Quick Facts: Shimon Peres

September 28, 2016 IMEU
Quick Facts: Shimon Peres
  • Shimon Peres (1923-2016) was an Israeli politician who served as prime minister (1995-1996, 1984-1986), president (2007-2014), and in numerous cabinet positions, including defense minister (1995-1996), and foreign minister (2001-2002, 1992-1995, 1986-1988). 
  • Born Szymon Perski in 1923 in Belarus, then part of Poland, before immigrating to Palestine in 1934, which was under British control at the time.
  • Became active politically in the early 1940s, joining the Mapai party, which would dominate Israeli politics for decades after the state's establishment, eventually becoming the Labor party. 
  • In 1947, joined the forerunner to the Israeli army, the Haganah paramilitary. Was responsible for supplying weapons to the Haganah and the army, which ethnically cleansed upwards of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land during Israel’s establishment as a Jewish majority state in 1948.
  • In 1956, as Director-General of the Ministry of Defense, was responsible for planning Israel’s invasion of Egypt, in collusion with Britain and France, during the Suez Crisis. Following pressure from the United States, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Egpyt's Sinai Peninsula.
  • During the 1950s and 1960s, played a central role in Israel's secret nuclear program and development of atomic weapons.
  • In the 1970s, as defense minister, was a key figure in the start of Israel's illegal settlement enterprise in the Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli military in the 1967 War (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza), overseeing the establishment of some of the first settlements in the West Bank.
  • Worked closely with apartheid South Africa as defense minister and prime minister in the 1970s and 1980s, helping the racist white regime acquire arms and develop nuclear weapons while much of the rest of the world was attempting to isolate it with boycotts, sanctions, and arms embargoes.
  • Was involved in negotiating the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s, which entrenched and expanded Israel's military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories and its settlement enterprise. Along with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the Oslo Accords, before their failure to achieve peace was evident.
  • In 1996, as prime minister, launched a 16-day assault against Lebanon ("Operation Grapes of Wrath") that killed more than 150 civilians, including the bombing a UN compound in the village of Qana in Southern Lebanon, that killed more than 100 people who were seeking refuge, wounding more than 350 others. The UN and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), condemned what became known as the “Qana Massacre” as a war crime. In its report on the incident, Amnesty determined that Israel “intentionally attacked the UN compound, despite Israeli claims that the attack was a mistake.” while HRW stated that the Qana bombing and other Israeli attacks raised “grave concerns about Israel's compliance with the laws of war.”
  • Held the largely ceremonial post of president from 2007 in increasingly hard-right governments until retiring in 2014.