Peres, Shimon

Peres, Shimon

Shimon Peres was born August 21, 1923 in Vishneva in White Russia (then Poland). In 1931 the father, Yitzhak Persky, emigrated to Palestine. His family followed two years later. Peres joined the Haganah underground in 1941. He married Sonya Gelman in 1945 and they had two daughers and a son. Peres served as chief of the naval department in 1948, was sent to the United States in 1950 on an arms-procurement mission (as well as to complete his education), and was director-general of the ministry from 1953-1959. In his tenure at the Ministry of Defense he built an alliance with France that secured a source of arms, and helped to enlist Britain and France in the Suez campaign of 1956. He also embarked on a program to develop nuclear power and nuclear weapons for Israelael, convincing the French to help Israelael build a secret nuclear reactor beginning about 1957. 

He was first elected to the Knesset (parliament) in 1959. He then served as deputy defense minister. From 1969, Peres served as minister of immigrant absorption and minister-without-portfolio until August 1970, when he was became minister of transport and communication. In the aftermath of the 1973 War Peres briefly served as minister of information as part of a cabinet reshuffle. During this period, Peres was part of the right-wing of the Labor and actively encouraged settlement of the occupied West Bank. In 1974, Peres lost a contest for party leadership to Yitzhak Rabin. The Knesset endorsed the Rabin government in June, with Peres as minister of defense. He administered the occupied West Bank. Peres replaced Rabin as Labor party. In 1977 the party lost power for the first time since the Israel was founded in 1948. Peres remained Labor party chairman until 1992. In 1978, he was elected vice-president of the Socialist International and remained in that post for many years. 

Following the 1984 elections, a unity government was formed, with Peres and Yitzhak Shamir serving alternately as Prime Ministers. Elections in 1988 led to a second unity government, where Peres served as Finance Minister. In 1992 Peres lost party leadership to Yitzhak Rabin, who led the Labor party to victory in the 1992 elections. Peres was appointed foreign minister in the new Labor cabinet. Together with his assistant, Yossi Beilin, Peres was responsible for the negotiations that brought about the Oslo Accords. In 1994 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat in recognition of their role in the Oslo peace process. On November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Peres became prime minister. In February 1996, Peres called for new elections, Peres lost the elections by a narrow margin. In May 1997 Peres retired from his position as party head. Party leadership was taken over by Ehud Barak, who became Prime Minister in the elections of May 1999. Peres was proposed for the post of President of Israel, but lost the election in the Israeli Knesset to Moshe Katzav. However, after Barak lost the elections in 2000 to Ariel Sharon, he retired from politics, and Peres again became head of the Labor party. He served as foreign minister in the unity government of Ariel Sharon until Labor left the government prior to the elections of 2003.

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