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Sweet Dreams for a Shattered Peace

Aryeh Ehrlich

When Shimon Peres bowed out after the curtain fell on his recently concluded seven-year presidential term, many Israelis bid him a fond farewell, while his harsher critics said good riddance to a man whose 60-year political career was marked by great accomplishments, yet studded with complexity and contradiction.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Peres was both the father of Israel’s nuclear program and the godfather of the Oslo agreements. The 1950s saw him secretly negotiating with France to provide what Israel required to bring its Dimona nuclear plant to fruition. Yet by the 1990s, Peres had morphed into the spiritual leader of Israel’s peace camp, and to this day remains one of its most unrepentant members. Peres carries that same unapologetic tune when recalling his pivotal role in obtaining exemptions from the draft for yeshivah students in the early days of statehood. He still believes that was the right thing to do at the time, is proud of his contribution toward rebuilding the might of the yeshivos decimated in the Holocaust, and insists that coercion is not the way to solve disagreements between Israel’s secular and religious citizens. Peres takes both his complexity and his contradictions with him into political retirement, and both are areas that Mishpacha’s Aryeh Ehrlich probed while posing questions to Peres with skill and perspicacity, in the first full “exit interview” Peres granted to the news media after leaving office. It was vintage Peres on display. He answered some questions in depth, dismissed others with a sharp rejoinder, yet no matter how he answered, he was always sure of himself. 

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