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The Last Link to Israel's Founding Fathers

Golda Meir and Shimon Peres squint in the sunshine, July 26, 1972 (Photo: Fritz Cohen/GPO)

With the passing of Shimon Peres, the last link to Israel's founding fathers has been broken. The Atlantic's David A. Graham writes that Peres was not only a witness to the Jewish state's history, but a central participant in making said history happen:

The death of a statesman like Shimon Peres, who spent more than 60 years in public service, would mark a towering milestone in any nation. But in Israel, one of the world’s younger states, it takes on particular significance, as he represented one of the few remaining links to Israel’s founding generation. Peres, who was 93, was a first-hand witness and often a central participant in every moment in its history.

In addition to Israel’s youth—it’s less than 70 years old—and Peres’s longevity, the country’s political class has proven unusually long-lived, with leaders remaining part of government for decades on end. It helped that Peres belonged to the Labour Party, which dominated Israeli politics for decades, until a more recent period in the wilderness. It’s impossible to come up with an American analogue for Peres’s 67-year career. It would as though an aide-de-camp to George Washington had retired during the James Buchanan administration, after a career with turns as ambassador, secretary of state, and senator.

Peres was born in what was then Poland and what is now Belarus in 1923, but his family moved to Mandatory Palestine, then under British control, in 1932. When he arrived, he attended a school named for Arthur Balfour, who issued the 1917 British statement of support for a Jewish state—still a recent memory.

In 1947, Peres joined the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. While serving at Haganah headquarters that year, he met David Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel’s first prime minister...

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