On Tuesday afternoon, Shimon Peres, 93, suffered a mild stroke. Later that evening his condition worsened, and now (Wednesday morning) he is fighting for his life.
I was surprised at how sad I felt. After all, Shimon Peres is a man that I have bitterly criticized time after time. He was one of the so-called “architects of Oslo,” the men who secretly violated the law to negotiate with the PLO, and then presented their deal as a fait accompli to PM Rabin, who had no choice but to go along. How could an Israeli PM reject an offer of peace? Rabin thought he could manage the process, but the pressure that was immediately applied to him by the US placed him in the position of someone stuck on the back of an angry bull and told to ride. And then, ironically enough, he was assassinated by a right-wing extremist.
Coincidentally, Tuesday was the 23rd anniversary of the festive signing of the Oslo Accord on the White House Lawn. I wouldn’t have known – it is not a ‘festive’ day in Israel, not at all.
I wrote that the actions of Peres, Yossi Beilin and others bordered on treason. I wrote that Beilin and the ones who went to Oslo for secret talks with PLO representatives should be prosecuted, and that Peres, who as Foreign Minister directed the negotiations without informing Rabin, should be forced to retire from public life.
I opposed Peres’ candidacy for President of the State of Israel. He never repudiated Oslo, even after the Second Intifada that took the lives of more than 1000 innocent Israelis, even after it became clear that bringing Arafat and the PLO back from exile was the single worst mistake made by any Israeli government since 1948, even after PLO incitement gave us the “Stabbing Intifada.” An arrogant man, he never said “we were wrong,” he never apologized for his role (as far as I know, neither did Beilin).
His arrogance is the arrogance of the Left, the unwavering belief that they know better than the rest of us, and that the end justifies the means. Every time he opened his mouth I was annoyed.
I wanted to yell at him “Admit it! Admit you were wrong!” But he wouldn’t.
As President, he lived like Louis XIV. His maintenance cost Israel almost $16.5 million between 2012 and 2014.
And yet, I find myself feeling remarkably sorrowful. Because this man loves his country and loves the Jewish people in a way that very few of our politicians do. He came to Israel in 1934 at the age of 11, and as a young man he became involved in the politics of the yishuv. He took on many military and political responsibilities over the years, including numerous ministries and three terms as PM.
Some say that he was responsible for Israel’s obtaining its nuclear deterrent. I don’t know, but he did play a key role in building the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
Peres has always been a Zionist. Unlike some Ha’aretz writers, he never said that if the Jewish state failed to conform to his model, he would move to Europe. He does not believe that there is an irreconcilable conflict between the Jewishness of the state and democracy, nor that the former should be sacrificed in the name of the latter. A symbol of the Ashkenazi establishment, he nevertheless didn’t call anyone “chachchachim.”
Just hours before his stroke, Peres posted a video on Facebook (Hebrew), calling on Israelis to buy Israeli-made products, “not just because it’s more patriotic, but simply because they are better.”
May Shimon ben Sara have a full and speedy recovery.
I very much share the mixed feelings, but also something else. I feel an overwhelming gratitude to Shimon Peres and those of his generation whose efforts led to the creation of the state of Israel. Peres served Israel in so many ways and with a total dedication to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The record of his accomplishments is very long from the time of his first procuring weapons for the Jewish state to the developing of some of its more important civilian and military projects.
He also with his love for learning, for understanding human creative endeavors, represented a certain kind of ideal Israeli character- so strongly Jewish and so deeply involved in what is best in the human.
Above all his love and dedication to Israel have been the story of his life.