September 19, 2016

When Discernment Dies

Shimon Peres suffered a stroke this week. The 93-year-old Israeli political icon is the last of the state’s founders and influencers. As of now, Peres is still alive, and doctors will determine soon if he can recover. The old lion has seen it all.

As prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister, transportation minister, finance minister, and president was born in Poland, a few years after World War I. Just before the Nazis came to power, he emigrated to Palestine.

He did not have the distinguished military career that many Israeli PMs have had, but did join the Haganah (the forerunner of the modern IDF) in 1947.

In 1976, as defense minister, Peres was largely responsible for the government approving the rescue operation to Entebbe. He was a member of the Labor Party (roughly the equivalent of America’s Democrat Party) for 37 years, but joined Ariel Sharon’s new Kadima movement in the wake of the pullout from Gaza.

The role that defines Peres—despite his glittering resume—is as one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, which officially began in 1991 and resulted in the last quarter-century of Palestinian terrorism in Israel. Peres, along with others, apparently believes in the good of man, and assumed Yasser Arafat and the PLO could be reasoned with. This was a catastrophic error, and plagues Israel to the this day. I would argue that it has also led indirectly to the emboldening of jihadists the world over.

When international media broadcast images of Bill Clinton with Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat on the White House lawn in September, 1993 (the same year the World Trade Center was first targeted by Muslim terrorists), the Muslim world saw it as weakness on the part of the West.

Peres had a large part in perpetuating the myth that the Palestinians would choose to join civilization. His dogged insistence on continuing “negotiations” is an ongoing tragedy.

Peres, then, has been an odd mixture of “doing good” and doing bad. He no doubt has always believed in the rightness of his views. He and Leah Rabin convinced Yitzhak Rabin to follow the siren song of Oslo. That has led to thousands of deaths at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

I have always remembered the quote from a political commentator, who said that Peres believed that a “Maginot Line of five-star hotels” would convince the Palestinians that free markets and open society were the way to go. The Maginot Line, of course, was the fixed fortifications of the French, which the Nazis bypassed on their way to occupying France. It is an apt description of the idealism of Peres.

We do wish Shimon Peres the very best in his recovery.