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Commentary. Shimon Peres, the great orator of peace who could never realize it, was laid to rest Friday.

Shimon Peres: the rhetoric of peace

All of Israel prepared for a spectacular funeral with the attendance of international leaders, and to reiterate that peace is so positive. From the hill of Jerusalem where Shimon Peres will be buried, the weapons massacring Syrians to hundreds of thousands cannot be heard — and many weapons were sent by the “pacifist” leaders who will attend the funeral — and the concert of whining and words in favor of the peace will be directed by the baton of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter Wednesday moved many with a brilliant funeral oration in memory of Peres, praising in particular the efforts of the deceased in favor of that peace, so little coveted by the current government.

The dead Shimon Peres is not the Shimon Peres that the majority of Israelis hated, defamed and slandered; Netanyahu, who today is his greatest admirer, was among the many who saw in Peres a hateful enemy. In the electoral confrontation between Begin and Peres in 1981, tomatoes flew; his own accent, that revealed his European origins, made him even more hideous in the eyes of the Oriental Jews; and his past as hawk did not help him either.

Peres was Ben Gurion’s stalwart supporter in the early years of the State of Israel; he was the architect of the pact with France that led to the Suez War in 1956 and the construction of the Israeli nuclear power. He negotiated with Begin to try to unseat Prime Minister Eshkol before the 1967 war, to bring back Ben Gurion. He remained faithful to the “old man,” although many years later he seemed to side with the school of the great opponent of Ben Gurion, Sharet, who explored the roads towards peace.

Peres was defense minister during Rabin’s first term (1974 to 1977) and, as said today by an emotional Daniela Weis — one of the most controversial leaders of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories — he was a major architect of the colonization of the territories. Thus, the few attempts Rabin made to seek a path to peace were thwarted by his own defense minister.

In 1984, as prime minister, Peres tried to promote an agreement with the king of Jordan, thinking it was the best solution to the problem of the Territories. And he launched an economic plan that solved the serious crisis in the country, and also meant the beginning of a neoliberal phase that continues to this day.

In 1992, Shimon Peres, after his great contributions to the new Israeli security apparatus in all possible fields, became foreign minister to contribute diplomatic solutions. With the Oslo agreements, he became the great peace rhetorician. However, he did not stop his military adventures: After the assassination of Rabin, he became interim prime minister until the 1996 elections, when he lost against Netanyahu. He authorized intelligence actions that caused an escalation of terror during a sad week when an offensive in Lebanon culminated in the massacre of a hundred civilians at Qana.

When he became a great statesman of international standing, presidents, kings, prime ministers and politicians of all kinds listened avidly while the great Peres elaborated wonderful plans for the future. In the meantime — especially in 2005, when he joined the party founded by Ariel Sharon — he was the most effective player of the white-out work of Israeli politics.

Even as president, a few years later, while Prime Minister Netanyahu continued to implement a disastrous policy that had nothing to do with peace, while Israeli forces bombed Gaza and continued the repression in the territories occupied by Israel, Peres was behind the scenes, secretly speaking with Obama, Putin, Merkel, with everybody, saying that in Tal Aviv back rooms there was a road to peace, to a positive, optimistic and gorgeous Middle East. Only 10 days ago, he fascinated the audience in Italy with an elaborate and positive speech, ensuring a better future. But the Middle East is in flames.

Peres was the great rhetorician, who was helping to maintain an optimistic view of possible worlds, far away from the actual actions of the Israeli leadership. Leaders like Obama, Merkel, Blair and others have been able to hide behind these curtains of empty words, so as not to be confronted with the need for a genuine policy in favor of peace.

And in the wake of his funeral? In the emotion of the sentence pronounced by the great Prime Minister Netanyahu, everybody will cry for peace and remember emotionally the great rhetorical skills of a highly problematic Israeli leader, who was a great hawk but possibly passed away as a dove.

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