The former Israeli prime minister and president has died aged 93by David Patrikarakos / September 28, 2016 / Leave a comment
The last of the pioneers is gone. Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister and President of Israel, died today at the age of 93. He was the last in the generation of men and women that founded the state in 1948. Unlike his contemporaries, men like Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin, Peres was not a fighter. He never served in the army during the War of Independence, in fact, he never wore a uniform in his life. In a country where the military sits at the centre of public life—and the nation’s consciousness—this made him almost unique among those to reach its highest office.
While Sharon and Rabin fought, Peres thought. He provided the intellectual ballast to the pointed spear of Israel’s early drive to statehood. First, Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for procuring arms and vehicle parts for the Haganah, the underground Jewish army that eventually became the Israeli Defence Forces. At only 29, just eight years after Israel’s founding, he was appointed Director-General of the Defence Ministry. He took his job seriously and was instrumental in making Israel’s “spear” as potent as any army’s in the world, becoming the driving force behind the secret quest to develop nuclear weapons.
He convinced France to sell Israel a nuclear reactor in 1957 that became the basis of its nuclear weapons programme, based in Dimona in the Negev desert. To this day, Israel does not openly admit their possession, preferring a posture of “strategic ambiguity” summed up in a phrase told to me several years ago by a former Presidential spokesperson (and now Israel’s ambassador to the UK) “Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.”