Israel is mourning the death of former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Peres died on Wednesday at age 93.
His death came two weeks after he suffered a severe stroke.
Peres held nearly every major political position in Israel during his long career. He served as prime minister twice. He held the mostly ceremonial job of president from 2007 to 2014. He also served as foreign minister and defense minister.
He was the longest serving member of parliament in Israel’s history, serving in the Knesset for 48 years.
Peres was born in 1923 in what is now Belarus. He moved to Israel when he was 11 years old. By age 29, Peres became Israel’s youngest defense minister in 1952. In that position, he was credited with developing the country’s defense and aerospace industries.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Peres had spent his life serving the Israeli people and trying to bring about peace.
“He set his gaze on the future. He did so much to protect our people. He worked to his last days for peace and a better future for all.”
PLO leader Yasser Arafat, left, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, center, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres pose with their medals and diplomas, after receiving the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo's City Hall, Dec. 10, 1994.
Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in negotiating the historic Oslo Accords, which established limited self-rule for the Palestinians. He shared the award with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The current Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, released a statement expressing "sorrow and sadness" over Peres' death. He called Peres “a partner in making peace.”
“He exerted persistent efforts to reach a just peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life,” Abbas said.
1993 Mideast Peace Agreement: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres signs the Mideast Peace Agreement on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., as President Clinton, standing center, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, third from right, and other
In the United States, President Barack Obama praised his “dear friend” for representing Israel’s courageous fight for independence.
“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history,” Obama said. “Not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves.”
Obama is on the list of world leaders expected to attend Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem on Friday. Others expected to attend include former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, Britain’s Prince Charles and French President Francois Hollande.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Peres had been a good partner with the U.N. and was always hopeful about the chances for peace.
“May his spirit of determination guide us as we work to ensure peace, security and dignity for Israelis, Palestinians and all the peoples of the region,” Ban said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, second left, surveys the honor guard with Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Ganz, left, during Israel's 63rd Independence Day event at his residence, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, May 10, 2011.
Peres saw continuing violence between the Israelis and Palestinians and repeated breakdowns in negotiations. Yet he remained hopeful throughout his life.
“I'm sure I shall see peace in my lifetime. Even if I should have to extend my life for a year or two, I won't hesitate,” he said, in 2013.
Twenty years ago, Shimon Peres launched the not-for-profit Peres Peace Center. It develops economic, educational and cultural projects with the Palestinians, Egypt and Jordan. He continued leading the center’s peace efforts until suffering the stroke.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA’s Richard Green, Victor Beattie, the Associated Press and Reuters. George Grow was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
twice – adv. two times
gaze – v. to look at someone or something for an usually long time
exert – v. to use influence or authority to make something happen
courageous – adj. brave
dignity – n. – the quality of being worthy or honor or respect