

Peres was first elected to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in 1959. Instrumental in the formation of the Labor party (1968), Peres was minister of defense from 1974 to 1977, when he was elected party chairman. After losing two bids (1977 and 1981) for the prime ministership, he alternated (1984–86) in the office with Likud party leader Yitzhak Shamir in a national unity government and was widely praised for helping to remove Israeli troops from Lebanon and for slashing runaway inflation. He was later foreign minister (1986) and, after again losing to Shamir (1988), finance minister in unity governments led by the prime minister.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin, who had just ousted Peres as Labor party leader, became prime minister and appointed Peres foreign minister. Peres negotiated the historic Oslo peace accords (1993) with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for which he was awarded, with Rabin and PLO leader Yasir Arafat, the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize. In Nov., 1995, Rabin was assassinated, and Peres succeeded him as prime minister and defense minister. In the May, 1996, elections he narrowly lost the prime ministership to the Likud candidate Benjamin Netanyahu.

After the election (1999) of Ehud Barak as prime minister, Peres was named minister of regional cooperation. In 2000 he lost a bid for the largely ceremonial position of Israeli president. Peres was foreign minister in a government of national unity (2001–2) under Ariel Sharon and later vice prime minister in a Likud-and-Labor-dominated coalition government (2005). He also was party leader again from 2003 to 2005, and subsequently lent support to Sharon's formation (2005) of the centrist Kadima party. Under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Peres served (2006–7) as vice prime minister and minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee; from 2007 to 2014 he was president of Israel. He was the author of a dozen books including the memoirs Battling for Peace (1995) and No Room for Small Dreams (2017).

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