JERUSALEM (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Former Israeli President Shimon Peres has died at 93.

Peres’ death on Wednesday Israeli time came two weeks after he suffered major stroke, Israeli media reported.

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The news came on the same day it was revealed that Peres was fighting for his life.


As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, Peres was the face of politics and policy in Israel for more than 50 years. After serving two terms as Israeli prime minister, Peres served as president from July 2007 to July 2015.

Even to his own people, Shimon Peres was a puzzle, as CBS News put it. He spoke eloquent Hebrew, but with a foreign accent, lacked formal education yet brimmed with culture, was a mediocre politician, but became a statesman of spectacular vision, CBS News recalled.

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Born Shimon Persky in Belarus, his family emigrated to what was then The Palestinian Mandate in 1934, when he was 11 years old, CBS News reported.

As CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reported, it was a job as secretary on a kibbutz dairy farm that led Peres into politics.

His service in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was to last a record 48 years. He served as a minister in 12 cabinets and was prime minister twice.

Although much of it remains secret even today, Peres is considered the father of Israel’s nuclear program, CBS News reported.

His political career encompassed all of Israel’s wars, but Peres believed his country’s security lay as much in making peace as it did in being prepared for conflict, CBS News reported.

He cooperated with his fierce political rival Yitzhak Rabin to secure an interim peace accord with Egypt, which formed the basis of the historic treaty signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

“We shall negotiate with you a permanent settlement and with all our neighbors a comprehensive peace for all,” he declared at the time.

As Foreign Minister, Peres was in charge of the peace process with the Palestinians.

The Oslo Accord, signed at the White House in 1993, won Peres, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the Nobel Peace prize, CBS News recalled.

A long and mostly secret special relationship with King Hussein of Jordan culminated in Israel’s second peace treaty with an Arab state.

Peres used his two terms as president to promote Israel’s standing in the world, and his quest for peace.
In what perhaps summed up his life best, Shimon Peres once said “the duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly… even in the face of hostility… in the face of doubt and disappointment.”

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“Just imagine what could be,” he added.

His dream of Middle East peace remains unfulfilled, but not for lack of trying on Shimon Peres’ part.

Recently, Peres’ health has been deteriorating. In January, he underwent surgery after suffering a heart attack, and he then returned to the hospital for an irregular heartbeat.

In August, Peres celebrated his 93rd birthday. But after a massive stroke, he spent the last two weeks in a hospital in Tel Aviv.

There were moments of hope that the health of the former political force would improve, but then on Tuesday, Israel’s current interior minister announced that Peres had taken a turn for the worse and was fighting for his life.

President Barack Obama is praised Peres late Tuesday as a statesman whose commitment to Israel’s security and the pursuit of peace “was rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism.”

In a statement from the White House, Obama said Peres looked to the future, “guided by a vision of the human dignity and progress that he knew people of goodwill could advance together.”

Obama called Peres “the essence of Israel itself,” noting Peres had fought for Israel’s independence, worked its land and served Israel in virtually every government position.

Obama said with the death of Peres, “a light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.”

Former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released a joint statement praising Peres and his leadership and calling him a “true and treasured friend.”

“I’ll never forget how happy he was 23 years ago when he signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, heralding a more hopeful era in Israeli-Palestinian relations. He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration, and a nation, a region, and a world enhanced by caring and sharing, not torn asunder by the illusions of permanent dominance and perfect truth,” former president Clinton said in the statement. “His critics called him a dreamer. That he was – a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness. Let those of us who loved him and love his nation keep his dream alive.”

Former President George H.W. Bush also released a statement in Peres’ memory late Tuesday Eastern time.

“”Barbara and I join Shimon Peres’ countless admirers around the world in saluting his singular life of service — to the universal cause of freedom, to the timeless cause of Israel, to the noblest cause of peace,” the senior President Bush said in the statement. “By his unyielding determination and principle, Shimon Peres time and again helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge. But it was by his innate humanity, his decency, that Shimon inspired the world over and helped pave a path to peace broad enough that future generations will walk it one day, side-by side.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was “deeply saddened” by Peres’ death. He called Peres “not only a great leader for his country, but one of the most profound statesmen our world has ever known.”

“Serving in nearly every high office of government, Shimon Peres dedicated his life to his country and his people. He worked tirelessly to reaffirm their rights and freedoms and, following the systematic annihilation of six million fellow Jews, he worked to ensure their future by helping to establish an independent Jewish state. He later devoted his life to the pursuit of peace and economic cooperation, an effort he pursued with determination and dignity until the end,” Cuomo said in the statement.

Dani Dayan, counsel general of Israel New York, also released a statement mourning Peres’ passing.

“Shimon Peres was a giant of the generation that dreamed of the national liberation of the Jewish People, and made that dream a reality. All through his life, as a civil servant, a minister and as the Prime Minister, Peres fought tirelessly for the peace, the prosperity and the protection of the Jewish State – we owe him more than we can say,” Dayan said in the statement. “Unto his last day, Shimon never stopped dreaming of a better future for Israel, for the Middle East and for the world. This dream of a better future is his will and testament to us all.”

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