Shimon Peres: The Biography

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9781400062928: Shimon Peres: The Biography

Twice Israel’s prime minister, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, bold leader in a war-torn region, Shimon Peres is one of the great statesmen of the modern world. Peres is also a fascinating, complex man–a brilliant intellectual who is entirely at home in the corridors of power; an individual revered by the world and yet highly controversial in his own country; at once a hero and a figure of tragedy. Now, in this definitive biography, Michael Bar-Zohar takes the full measure of a towering, enigmatic leader.

Drawing on his decades-long association with Peres, as well as the full cooperation of the leader’s family, friends, supporters, and political rivals, Bar-Zohar has crafted a vibrant, daring, richly textured portrait of a man whose life and career span the entire history of Israel. Born in Poland in 1923, Peres emigrated to the Holy Land at the age of twelve, already a fiercely idealistic Zionist. Peres joined a kibbutz and, while still in his teens, became the leader of a major youth movement. When the struggle for Israeli independence broke out, future prime minister David Ben-Gurion tapped him to join his inner circle.

As director general of the Defense Ministry under Ben-Gurion, Peres spearheaded a far-reaching campaign to turn Israel into a major military power. He jump-started Israel’s aircraft industry, forged a secret alliance with France, and successfully pursued his dream of making Israel a nuclear power. And yet Peres’s real triumph came not as a man of war but as a peacemaker.

Elected prime minister in 1984, Peres brought new hope by pulling Israeli troops out of the quagmire in Lebanon, defusing tensions with Jordan, and, at the risk of his own political future, making serious overtures to the Palestinians. Peres and his longtime rival Yitzhak Rabin together secured the top-secret Oslo Accords of 1993, which won them and Yasser Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize–only to see the hope of peace shattered in a resurgence of regional violence.

In a half-century of leadership, Peres has worked beside–or fought against–such giants as Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon, and, tragically, Rabin, who was slain at the rally that marked his reconciliation with Peres. Still powerful in his eighties, Peres stands as a true hero, a visionary who embodies the history of his nation. In this stunning, courageously frank, and scrupulously factual biography, Michael Bar-Zohar gives an eminent man his due.

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About the Author:

Michael Bar-Zohar is the award-winning author of thirty fiction and nonfiction books. Ben-Gurion, his definitive portrait of Israel’s founder, has been translated into fourteen languages. Bar-Zohar himself has been very active in Israel’s political life, and has known Shimon Peres since 1961. In addition, Bar-Zohar was the Labor Party Campaign chairman at the Knesset elections in 1981, and, with Peres, a member of the Knesset. He also served as Moshe Dayan’s media advisor. Professor Bar-Zohar taught political science and history at Haifa University and at Emory University in Atlanta. He lives in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

From Booklist:

Even to his admirers (and there are many), Shimon Peres remains a frustratingly enigmatic figure. He is widely esteemed internationally as a statesman of the first order. Yet, although he has twice served as prime minister, Peres has never been a personally popular figure within Israel. Bar-Zohar has known Peres for years and received his full cooperation in writing this biography. In describing his subject's long and varied life, Bar-Zohar is consistently confronted with contradictions. Although often viewed as an intellectual, Peres has had little formal education, and although he often seems warm and engaging, many view him as chilly and detached. He speaks with the voice of moderation and compromise, but Peres' quarrels with other Israeli politicians are legendary for their length and vitriol. Bar-Zohar begins this engrossing saga with the shock of the assassination of Rabin, which elevated Peres to the position of prime minister. He then reverts to Peres' childhood in the Russian Empire and follows his rise to power in Israel. This is an excellent examination of a man who still remains a powerful actor on the stage of Israeli politics. Jay Freeman
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