5 Perspectives on Shimon Peres' Legacy
What do you think of Peres as a peacemaker?
In his latter years, Peres was a strong advocate for peace. I am aware that his stance was not always on behalf of peace and his first priority was always for the Jewish people. I respected Peres for his ability to move from previously held positions and move toward change. I appreciated his efforts to bring people together and to actively seek for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Peres was deeply committed to his country and his people, and he worked tirelessly on our behalf. He epitomizes the best of the Israeli peacemakers, genuine and willing to work for peace, but it wasn't and isn't enough. To truly work, Israeli peacemakers will need to do more than Peres, and unfortunately, most of our current politicians and peacemakers do less.
I think Peres became a peacemaker later in life, for whatever reason. Some skeptics would say it was for political or personal gain of some sort but I think it’s possible that he had seen the cost of war and perhaps even regretted previous actions and desired change. Either way, I think Peres cast vision for peace and took steps that others refused to take, which deserves a certain level of respect, even if I do not approve of all of his actions, especially earlier in life.
To many Israeli Jews I understand that he is considered the symbol of peace. He is one of the few remaining founding leaders who took part in Israel’s establishment, which has been through many wars. As a Palestinian, I know many Palestinians were the casualties of these wars. It is a fact that since the 90s Peres tried to carry on the failed peace attempts, but he was met with much opposition from his people. They rejected his peace offers and the people spoke. In all his pursuit of peace, I cannot recall Peres as a peacemaker who stood alongside Palestinians for peace. He did not advocate seeking relationships with Palestinians or view Palestinians as equal to him. If I were to sum up, I would say he is the closest Israeli politician to call for peace, but to Palestinians, his words did not ring true.
Peres tried to make peace with the Palestinians but failed because of the opposition on the Israeli side. He could not reach the middle of the road especially on issues like Jerusalem and the settlements. Any solution that excludes Jerusalem is doomed to failure. He was also responsible for many Palestinian massacres. It is hard to consider him a partner in peace because of his history.
How will you remember his legacy?
I think it will be mixed and very different depending on who you ask. For Israelis, Peres was a voice for peace, which is viewed either positively (by the left-wing) or negatively (by the right-wing). For Palestinians, Peres is still seen as responsible for a great deal of bloodshed and hatred against the Palestinian people and did not ever seem to call for equality.
I think he played an important and stabilizing role in our history and was a symbol of continuity, connecting our past and our future.
As I've thought of him since he died, its always with the thought that he was a "man of peace."
One of the few things I remember about him is when he shook hands with Arafat and tried to make peace with Palestinians. He tried his best . He was thinking of the new generation on both sides.
He tried to carry on the Oslo peace process after the assassination of Yitshak Rabin but was unable to gain enough public support to see it through.
What role does Peres play in your own life?
His commitment to seek out other opinions and options when the society around him was opposed to his ideas. In this he was a role model also his tenacity in continuing on when others would have left the arena long ago.
I’m not sure that he plays a great role in my life, other than perhaps giving me hope that people can evolve in their views of peace and in their ideology. He still may never have been “pro-Palestinian” or advocated for equality, but at least he changed during his lifetime.
I love how he looked into the future, how he looked for the best in us and those around him, how he maintained hope and remained optimistic. This is how I will remember him.
When Peres was the minister of defense, he was an advocate to Judaising the Galilee, and he played a role in establishing Nazareth Elite, which is the neighboring city to my hometown Nazareth. Due to the restriction of Nazareth land expansions and the increase in population, many Palestinians are purchasing properties in Nazareth Elite, which is not favored by the Jewish leadership there. Many Jews want to keep Nazareth Elite with a majority Jewish population, which has caused much tension between residents of Nazareth and Nazareth Elite.
Peres knew that war will never solve the problem with Palestinians. I respect him as a man of peace but not the peace we consider as Palestinians.
What attribute do you most appreciate about him?
He was hopeful, looking to the future.
Tenacity, commitment and long suffering.
I met him once and was surprised at how humble and down to earth he seemed. He asked each person in the room, regardless of position, what they thought about what he was doing and what he said, and then insisted on getting a photo with them. This impressed me.
He tried to make peace, even when it was unpopular on his own side.
How do you think he perceived the other side?
I think he had our best interests at heart, not the best interests of the Palestinians. When these interests overlapped, then he wanted their best interests too. But when they didn't overlap, he didn't.
Honestly, I don’t know as it seemed he only spoke about the other side, not with them. To me, he may have taken steps towards peace, but it seems it was mainly for the purpose of a secure Israel and not because he personally cared about the Palestinians. He saw peace as important for Israel’s future but he never apologized for the wrongs committed against Palestinians.
Given who he was (an Israeli patriot) I think he did as much as he was able but his sympathies were always strongly for Israel first. This hindered his ability to deeply engage with the other side.
From his point of view, I'm sure he wanted peace for the Palestinians. Yet, he wanted to keep things as they were to a great degree, and to the Palestinians, it is an unequal peace. Land and justice are major issues to Palestinians, and if you ignore them, as Peres did, then you cannot make peace.
I cannot think of a situation where he viewed Palestinians as a people or as equal human beings. It saddens me that Israel chooses to remember him as a man of peace.