Op-Ed: Saint Shimon
Shimon Peres has achieved sainthood. It’s not clear how it happened. Maybe it’s just that Israelis have a soft spot for the “pioneering” generation and Peres, a protégée of David Ben-Gurion, is the only one left standing.
It’s ironic as Israel’s current president was, until now, never popular with Israel’s voters. He may have been popular at one time with the Socialist International, of which he was voted vice president in 1978. He may have been popular with the Nobel Foundation, which gave him the prize for peace in 1994. And he may have been popular within his own Labor Party, of which he was chairman from 1977-1992.
But popular with the Israeli people? Not so much.
Peres did serve as Israel’s prime minister three times, but not because the Israelis voted for him. The first time was in 1977 when he stepped in for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, forced out over a scandal involving his wife’s bank account. He then attempted to lead the Labor party to victory in 1977 and 1981, failing both times. In 1984, he shared the top spot with Yitzhak Shamir when a Likud-Labor national unity government was formed. In 1995, he again stepped in for Prime Minister Rabin after the latter was assassinated. In 1996, he ran for prime minister and lost.
Peres was the man who could not be prime minister, at least by election. That was the way Israelis looked at him, calling him the "loser". This didn’t stop him from doing tremendous damage to the state, mainly outside the prime minister’s office.
It was as Foreign Minister in 1993 that he negotiated the Oslo Accords behind the government’s back and then presented it to Prime Minister Rabin as a fait accompli. The country still hasn’t managed to extricate itself from the gruesome results.
But the Israelis seem to have forgotten the reasons they didn’t like the man and he’s now treated with reverence – an untouchable according to MK Aryeh Eldad. The favorite public figure in Israel according to a recent poll in Haaretz.
Even though he continues to behave just as subversively as president as he did in every other position he held.
His dastardly character must have been evident early on because Moshe Sharett, Israel’s prime minister (1953-1955), wrote in his personal diary: “I have stated that I totally and utterly reject Peres and consider his rise to prominence a malignant, immoral disgrace. I will rend my clothes in mourning for the State if I see him become a minister in the Israeli government ....”
Sharett was a good judge of bad character. Over his career, Peres has made it a habit to undermine Israel’s duly elected governments. Most recently, he did it with the current one. Mr. Obama created a great deal of sturm and drang by calling for Israel to withdraw to the ’67 lines.
But less reported was that Mr. Peres reinforced that this was a good idea in a meeting with Obama six weeks before.
Shimon Shiffer reported in Yediot Ahronot on June 10: “Senior sources in the American Government told me that Obama and Peres agreed in a closed meeting between the two that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must be based on the principle of Israeli withdrawal to the '67 borders with border adjustments, or as Peres told Obama: the Palestinians must receive territory equal in size to the '67 borders. In other words, any territory that Israel demands to annex from the [West] Bank must be paid for by Israel with territory from the Negev.”
This underhandedness is par for the course with Peres. As Shmuel Katz wrote, with remarkable restraint, in “Squeezing Israel” (The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 1, 1982), following a visit Mr. Peres paid to Washington to consult in Reagan’s Mideast plans:
Shimon Peres has allowed himself – also in his public appearances in the U.S. – to stray far from the accepted norms of what is morally permissible in the political struggle. He is the first opposition leader in a democracy to campaign openly abroad against the foreign policy of his own country, to intrude himself into the handling of its diplomacy, and to allow himself to be manipulated into giving advice in effect to a foreign leader on how to contend with the policy of his own democratically elected government.
It becomes clear from the same article that Shimon Peres had it in his head that Israel should withdraw to the ’67 borders for many years. As Shmuel writes:
There is, however, a deeper significance in the fact that Mr. Peres has spoken approvingly of the “Reagan plan.” Many people have seen his remarks as an endorsement of the plan. It is certainly very nearly a complete endorsement. What else indeed does it mean when Mr. Peres says (on ABC television) that “we found in the president’s position a rather very close approach to our own?”
A very close approach? To a plan which calls in fact for the surrender of Gaza, of Samaria, of Judea including east Jerusalem? A “very close approach” to the traditional State Department doctrine which denies Israel’s rights beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines? A very close approach to the Rogers Plan – if newly-painted-and-powdered – whose acceptance Labour Prime Minister Golda Meir – in an interview in The New York Times on December 23, 1969 – declared (I wrote in error in a previous article that she had made the statement privately) “would be treasonable.”
Treason is a word Israelis have to dance around unless they want to end up in jail. So let’s use a secret code and call it mischief, for which Peres has an unlimited capacity. In most countries, Peres’ “mischief” would have at the least earned him an early and ignominious retirement. In Israel, he jet-sets around the world as its revered president; last of the pioneering generation, the nearest thing the Jewish State has to a saint.