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Posts Tagged ‘Shimon Peres’

Peres, Chamberlain, And The Quest For Peace

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Shimon Peres’s retirement as Israel’s president will be one more opportunity for journalists to try to sum up a career that has spanned the entire history of his nation. As was true of many other moments when it seemed as if Peres had exited the spotlight for good, eulogies may also be premature today.

Peres is planning on using his time in the future to promote various initiatives and may well seek to play the kingmaker of the left in future efforts to topple or replace Benjamin Netanyahu as the country’s prime minister. But since this is almost certainly the end of his time in public office, some appreciation of his impact on Israel is appropriate.

As an Agence France Presse article noted, at age 90 Peres truly can claim the title of “the last of Israel’s founding fathers.” That’s more than an honorific. As that piece pointed out, as an aide to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, Peres played a significant role in the creation of Israel’s defense establishment and nuclear deterrent. In the 1970s, he was seen as the leader of the more hawkish wing of the Labor Party and supported the building of the first West Bank settlements.

That he eventually became the leading figure in the peace movement and the architect of the failed Oslo process and then later left Labor to join Ariel Sharon’s centrist Kadima Party shows not so much his evolution as a thinker as the fact that opportunism can lead a politician, especially one who was considered an indefatigable schemer, all over the place if he hangs around long enough.

Nevertheless, despite decades of public service during which he held every major office his country could offer and enough achievements to fill several lifetimes, it is for Oslo and the peace process that Peres will be most remembered. That this, his most important initiative, failed cannot be denied and it is on that failure many will judge him. Yet those who are inclined to damn Peres for his colossal misjudgment of the Palestinians would do well to read Winston Churchill’s 1940 eulogy for Neville Chamberlain, the historical figure to which many of the outgoing Israeli president’s fiercest detractors often compared him.

Churchill despised Chamberlain’s appeasement policies as well as having no great personal affection for his former rival. But the death of the man who had come back from Munich waving a piece paper signed by “Herr Hitler” and saying that he had brought his country “peace for our time” did not cause Churchill to revisit Chamberlain’s obvious mistakes. The great orator chose a different frame of reference for thinking about the great appeaser:

It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart – the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

When in 1994 I asked Peres about the dangers of the path he was charting for Israel at the height of Oslo euphoria, he gave me his standard answer at the time. He said that such questions were like reading the disclaimer on the back of an airline ticket that warned of the possibility of a crash. One had to have faith in the pilot, the plane, and the importance of the destination, he told me, rather than dwell on the negative possibilities. As it turned out, the peace plane he was flying was badly constructed and operated more on his wishes than a grasp of reality, which led to its crash, a result that led to the deaths and injuries of many Israelis.

I’m So Glad Ruby Rivlin is Israel’s New President and Not Shitrit

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Thank G-d! Ruby Rivlin got 63 Knesset votes, and Shitrit didn’t make it.

Now in all honesty, I don’t expect miracles from Ruby. The position of President of Israel was created to be ceremonial, to free the Prime Minister from time consuming photo shoots with ambassadors and all. I trust that Ruby will be charming and not try to stretch the job into being a faux Prime Minister.

Shimon Peres tried to stretch stretched the position, because he really wanted to be Prime Minister and make policy to undermine Bibi Netanyahu. I had/have no doubt that if Meir Shitrit had been elected he would have attempted to continue Peres’s precedent.

So let’s wish Ruby Rivlin, Israel’s newest President a long, healthy and productive life.

Visit Shiloh Musings.  / Batya Medad

Mazal Tov, Mr. President: Peres Congratulates Rivlin

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

President Shimon Peres congratulated President-elect Reuven ‘Rubi’ Rivlin.

“Rubi, Your Excellency the next President of the State of Israel, you are right for this role. It is a position that brings with it responsibility, you have to consider your every word and every action, but you will do it successfully because you are, to your core, a good person. There is a handover period and I am at your disposal from this moment onwards with whatever you need. My team and I will do everything we can to ensure the handover is conducted is honorably and professionally and we do it gladly.”

President Peres continued and said, “I am at the end of my seven-year term as President and it is an incredible privilege to serve to our people. As President your role is to serve, not to rule and in my eyes there is no greater honor than to faithfully serve your nation and your people. You have all the qualities to do just that. I wish you luck and I am confident that you will succeed in your future, which is also the future of the State of Israel.”

President-elect Rivlin thanked President Peres and said, “I thank you on behalf of myself and my wife. I am stepping into big shoes, it won’t be easy to be the 10th President after your presidency in which you done a lot of good for humanity, thank you Shimon.”

Pope Francis Lashes Out at Nazi Murderers During Yad Vashem Visit

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Pope Francis has had a busy day so far in the ancient Old City of Jerusalem.

He began his day on the Temple Mount, in the Al Aqsa Mosque, visiting with the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Waqf Islamic Authority. The pontiff was quoted as telling both, “May we work together for justice and peace.”

Given the violence that has emanated week after week from that quarter towards Christians and Jews alike, that would seem to be a tall order. There is no information about the response of the Arab officials to the Pope’s comments at the mosque. On the first leg of his journey to the Holy Land, yesterday, he made an unscheduled stop at the separation barrier that was built by Israel to prevent suicide bombers from infiltrating and murdering citizens in areas of the country that were under the government’s control prior to 1967.

The Pope was then led to Judaism’s holiest site for prayer by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. The Kotel (Western Wall) had been cleared of visitors for security reasons earlier by police. The pontiff bowed his head in prayer with his hand on the ancient stones. He followed those silent moments of communion with the Creator by placing a note in the Wall — an ancient tradition observed by nearly everyone who comes to the Wall — and embraced close Jewish and Muslim friends with him.

Francis met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres and made a quick visit to the Mt. Herzl cemetery where he laid a wreath at the tomb of the ‘father of Zionism,’ Theodore Herzl. He then visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in a moving ceremony where he laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance and greeted six Holocaust survivors. There the pontiff questioned the role of G-d in the slaughter of the millions of victims murdered by the Nazis.

“The Father knew the risk of freedom, he knew that His children could be lost, yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss,” he reflected. Having lit the memorial light in the center just minutes before, he compared the Nazi Holocaust to idolatry, and standing before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a survivor, lashed out against the murderers.

“Who convinced you that you were G-d? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god. Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of G-d: ‘Adam, where are you?’ Hear “L-rd and have mercy,” Francis prayed. “We have sinned against You. You reign for ever.”

The Pope also received from Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev a reproduction of a painting of a Chossid engrossed in prayer created in the Lodz ghetto by a teenage victim of the Holocaust.

He is expected to celebrate Mass at the Cenacle, the upper room in the complex where some believe the tomb of the Biblical King David is located – and where Christians believe the Last Supper took place, sometime before leaving to return to the Vatican in the afternoon hours.

There have been protests against the Pope’s visit to various sites in the Old City of Jerusalem by both Muslim and Jewish groups, both saying the leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church is intent on defiling their respective holy places of worship.

Knesset to Choose Next President June 10

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Knesset members will choose Israel’s next president on June 10, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced Monday.

The decision to hold elections now is a political blow to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who tried to push off elections to replace retiring President Shimon Peres in order to block the election of current front runner, MK Reuven Rivlin.

“The current race has been muddied by slander and delegimitization,” Edelstein said, “which I feel has disgraced the process and caused severe damage to this important institution.”  While the Israeli president is technically the head of state, it is a position has traditionally been a ceremonial post, with little official jurisdiction. Presidents have little authority apart from granting pardons and accepting credentials from foreign diplomats to Israel.

Peres, however, has used the office as a personal soapbox. As president, he has remained outside politics, but has frequently voiced opinions on Israel’s diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority and other issues that have traditionally been considered outside the purview of the presidential office.

Seven who would be president

Currently, there are seven candidates for president. They include former Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Likud MK Silvan Shalom, former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. former finance minister MK Meir Sheetrit, former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner and Nobel Laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman.  Candidates have until May 27 to declare their candidacy, together with signatures from 10 Knesset members.

“I want to wish each of the [seven] candidates good luck, but beyond that I beseech and even demand of them, for me, for the Knesset and for the people of Israel, to behave with dignity, respect, decency, morality and integrity,” Edelstein continued.

Netanyahu’s Struggle for the Presidency

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Behind closed doors, President Shimon Peres is whispering (loudly) that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants to be a dictator over Israel.

That’s because the prime minister is attempting to end the president’s authorization to assign the top political party the task of assembling a governing coalition after each election.

Netanyahu also wants to postpone the presidential elections for up to six months, according to a report broadcast last week on Voice of Israel government radio. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein would take over the reins from Peres in July if the prime minister succeeds.

But according to a report last week in the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv, Netanyahu’s real goal is to abolish the presidency altogether.

Peres said in conversations with confidantes that Netanyahu’s initiative is “an attempt to establish a dictatorship here,” The Jerusalem Post reported. He claimed the prime minister would not “be satisfied until there is an absolute ruler [in the prime minister’s office].”

The president, who retires next month when he turns 90 years old, has always been far more active politically and diplomatically than is generally accepted. In that he is similar to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, also elderly, who has traveled to numerous nations around the world and freely spoken his mind, regardless of the impact his actions might have on U.S. relations or foreign policy in those regions – including here in the Middle East.

In the State of Israel, the position of president is one that is supposed to be primarily ceremonial, rather than actively political, and brings with it little actual authority. This has proved to be a major frustration for Shimon Peres, who has likewise felt the need to express his opinions regardless of whether they contradict those of his own government. Both men have created awkward situations for their governments and at times have even sabotaged their governments’ efforts as a result.

However, not every president is a Shimon Peres and new presidential elections are coming up fast. Netanyahu still has to drum up support for any move either to postpone elections or to eliminate a president’s ability to assign coalition-building — or for that matter abolish the post — and that’s not easy.

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin, 74, has a great deal of support for his candidacy in the upcoming election, and not only from Bayit Yehudi Housing Minister, MK Uri Ariel. Although Rivlin appears to be a genial man, he is not likely to allow himself to be sidelined so quickly, nor are his colleagues likely to be willing to sit silently by and let it happen.

His biggest rival, Binyamin Ben-Eleizer, 78, is another strong contender unlikely to allow Netanyahu to give away his right to assign coalition formation. The Iraqi-born former IDF general is close with the Sephardic population and maintains excellent relations with Arab leaders.

Silvan Shalom, 55, and a former finance and former minister, also has considered running for president but now may drop the idea. His candidacy would likely not succeed due to allegations of sexual offenses against former employees. At least one involved formal charges, but the case was dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. Each of the others did not materialize for various other reasons, according to a statement by the Justice Ministry last week.

There are also reports that former Soviet refusenik Natan Scharansky, 66 and currently director of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has been approached by various people asking him to toss his hat into the ring. Hugely popular, Scharansky has not yet discussed the matter in public.

Is Shimon Peres Preparing to Undermine Netanyahu?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Is Shimon Peres Planning to Undermine Netanyahu?

For some people, seven decades in political life would be considered a lifetime of service. At the age of 91, most people would be happy to leave the public eye and retire to a quiet life.

Not, apparently, Shimon Peres.

As Israel’s nonagenarian president enters his last month in office, Peres has begun showing signs that the end of his career as an elected official will not necessarily mean his exit from the political stage.

The Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Aharonoth reported on Yom HaAtzma’ut that Peres had violated his mandate as Israeli president by “negotiating” an updated version of the Oslo Accords with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in 2011. Today, the paper reported that the prime minister was furious at Peres’ comments, which appeared to be an opening salvo in a post-presidency in which Peres uses his international status as a senior Israeli spokesman to pressure Netanyahu to compromise vital interests in the name of appeasing the international community.

In Israel, the president has no authority to negotiate treaties, but Peres’ international recognition as a senior Israeli spokesman could put pressure on the prime minister

On Wednesday, Peres met with visiting US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, a meeting that ended with an announcement that Peres would travel to the United States next month to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.

During a joint press conference, Peres departed again from his largely ceremonial role to argue that “There’s no alternative to the two-state solution. Israel is reaching out for peace with all of its neighbors, primarily with the Palestinians.” Peres did not mention any of the many signs that the Palestinians do not appear ready to make peace with Israel, but Palestinian Authority leader Abu Mazen capitalised immediately on Peres’ attack on Netanyahu.

“After the first four meetings, a fifth meeting was planned in Amman,” the Palestinian leader said, “but Shimon Peres made his excuses and told me: ‘I’m sorry but the government doesn’t accept what we have negotiated and there’s nothing more I can do’.”
It should be noted that while Peres and Netanyahu have treated one-another cordially during their joint tenure as president and prime minister, respectively, there is also long-standing political blood between the two. Netanyahu was a fierce critic of Peres’ Oslo process during the 1990s, and narrowly defeated the Labor Party stalwart in the 1996 election following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/is-shimon-peres-preparing-to-undermine-netanyahu/2014/05/07/

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