In politics and foreign policy, consistency is an overrated virtue. In an over 50-year long political career, Shimon Peres, the last of the founding fathers of Israel, who passed away at 93 on September 28, was considered both a “hawk” and a “dove”, changing his views over time and evolving towards a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In Israel’s 1948 war of independence, Peres purchased weapons for the military and was head of its navy for a short time. In the 1950s, he helped establish the country’s nuclear programme, which is still secretive. He joined politics in 1959 as a member of the Mapai Party, the progenitor to Israel’s Labour Party. He had been defence minister, prime minister as well as president of Israel — but his most prominent contribution was as one of the architects of the Oslo Peace Accords, which created the Palestinian Authority and granted it limited self-government in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza strip in 1993 and 1995. Earlier in his career, Peres was a staunch supporter of settling the West Bank with Israeli citizens. When he became prime minister in 1995, soon after the Oslo Accords, Israel was hit by a series of suicide bombings, which cost him the subsequent elections. Peres continued to support the peace process, even as he backed Ariel Sharon’s attacks on Palestine to curb suicide attacks.
The peace process he was awarded the Nobel Prize for is far from complete. Other parts of the world are dealing with issues of terrorism and movements for self-determination. Peres’s evolution as a leader and his commitment to peace, while still backing the needs of national security, could serve as an example to politicians trying to find stability in a violent world.