Shimon Peres, Israeli leader instrumental in peace process, dies at 93
Then-Israeli President Shimon Peres gives an interview at his home in Jerusalem on July 15, 2014.(Dan Balilty / Associated Press)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from left, former President Shimon Peres and President Reuven Rivlin in Jaffa, Israel, on July 21, 2016.(Dan Balilty / Associated Press)
President Obama awards Israeli President Shimon Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on June 13, 2012.(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
Prime Minister Shimon Peres, right, meets with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Feb. 12, 1996.(Jerome Delay / Associated Press)
Prime Minister Shimon Peres, also serving as the country’s defense minister, is greeted by a military honor guard as he arrives at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Nov. 23, 1995.(Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, left, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, second from left, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, right, receive their Nobel Peace Prize from Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, in Oslo on Dec. 10, 1994.(Jerome Delay / Associated Press)
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres signs the historic Israel-PLO Oslo Accords on Palestinian autonomy in the occupied territories in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, an unidentified aide, President Bill Clinton and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat look watch on Sept. 13, 1993.(J. DAVID AKE / AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, right, views an honor guard, accompanied by Egyptian Prime Minister Ali Lutfy, as he arrives in Alexandria, Egypt, for a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak in 1986.(Paola Crociani / Associated Press)
Prime Minister Shimon Peres checks out a fighter jet during a tour of an Israeli Aircraft plant in Tel Aviv on Feb. 7, 1985.(Max Nash / Associated Press)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres, second from left, attends the funeral of Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, co-commander of an Israeli commando raid on a hijacked plane in Uganda, at his grave in Jerusalem on July 5, 1976. Some faces were painted out by censors for security seasons.(Max Nash / Associated Press)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, center, shakes hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir after their final political talks in Jerusalem on Nov. 21, 1977. At right is Shimon Peres.(Associated Press)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres, left, congratulates Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Feb. 23, 1977, in Tel Aviv after learning that Rabin was elected by members of the ruling Labor Party to represent it in the May 17 general elections.(Associated Press)
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, an omnipresent figure of the Israeli state, chief architect of its nuclear weapons program and a driving force behind its interim peace accords with the Palestinians, died Wednesday. He was 93.
The Nobel peace laureate had been hospitalized in the city of Ramat Gan over the last two weeks after suffering a stroke.
“With tears we confirm the passing of former President, Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Israel has lost a founding father, a light for peace,” the Israel News Agency said on Twitter.
Israel Radio reported that plans had been made for a public viewing of Peres’ coffin at the parliament building in Jerusalem, as is customary for former presidents and prime ministers. Cabinet officials were scheduled to convene later Wednesday to mourn together, according to the office of the prime minister.
“As a man of vision, he looked toward the future. As a man of security, he fortified the power of Israel in many ways. As a man of peace, he worked to his final days for reconciliation with our neighbors and for a better future for our children,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “There aren’t many people in our history who have contributed so much to the State of Israel and the people of Israel.”
Peres was an early advocate of the idea that Israel’s survival depended on territorial compromise with the Palestinians. But while he helped persuade the political mainstream to accept a two-state vision, he failed repeatedly to win a popular mandate to pursue it.
“Today, with deep sorrow, we bid farewell to our beloved father,’' Peres’ son, Nechemia, told reporters gathered at the hospital. “He was one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel and served our people even before we had a country of our own. He worked tirelessly for Israel from the very first day of the state to the last day of his life.”
An immigrant from Poland, Peres was the perennial outsider in a ruling elite dominated by native-born Israelis. His brief service as prime minister was overshadowed by five failed bids for election to that job.
Yet he was never far from the center of power. Through persistence and longevity, he held public office longer than any other member of Israel’s founding generation and attained the presidency, a ceremonial post, in his seventh decade of public life.
His legacy covered a range of military and diplomatic undertakings, some of them secretive, to preserve the Jewish state created in 1948.
His stealth missions to Europe in the 1950s helped build Israel’s military-industrial complex. He supported the Jewish settler movement as it set out after the 1967 Middle East War to build militarized communities on land claimed by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Later, convinced of the need to relinquish much of that conquest, he promoted secret negotiations that led to the Oslo accords. That earned him a share of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Photos of leaders, stars and other notable figures who died in 2016.
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Actress and writer Carrie Fisher rose to global fame as the trailblazing intergalactic heroine Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” franchise. She later established herself as an author and screenwriter with an acerbic comic flair. She was 60. Full obituary.(20th Century Fox)
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The helicopter gunner in the Vietnam War helped end the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. He was 67. Full obituary(Associated Press)
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Greg Lake, left, pictured with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer of the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, helped pioneer the expansive genre of progressive rock in the late 1960s and ‘70s. He was 69. Full obituary(Associated Press)
The hugely popular south Indian actress later turned to politics and became the highest elected official in the state of Tamil Nadu. She was 68. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
Lee overcame discrimination to become the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal and the first diver to win back-to-back gold medals in two different Olympics — in London in 1948 and Helsinki in 1952. He was 96. Full obituary(Los Angeles Times)
The former Cuban leader thrust his Caribbean nation onto the world stage by provoking Cold War confrontation and defying U.S. policy through 11 administrations. He was 90. Full obituary(Associated Press)
Best known for her portrayal of Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” Henderson
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Dubbed “Dr. Wonderful” by the media, the Texas surgeon performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States and the world’s first implantation of a wholly artificial heart. He also founded the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. He was 96. Full obituary(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
The prominent Los Angeles attorney went from defending his father, a powerful mob boss, to representing celebrities, corrupt businessmen, drug kingpins and the so-called Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss. He was 70. Full obituary(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
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Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest in 1975. In 1992, she also became the first woman to complete the “Seven Summits,” reaching the highest peaks of the seven continents. She was 77. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
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Nixon was the creative force behind the popular soap operas “One Life to Live” and “All My Children.” She was a pioneer in bringing serious social issues, like racism, AIDS and prostitution, to daytime television. She was 93. Full obituary(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)
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A seven-time professional major tournament champion, Palmer revolutionized sports marketing as it is known today, and his success contributed to increased incomes for athletes across the sporting spectrum. He was 87. Full obituary(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
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The Canadian novelist blended magical realism and baseball in his 1982 novel “Shoeless Joe,” which became the blueprint for the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie “Field of Dreams.” He was 81. Full obituary(Associated Press)
The longtime Los Angeles liberal lion was a friend of kings, presidents, moguls and Hollywood stars who used his wealth and connections to advance a wide range of causes and candidates. He was 96. Full obituary(Los Angeles Times)
The ska pioneer and Jamaican music legend recorded thousands of records, including such hits as “Al Capone” and “Judge Dread.” He helped ignite the ska movement in England, and later helped carry it into the rock-steady era in the mid-1960s. He was 78. Full obituary(Larry Ellis / Getty Images)
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Jerry Heller, the early manager of N.W.A, was an important and colorful personality in the emerging West Coast rap scene in the 1980s. Heller was 75. Full obituary(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Two-time Oscar nominee Gene Wilder brought a unique blend of manic energy and world-weary melancholy to films as varied as 1971’s children’s movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and the 1980 comedy “Stir Crazy.” He was 83. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
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Known as the “queen of knitwear,” Sonia Rykiel became a fixture of Paris’ fashion scene, starting in 1968. French President Francois Hollande praised her as “a pioneer” who “offered women freedom of movement.” She was 86. Full obituary(Thibault Camus / Associated Press)
The conservative political commentator hosted the long-running weekly public television show “The McLaughlin Group” that helped alter the shape of political discourse since its debut in 1982. He was 89. Full obituary(Kevin Wolf / Associated Press)
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The British actor, who was 3-foot-8, gave life to the “Star Wars” droid R2-D2, one of the most beloved characters in the space-opera franchise and among the most iconic robots in pop culture history. He was 81. Full obituary(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
For many in L.A., Folsom was the face of the Parent Teacher Student Assn., better known as the PTSA or PTA. He served as the official and unofficial watchdog over the Los Angeles Unified School District and wrote about his experiences in his blog. He was 69. Full obituary(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Fountain combined the Swing Era sensibility of jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman with the down-home, freewheeling style characteristic of traditional New Orleans jazz to become a national star in the 1950s as a featured soloist on the “The Lawrence Welk Show.” He was 86. Full obituary(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Born Youree Harris, Cleo became a cultural icon as the spokeswoman for Psychic Readers Network, where she starred in infomercials as a Jamaican psychic, replete with accent, who used tarot card readings to advise individuals using the pay-per-call service on their futures. She was 53. Full obituary(Associated Press)
Lowery was a pioneer in efforts to help people suffering from poverty, addiction and mental illness move out of tents and cardboard boxes on Los Angeles’ sidewalks and into supportive housing. She was 70. Full obituary(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Nixon, a Hollywood voice double, can be heard in place of the leading actresses in such classic movie musicals as “West Side Story,” “The King and I” and “My Fair Lady.” She was 86. Full obituary(Rob Kim / AFP/Getty Images)
The department store heir’s widow was a socialite and philanthropist who hobnobbed with the world’s elite, epitomized high fashion and was best friends with former first lady Nancy Reagan. She was 93. Full obituary(Evan Agostini / Associated Press)
The writer and director is best known for his TV hits “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” and the box-office successes “Pretty Woman” and “Runaway Bride.” He was 81. Full obituary(Los Angeles Times)
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One of the greatest basketball coaches of any gender or generation, Summitt spent 38 years as coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team before dementia forced her early retirement. She was 64. Full obituary(Wade Payne / Associated Press)
The iconic New York Times fashion photographer darted around New York on a humble bicycle to cover the style of high society grand dames and downtown punks with equal verve. He was 87. Full obituary(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
Aguirre was best known for his portrayal of the towering “Profesor Jirafales,” the likable and often disrespected giraffe teacher on the 1970s-era hit show “El Chavo del Ocho.” The screwball comedy helped usher in an era of edgier comedy in Mexico and elsewhere. Aguirre was 82. Full obituary(AFP / Getty Images)
Known as “Mr. Hockey” for his enduring skills and fierce competitiveness, Howe was a member of hockey’s Hall of Fame and a longtime ambassador for the game. He was 88. Full obituary(Associated Press)
The Academy Award-winning British playwright is best known for his stage dramas “Amadeus” and “Equus,” which were both turned into acclaimed movies. “Amadeus” won eight Oscars, including one for Shaffer for adapted screenplay and one for best picture. He was 90. Full obituary(Mike Lawn / Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)
The three-time heavyweight boxing champion’s brilliance in the ring and bravado outside it made his face one of the most recognizable in the world. He was 74. Full obituary(John Rooney / Associated Press)
Crouch, the co-founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network, was one of the most recognizable and enduring figures in Orange Country’s televangelism pantheon. She enjoyed vast, loyal support from viewers of “Praise the Lord,” the show in which she appeared with her husband, Paul. She was 78. Full obituary( Mark Boster / The LA Times)
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The first African American chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Williams steadied the agency in the tumultuous wake of the 1992 riots but was distrusted as an outsider by many officers and politicians. He was 72. Full obituary(Nick Ut / Associated Press)
A KPCC stalwart since 2000, Julian was a brisk, unflappable and earnest on-air presence familiar to masses of weekday public-radio listeners on their morning commutes. Outside work, he was a playwright and actor, active in local theater. He was 57. Full obituary(Bill Youngblood / KPCC)
The trailblazing performer sold more than 100 million records over his career, fusing rock, pop, funk and R&B. He was 57. Full obituary(Associated Press)
Best known for her role as Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Roberts won four Emmys for her work on that show and one for her work on “St. Elsewhere.” She was 90. Full obituary(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Known as “the godfather of Rodeo Drive,” Hayman was a serial entrepreneur whose eye for trends, nose for fragrances and hospitality-driven approach to retail helped shape the luxury landscape of Beverly Hills. He was 90. Full obituary(Associated Press)
The country music legend sang of his law-breaking Bakersfield youth and penned a stream of No. 1 hits. He owed some of his fame to conservative anthems, including the combative 1969 release “Okie from Muskogee,” which seemed to mock San Francisco’s anti-war hippies. He was 79. Full obituary(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
The acclaimed Native American historian was the last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He was 102. Full obituary(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Germany’s longest-serving foreign minister brokered an end to the painful 40-year division of his homeland in 1990, but only after persevering for decades through the most tragic and destructive phases of Germany’s 20th century history. He was 89. Full obituary(Martin Meissner / Associated Press)
The Iraqi-born British architect was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor. She made her mark with buildings such as the London Aquatics Centre, the MAXXI museum for contemporary art in Rome and the innovative Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. She was 65. Full obituary(Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)
The former television talk show host became the first openly gay man to serve on the Los Angeles City Council. He advocated for the homeless, gays and lesbians and other liberal causes. He was 70. Full obituary(Christina House / For The Times)
Duke won an Oscar at age 16 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” the youngest person at the time to receive the honor. She was also known for her bouncy 1960s TV sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show.” She was 69. Full obituary(Associated Press)
Garry Shandling’s comedic career spanned decades, but he is best known for his role as Larry Sanders, the host of a fictional talk show. His sitcom pushed the boundaries of TV, influencing shows such as “The Office” and “Modern Family.” He was 66. Full obituary.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Ken Howard was president of SAG-AFTRA and an actor known for his role on TV’s ‘The White Shadow.’ He championed the merger of Hollywood’s two largest actors unions, which had a history of sparring. He was 71. Full obituary(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Phife Dawg, right, formed the trailblazing hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest in the late 1980s in New York with his childhood friend Q-Tip, left. He was 45. Full obituary(Los Angeles Times)
The former first lady’s devotion to her husband made her a formidable behind-the-scenes player in his administrations and one of the most influential presidential wives in modern times. She was 94. Full obituary(American Vantage Media )
Martin, second from right, with Paul McCartney, left, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon in 1963, produced nearly all the Beatles’ recordings, advising them on songwriting and arranging and capturing the vitality of their early performances in the studio. He was 90. Full obituary(Michael Ochs Archives )
The longtime Los Angeles radio disc jockey, whose real name was Art Ferguson, hosted the morning radio show for popular and influential station KHJ-AM in the late 1960s and went on to be a key player in the launch of latter-day powerhouses KROQ-AM and KIIS-FM. He was 71. Full obituary(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
The veteran actor built his early career playing heavies and won an Academy Award in 1968 for his supporting role as the tough Southern prison-camp convict who grew to hero-worship Paul Newman’s defiant title character in “Cool Hand Luke.” He was 91. Full obituary(Warner Bros. / Getty Images)
A prolific entrepreneur, Mann over the course of seven decades founded 17 companies in fields ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals to medical devices. He was 90. Full obituary(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
The Egyptian diplomat helped negotiate his country’s landmark peace deal with Israel but then clashed with the United States when he served a single term as U.N. secretary-general. He was 93. Full obituary(Marty Lederhandler / Associated Press)
The novelist’s 1960 masterpiece “To Kill a Mockingbird” brought her a Pulitzer Prize and a venerated place in American literature. She was 89. Full obituary(Donald Uhrbrock / PBS)
Supreme Court Justice Scalia was a fiery conservative who used a sharp intellect, barbed wit and a zeal for verbal combat to fight against the tide of modern liberalism. He was 79. Full obituary(Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
Pro-BMX biker Dave Mirra was one of the most decorated athletes in X Games history. He held the record for the most medals in history with 24. He was 41. Full obituary(Ed Reinke / Associated Press)
Maurice White, co-founder and leader of the groundbreaking ensemble Earth, Wind & Fire, was the source for a wealth of euphoric hits in the 1970s and early ‘80s, including ‘Shining Star,’ ‘September,’ and ‘Boogie Wonderland.’ He was 74. Full obituary(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Once a finalist for California poet laureate, Alarcón was known for his bilingual poetry about immigrants, love and the indigenous languages and traditions of Mexico, and also for bilingual books of children’s verse. He was 61. Full obituary(Nancy Aidé Gonzalez )
A founding member of the Eagles, Frey was credited with being the chief architect of the vocal and instrumental blend that defined the group. The group’s hits included “Best of My Love” and “Hotel California.” He was 67. Full obituary
(Gijsbert Hanekroot / Redferns)
In a career that encompassed everything from big-budget Hollywood movies to classical theater, Rickman made bad behavior fascinating to watch from “Die Hard” to the “Harry Potter” movies. He was 69. Full obituary
The barrier-breaking British rock musician and actor produced an astonishing range of work, from cosmic folk (“Space Oddity”) and glam rock (“Ziggy Stardust”) to blue-eyed soul (“Young Americans”) and electronic experiments with Brian Eno (“Heroes”). He was 69. Full obituary
The composer and former principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic was known for pushing music lovers and the music establishment to let go of the past and embrace new sounds, structures and textures. He was 90. Full obituary(Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
The Academy Award winner was revered as one of the most influential cinematographers in film history for his work on classics including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “The Deer Hunter.” He was 85. Full obituary(Tamas Kovacs / EPA)
Gordon helped revolutionize surfing with the creation of the foam surfboard. His polyurethane boards were lighter and easier to ride, making surfing accessible -- which helped popularize the sport globally. He was in his 70s. Full obituary(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune/ZUMA Press)
The attorney and almond farmer was known for his battle to stop the $68-billion California bullet train project from slicing up his almond orchards -- part of a deeply emotional land war that has drawn in hundreds of farming families from Merced to Bakersfield. He was 92. Full obituary
Resisting the legacy of her famous father, crooner Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole was a singer in her own right. Known for her jazz and gospel-inflected voice, she sold more than 30 million albums and earned nine Grammy Awards over her four-decade career. She was 65. Full obituary(Los Angeles Times)
The accords set up limited Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories. They lay groundwork for a statehood agreement that none of the three Oslo framers lived to see and, after years of sporadic violence, remains elusive.
Wednesday’s news of his death was felt worldwide.
In a condolence statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon described Peres as a “good partner” of the United Nations who sought to deepen Israel’s contribution to the international community.
“I met Mr. Peres on many occasions, and always benefited from his views,’' Ban said. “Even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace.”
A spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry said they were expecting President Obama, Pope Francis, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to attend Peres’ funeral. World leaders from Germany, France and Canada are also on the list, said the spokesman.
Until his twilight years, Peres enjoyed far more respect abroad than at home.
The wit and eloquence that charmed foreign leaders held little sway with Israeli voters, who preferred earthier politicians and military heroes. Peres, who never served in combat, was mocked at home as an “accomplished loser” who repeatedly hurt his own career through scheming, timidity, aloofness and vanity.
Although he spent 48 years in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and served in a dozen Cabinets, he gained the prime minister’s job for just two short periods, first in a power-sharing deal and then in the wake of Rabin’s assassination.
Only at age 83 did he find fulfillment as an elder statesman. The parliament elected him in 2007 to a seven-year term as president, making him Israel’s titular head of state.
Stepping beyond the protocol duties of that office, he exerted a moderating influence on the hawkish government that came to power two years later while helping to smooth its relationships with the West.
By then his age and experience had won Peres acceptance and admiration across Israel’s political spectrum.
He maintained a youthful energy and optimism late into life. He spoke passionately about nanotechnology and innovations Israel could embrace, such as stem-cell research and alternative energies to counteract the power of oil. He championed the electric car.
“He is over 80, but what interests him — and this is not a pretense — is what will happen 40 years from now,” Oz told Michael Bar-Zohar for the latter’s biography of Peres. “He lives as if all that has happened so far is only a prelude.”
Peres was born Szymon Persky on Aug. 2, 1923, in the small Jewish village of Wiszniewo, then part of Poland and now in Belarus.
His father was a lumber merchant, his mother a librarian. His maternal grandfather, a rabbi, enforced his strictly observant upbringing. Peres was a first cousin of the actress Lauren Bacall, who was born Betty Joan Perske in New York in 1924.
In 1934 Peres’ Zionist father brought the family to Palestine, then ruled by the British under a United Nations mandate. In his 1995 memoir, “Battling for Peace,” Peres said the move liberated him from Orthodox life. He embraced secular Zionism, helped found a kibbutz in his late teens and changed his name to Peres, Hebrew for a kind of bearded vulture.
His election as secretary-general of a socialist youth group in 1941 brought Peres to the attention of the Zionist movement’s elders.
Four years later he married a fellow kibbutz member, Sonia Gelman, who would stay out of the public eye throughout his political career. They had two sons and a daughter, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A year before Israel’s independence, Peres joined the high command of Haganah, the underground Jewish fighting force that was the precursor to the Israeli army, and became head of its manpower and weapons procurement divisions. When war erupted between Arab armies and the nascent Jewish state, he did not volunteer to fight, although his wife did.
Peres said later that his weapons procurement work was important for the nation.
And it was. He was credited with founding Israel’s aerospace industry; securing a reliable flow of weapons from France in the 1950s when other Western nations were refusing to sell arms to the new state; and persuading the French government to sell Israel the reactor that formed the basis of its still-unacknowledged nuclear weapons program.
He rose through the bureaucratic ranks of the Defense Ministry as an aide and protege of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. He helped Ben-Gurion found Mapai, precursor to the left-leaning Labor Party that would dominate Israeli politics for nearly three decades.
But his lack of combat action would prove to be a liability in a nation that valued politicians with leadership experience in battle.
That handicap hurt Peres in his rivalry with Rabin, an independence war hero who usually overshadowed his Labor Party colleague.
The native-born Rabin treated Peres with contempt during much of their relationship, a long-running drama that helped define Israel’s rough-and-tumble politics from the 1960s until Rabin’s death in 1995.
Peres became defense minister in 1974 at the start of Rabin’s first term as prime minister. Rabin said later he made the appointment against his better judgment, under pressure from his rival’s supporters.
“I did not consider Peres suitable, since he had never fought in the [army] and his expertise in arms purchasing did not make up for that lack of experience,” Rabin wrote in his memoir. Peres later used the Defense Ministry’s powers to undermine him at every turn, Rabin complained.
Each man took credit for masterminding the 1976 commando operation that rescued Israeli and Jewish hostages held by Palestinian and German hijackers at Uganda’s Entebbe airport. Each accused the other of poor leadership in that confrontation.
As defense minister, Peres oversaw the occupied territories and was supportive, historians say, of the large-scale colonization by Jewish settlers that would complicate his later efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.
Israelis poked fun at his mannerisms and the Polish accent he never lost. Israel calls its native-born sons and daughters “sabras” after the desert fruit that is soft on the inside but prickly on the outside. Unlike the sabra, Peres was always smooth and well-polished on the outside.
Inside he was shy; he rarely displayed emotion in public. Until his later years, Israelis sensed in him an all-consuming political ambition rather than any solid ideological foundation. They were uneasy with his styled hair, well-cut suits, flowery rhetoric and penchants for traveling abroad and surrounding himself with intellectuals.
In his memoir, Rabin branded Peres an “indefatigable schemer,” and the criticism hurt. Armed with Rabin’s writings, the right-wing Likud party painted Peres as a scoundrel and defeated him in a string of elections after Rabin’s resignation in an ethics scandal in 1977.
Peres became prime minister in 1984, but only in a power-sharing accord with Likud after elections failed to produce a clear winner.
He served for two years, instituting policies that sharply reduced Israel’s triple-digit inflation and its military occupation of Lebanon.
After handing the job to Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir, Peres became foreign minister but ran afoul of his boss. He met secretly with Jordan’s King Hussein and struck a deal to open Arab-Israeli peace talks. Shamir rejected it.
That effort signaled Peres’ commitment to territorial compromise. He later wrote that the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, which erupted in 1987, could have been avoided had the Reagan administration persuaded Shamir to accept the agreement.
Fed up with Peres’ election losses, Labor turned again to Rabin, who led it to victory in 1992.
With Rabin in the top job and Peres as foreign minister, the old rivals found grudging mutual respect and worked together to advance peace negotiations.
The following year Peres learned from his deputy about exploratory discussions underway in Norway between Israeli academics and emissaries of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. Peres then persuaded Rabin to upgrade the secret contacts, opening formal negotiations with the PLO.
Peres would become the Israeli leader most closely identified with the outcome, the 1993 Oslo agreements.
In the right-wing backlash against the accords, a Jewish extremist assassinated Rabin after a Tel Aviv peace rally in November 1995. The gunman later told investigators he had intended to kill Peres too, but Peres left the stage a few minutes before Rabin did.
The killing brought Peres back to the prime minister’s office to lead a nation in mourning and to organize elections. He accelerated the army’s withdrawal from Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
But a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings was turning the Israeli mood against the Oslo accords. Peres lost the 1996 vote to Likud’s Netanyahu, and the peace process stalled.
Peres’ career seemed finished in 2000 when he ran for president and lost to a relatively obscure Likud politician, Moshe Katsav, in an upset vote in parliament.
After three stints as Labor leader, he lost the post in 2005 and quit the party, his longtime ideological home on the left.
By that time the momentum of the Oslo accords had collapsed in the violence of a second Palestinian uprising. Seeking a new path, Peres joined forces with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as Sharon left Likud in 2005 to form a new centrist party, Kadima.
He supported Sharon’s decision to pull Israel’s troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip unilaterally, calling it a victory for his philosophy that the land must be partitioned between two peoples, with or without negotiations.
“I didn’t join Sharon,” he said. “Sharon joined me.”
But that did not discourage Peres, who backed a new round of peace talks with the late Arafat’s heirs in the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership.
“Shimon really believes in the chance to make peace,” Sharon said before suffering a stroke and falling into a coma in 2006. “He tried and didn’t let go.... He is the man who never despairs.”
The Israeli electorate did not always share his optimism. Three years after Ehud Olmert took over from the disabled Sharon and made Peres his deputy, a Likud-led coalition with Netanyahu at the helm returned to power in 2009.
By that time, Peres was president, enjoying a political rebirth. His prestige at home was enhanced, paradoxically, by the advent of Netanyahu’s conservative government and its initial resistance to the U.S.-backed goal of Palestinian statehood.
Peres played a quiet mediating role between Netanyahu and President Obama. He visited the new American leader before Netanyahu did, to try to smooth the way.
Then he helped coax Netanyahu to accept the idea of a Palestinian state, albeit with limitations — a shift that vindicated Peres’ long-held view.
According to Israeli media reports, Peres held several rounds of secret talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about renewing frozen negotiations with Netanyahu, but the effort did not succeed.
Israelis felt more comfortable with Peres as an international spokesman for their country than they did with Netanyahu’s ultranationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
They also valued Peres for restoring honor to the presidency. His predecessor, Katsav, was indicted on charges of rape, indecent acts and sexual harassment; Katsav’s predecessor, the late Ezer Weizman, stepped down early amid allegations of financial wrongdoing.
After leaving office, Peres never completely retired from public life: He continued to work with the peace center that carried his name and he continued to hold forth on foreign affairs in media interviews.
“I have one weakness,’' he told Israel’s Army Radio in November. “I don’t like vacations. I like to work.”
Boudreaux is a former Times staff writer. Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson in Washington and special correspondent Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.
11:43 p.m.: This article was updated with world leaders expected to attend Peres’ funeral.
11:26 p.m.: This article was updated with a statements from world leaders.
9:25 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Peres’ son.
This article was originally published at 7:25 p.m.
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