October 22nd 2016


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Bill Shorten imposes his political will on the nation

UKRAINE Russia responsible for MH17 crash: investigation

EDITORIAL Learning the lessons of SA power meltdown

THE ECONOMY Warnings call for new economic policies

CULTURE WARS Shame, pride and the AFL's arrogant posturing

OBITUARY Shimon Peres: last of Israel's elder statesmen

REGIONAL AFFAIRS Shifts in Australia-Indonesia relations

EUTHANASIA Paul Kelly makes the case against euthanasia

MANUFACTURING Australia's once and future car industry

MUSIC The dolorous tale of the disappearing tail

CINEMA In praise of professionalism: Sully

BOOK REVIEWS ASIO in the spotlight: official history vols I & II

LETTERS

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OBITUARY
Shimon Peres: last of Israel's elder statesmen


by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, October 22, 2016

Shimon Peres, who died in Israel aged 93, was probably the last giant of the post-war world’s statesmen.

Though he never wore military uniform or saw combat – facts which handicapped his political career – as Israel’s Minister for Defence he played a major role in building its initially makeshift forces into a first-rate military power. If others were more brilliantly successful, he kept the ship of the Israeli state afloat in hurricanes that threatened to overwhelm it.

Shimon Peres:
August 2, 1923 - September 28, 2016

He once said: “If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact – not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.” This cautious attitude, declining grandstanding heroics, helped pay the greatest of dividends – Israel’s survival.

Peres’ political career saw him hold the major offices of the state and also rebound from a remarkable number of defeats. He said: “I worked with a group of people who argued day and night – professors, officials, the Minister of Finance – but there were decisions that I had to make.”

A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he was Prime Minister of Israel on three occasions before becoming President. He lived to see a cautious improvement in Israel’s relations with the heads of moderate Arab states, especially Egypt, in the face of murderous Islamic State extremism.

His son Chemi said at the funeral: “Our father’s legacy has always been to look to tomorrow. We were privileged to be part of his private family, but today we sense that the entire nation of Israel and the global community share this great loss.”

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush said that Peres “time and again helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge. But it was by his innate humanity, his decency, that Shimon inspired the world over and helped pave a path to peace broad enough that future generations will walk it one day, side by side.”

Former President George W. Bush added that he and his wife Laura were mourning Peres’ death. “For the rest of his life, he led it with a deep and abiding concern for his people and a commitment to freedom and peace. The Bush family will miss Shimon Peres and his grace, dignity, and optimism.”

Peres was born Shimon Perski on August 2, 1923, in Vishneva, then in Poland. He moved to pre-state Palestine in 1934 with his immediate family. His grandfather and other relatives stayed behind and perished in the Holocaust.

In a seven-decade political career, Peres filled almost every position in Israeli public life and was credited with creating its nuclear arsenal in the 1950s, withdrawing troops from a military quagmire in Lebanon, and rescuing the Israeli economy from triple-digit inflation in the 1980s.

During his second of three terms as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peres shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their work on the Oslo Accords, though the intransigence of Arafat and the Palestinian leadership meant these were a failure. A year later, Peres took over as Prime Minister for the second time after Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist.

Peres was a protégé of Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. He was first elected to parliament in 1949 and later held every major cabinet post – including defence, finance and foreign affairs. Remarkably, and despite having no military experience, he was Minister for Defence in his 20s, the most vital position in the country.

However, in domestic Israeli politics he was regarded by many as both a utopian dreamer and a political schemer. He suffered a succession of electoral defeats: competing in five general elections for prime minister, he lost four and tied one. In 2007 he was chosen by parliament for a seven-year term as Israel’s ceremonial president. He was the world’s oldest head of state when he retired in July, 2014, at the age of 90.

He was the author of 10 books, several of which set out his vision for a new Middle East, where there was peaceful economic and cultural cooperation among all the nations of the region. He was an early advocate of a separate Palestinian state, but could never solve the problem of where such a state would be located, or how the Palestinian leadership could be brought to accept anything less than Israel’s total destruction.

Losing the 1999 election campaign to party colleague Ehud Barak, Peres rejected advice to retire, assuming the cabinet post of Minister for Regional Cooperation.

In 2001, aged 77, Peres became Foreign Minister in the government of national unity set up by Ariel Sharon, serving for 20 months before Labor withdrew from the coalition. He followed Sharon into a new party, Kadima, serving as deputy to Sharon and his successor, Ehud Olmert, before assuming the presidency. It is largely due to him that Israel’s diplomatic position has strengthened in recent years.




























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