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Shimon Peres, former Israeli leader, dies aged 93

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Leading political figure served twice as prime minister, once as president and won Nobel peace prize

Shimon Peres, one of Israels defining political figures and a Nobel peace prize laureate, has died at the age of 93, two weeks after having a stroke, the official Israel News Agency has confirmed.

Peres had twice served as prime minister of Israel and later as the countrys ninth president. He had been seriously ill on a respirator in an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv and died after his condition deteriorated sharply.

His defining achievement was as one of the key architects of the Oslo peace accords for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize with the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Within hours of his death, tributes to Peres began from world leaders. In a statement following his death, president Barack Obama described Peres as: the essence of Israel itself.

He added: As Americans, we are in his debt because, having worked with every US president since John F Kennedy, no one did more over so many years as Shimon Peres to build the alliance between our two countries an unbreakable alliance that today is closer and stronger than it has ever been.

Former president president George H W Bush also praised his unyielding determination and principle, Shimon Peres time and again helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge.

Canadas prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said: Shimon Peres was, above all, a man of peace and a man dedicated to the wellbeing of the Jewish people who he said was was devoted to promoting understanding between his country and its neighbours, and shared a Nobel peace prize for his efforts to create peace in the Middle East.

Peres
Peres signs the Oslo accords in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, watched by (background L to R) Rabin, Bill Clinton and Arafat. Photograph: J David Ake/AFP/Getty Images

Peres was rushed to hospital on 13 September after he reported feeling ill. After several tests he was diagnosed as having had a stroke.

The last surviving figure associated with the founding of modern Israel, Peress life story tracked many of the most important moments in the countrys short history, which saw him move from being a hawk to a peacemaker a legacy that substantially unravelled in recent years, to his dismay.

Long a deeply divisive figure in Israeli politics, in later life Peres became one of the countrys most popular public figures, serving a seven-year term as president from 2007-14.

Peres,
Peres, then foreign minister, speaks to the media after meeting George Bush Jr to arrange a ceasefire to end seven months of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed in 2001. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

In his peoples eyes he ceased to be a politician. He became an historic figure, larger than politics, larger than everyday affairs, a figure in a league of his own, the Yediot Ahronot columnist Nahum Barnea wrote shortly after he became ill, in one among many retrospectives of his long career.

Even after his presidential term ended, Peres remained a high-profile figure who continued to make interventions on the countrys political direction and sought to maintain an active schedule, particularly through events related to his Peres Centre for Peace.

As recently as last year Peres strongly criticised the direction of the government of Israels rightwing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, although he did not name Netanyahu directly.

Peres said he believed the values he and Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, had inherited from Israels founding father, David Ben-Gurion, were in jeopardy as he defended a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake, because if we should lose our majority, and today we are almost equal, we cannot remain a Jewish state or a democratic state.

Thats the main issue, and to my regret they [the government] do the opposite.

(L
(L to R) Mordechai Gur, Peres, and Rabin during a tour of the forces on the Egyptian front during the six-day war in June 1967. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

Born in Wiszniewo, Poland, Peres emigrated to British Mandate Palestine in 1934 at the age of 11, was a founder of the Labour-Zionist Youth Movement and a member of the Hagana Jewish military forces before Israel declared independence.

As a defence official in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Peres was involved in the establishment in Dimona of Israels nuclear reactor, the facility also at the centre of Israels nuclear weapons programme.

During a decades-long career, he occupied almost every significant position in Israeli political life. His first role was as director general of Israels Ministry of Defence in his 20s, as a protg of Ben-Gurion, involved in the secret planning of the Suez offensive with Britain and France in alliance against Gamal Abdel Nassers Egypt.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/28/shimon-peres-former-israeli-leader-dies

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