Jonathan Cook writes: Famously in the late 1990s, [Shimon] Peres [the last major figure in Israel’s founding generation, who died today, age 93] made the mistake of asking a Labour party convention whether he was a “loser”. The delegates roared back: “Yes”.
Over two decades, Peres lost five elections in which he stood for prime minister.
Although he served in the top job on two occasions, he never won a popular mandate.
He briefly took over from Rabin after the latter was felled in 1995 by an assassin’s bullet. He was also prime minister in an unusual rotation agreement with his Likud rival Yitzhak Shamir after neither secured a parliamentary majority in the 1984 election.
Unlike Rabin and Ariel Sharon, two figures of his generation who enjoyed greater political acclaim, Peres suffered in part because he had not first made a name for himself in the Israeli army, Ezrahi observed.
He was seen as more uninspiring technocrat than earthy warrior.
Even on Israel’s left, said Roni Ben Efrat, an Israeli political analyst and editor of the website Challenge, he was viewed as an opportunist.
“His real obsession was with his own celebrity and prestige,” she said. “What he lacked was political principle. There was an air about him of plotting behind everyone’s backs. He was certainly no Nelson Mandela.”
Rabin, who tussled regularly with Peres for leadership of the Labour party, called him an “inveterate schemer”.
With Rabin’s victory in 1992, Peres was appointed number two and returned to what he did best: backroom deals, in this case a peace track in Norway that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
When Rabin was assassinated two years later, it was assumed that Peres would romp home in the general election a short time later, riding a wave of sympathy over Rabin’s death.
Instead he lost to Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who profited from the right’s campaign to discredit the peace process and its architects as “Oslo criminals”.
Peres would see out much of his remaining time in frontline politics providing a veneer of international respectability to right-wing Sharon governments through the second Intifada as they crushed the Palestinian leadership and built a steel and concrete barrier through the West Bank. [Continue reading…]
Anshel Pfeffer writes: Perhaps the final irony of Shimon Peres’ life was that his last act in the service of peace, remains secret and undocumented. As an octogenarian president, he observed the conventions of the ceremonial office and refrained from openly intervening in politics. That didn’t stop the commanders of the army and chiefs of the intelligence services turning to him for advice when they felt their political masters were dangerously wrong. Towards the end of his seven-year term, he was the secret leader of the faction within the defence establishment that successfully worked to block the plans of Netanyahu, the prime minister and the defence minister Ehud Barak to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations, before it could build an atomic bomb.
Ultimately he had to rely on the generals and spy chiefs to avert war. He never convinced ordinary Israelis to make the same leap of faith he had. [Continue reading…]