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New bio on Shimon Peres shows intimate look at former president’s career

CM 19/05/2021


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 And the prize for Israel’s best supporting actor ever goes to… Shimon Peres.

That, at least, is the impression left by a new book about Peres – Shimon Peres: An Insider’s Account of the Man and the Struggle for a New Middle East – by Avi Gil.
Gil was Peres’s close aide, confidant and friend for some 30 years, from 1988, when Gil returned to Israel after a stint as spokesman at Israel’s embassy in Canada and went to work for Peres at the Foreign Ministry, until the day Peres died in September 2016.
Gil’s book is an account of those years. What it was like being with Peres when he won, and when he lost; when he was magnanimous, and when he was petty; when he dreamed and when he schemed.
“…Working with Peres for many years, I accompanied a leader who never stopped dreaming and battling whatever obstacles stood in his way,” Gil wrote. “He usually charged at his goals from his position as a supporting actor, in both the political and psychological – if not necessarily official – sense of the term. Both when he worked at Ben-Gurion’s side and when he settled into the President’s Residence, he remained a supporting actor. The final word was rarely his. It was the prime minister’s.”
Yet what was so impressive about Peres, in Gil’s telling, was his ability to accomplish so much even only as a supporting actor, someone who only briefly merited – for two years and nine months spread over two different terms – playing the leading role as the country’s prime minister.
Peres was a supporting actor to his beloved mentor, David Ben-Gurion, but managed to be the father of the purported nuclear facility in Dimona. And as the supporting actor to his bitter political rival Yitzhak Rabin, he was hugely responsible for the Oslo Accords – which Gill views very positively –  and for prodding Rabin to sign them.

“Peres’s path from Dimona to Oslo was astonishing,” Gil wrote. “In Dimona he realized the dream of generations – to provide security to a battered and persecuted people. In Oslo he made a breakthrough toward another great Jewish dream – peace.”
And both those accomplishments Peres achieved as a “supporting actor.”
In the final years of his life, even as president, he remained a supporting actor, but this time to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And he never gave up, even in this gilded supporting role, pushing and prodding and finagling and manipulating events in an attempt to steer things where he wanted them to go.
Gil tells the story of Peres’s first meeting with US president Barack Obama in May 2009, just days before Netanyahu went to the White House, in which he presented Obama with a memo on the diplomatic process with the Palestinians that Gil himself wrote, Peres only partly read, and which contained certain elements that Netanyahu either did not accept or found problematic.
“In order to explain to president Obama how credible his proposals were and the manner in which they reflected Netanyahu’s positions, Peres used a humorous story about the Yiddish translation of Romeo and Juliet, which says: ‘The original version was written by Shakespeare and the Yiddish version before you was improved by the translator.’
“‘While I’m not presenting you Netanyahu’s official position,” Peres explained. “I’m saying those things with his knowledge. From my familiarity with him, I believe that they also will be acceptable to him; otherwise, I wouldn’t be saying them.’”
That modus operandi characterized the 30 years that Gil worked with Peres, and it is reasonable to believe it characterized the 40 years of Peres’s public life before they met.
“As a supporter who aspired to a leading role, he acted with gumption, overstepped his formal authorities, and preferred to speak in ambiguous turns of phrase,” Gil wrote.
That was the Peres whom Rabin described in a 1979 book as an “indefatigable schemer,” a label that Peres was never able to shake and which in Gil’s accounting cut Peres to the quick.
This book is written by a man who is full of admiration, respect and love for his subject, but who nevertheless does not conceal Peres’s warts: his longing for credit, his manipulations, his desire to be loved, his boundless vanity.
The book also gives a peek into Peres’s complicated relationship with Rabin, Yossi Beilin and Ehud Barak, and his surprisingly warm relationship with Ariel Sharon.
It is not written as a biography, and as such the chronology is sometimes jumpy, but there are anecdotes aplenty that provide a sense of the man behind the persona that the public thought it knew so well.
“I’m thinking about how everything would look different if I were prime minister,” Gil quoted Peres as saying. “And although he was never thrilled to share his pain at being a supporting actor, this frustrating position was an integral part of his legacy,” Gil wrote.
“After all, few people ever reach the top. Most of us, like Peres, are supporting actors, each in our respective field. And that makes the lessons we can draw from Peres’s journey all the more meaningful: to dare to dream, and dare to fight, even if you’re not at the top of the pyramid, and even if the power to call the shots doesn’t seem to be in your hands. Be determined, aggressive and creative.”
Peres was nothing, if not all of that. 
Shimon Peres
An Insider’s Account of the Man and the Struggle for the New Middle East
By Avi Gil
I.B. Tauris
264 pages; $26.95

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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