JERUSALEM (AFP) – Shimon Peres, former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, died on Wednesday aged 93. Here are key facts about him:
– Oslo accords –
Peres was one of the architects of the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians, reached in 1993 and 1995. The agreements provided for limited Palestinian autonomy and were intended to lead to a final peace agreement.
Peres was foreign minister under his Labour party rival Yitzhak Rabin. Both men along with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on Oslo.
He was also involved in peace efforts with Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel.
Peres never lost faith in the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I think it’s the only thing which is possible in order to bring an end to terror, violence and hatred,” he said earlier this year in an interview with Time magazine.
– Hawk turned dove –
Peres was a hawk who later became a dove. He said he was converted after 1977, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made a historic visit to Jerusalem, leading to the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty.
“I didn’t change, I think the situation has changed,” Peres told Time magazine in an interview published in February.
“As long as there was a danger to the existence of Israel, I was what you would call a hawk… The minute I felt the Arabs are open to negotiation, I said that’s what we prefer too.”
– Founding father –
He was seen as Israel’s last remaining founding father and held nearly every major office in a career spanning five decades.
He was prime minister between 1984 and 1986, then again from 1995-1996 after Rabin’s assassination. He served as president, a mainly ceremonial role, from 2007-2014.
He also served as foreign, defence and finance minister.
– Nuclear efforts –
As director general of the defence ministry in the 1950s, he oversaw the development of Israel’s nuclear programme with assistance from France.
Israel is now considered the Middle East’s sole nuclear power, but it has never declared it, maintaining a policy of ambiguity.
“Dimona (the site of Israel’s nuclear reactor) helped us to achieve Oslo,” he said in the Time interview.
“Because many Arabs, out of suspicion, came to the conclusion that it’s very hard to destroy Israel because of it, because of their suspicion. Well if the result is Dimona, I think I was right. Anyway, we?ve never threatened anybody with nuclear bombs, and we?ve never tested it.”
– Ben-Gurion as mentor –
Born in Poland in 1923, Peres emigrated to what was then British mandatory Palestine when he was 11.
He joined the Zionist struggle in the 1940s and met David Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel’s first prime minister and Peres’s mentor.
Elected to parliament in 1959, he served almost without interruption until becoming president in 2007.