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Shimon Peres, who was the world’s oldest head of state when he retired as Israel’s president in 2014, was born in Poland on this date in 1923. Peres has served twice as country’s prime minister (and twice as interim prime minister), and was a member of a dozen Israeli cabinets. In 1994 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for Oslo Peace Accords, and in 1996 he established the Peres Center for Peace, which seeks to develop collaborative projects between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Peres was a protégé of David Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan. He serving as the head of Israel’s navy during the 1948 War, became director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry in 1953 at the age of 29, and served as minister of defense from 1959 and 1969, during which time he helped to create Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program and established the first Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Peres very slowly evolved into more of a dove than a hawk -- although it took him until 1993 to agree, publicly, to negotiate with the PLO and assent to a two-state solution -- and in the face of Israel’s rightwards shift under Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres has come across in recent years as an elder-statesman voice for humanism, peace, goodwill, and realism. To see him searching for his next job in a funny video produced by his own office, look below.
“Two states can bring peace. The lack of two states can prevent peace. And nations without peace, people without peace, are going to live in a terrible tragedy.” --Shimon Peres
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.