Shimon Peres, the elder statesman of Israeli politics and an architect of the ill-fated Oslo Accords, has finally won an election, and will serve as Israel’s ninth president. Peres has been at the forefront of Israeli politics for decades, having served as prime minister three times since the 1970s, and in various other leading cabinet roles. Ironically, Peres was never elected Prime Minister. In the 70s he served briefly as a caretaker PM, in the 80s he reached the top post as part of a power-sharing agreement with Yitzhak Shamir, and finally, he last became PM in 1995, after the tragic assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Peres had been widely expected to win the presidency, a largely ceremonial but diplomatically important position, in 2000, when he ran against relative unknown Moshe Katsav. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of Israel’s Sephardic community, supported Katsav, who pulled off the upset. Katsav has since left the presidency under duress, disgraced by allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. In what we can only hope was an embarrassing reversal, R. Yosef had backed Peres in the recent election, hoping, along with Israel, that Peres’ distinguished career, international respect, and reassuring familiarity will restore the dignity of the office.
Personally, I’ve always felt that Peres was too far left, but I have great respect for him and his devotion to the Jewish State. It is unfortunate that this new office, which should have been a great honor to Peres, has come to him at its lowest moment, but Peres, whatever his other flaws, has always been a team player who put the needs and duties of his country ahead of his personal pride. Yishar Koach, Shimon!