Shimon Peres: A Profile of a Leader


In 1976, as a defense minister, meeting with Israeli soldiers after the successful completion of Operation Entebbe, in which 91 passengers and 12 crew members who had been hijacked on a flight to Paris from Tel Aviv, were rescued.

By Gideon

“Peres ended his years in public office as a remarkably beloved figure, a founding pioneer who set an example for forward thinking by promoting the country’s high-tech prowess and cultural reach.” [NYT]

“For 60 years I was the most controversial figure in the country, and suddenly I’m the most popular man in the land. Truth be told, I don’t know when I was happier, then or now.” – Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres held virtually every leadership position in Israel. He was the President, the Minister of Defense, the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Prime Minister (a position he held three times), the head of the coalition, and the had of the opposition. His life story is a reflection of the history of Israel during the country’s most important years. He took part in Israel’s every major milestone, helping in shaping the country and ensuring its survival by building a strong military and by signing peace treaties with Israel’s bitter enemies.

Shimon Peres (August 2, 1923 – September 28, 2016) was born in Belarus. He immigrated to Israel at the age of 11. Growing up in the  Labor-Zionist youth movement “HaNo’ar Ha’oved”.

In 1947, upon David Ben-Gurion’s request, Peres was recruited  by the Haganah (pre-independence military organization). Following the establishment of the  State of Israel in 1948 Peres headed the naval services, and in 1949 led  a procurement delegation of Israel’s Defense Ministry to the United  States.

On his return to Israel at the age of 29, he  became the Director General of the Ministry of Defense – the youngest  ever in Israel’s history. As Director General, Peres was a crucial  player in the development of Israel’s military and aerial industries.  Later, the Prime Minister placed Shimon Peres in charge of the  establishment of the nuclear reactor in Dimona.

In 1959, Peres was elected to the  Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and served as Deputy Minister of Defense  under then Prime Minister and Minister of Defense David Ben-Gurion. In 1969, he was appointed Minister of Absorption, and in  1970 served as Minister of Transport and Communications. In 1974, Peres  was appointed Minister of Defense, a position that he held until 1977.  These critical years saw the rebuilding of the Israeli army following  the 1973 War.

After the resignation of Yitzhak Rabin  in 1977 Peres became acting Prime Minister. When the Likud came to power in 1977, marking the first  time in Israel’s history that Labor was not the ruling party, Peres  served as Head of the Opposition, a position he held until 1984.

Following the establishment of a National Unity Government combining  Labor and Likud in 1984, Peres served as Prime Minister (1984 to 1986)  and as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1986 to 1988), rotating with Likud  leader Yitzhak Shamir. In the subsequent National Unity Government  (1988-1990) Peres served as Vice Premier and Minister of Finance, and  then led the Opposition in the Knesset from 1990 to 1992.

After the Labor Party’s victory under  Rabin’s leadership, Peres served again as Minister of Foreign Affairs in  1992, and initiated the negotiations between Israel and the Palestine  Liberation Organization (PLO), resulting in the Oslo Accords  (Declaration of Principles) which was signed by Shimon Peres and Abu  Mazen on the White House lawn on 13th September 1993. Peres, together  with Rabin and Arafat, were awarded Nobel Peace Prizes in 1994 for their  efforts toward peace. Peres was also involved in Israel’s negotiations  with Jordan, which commenced immediately following the signing of the  Oslo Accords, and were officially signed in October 1994.

Following the assassination of Prime  Minister Rabin in 1995, Peres became Prime Minister and Minister of  Defense until the May 1996 elections. n July 1999, Peres was appointed  Minister of Regional Cooperation in Ehud Barak’s government. In 2001,  Peres again assumed the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, this  time in Ariel Sharon’s newly-formed National Unity Government, a  position he held until November 2002. Peres was re-elected as Chairman  of the Labor Party in June 2003 and served as Head of the Opposition.

In  January 2005, as Head of the Labor Party, Peres once again joined  Sharon’s government and served as Vice Prime Minister during the  disengagement from Gaza. In November 2005, Shimon Peres left the Labor  Party to join Sharon’s new party, Kadima. Following Kadima’s victory in  the 2006 elections, Peres served as Vice Prime Minister and Minister for  the Development of the Negev and the Galilee.

In June 2007, Peres was elected to  serve as the 9th President of the State of Israel, a position he held until 2014. In June 2012, Peres was awarded the highest US award in the  realm of peace by President Barack Obama, the Presidential Medal of  Freedom.

“Peres ended his years in public office as a remarkably beloved figure, a founding pioneer who set an example for forward thinking by promoting the country’s high-tech prowess and cultural reach.” [NYT]

A long list of dignitaries and foreign leaders arrived in Jerusalem for Peres’ funeral to pay their respects, including President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the leaders of France and Germany. Former US President Bill Clinton, who helped negotiate the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, said he was Israel’s “biggest dreamer”. “He imagined all the things the rest of us could do. He started life as Israel’s brightest student, became its best teacher and ended up its biggest dreamer.” US President Barack Obama closed the eulogies, comparing Mr Peres to “some of the other giants of the 20th Century that I’ve had the honor to meet, like Nelson Mandela and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth”. Around 8,000 police officers have been deployed at key locations to protect world leaders during the ceremony.

Shimon Peres‘ Quotes:

  • When  you have two alternatives, the first thing you have to do is to look for the  third that you didn’t think about, that doesn’t exist.
  • We should use our imagination more than our memory.
  • If you eat three times a day you’ll be fed but if you read three times a day you’ll be wise
  • The most important thing in life is to dare. The most complicated thing in life is to be afraid. The smartest thing in the world is to try to be a moral person


Nobel Peace Prize winners: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin.