Shimon Peres

Long-time leader of Israel's Labor Party.

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In 1974, Peres lost a contest for party leadership to Yitzhak Rabin by 298 votes to 254. The Knesset endorsed the Rabin government in June, with Peres as Minister of Defense. However, relations between Rabin and Peres remained strained for many years. In his memoirs, Rabin famously called Peres an "incorrigible subversive." Peres was actively involved in the separation of forces agreements with Syria and Egypt following the Yom Kippur War. He also administered the occupied West Bank.

Peres replaced Rabin as Israel Labor Party head after it was revealed that Rabin's wife had $3,000 in an illegal bank account in the United States. Peres was unable to lead the Labor party to victory however, and in 1977 the party lost power for the first time since the State of Israel was founded in 1948.

Beginning in 1981, Israel suffered a period of uncontrolled and disastrous inflation as well as the war in Lebanon initiated by Ariel Sharon. Following the 1984 elections, a unity government was formed, with Peres and Yitzhak Shamir serving alternately as Prime Ministers. Peres was in large part responsible for an economic plan which brought inflation down from over 700% annually to about 15% in a very brief time. Peres was also involved in the "Irangate" affair, in which Israel cooperated with Oliver North and others to exchange US hostages held by Iranian-backed Lebanese terror groups in return for US military equipment that would be sold through Israel.

Peres tried to bring down the Shamir government in a parliamentary coup, but failed. Elections in 1988 led to a second unity government, where Peres served as Finance Minister.

The Oslo Years

In 1992, Peres lost party leadership to Yitzhak Rabin, who led the Labor party to victory in that year's elections. Peres was appointed Foreign Minister in the new Labor cabinet. Together with his assistant, Yossi Beilin, Peres was responsible for the negotiations that brought about the Oslo Accords. In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat in recognition of their role in the Oslo peace process.

On November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, minutes after he and Peres had stood side by side on a podium at a giant peace rally in the main square of Tel Aviv, now called Rabin square. Peres became Prime Minister, vowing to continue the peace negotiations and overseeing the Oslo Interim Agreement (Oslo II). In February 1996, Peres called for new elections, hoping that they would renew his mandate for peace. Polls showed an overwhelming majority for the Labor party in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. However, several bus bombings, and a suicide bombing in Dizengoff square in Tel Aviv helped quench the enthusiasm for peace and drove Jewish voters to the opposition Likud party.

After Rabin

Peres refused to campaign actively and left administration of the campaign to Haim Ramon, who relied on the polls and did little, instead of pursuing an aggressive campaign stressing the heritage of Rabin. In a debate with challenger Benjamin Netanyahu, Peres gave a lackluster performance. Peres lost the elections by a narrow margin. He subsequently founded the Peres Peace Foundation to further joint economic ventures that would foster peace.

In May 1997, Peres retired from his position as party head. Party leadership was taken over by Ehud Barak, who became Prime Minister in the elections of May 1999. Peres was proposed for the post of President of Israel, but lost the election in the Israeli Knesset to Moshe Katsav. However, after Barak lost the elections in 2000 to Ariel Sharon, he retired from politics, and Peres again became head of the Israel Labor Party. He served as Foreign Minister in the unity government of Ariel Sharon until Labor left the government prior to the elections of 2003, and again was Deputy Prime Minister in the unity government of Ariel Sharon in 2005. In November of 2005, Peres was defeated in an election for Labor Party Secretary by Amir Peretz.

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Ami Isseroff

Ami Isseroff is a web journalist and director of MidEastWeb for Coexistence. He lives in Rehovot, Israel.