Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

A Contradiction Until the End

Binyamin Rose and Sarah Pardes

Serving in the Knesset for 48 years and holding every top cabinet post yet never winning an election, Shimon Peres was a profile in paradox

Thursday, October 06, 2016

 Mishpacha image

THE UNEXPECTED Serving in the Knesset for 48 years and holding every top cabinet post yet never winning an election, originally a hawk yet morphing into the icon of the Israeli left, Peres defied expectations (Photos: Flash90, GPO)

S himon Peres was a study in complexity and contradiction. He grew up in an Orthodox family in Europe, became a secular Zionist, yet spearheaded and defended the policy of IDF draft exemptions for Torah scholars.

Shimon Peres fathered Israel’s nuclear program in the 1950s, accidentally authored the term “nuclear ambiguity” in the 1960s, and proactively supported Israeli settlement activity in the 1970s and ’80s on land Israel captured during the Six Day War.

By the 1990s, he had changed his tune, humming bars of Yitzhak Rabin’s famous peace song, committing Israel to the Oslo Accords and withdrawal from those very lands. In the process, he won a Nobel Peace Prize, became the icon of the Israeli left, the darling of the international community, and the goat of the Israeli right, who blame him for the bloodshed that stemmed from allowing PLO terrorists to establish an entity in Israel’s biblical heartland.

One more paradox for the records: Shimon Peres, the dyed-in-the-wool socialist, devised the harsh economic austerity program credited for salvaging Israel’s broken economy after its bank collapse of 1985 and ushering it into the modern Start-Up Nation era.

Peres set a record with 48 consecutive years of Knesset service. He served two short stints as an unelected prime minister, and held every top cabinet post, including defense, finance, and the foreign ministry. But despite the accolades he earned from the international community for his promotion of the peace process and other pet liberal causes, he never won the full confidence of the Israeli electorate, failing every time he ran for prime minister.

One could argue his quantum shifts are par for the course for the expedient politician. But Peres would never admit to falling into the expedience trap. He could glibly and cleverly demonstrate the sequential linkage between two seemingly opposite policies, or advocate for his own consistency.

RESPECT FOR THE RABBINATE “There’s no place for cynicism or scorn toward the religious or chareidim.” Peres always maintained good relations with the chief rabbinate, and was especially close with Rav Ovadiah Yosef

"Someone once asked me why I built Dimona, and I answered, in order to get to Oslo,” Peres told Mishpacha’s Aryeh Ehrlich in an interview two years ago, just after he stepped down as Israel’s ninth president — the last public office he held.

Peres could likewise support settlers in one decade and their eviction in another. “I understand them,” he told Ehrlich. “I would be with them if not for the fact that we have enemies. My problem is not with settlers who love the land. It is better to divide up the country than to finish off the state"

Related Stories

Judgment Day

Aryeh Ehrlich

When successful entrepreneur Rav Sholom Landau was advised to leave the business world and become a ...

Diary of Determination

Early 1900s, Montreal. Reb Yosef Levi Shano is a chassid who refuses to bend with modern winds. A ce...

Shame On Me

Miri Hecht

I didn’t share it. It was hard enough for me to live with the recollection. I couldn’t stand the tho...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"