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Roger A. Gerber, an attorney and consultant, serves on several boards, including the Middle East Forum's New York Advisory Board. Rael Jean Isaac is the author of Israel Divided (Johns Hopkins University Press) and Parties and Politics of Israel (Longman).

Shimon Peres (né Persky) was born in Vishneva, Poland in 1923, and emigrated with his family in 1934 to Palestine, where he graduated from the Ben-Shemen agricultural youth village. During the past half century, Peres has been at the center of Israeli Labor Party politics and also served in a wide range of government and party posts. He was director-general of the Defense Ministry during 1953-59, and has been a member of the Knesset since 1959, during which period he has held many ministerial, subministerial, and party positions. He has been prime minister of Israel and leader of the Labor Party since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. He served for many years as vice president of the Socialist International (which he describes as "probably the most important nongovernmental political organization in Europe, if not in the world").1

Peres views himself as a visionary (he has stated, "I got a license to become a dreamer")2 and is someone who speaks him mind openly. In view of his central position in Israeli political life, and in the Oslo process especially, we offer a sampling of some characteristically idiosyncratic utterances in recent years.

PEACE PROCESS

This is not a negotiation of give and take because Israel has something to give but has nothing to take.3

I don't think we should judge the process by the performance of Yasir Arafat. We're not negotiating with Yasir Arafat. We're negotiating with ourselves.4

Papers are papers and realities are realities. We cannot judge the PLO and its leader just by what he is saying. Would we do so, we would be completely wrong and we would be in troubles.5

[Responding to an interviewer who asked "Are you saying that what Arafat told you in Oslo is sufficient, that he does not have to sign any new commitments?"] I am not a notary who writes affidavits.6

[Asked about Arab statements that there would be no peace without an Arab Jerusalem]: These are only words. Let them talk.7

[Reacting to an Arab song, "Zionist, your death is in my hands"]: There are those who sing and those who shoot. I'm checking out those who shoot.8

THE NEW MIDDLE EAST

We are going to copy a European example which is called Benelux. I hope the relations between the Jordanians, the Palestinians, and us will be very much of the same nature that exists in Benelux.9

A Middle East where holiness will overcome oiliness . . .10

[In Gaza] a dynamic reconstruction has started. . . . Women are throwing away their veils and are going swimming in the sea.11

STRATEGY

I have always tended to be overly optimistic.12

An army that can occupy knowledge has yet to be built. And that is why armies of occupation are passé.13

It is no wonder that war, as a matter of conducting human affairs, is in its death throes and that the time has come to bury it.14

Anyone who wants peace and security will get neither.15

It was a mistake to bomb the nuclear reactor in Iraq.16

Between ten bunkers and ten hotels, ten hotels are also defense.17

ECONOMICS

We claim that the United States and Europe became so productive that the only thing you can really produce is unemployment. The more productive you are becoming, the more unemployed people you are having. The time has come to export your unemployment.18

In technology, we have an advantage over the former Soviet Union, because our technology is more advanced. We have an advantage over the United States, because our prices are less capitalistic.19

DEMOCRACY

As a protégé of David Ben-Gurion, I subscribe to his philosophy that "I may not know what the people want; I do know what is good for the people."20

ZIONISM

We are discovering that all the things we are fighting for are not so important.21

The more we give up land, we discover we have more Ph.D.s per kilometer -- so we are going to make a living on the Ph.D.s and not on the mileage.22

We live in a world where markets are more important than countries.23

POLITICS

[To those who disagree with his vision]: It's a changed world and . . . you are out of date.24

[In the Knesset, to Benjamin Netanyahu]: You were in America and you are still in a daze. You have just come back and, believe you me, you have not got a clue what we are talking about.25

THE FUTURE

We are in transition from a world of identifiable enemies to one of unidentifiable problems.26

What we have to do is to economize our policies, and not to politicize our economies, which is so costly and so expensive. Dictatorship, nowadays, is so expensive that only rich countries can afford it. Poor countries can hardly suffer it -- with an outsized secret service, the censorship, the permanent control, the worries, the suspicion, the narrowness, the closeness, the ignorance.27

I have become totally tired of history, because I feel history is a long misunderstanding.28

SHIMON PERES

I feel in some ways the most independent political figure in Israel. Nobody can add to what I have done, and nobody can take away from what I did.29

[Describing his courtship]: Her name was Sonia, and she was eventually to become my wife. I sought to impress her by reading to her, sometimes by the light of the moon, selected passages from Marx's Das Kapital.30


1 Shimon Peres, Battling for Peace (New York: Random House, 1995), p. 170.
2 Pennsylvania Gazette, Nov. 1994.
3 Statement before the 50th Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, Feb. 10, 1994.
4 Jewish Week (New York), June 2, 1994.
5 Heritage (Los Angeles), June 3, 1994.
6 Israel Radio, May 23, 1994.
7 Speech in New York City, May 23, 1994.
8 The Jerusalem Post International Edition, Feb. 3, 1996.
9 Address to Council of the Socialist International, Oct. 6, 1993.
10 Remarks to Fourth Business Forum Conference, Jerusalem, Feb. 28, 1994.
11 Die Welt, July 14, 1995.
12 Shimon Peres, The New Middle East (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993), p. 18.
13 Remarks on acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Dec. 10, 1994.
14 Ibid.
15 The Jerusalem Post, May 7, 1995.
16 Ha'aretz, Dec. 24, 1995.
17 Ha'aretz, Jan. 29, 1996.
18 Speech to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Feb. 2, 1994.
19 Remarks before the Knesset Economic Committee on the Arab Boycott, Feb. 21, 1994.
20 The Jerusalem Post International Edition, Dec. 23, 1995.
21 Jewish Week, June 2, 1994.
22 Pennsylvania Gazette, Nov. 1994.
23 Ibid.
24 Speech in New York City, May 23, 1994.
25 IBA television, Jerusalem, Aug. 30, 1995.
26 The New Middle East, p. 82.
27 Remarks to Fourth Business Forum Conference, Jerusalem, Feb. 28, 1994.
28 The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 30, 1994.
29 The Jerusalem Post International Edition, July 16, 1994.
30 Battling for Peace, p. 25.