TEL AVIV, Israel — Former Israeli Prime Minister, President and Nobel laureate Shimon Peres is dead, according to Israel’s Channel 2 and Channel 10.
The 93-year-old Peres suffered a massive stroke two weeks ago. He was reported to be making progress, but doctors said he took a turn for the worse Tuesday. Peres’ family was believed to be at his bedside when he died at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
Tributes from home and abroad
“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement from the White House. “My friend Shimon was one of those people.”
Peres’ contemporary, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, said that “Israel has lost a leader who championed its security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth.”
The pair had worked together, along with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, to bring about the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Peace Accords, for which Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Arafat and Yitzak Rabin, the then-Prime Minister.
“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,” Clinton added.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu released a statement expressing his sadness for the country’s ninth leader.
“(Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara express deep personal sorrow for the passing of a man cherished by the nation, the (Former) President of Israel Shimon Peres,” the statement read.
It added that the Prime Minister will deliver a special statement Wednesday morning, and will convene his cabinet for a special session of mourning.
Earlier Tuesday, a visibly shaken minister Aryeh Deri, Israel’s defense minister, told reporters that he had been praying for Peres at his bedside.
Canadian Prime Minister added his voice to the tributes, calling Peres “above all, a man of peace.”
In Israeli politics for more than half a century
Peres was a political force for much of the modern Jewish state’s existence. By the time the Labor Party veteran retired from public office in 2014 at the end of a seven-year term as President, he had been in Israeli politics for more than half a century.
He held virtually every position in Israel’s Cabinet, including minister of defense and Prime Minister, a position he held three times, including once in an interim role.
As foreign minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, he concluded the Oslo Accords.
After Rabin’s assassination in 1995, Peres became Prime Minister, calling early elections so the government would have a mandate to pursue a two-state solution. But a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks left Peres struggling to defend the peace process, ultimately costing him the next election.
Continued work for peace in the Middle East
Peres addressed the Turkish Parliament in 2007, becoming the first Israeli President to speak to a Muslim country’s legislature. He called for peace talks in 2011 with the Palestinians and warned the United Nations against recognizing the Palestinian territories as an independent state outside a peace plan.
He remained in the public eye, continuing his work for peace in the Middle East.
In a 2015 interview with CNN, Peres expressed support for a nuclear deal with Iran and said it would be feasible for inspectors to enforce the terms of the agreement.
In July, he laid the cornerstone for the Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Peace House in Tel Aviv with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The center aims to showcase Israel’s technology achievements and encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups.
The elder statesman had other health scares earlier this year.
Peres was rushed to the hospital in mid-January after suffering a minor heart attack. He underwent emergency surgery and got a stent but would not be slowed down, asking the doctor how soon before he would be up and running again. He returned to the hospital 10 days later after suffering from an irregular heartbeat.