Monday, September 21, 2020

Shimon Peres, Israeli ex-president who signed the Oslo Accords, dies at 93

By Cynthia Wang - September 28, 2016
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Oslo Accords] [Mahmoud Abbas] [Peace Process] [Israeli government] [Occupation] [settlements] [Shimon Peres]

Shimon Peres, a former Israeli president and a towering figure who concluded the Oslo Accords during his term as Foreign minister, died Tuesday at age 93.

For many Israelis, Peres is regarded as the founding generation who assisted in the establishment of the Jewish State. The groundbreaking, first-time-ever peace agreement between Israel and Palestine was also signed under his pen.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the i24News that “Peres’ death is a great loss to humanity and the region.”

But he remains as a controversial figure among Palestinians. He was also unloved by right-wing Israelis for his trying to promote peace between two sides, which prevented him to break into the prime minister's post.

“For the Palestinians, he will be seen as the man who has not implemented the Oslo Accords,” Leila Shahid, the former Palestinian ambassador in the European Union, commented in an interview on France Info on Wednesday.

Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian peace negotiator commented that many will remember Peres as a “war criminal”.

“He's somebody who believed in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” added Buttu.

Al Jazeera's Middle East analyst Yehia Ghanem said in an interview that “people who are praising him [Peres] supported Israel and all of its crimes throughout its history.” Referring to the 1996 Qana Massacre, which killed at least 106 people in a village in Southern Lebanon, he described the bloodshed as a war crime followed by Peres’ command as the Prime Minister.

After the announcement of his death by his son, world leaders pay tribute on Wednesday.

Calling him “a soldier for Israel” and “a friend”, US president Barack Obama expressed his sorrow in a White House statement that he felt the Americans are “in his debt”. He praised Peres’ diplomatic efforts on bringing together Israel and the US: “no one did more over so many years as Shimon Peres to build the alliance between our two countries”.

He was hailed as the “political giant” by Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and “an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, jointly with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, for their role in negotiating the Oslo Accords. It was aimed to the achievement of an independent Palestinian state.

He spent the first half of his political life ensuring Israeli military might and security, appointed several times to crucial roles such as Foreign minister and Defense minister.

During the 1950s, he reached a secret agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor at Dimona in the Negev desert. According to the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, the nuclear power reactor can produce estimated 100 and 200 nuclear warheads and remains as the biggest and sole nuclear armed-power in the Middle East.

Peres dedicated the second half in pursuit of bringing peace to his country. Before taken up the post of the ninth president of Israel in 2007, he served twice as prime minister, first between 1984 and 1986 with Likud; then later again after the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

He stayed in power until 1996 when he lost the election to Benjamin Netanyahu whom has been in premiership up to date.

In his later years, he became Israel's moderate face under the hardheaded leadership of Netanyahu. He insisted many times that peace between Israel and Palestine is around the corner and will not hesitate “to extend my life for a year or two” to promote that goal, told Peres in a 2013 interview.

He once spoke at the UN that “The time has come to comprehend that the real triumph is in the harvest of peace, not in the seeds of another war.”

However, he never had been fully entrusted by Israeli voters.

“At the ballot box they preferred a stern right winger in government,”concluded analyst Anshel Pfeffer. That is to say, today Peres’ death might lead to an end to the last flicker of hope in bringing the already tightened Israeli-Palestinian conflict into peace.

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