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by Rhonda Spivak, June 4, 2017

[Editor's note: The article below was written 10 years ago on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War when I heard Shimon Peres speak when he was a member of Kadima and Ehud Olmert was Israeli Prime Minister.  Excepts from the article are being reprinted in memory  of Shimon Peres] 




The outdoor setting at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzylia, with its stately  trees and manicured lawns is idyllic.  The guest of honour, Shimon Peres, strides gracefully to the main podium to address the international conference marking the 40th anniversary of the six-day-war, which took place on March 28-30, 2007.


Ofra Even, the  thirty-something year old Ashkenazi woman, and daughter of Israeli diplomats,  who is seated beside me says “Look how straight Peres stands. Look how good he looks  for his age.” She pauses and says “Even if he has had a facelift.”   


The array of European diplomats with whom Peres stops to chat and shake hands clearly adore him.  He is treated like a  King.  The attitude towards him on the streets of Israel may be very different, but that hardly seems to matter here.  Peres meets the 15 rectors of universities from the former Soviet union who have flown in especially for the conference.  “I must go see the Russians”, he says to the diplomats seated at his table.  “It’s always important, you know, to keep the Russians happy.”


Peres is introduced by Professor Uriel Reichman, the IDC’s president, as “the captain of our ship, who has always tried to steer the way through stormy waters.”  Peres opens his address, by saying “If you would have asked me 40 years ago if I could go and speak before 15 rectors from Russia, I would say it was a dream.”


Peres says the six-day war was a “brilliant military success”, but “we never learned to translate the victory of the war into peace…”   He notes “We assembled so many cards by the end of the six day war…We forgot how to play them…If we’d played them right maybe we wouldn’t have remained in the territories…The army never went to conquer the West Bank.”


After the military victory, Peres says that from a diplomatic perspective   “We weren’t clear about the West Bank…In the meantime we enjoyed… Jerusalem and in a way we went to sleep and when we woke up it was too late…When we conquered the West Bank, we were conquered by the West Bank.  It’s not one- way traffic.”


According to Peres, governments can be good at waging wars “because if you are attacked the enemy unites you.”  But in his view “When it comes to peace, governments aren’t so good…there are different parties…they want peace, but not at any price…As a negotiator you know that you don’t [want to] win too much, because if you do, you’ll lose your partner.  But I can’t tell that to the people.”


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.