Shimon Peres fought for Israel

John O'Neill

Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday, was a tireless fighter for the Jewish state.

Peres served Israel in many capacities. But his three stints as prime minister were short-lived. Peres is best remembered for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 (which he shared with Rabin and Yasser Arafat) for his role in the Oslo Peace Accords. Ironically, those accords have yet to translate into a true and lasting peace twenty-two years later.

Peres was a statesman. But he was also very much a politician. As leader of the opposition left in Israel in the 1980s, Peres was a harsh critic of Jewish housing settlements on the West Bank and Gaza sponsored by Likud governments. But this was the same Shimon Peres who had advocated these very settlements as Israeli Defense Minister in the 1970s.

Until Menachem Begin’s right-wing Likud coalition came to power in 1977, the Israeli left was never shy about military options and/or Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza. For reasons purely political, the Israeli left switched gears and criticized the hard-line policies continued by the Israeli right as impediments to peace.

No one on Israel’s political left personified this hypocrisy more than Shimon Peres. But if Peres has a mixed legacy, he is also worthy of a favorable legacy. He explained with eloquence to other nations that Israel’s war was one for its existence. And in all his capacities, Peres fought for Israel’s existence.

Alas, peace was not realized in the life of Shimon Peres. But his greatest accomplishment in public life is largely overlooked. As minister of finance from 1988 to 1990, Peres took hold of Israel’s economy and reduced its triple digit inflation (estimated anywhere between 400 and 800 percent) to below 20 percent.

Considering how elusive peace was for Shimon Peres and how concrete were his accomplishments as minister of finance, perhaps the committee in Oslo should have awarded Peres the Nobel Prize for Economics rather than the Nobel Peace Prize.

Either way, Shimon Peres had an undeniable impact on Israel and the world.

John O’Neill is a writer based in Allen Park.