Shimon Peres, former President and veteran Israeli statesman, dies at 93
Shimon Peres, former president, former prime minister, former defense minister, former foreign minister, former minister of eight other ministries, the last surviving member of Israel’s founding fathers, and winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize died Tuesday after suffering a stroke two weeks ago. He was 93.
Doctors said Peres suffered severe organ failure Tuesday, as well as irreversible brain damage caused by the massive hemorrhagic stroke he sustained on September 13.
The longest serving of all of Israel’s public servants, Peres was a person about whom it could rightly be said: The history of the State of Israel is the history of Shimon Peres.
A lifetime searching for peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors was rewarded on December 10, 1994, when Peres – along with then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat – received a Nobel Peace Prize. The award recognized their work as the architects of the 1993 interim peace deal known as the Oslo Accords – a pact that to Peres’s dismay never hardened into a lasting treaty.
In a career spanning nearly 70 years, Peres was considered a servant of the state who was intimately involved in every aspect of the country’s history since before its founding. In his 48 years in parliament – from the fourth Knesset in 1959 through the 17th in 2007 – Peres served in various parliamentary groups, including Mapai, Rafi, Labor, the Alignment, Labor, One Israel, Labor-Meimad, Labor-Meimad-Am Ehad and Kadima. His main affiliation was serving as chairman of the Labor Party.
Peres’s string of government roles included two stints as prime minister – from 1984 to 1986 as part of a rotational government, and for seven months in 1995 and 1996 after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin – as well as minister of immigrant absorption, transportation, information, defense, communications (or posts and telegraphs as it was known at the time), internal affairs, religious affairs, foreign affairs, finance, regional cooperation, and development of the Negev and Galilee, serving in some of those positions more than once. He also served several times as acting prime minister, deputy prime minister and vice prime minister.
Ironically, though Peres ran for office five times from 1977 and 1996, he never won a national election outright.
Peres was born August 2, 1923, in Wiszniewo, Poland, as Szymon Perski, and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of 11. He grew up in Tel Aviv, attending the Balfour and Geula schools in Tel Aviv, and the agricultural high school in Ben Shemen. He spent several years at Kibbutz Geva and Kibbutz Alumot, of which he was one of the founders. In 1943, was elected secretary of the Labor-Zionist youth movement.
At age 24, he worked with David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol in command of the Hagana, responsible for manpower and arms. During and after the War of Independence, Peres served as head of the naval services.
In 1952, he joined the Defense Ministry and, a year later at the age of 29, was appointed its director-general – the youngest ever in Israel’s history – playing an important role in developing the Israeli military industry and promoting the development of Israel Aerospace Industries.
Peres was elected a member of Knesset in 1959, and served until his election as president in June 2007. Among his achievements as deputy defense minister from 1959 to 1965 were the establishment of the military and aviation industries, and the promotion of strategic ties with France, which culminated in strategic cooperation during the 1956 Sinai Campaign. Peres also was responsible for establishing Israel’s nuclear program.
For three years following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Peres again played a central role in the country’s security as defense minister. In that role, he revitalized and strengthened the IDF and was involved in the disengagement negotiations that led to the 1975 Interim Agreement with Egypt. He also was instrumental in the planning of the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation.
Peres briefly served as acting prime minister following the resignation of Rabin in 1977, and later served his first tenure as prime minister in the national unity government from 1984 to 1986, based on a rotation arrangement with Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir.
From November 1988 until the dissolution of the National Unity Government in 1990, Peres served as finance minister, focusing his energies on the failing economy and the complex situation resulting from the 1982 war in Lebanon. He is credited with reducing the annual inflation rate from 400% to 16% and was instrumental in the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon and the establishment of a narrow security zone in southern Lebanon.
After the return to power of the Labor party in the 1992 elections, Peres was again appointed foreign minister and he initiated and conducted the negotiations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles with the PLO in September 1993.
Peres’s second term as prime minister came in the wake of the assassination of Rabin on November 4, 1995. The Labor Party chose Peres as Rabin’s successor, and the Knesset confirmed the decision with a vote of confidence supported by both coalition and opposition members.
Despite polls showing him far ahead, Peres lost to rightist Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the election on May 29, 1996, by fewer than 30,000 votes.
In October, 1997, Shimon Peres created the Peres Center for Peace with the aim of advancing Arab-Israeli joint ventures. He was also the author of 12 books.
When he was sworn in as Israel’s ninth president on July 15, 2007, Peres was the first former prime minister to do so. He was two weeks shy of his 91st birthday when he completed his seven-year term in 2014.
Peres’s wife, Sonia, died in 2011. The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. (Jerusalem Post)
Shimon Peres urged Israel to dream and innovate
Former president Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday at the age of 93, was not one to take the easy way out. He urged to seek for a third alternative, one that wasn’t thought of before, whether when fighting for peace or pushing for new technologies.
He urged Israel to embrace innovation, given the lack of natural resources in the so-called land of milk and honey. Even if he was polarizing as a politician, hated by some, loved by others, he was unequivocally respected for his unending energy, optimism and inquisitiveness. He believed anything could be achieved if you really tried.
To dream is simply to be pragmatic, he’d say.
Peres served in the Knesset for nearly half a century, from 1959 until 2007, holding virtually all senior ministerial positions over the years. In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his Labor Party colleague, then-prime minister Rabin. As prime minister in 1985 he presided over an economic stabilization plan that led to the birth of Israel’s modern economy. Over his long journey in defining the state he believed in, he was also instrumental in fostering the entrepreneurial culture that defines what is today known as the start-up nation.
“All my life I have worked to ensure that Israel’s future is based on science and technology as well as on an unwavering moral commitment,” Peres said in a speech in July, when he laid the cornerstone for the Israeli Innovation Center, which will be part of the Peres Peace House in Jaffa. “They called me a dreamer. But today, when I look at Israel, we all can see clearly that the greater the dream, the more spectacular the results.”
Start-Up Nation, the bestseller that documents the rise of Israel’s high tech industry, recounts how, as chief buyer of arms in the 1950s, Peres, together with America’s Al Schwimmer, started dreaming about setting up an aeronautics industry for the fledgling country. While other ministers scoffed at the idea, saying Israel wasn’t even capable of building bicycles, Peres prevailed, and prevailed once again with the idea of starting Israel’s nuclear industry, by disregarding rules, funding it off-budget and working around established scientists. As deputy defense minister, he injected funds into defense research and development, creating the foundation for Israel’s contemporary military technology edge.
“Peres was a unique figure in the history of the start-up nation, and that is the reason why he is the most quoted person in our book,” Saul Singer, who authored the book together with Dan Senor, said in a phone interview. “His career covered the whole history of the nation, and he played a critical role in helping Israel transition from a socialist, top-down, concentrated economy to a free-market economy focused on innovation.
“He spent his whole career in government but thought and acted like an entrepreneur in terms of building new things and looking ahead at the next. He always looked to the future and that is what kept him youthful,” Singer said.
Peres urged his fellow Israelis to join his quest for excellence, whether in striving for peace, closing social gaps or creating technologies to better the world. It is probably not chance that his son Chemi is a co-founder of Pitango Venture Capital, one of Israel’s oldest and largest venture funds.
“Shimon Peres will be sorely missed by Israel’s tech community. He was a visionary leader and statesman who represented the best of Israel’s creativity and innovation. His ability to be current, fresh and relevant at an age when most people were winding down their lives will always be an example for us all,” said Jon Medved, a veteran of Israel’s high-tech industry and the CEO of OurCrowd, an equity crowdfunding platform.
“Peres built Israel’s science and business infrastructure for over six decades and seemed to ‘get’ the importance of tech more than any other Israeli or world politician. He could sit with young people and entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv or Davos and provide critical feedback and inspiration to the leaders of tech giants and fresh startups at the same time,” Medved said. “His extraordinary warmth, eternal youth, wit and brilliance is irreplaceable and he made a lasting impact on Israel and the world.”
The aim of Peres’s innovation center is to draw guests from around the world to learn about Israel’s achievements in the high-tech sphere and to strive to close the gaps between the Arab and Jewish populations, and between rich and poor, and lead to regional innovation collaboration, Peres said in July.
“We will prove that innovation has no limits and no barriers. Innovation enables dialogue between nations and between people. It will enable all young people – Jews, Muslims and Christians — to engage in science and technology equally. Here we will emphasize that we can promote peace from childhood, and we will spark the imagination of every boy and girl and enrich their dreams,” he said, his 93-year old voice at times feeble, at others resounding. “We must open our doors to all the populations, ultra-Orthodox and Arabs, so they too can enjoy the fruits of this innovation.”
Peres also called upon Israel’s neighbors to join forces and to create a “start-up region.”
“Peace, innovation and science must be the realm of all. Not only Israel should benefit from the fruit of innovation, but the whole region,” he said. “Let us adopt the road to peace and innovation, which will always be better than war and terror,” Peres said.
He concluded: “Finally, I have one small request – Israel is a dream that came true. Permit me to continue to dream.” (The Times of Israel)
World leaders to arrive in Israel for Friday funeral of Shimon Peres
World leaders are expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days to attend Shimon Peres’s funeral on Friday.
Peres, former president, former prime minister, former defense minister, former foreign minister, former minister of eight other ministries, the last surviving member of Israel’s founding fathers, and winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize died early Wednesday after suffering a stroke two weeks ago. He was 93.
US President Barack Obama and Britain’s Prince Charles, are among a who’s-who list of foreign dignitaries due to arrive for his funeral.
The Foreign Ministry held an emergency meeting in its situation room Wednesday morning to coordinate the logistics of the arrival of the most world leaders expected to visit the country at one time since Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral 21 years ago.
In addition to Obama and Prince Charles, other leaders expected to arrive include German President Joachim Gauck, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Togo President Faure Gnassingbé.
In addition, both US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton are expected to arrive, as is US Secretary of State John Kerry and an as yet unnamed top senior British minister.
As of yet, there has been no announcement of the participation of a leader of an Arab state.
The arrival of the world leaders is taking part at a time of peak traffic at Ben-Gurion Airport, with hundreds of thousands of people both entering and leaving the country for Rosh Hashana.
Peres will likely be buried on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, in a reserved plot for the country’s founding fathers.
On Thursday, Peres’s coffin will be placed at the Knesset and the gates will be open to the public to pay their last respects. The funeral is slated for 11 a.m. Friday morning.
Former US president Bill Clinton said that with Peres’ passing, “Israel has lost a leader who championed its security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth.
“The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow together. And Hillary and I have lost a true and treasured friend.”
Clinton recalled the famous moment in which Peres, then the Israeli Foreign Minister, signed the 1993 Oslo Accords on the White House lawn.
“I’ll never forget how happy he was .. heralding a more hopeful era in Israeli-Palestinian relations.”
“He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration, and a nation, a region, and a world enhanced by caring and sharing, not torn asunder by the illusions of permanent dominance and perfect truth.
“His critics called him a dreamer. That he was – a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness. Let those of us who loved him and love his nation keep his dream alive.”
French President Francois Hollande wrote on his Facebook page that the nation of Israel had lost an “illustrious statesman,” an “ardent defender of peace” and a “loyal friend to France.”
“In the eyes of the world, Peres was Israel,” Hollande wrote.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also reacted, saying that Peres had worked tirelessly for a two-state solution so that Israel could “live securely and harmoniously with the Palestinians and the wider region.”
It was a “commitment duly recognized when he shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. He was also a good partner of the United Nations, eager to see Israel contribute to the work of the international community,” Ban said.
“I met Mr. Peres on many occasions, and always benefited from his views. Even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace.
“As he once said at the United Nations, “The time has come to comprehend that the real triumph is in the harvest of peace, not in the seeds of another war. When we replace war maps with peace maps, we will discover the differences were minimal. The wars were appalling. We shall see that the promised land could have become the land of promise a long time ago.”
“May his spirit of determination guide us as we work to ensure peace, security and dignity for Israelis, Palestinians and all the peoples of the region.” Ban said.
In addition, European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini commemorated Peres.
“Peres has never lost hope in peace, and has never stopped working to turn hope into reality. Even in the darkest moments his wit, his irony, his obstinate pursuit of dialogue have been a source of inspiration for many around the world, including myself,” she said.
“President Peres believed that the best way to serve the State of Israel and to deliver security to the Israeli people was through peace with the Palestinians,” she added. “We can only honor his memory with a daily commitment to reconciliation, preserving and advancing his vision for a two-State solution.”
Among the extensive list of foreign dignitaries and world leaders, past and present, to express their sympathies was former British prime minister and past Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
“Shimon Peres was a political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply,” he asserted. (Jerusalem Post)
Son of Shimon Peres mourns his legendary father’s passing
The son of former president Shimon Peres mourned the passing of his father on Wednesday, hours after the 93-year-old statesman passed away.
“Today, with deep sorrow we bid farewell to our beloved father,” said Chemi Peres, as he delivered a short statement to reports at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.
Chemi spoke after sitting vigil with his family by his father’s bedside as the veteran diplomat and politician slowly slipped away two weeks after suffering a massive stroke. He “was one of the founding fathers of the State of Israel,” Chemi said.
“He served his people even before the state of Israel was created and until his last day,” Chemi said. (Israel’s Shimon Peres, 93, dies in Tel Aviv)
“Throughout his 70 years of public service he committed and devoted to Israel, serving as the 9th president, prime minister, defense minister and a host of other roles,” Chemi said.
“My father use to say, you are only as great as the cause you serve,” said Chemi.
His sole focus was to serve until his last breath the people of Israel who he so loved, Chemi said.
He thanked the hospital staff, who he said, had acted as if they were “angels” and expressed the family’s gratitude to the friends and the public who had enveloped his father with love.
“I know how much he loved you,” Chemi said. In his life and deed his father ordered them to focus on the future with “fearlessness and wisdom” with which “we would always pave a path for peace.”
It was a private privilege and honor to have been part of his father’s family, Chemi said. But “the loss we feel today is that of the entire nation. We are all in pain,” he said.
At Peres’ request, his corneas were donated to the National Transplant Center. (Jerusalem Post)
A time line of the life of Shimon Peres
Peres was born in Wiszniew, Poland, in what is now Belorussia, in 1923 and emigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1934 with his family.
He was brought into the Haganah by David Ben-Gurion in 1947, and was put in charge of recruitment and acquisition of arms for the nascent state.
In 1952, Peres became Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense and guilefully purchased arms for the Jewish state, despite various international restrictions at the time, forming a strong alliance with France which sold Israel Dassault Mirage III fighter jets and other war materiel.
In 1956, Peres laid the foundations for both the Sinai invasion and Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program, when he led Israel to sign the Protocol of Sevres whereby France, Britain and Israel agreed to topple Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser through an Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula and a French and British occupation of the Suez Canal. In return for Israeli help, the French agreed to supply Israel with a research nuclear reactor at Dimona which, allegedly, became the central component of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset for the first time as a member of the Mapai party and became the Deputy Defense Minister.
In 1974, Peres became Minister of Defense in the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during which time he was supportive of the settlement movement and helped establish the first Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Ofra, in 1975. He would later turn against the goals of Jewish settlement in the West Bank as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
In 1977, Rabin stepped down as prime minister due to a scandal over his wife’s foreign currency bank account, and Peres became the acting prime minister, but was defeated as head of the Alignment party in the general elections that year by Likud leader and new Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
In 1981, Peres at the head of Alignment was narrowly defeated again in the general election that year, after opposing and criticizing Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
In the 1984 general election, Alignment headed again by Peres became the single biggest party in Knesset but could not form a governing coalition and so entered into a national unity government with Likud, with Peres and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir agreeing to hold the prime ministership for two years each, starting with Peres.
In 1988, Alignment with Peres at its head was defeated by Likud.
In 1992, Rabin had become head of the Labor Party and won the general election that year, appointing Peres as Foreign Minister.
In 1993, prompted by his Deputy Minister Yossi Beilin, Peres helped nurture the evolving initiative to form a peace agreement with the Palestinians, ultimately ratified as the Oslo Accords and signed at the White House in Washington on September 13, 1993.
In 1995, Peres became acting prime minister after Rabin was assassinated by Israeli extremist Yigal Amir for signing the Oslo Accords and conceding territory to the Palestinians. A spate of Hamas suicide bombings in 1993, 1994 and 1996 dented public support for the Oslo Accords and the Labor party, with Benjamin Netanyahu at the head of Likud narrowly defeating Peres in the direct election for prime minister in 1996.
In 2000, Peres was defeated by Moshe Katzav in the elections in Knesset for president.
In 2005, Peres as head of Labor joined the government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to support his disengagement plan from Gaza, which was enacted in August 2005. He subsequently left the Labor party and joined Sharon’s newly formed Kadima Party in November 2005.
In 2007, Peres was elected President of the State of Israel by the Knesset. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians left wondering as Saudi paper takes Netanyahu’s side
A Saudi newspaper editorial that took issue with Palestinians for not responding positively to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation last week to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to address the Knesset has touched off surprise and criticism from Palestinian leaders.
‘’Whoever wrote this editorial is totally unaware of the reality of this so-called invitation,’’ said PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi. “It is a very obvious public relations trick that’s been overused. If Netanyahu wants peace, let him abide by the requirements of international law, the two-state solution and the 1967 boundaries.’’
The editorial, published Sunday in the Saudi Gazette, a daily published in Jeddah that has a woman editor-in-chief, seemed to depart in tone from the widely-held position in the Arab world that Israel is responsible for the impasse with the Palestinians. It likened Netanyahu’s proposal that the two leaders address each other’s parliaments, to Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s 1977 invitation to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to visit Israel, and implied it could also lead to a breakthrough. Begin made the invitation “and the rest is history,’’ the editorial said.
“For all its shortcomings, Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation,’’ it added.
As another example of how “official visits can bend the arc of history’’ the paper cited then-US President Bill Clinton’s 1998 visit to the Gaza Strip to address the Palestinian National Council on the day it deleted clauses calling for the destruction of Israel from the PLO charter.
The editorial said that Palestinians had rejected overtures from Netanyahu with the explanation that his hard-line position on all core issues made dialogue impossible.
“But the Palestinians should note that at that time, Egypt and Israel were mortal enemies having fought three wars.’’
The editorial went on to second guess the Arab world for rejecting Camp David, saying “in hindsight if the provisions had been carried out, Israel and the Palestinians might not be in the impasse they are at present.’’ Saudi Arabia was a leader of the Arab opposition to Camp David.
Ashrawi took issue with the analogy to Egyptian-Israeli peacemaking. “It’s not a question of Egypt and Israel, two countries that wanted to make peace, it’s a question of an occupying force that is destroying the other state and it’s about people under occupation who have no right and no power.’’
The editorial comes two months after a Saudi delegation of academics and businessmen, led by retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki, touched off criticism in the Arab world for openly visiting Israel and meeting with officials and MKs. There was speculation that the trip reflected a quiet development of discrete ties between the countries based largely on their having a common enemy, Iran.
Palestinians are wary that any normalization with Israel by Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries would represent a sellout of their cause and undermine their position vis-à-vis Israel.
Ashrawi said she thinks that “below the surface there are contacts [between Israel and Saudi Arabia] and all sorts of security considerations and Israel is positioning itself to be a regional power.’’ But she added: “No matter what happens, they won’t recognize or normalize with Israel because it hasn’t respected Palestinian rights and international law. Once the Palestinian issue is resolved things can move. Before that they might have secret contacts, but they can’t afford to lose their own constituency.’’
Former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister Ghassan Khatib termed the editorial “very strange and difficult to explain. I doubt this represents an official position,’’ added Khatib, who is vice president of Birzeit University.
“It’s not consistent with what we hear from them on the official lines. We know the political landscape in Saudi Arabia and the public opinion atmosphere. Looking at that, I find it difficult to believe that this is the official line.’’
In a separate development, a leading Saudi journalist has warned that the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies will exploit America’s preoccupation with the presidential election and then use the “lame duck’’ transition period before the new president enters the White House to “change the reality on the ground’’ in Syria and present the new president with a fait accompli.
Abdul-Rahman al-Rashed, former editor of the Saudi owned Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote in that newspaper that the Russians and the Syrian regime already perceive a vacuum in Washington, and that is why they are intensively bombing Aleppo, Syria’s largest city “without the slightest fear of an international reaction.’’
Last week’s bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy that killed 21 people should also be seen in that context, he wrote, and then predicted “more massacres and violations of international law in order to break what remains of the Syrian people’s resistance and change the map of the region.’’
The fall of Aleppo would be a major turning point in the war, making it easier for the regime to “destroy the remaining parts of the country,’’ Rashed wrote. The intensified Russian and Syrian military activity and fall of Aleppo would lead to a million more refugees heading to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, he added.
Al-Rashed criticized the Obama administration for lacking the resolve to face down the Russians and Iranians. “The hope is that the coming American president will be less committed towards the Iranians than the current president, and more courageous in facing the Iranian and Russian advance, not necessarily with a direct American military presence, but by allowing other countries to arm the opposition and offer succor to it with information and significant diplomatic support.’’ (Jerusalem Post)
Jerusalem mayor ‘bumps into’ Jonathan Pollard in New York
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat held an impromptu meeting with Jonathan Pollard in New York on Monday.
Pollard and his wife Esther were sitting at an outdoor cafe in Manhattan, near a venue where Barkat was to appear at a fundraising event. The mayor’s office said in a statement that he “bumped into” the released spy.
Barkat stopped to chat, then took a gold Jerusalem pin from his lapel and gave it to Pollard, who had been awarded honorary citizenship in the capital city while he was in jail.
“Even though Jonathan is prohibited from coming to Jerusalem,” said Esther Pollard, “the eternal capital of the Jewish people can come to New York, or any other place in the world. We look forward to, and hope for, the day when we can come to Jerusalem and make it our true home.”
The parole terms issued upon 62-year-old Pollard’s release after serving 30 years of a life sentence require him to stay in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to submit any computer he uses for inspection, and to wear a GPS-monitoring device at all times. He also must remain in the United States for five years, despite his desire to move to Israel.
The unscheduled conversation marked the first time Pollard has met with any Israeli official since his release from federal prison last November, according to Barkat’s office.
Last week Pollard was interviewed by reporter Amir Bar Shalom of Israel’s Channel 1 television on the street in New York and said it would “take a miracle” for him to be allowed to make his home in Israel. During the interview, aired Friday, Pollard said he feels the people of Israel are supporting him, but sounded less certain about the government in Jerusalem.
“Do you still feel like Israel is behind you?” Bar Shalom asked.
“I feel that the am [Hebrew for nation] is clearly behind me,” Pollard replied.
“And the government, no?” Bar Shalom pressed.
“Well, the government will do whatever it wants to do, I don’t know,” the former spy said, in a conversation punctuated by repeated statements of “I don’t know.”
“Yesterday we were in the meeting of [US President Barack] Obama and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. I don’t think he mentioned you,” Bar Shalom said.
“That’s why I said it’s going to take a miracle to bring me home,” Pollard replied.
Pollard pleaded guilty in June 1986 to conspiring to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. Prosecutors said he gave secrets to Israeli agents from June 1984 through November 1985. (The Times of Israel)
Why Israeli Jews lean to the right and American Jews to the left
A report published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center reveals a growing gulf between American Jews and Israelis on everything from religious observance and affiliation, to political ideology, and views on hot-button issues like Palestinian statehood and US aid to Israel.
The world’s two largest Jewish populations, each numbering some six million, have strongly positive feelings towards each other, Pew’s Neha Sahgal said.
“When we compared the attitudes of American Jews to Israel and Israeli Jews to the United States, it became really clear that they share an affinity for each other.”
Sahgal added that roughly 40% of American Jews have visited Israel – roughly the same proportion of Israeli Jews who have traveled to the United States.
“That’s a pretty high number, 40%,” said Sahgal.
‘Red State Israel’ versus ‘Blue State Americans’
But while the relationship between American and Israeli Jews remains strong, the two differ sharply on politics, and contrast strongly in religious observance and identity.
While American Jews lean strongly to the left, Israeli Jews tend to identify with the political center or right-wing.
To some extent, this has created cultural tensions between some progressive American Jews – particularly among younger Jews – and the Jewish state.
“They also have a strong liberal-to-conservative dispute,” Hebrew Union College’s Steven M. Cohen said, comparing the internal Jewish cultural divide to the rift between Republican-leaning “red” states and Democratic-leaning “blue” states in the US.
“In many respects, Israel is a ‘red state’, and American Jews are a ‘blue country’.”
According to Pew, 49% of American Jews identify as left-wing or liberal, compared to just 8% of Israeli Jews. While only 19% of American Jews consider themselves conservatives politically, Israeli Jews were nearly twice as likely to identify as conservative/right-wing, with 37% describing themselves as such. Twenty-nine percent of American Jews say they consider themselves centrist or moderate, compared to 55% of Israeli Jews.
Palestinian Statehood, Judea and Samaria, and US Support for Israel
Given the differences in political ideology, it is unsurprising that American Jews and Israelis differ strongly on issues like Palestinian statehood and US support for Israel.
A strong majority (61%) of American Jews believe that a Palestinian state can exist peacefully alongside Israel, while just 43% of Israeli Jews agreed. Israeli Jews were significantly more likely to argue that the US has not been supportive enough of Israel in recent years (52%), than American Jews (31%). And while nearly half (43%) of Israeli Jews believe Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria contribute to Israel’s security, only 17% of American Jews agreed.
Israeli and American Jews also differed sharply on their perceptions of the major problems confronting the Jewish state.
American Jews focused overwhelmingly on security threats and terrorism, with 66% saying security was Israel’s greatest problem. Only 1% said economic challenges were Israel’s greatest problem.
Israeli Jews, however, were roughly evenly divided between the two, with 38% saying security threats were the biggest problem, and 39% saying economic issues were. Israeli and American Jews were roughly equally likely (14% and 18% respectively) to see social and religious problems as the primary issue facing Israel.
Just as the two populations differ sharply in political ideology, they also exhibit strongly different patterns of religious affiliation and levels of observance of Jewish tradition.
Among American Jews, the Conservative and Reform movements are dominant, representing 18% and 35% of the Jewish population respectively. Only 10% of American Jews consider themselves Orthodox.
In Israel, however, the Reform and Conservative movements are virtually non-existent, with just 3% of Israeli Jews saying they identified as Reform and 2% identifying as Conservative – far fewer than the more than 22% who are Orthodox.
Religious observance is also more prevalent in Israel – even among non-Orthodox Israelis.
While a whopping 57% of American Jews say they eat pork, only 16% of Israeli Jews do. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Israeli Jews keep kosher at home, compared to 22% of American Jews. Fifty-six percent of Israeli Jews light Shabbat candles every week, compared to 23% of American Jews, and 60% of Israeli Jews completed the Yom Kippur fast last year, while only 40% of American Jews did so.
Jews as a community, Jews as a nation
To a large extent, the religious and political differences between American and Israeli Jews can be chalked up to two class and ethnicity, journalist and Shalom Hartman Institute Fellow Yossi Klein Halevi says.
While American Jews are primarily Ashkenazi, Halevi points out, a majority of Israeli Jews are Mizrachi or Sephardi – immigrants [or their descendants] from the Middle East or Mediterranean.
“Factor in the wide ethnic Jewish diversity of Israel. American Jews are mostly Ashkenazi. Israeli Jews are a majority Mizrachi, or more and more a combination of Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, thanks to the growing rate of what we call ‘intermarriage’.”
The other salient difference, class, is rooted largely in the nature of the two populations, says Halevi.
“American Jews are a community and function as a community, and Israelis are a people. When you are a community, you tend to be more homogeneous. That isn’t to say they’re aren’t major differences among American Jews. But socioeconomically, American Jews are overwhelmingly middle class, upper-middle class, university educated. Israeli Jews are a people. We’ve got a working class – a very big working clas – we’ve got a struggling lower-middle class, we have a middle-middle class, there’s small upper class.” (Arutz Sheva)
Israeli forces launch large-scale arms raid in West Bank
Security forces launched a large-scale arms raid in Jenin overnight between Sunday and Monday, seizing large quantities of firearms and shutting down two gun production workshops in the West Bank city.
The IDF and Border Police seized automatic rifles, handguns, gun parts and ammunition during the operation.
The IDF also shut down a gun-making workshop in Dahariya, near Hebron, while security forces operating near Gush Etzion raided addresses and seized locally-made submachine guns known as Carlos, which have been used by armed terrorists in recent attacks.
The IDF has been engaged in a series of large arms raids in the West Bank in recent months in an effort to stop the guns from ending up in the hands of lone terrorists or small attack cells that can evade Israeli intelligence.
Meanwhile, the IDF and Border Police also arrested 19 security suspects in overnight raids across the West Bank. The suspects include five Hamas members.
The IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division has, over the past few months, pursued the goal of keeping guns out of the hands of shooting cells that have sporadically targeted Israelis over the past year with deadly attacks, on both sides of the Green Line.
In late August, a senior IDF source told The Jerusalem Post that security forces have begun dealing with firearms, uprooting the infrastructure that produces them.
“We do not wish to merely respond to incident, but rather, to prevent them through surgical steps. We are seeking to prevent the distribution of illegal firearms,” the source said. (Jerusalem Post)
Beloved abroad, polarizing at home, Peres was the peace-making face of Israel
Ultimately respected as Israel’s elder statesman, Peres — who was prime minister and president but never won a popular vote — enjoyed a spectacularly lengthy and turbulent political career
By Raphael Ahren The Times of Israel
Shimon Peres, one of Israel’s most eminent politicians and the last of the state’s founding generation to wield power, died early Wednesday in Tel Aviv two weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 93.
When he ended his presidency in 2014, Peres was the world’s oldest head of state, and the only person to have served as both Israel’s prime minister and its president. Although his long and illustrious career was full of internal rivalries and professional disappointments — including a leadership ploy that entered the history books as “the stinking maneuver” — in his later decades Peres became known as Israel’s elder statesman, admired by leaders across the globe and more widely respected at home than at any point in his turbulent political career.
Peres, who never won a popular election — his accession to the presidency in 2007 was a result of a secret ballot among Knesset members — was one of Israel’s most successful, shrewd, divisive and, ultimately, beloved politicians. A man of many stripes — a lifelong Labor leader who defected to the free market center of the Kadima party; a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who, according to foreign sources, gave a scarred and threatened state the ultimate deterrent weapon; and a signatory to the Oslo Accords who years earlier, as defense minister, helped lay the foundations of the settlement movement — he was considered by many to be one of Israel’s strongest assets, an erudite politician unblemished by corruption.
On the international stage he was respected for his conciliatory positions and his unending quest for peace; on Israel’s ideological right, for years, his name was synonymous with naivete and far worse.
“The Palestinians are our closest neighbors,” he said often. “I am sure they can become our closest friends.”
He was the country’s eighth prime minister, serving from September 1984 until October 1986, and again from November 1995 to June 1996 in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of his greatest rival-turned-ally Yitzhak Rabin. In 2007, he became Israel’s ninth president.
Peres served in the Knesset for nearly half a century, from 1959 until 2007, holding virtually all senior ministerial positions over the years. In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his Labor party colleague, then-prime minister Rabin.
Born in 1923 as Shimon Perski, he grew up in the Polish city of Wołożyn (today Valozhyn, Belarus), which was decimated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Peres often recalled his grandfather Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, who once took him to the Chofetz Chaim, one of the giants of pre-war Jewry, to receive a blessing.
Peres was raised by his grandfather, who saw him off when he left for Palestine at age 11. “I remember the last words and the order that I heard from his mouth: ‘My boy, always remain a Jew!’” Peres recalled once. The Nazis later locked Peres’s grandfather in the town’s synagogue and burned him alive.
‘In many ways, Peres has certainly acted as Ben-Gurion’s successor, combining elements of far-sighted pragmatism and hawkishness throughout his career’
Peres went to school in Tel Aviv and Ben Shemen and later co-founded Kibbutz Alumot, where he worked as a farmer and shepherd.
In 1945, he married Sonya Gelman (who died in 2011). Two years after their wedding, Peres joined the Haganah, the militant Jewish underground organization headed by David Ben-Gurion. Israel’s founding prime minister was Peres’s political mentor and remained his role model until the end of his career. “Ben-Gurion was the greatest of all statesmen; he had a prophetic vision,” Peres said.
“In many ways,” historian and foreign policy analyst Azriel Bermant wrote about Peres in 2012, “he has certainly acted as Ben-Gurion’s successor, combining elements of far-sighted pragmatism and hawkishness throughout his career, even though Peres is often seen as an idealistic, unrealistic dove.”
But of course, there were important differences between the two leaders, Bermant stressed in a review of Peres’s 2012 book on Ben-Gurion. “Peres is the consummate diplomat who has always seemed to care about both domestic and international opinion. Indeed, some might say that he is too concerned these days about the former. One wonders what Peres could have accomplished as he strove to make peace, had he displayed more of Ben-Gurion’s steel and ruthlessness toward domestic rivals.”
In recent years, Peres enjoyed the role of Israel’s elder statesman beyond petty party politics, but the early days of his career looked distinctively different.
In the Haganah, Peres was responsible for manpower and arms and later headed Israel’s navy. After the War of Independence, he became the director of the Defense Ministry’s delegation in the US. In 1953, the then 29-year-old Peres became the ministry’s youngest-ever director-general. In this position, he helped form strategic alliances that would prove crucial to Israel’s survival, and established the country’s nuclear program in Dimona.
In 1959, Peres entered the Knesset for Mapai (the Labor party’s predecessor) and was appointed deputy defense minister, a position he held until 1965. In 1974, then prime-minister Rabin made Peres his defense minister.
Three years later, Rabin got embroiled in a foreign currency scandal and had to let Peres take over as Labor head and unofficial acting prime minister. Under Peres’s leadership, Israel’s left wing lost power for the first time in the country’s history. The right-wing Likud party’s Menachem Begin became prime minister and Peres headed the opposition. In 1981, Labor lost again. Three years later, the party won the most seats but was unable to form a left-wing coalition. Peres and Likud’s Yitzhak Shamir agreed to a rotation agreement, in which the two leaders alternately served as prime minister and foreign minister. Peres became prime minister for the first time on September 13, 1986.
In 1988, Labor lost yet again to Likud’s Shamir, albeit narrowly, and Peres served as vice premier and finance minister in a national unity government. But that unlikely alliance fell apart in 1990 over disagreement about a US-backed plan for peace talks with the Palestinians.
Peres then tried to grab power by staging a political ploy widely known as “the stinking maneuver.”
With the help of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Peres’s left-wing bloc successfully filed a no-confidence motion in March 1990, marking the first and, to date, only time a sitting government was ousted by such a measure. Peres was asked to form the government but failed to do so due to opposition from the ultra-Orthodox Degel Hatorah party. The leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi at the time, Eliezer Menachem Schach, famously forbade his followers from entering a coalition with the “pork-eating” left, and so a humiliated Peres was left without a majority.
Rabin, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Peres as party chair, said that “this bluff and corruptibility which came into the Israeli political life in an attempt to form a narrow government failed not only tactically but also conceptually.”
Two years later, Peres lost the Labor leadership to Rabin, who went on to become prime minister and made Peres his foreign minister. In 1993, the Rabin government signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which won him, Peres and PLO leader Arafat the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.”
“We are leaving behind us the era of belligerency and are striding together toward peace,” Peres said in his acceptance speech.
The bitter rivalry between Peres and Rabin lasted almost half a century. It didn’t end with the success of Oslo or another historic peace treaty Israel signed with Jordan in 1994. Indeed, Peres was upset that Rabin marginalized his role in the peace agreement with Amman, feeling that he deserved most of the credit because of his many years of holding secret contacts with Amman.
“This tension is completely unnecessary,” Labor minister Moshe Shahal said after the cabinet session that approved the peace deal with Jordan. “There is enough room for both of them in history for what they have done and the achievements they have attained.”
Israel’s diplomatic achievements at the time were ascribed to the two Labor leaders working in tandem, despite their personal enmity. “It’s a miracle that this combination exists,” Israeli writer Matti Golan, who chronicled Peres and Rabin’s relationship, opined at the time. “But there is no doubt that without Rabin (the peace initiatives) couldn’t be, and there is no doubt that without Peres it would be impossible, too.”
After Rabin was assassinated in November 1995, Peres became acting prime minister, vowing to continue on the path to peace. He called for new elections, but a series of brutal terror attacks against Israeli civilians right before the elections led the people to focus on security over reconciliation, and narrowly brought to power Likud’s hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu.
In the next Labor government, under Ehud Barak, Peres served in a minor post as regional cooperation minister. After this government collapsed in 2000, Peres ran for president but lost to Moshe Katsav. He then staged a political comeback, becoming foreign minister in a coalition government under Likud hardliner Ariel Sharon. In 2005, he followed Sharon to the newly founded centrist Kadima party, where he stayed until he resigned from the Knesset after being elected president in 2007.
As is customary for the mainly ceremonial position, president Peres abandoned partisan politics and henceforth focused his speeches on the need to achieve peace in the Middle East, the dangers of a nuclear Iran, and the miracle of Israel’s high-tech success. After a stormy career in politics, Peres was no less vigorous in his new, apolitical position, keeping up with a tight schedule that included meetings all over Israel and across the globe.
“I don’t how where he gets the energy from,” one of Peres’s staffers said a few years ago, after her boss had addressed a crowd of senior American communal leaders at 8 in the morning before heading to his next appointment. “Believe me,” she continued, “he’s over 80 and I’m in my 30s, but he has more energy than all of us.”
Indeed, even as an octogenarian, Peres — who received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama — was indefatigable. In the mid-90s, he was the first Israeli prime minister to have a website and, two decades later, he was still on the cutting edge of technology. In 2012, he released an ultra-hip video showing him shaking hands with world leaders and stars from Hollywood and the world of sports, and playing on his iPad, all the while imploring the viewer to “be my friend for peace.”
“We used to be the people of the book. Now we’ve become the people of the Facebook — much better,” Peres said in the clip. For the video’s background music Peres hired Noy Alooshe, an Israeli journalist and musician who became famous for the “Zenga Zenga” spoof making fun of Muammar Gaddafi.
Even on the very day he suffered from a stroke and was sedated and intubated by his doctors in Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer hospital, Peres published a video clip on Facebook urging Israelis to buy home-made products .
In the summer of 2012, as Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly mulled attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities despite opposition from Washington, Peres entered the political fray one last time. Jerusalem cannot “go it alone” in a preemptive strike, he said, sparking a storm of controversy. Likud leaders called Peres’s comments “a gross attack on the elected government’s official policy” and one lawmaker went so far as to suggest Peres be impeached.
But Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s fifth president (1978-83), defended him. “A man like Shimon Peres cannot not speak his mind when he feels the fatefulness of the hour and believes with all his heart that it’s his obligation to exert influence,” Navon said.
Before the 2013 elections, some dovish Israeli politicians and pundits pressured the then 89-year-old to quit the presidency and run once again for the premiership, but Peres refused, saying he was committed to conclude his seven-year term as president. On July 27, 2014, he was succeeded by Reuven Rivlin, whom he had defeated in the presidential elections seven years earlier. But even after six decades of holding political offices, Peres did not retire, continuing tirelessly to call for peace and to defend Israel’s good name in the world.
“We do have a partner. But we have to decide — do we want a partner for peace or a partner for war? I’m speaking about Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas]. He talks about peace, he talks against terror. He doesn’t talk the Zionist language, but I don’t expect him to,” he said in a recent interview.
In December 2015, rumors about his death spread on social media, which Peres, true to form, dispelled on his Facebook page. “I’m continuing with my daily schedule as usual,” he wrote, “to do whatever I can to assist the State of Israel and its citizens.”
On September 13, he suffered from a stroke and was admitted to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, where doctors sedated and intubated him. Wishes for his recovery poured in from across the globe, but despite minor improvements in his condition he remained sedated until Tuesday afternoon when his health deteriorated drastically.
Shimon Peres Reflects on War, Peace and Life (New York Times)
“I’ve been controversial for most of my life. Suddenly, I’ve become popular. I don’t know when I was wrong, then or now.” September 2007, Ha’aretz
“At my age, after looking back, if I feel that I have to make a choice between being experienced and cynical or being curious and innocent, I prefer the second. It is much more appealing.” May 2000, Jerusalem Post
“Most of our neighbors, who want to destroy us, believe that Israel has the capability to destroy them. Their suspicion is our strength.” November 2009, Yediot Ahronot
“There is no doubt that an Iran with nuclear weapons is a mortal danger. I also have no doubt that Israel has to view this matter with all seriousness and gravity. Iran is a danger to the entire world. It is currently as dangerous to America as it is to Israel, and that is a good union. We have often been alone.” August 2012, Mako
“Jewish history is devoid of any desire to rule over another people. I think that what is happening now is a deviation. All the people who ruled over us have been erased from the stage of history. We are the only ones who never ruled over anyone else, and we prevailed.” February 1988, Jerusalem Post