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Peres, Shimon (Born Perski, 1923–)

PERES, SHIMON (born Perski, 1923–)

Israeli political figure, prime minister of Israel (1984–1986 and 1995–1996). Born in 1923 in Poland, Shimon Peres emigrated to Palestine in 1934, where he joined the Zionist youth movement, Ha-Noʿar Ha-Oved. Between 1941 and 1944, he was secretary general of this movement, participating in the creation of kibbutz Alumot. In 1947, he joined the Haganah, then led by David Ben-Gurion, who the next year, as prime minister of the new State of Israel, made him head of Israel's navy. In 1953 Ben-Gurion appointed him Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, a position in which, among other achievements, he participated in secret arms negotiations with the French prior to the Sinai campaign of 1956 and was responsible for Israel's nuclear program.

In 1959 he was elected to a MAPAI seat in the Knesset, and was deputy minister of defense in the successive governments of David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol from 1959 to 1965. He then left the Defense Ministry to help Ben-Gurion founded a new party, RAFI, of which he became secretary general. In 1968, he participated in the creation of the Israel Labor Party, formed through the merger of MAPAI, RAFI, and Ahdut ha-Avodah. The following year he was named minister without portfolio in the government of Golda Meir, responsible for economic development in the occupied territories. From this time on, he advocated the idea of the creation of an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian regional economic entity.


Between 1970 and 1974, Perez was minister of transport and communication, then of information. In 1974, he became defense minister in the government of Yitzhak Rabin; and in 1977, after Rabin's resignation as prime minister, he was elected to lead the Labor Party. It lost the next two elections; then in 1984, no party having a majority in the Knesset, a national unity government was formed, with Shimon Peres as prime minister and Yitzhak Shamir as foreign minister. Under a rotation agreement, in 1986 the two men switched roles. From 1988 to 1990, Peres was deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

In the 1992 elections the Labor party regained power, and Peres was named foreign minister in the government of Yitzhak Rabin. In that capacity he negotiated the later stages of the Oslo Accords and convinced Rabin to support them. For his role in achieving this agreement, he, along with Rabin and Yasir Arafat, received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

In November 1995, after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres again became prime minister, serving until the following May, when Labor lost power to Likud. In June 1997, he was defeated by Ehud Barak in the election for chairmanship of the Labor party; but he continued as a member of the Knesset. On 6 July 1999 he was appointed minister of regional cooperation in the Barak government, serving until 2001. In July 2000 he was defeated in the election for the presidency of the State of Israel by his Likud rival, Moshe Katsav. In March 2001, after the defeat of Ehud Barak in the elections for prime minister, Peres agreed to join a government of national unity, led by the head of Likud, Ariel Sharon, in the capacity of deputy prime minister and foreign minister. In October 2002, however, Peres and other Laborites resigned from the Sharon government. In June 2003, after Labor's defeat under Amram Mitzna's leadership in the May elections, the party once again selected Peres as its leader.

SEE ALSO Ahdut Ha-Avodah; Ben-Gurion, David; Haganah; Israel Labor Party; MAPAI; Oslo Accords; Rabin, Yitzhak; RAFI Party.

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