Shimon Peres, a Leader for All Seasons
Shimon Peres understood the Biblical verse “to everything there is a season.”
When he was a young man working for David Ben-Gurion, he saw that Israel’s very existence was endangered by the surrounding armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arabs countries committed to the physical annihilation of the nation-state of the Jewish people. He did more than any other Israeli to prevent that from happening: he developed Israel’s nuclear arsenal, its navy and its military-industrial capacity. In his first book, “David’s Sling,” he described how he went about obtaining the assistance of other countries in allowing Israel to defend itself, using only its own soldiers. Peres would never compromise Israel’s security, even when that meant confronting American leaders who sought such compromise.
But Shimon Peres was also uncompromising in his quest for peace. When Israel became strong enough to defend itself, Peres saw a change in the seasons. He was the first to recognize the reality that a demilitarized Palestinian state would not only be just for the Palestinians, but would be good for the Israelis. He favored peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and, at the time of his death, he was reaching out to Sunni Muslim states to create a coalition against the common enemy Iran.
Shimon Peres was both a man of principle and of pragmatism. He understood that morality, without the strength to defend it, might cause a repetition of the disaster the Jewish people faced during the 1930s and 1940s, when they lacked the strength to defeat the most immoral force in the history of the world.
Alan M. Dershowitz is professor emeritus of law at Harvard University and author of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.’’ This article was originally published by the Boston Globe.