Peres from a Palestinian point of view
Shimon Peres will be remembered mostly for the same reason the assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is: both were architects of the Oslo Peace Accords and were awarded, along with Yasser Arafat, the Nobel Peace Prize for this agreement.
Both Rabin and Peres were hardened Israeli Zionists committed to the need for a “Jewish state”, and had little problem with the way their decisions affected the Palestinians.
Peres fathered the nuclear programme and was a supporter of the settlement enterprise, but at the same time supported the peace process and accepted the Oslo parameters. Their only difference was in style rather than in substance.
Shimon Peres focused a lot on the appearances of peace rather than its reality. His attacks on Lebanon, after he became prime minister in 1995, following Rabin’s assassination, was on his biggest mistakes.
After Israel’s 1985 withdrawal from Lebanon, Israeli military wanted to deter attacks on Israel. Israeli artillery hit a UN outpost in south Lebanon’s Kafr Kana, killing nearly 100 people who had tried to shelter themselves from the Israeli onslaught at the internationally flagged UN location.
That attack turned Palestinian citizens against Peres and at the time of elections, many voted with white ballots in protest to the killings in Kana.
Many argue that the disqualified votes probably cost Peres the election to the Likud’s rising star at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu.
With Peres’ electoral loss, the Oslo Peace Accords were practically scrapped and today, more than 20 years later, we are in a far worse situation than we were then.
It may be futile to discuss what would have happened had Rabin not been assassinated or had Peres not lost the election to Netanyahu. But the fact is that the hope that came with the breakthrough in Oslo has not only disappeared, but Palestinians are much worse off now than they were then, with settlements having tripled in size and Israel succeeding in having found a formula where it does not have to rule major Palestinian-populated areas while, at the same time, not making any concessions on sovereignty and overall peace.
Historians and pundits might argue that Palestinians have made plenty of mistakes as well and that using the absence of Rabin and Peres for inaction is simply finding a scapegoat.
Whatever the reasons, the attitude of Palestinians towards Peres differ diametrically from those of Israelis and many in the international community who consider the Nobel Prize winner a man of great stature and a peacemaker.
While Peres was the architect of the Oslo accords, he had, before that and after the PLO and Israel recognised each other, dreams of including Jordan in any long-term agreement.
In 2007, long after the Palestinian-Israeli memorandum of understanding, Peres revisited the Jordan option in his testimony to the Winograd committee looking into the war on Lebanon.
“We have to seek a new structure with the Palestinians. In my heart, I have returned to the conclusion that I always held in life: we must bring in the Jordanians. We cannot make peace only with the Palestinians.”
Peres was a smart, internationally respected Israeli Zionist leader. His high point was the Oslo accords, but for most Palestinians, he was always able to talk about peace but never able to bring peace about.