Measured life of the Israeli politician who, perhaps more than any other, made his nation into a military power, even as he worked for peace.
Throughout his long life, writes Bar-Zohar (Lionhearts, 1998, etc.), Shimon Peres has labored to make Israel secure. The octogenarian, with “just a normal lust for power,” has been a prominent presence in the nation’s politics since long before there was a nation. Bar-Zohar traces his early involvement in the kibbutz experiment, where, as a young socialist, he won a place in the postwar conferences leading to the establishment of the Jewish state. He was a civilian in the war following the end of the Mandate, however, which diminished his stature somewhat for years to come; independent of that, he was beginning to attract powerful enemies for many reasons, among them Golda Meir, who, it seems, could not bear even to be on the same airplane as Peres. (Said sometime Peres ally Teddy Kollek, “She doesn’t so much conduct a foreign policy as maintain a hate-list.”) In various roles, from minor official to defense minister, Peres worked diligently to establish alliances with the Western powers but was often rebuffed—particularly by the U.S. when it came to securing both conventional weaponry and nuclear capability, for which reason Peres turned to France and got what he needed. Military strength established, as a member of Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet and later as head of state, he “adopted moderate positions toward the Arab world and the Palestinians in particular,” a conciliation much at odds with stances he had taken previously. In 2006, at the height of the campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, he was busily promoting a plan for a “Corridor of Peace” along the valley of the Jordan River, where Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis would live and work together.
A revealing companion to Nir Hefez and Gadi Bloom’s Ariel Sharon: A Life (2006).