The Last of Israel’s Founding Fathers

The late president Shimon Peres reflecting on the peace process, Iran, and his meetings with every U.S. president since Truman.

Peres with Bill Clinton in 1995.

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

I met Shimon Peres for the first time back in 1981 when, as head of the Labor Party, he was running for prime minister against Menachem Begin, leader of the Likud Party. At that time, Peres was on the hawkish side—best known for his work in building up his country’s military might as Israel’s youngest deputy minister of defense.

Over time, Peres became convinced that his country needed peace, and he pursued it with a vengeance. As foreign minister in the early 1990s, he secretly negotiated the Oslo Accords with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat behind the back of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—who reluctantly went along with the deal in the end. All three would win the Nobel Prize in 1994, but peace would not come as easily as Peres had hoped. Peres never gave up his belief that peace was possible.

On Friday, Peres, who died on Sept. 28, was buried at a funeral attended by representatives from more than 70 countries, including U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was the last living founder of the Jewish state, and will be remembered as a symbol of the hope for peace and a man dedicated to the country he loved.

Several years ago during one of the 14 interviews I conducted with him, he reflected on the many U.S. presidents he had known throughout his long and distinguished career and his country’s hopes for peace, among other topics. Video excerpts from this 2008 interview follow.

On the many U.S. presidents he knew:

On Iran:

On the peace process: