IDF headquarters building named for Shimon Peres
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IDF headquarters building named for Shimon Peres

Defense Ministry, army bosses, family of late president attend ceremony to honor elder statesman's role in forging Israel's defense

Shimon Peres during an interview in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 10, 2013. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images/JTA)
Shimon Peres during an interview in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, April 10, 2013. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images/JTA)

A building at the army’s Kirya headquarters complex in Tel Aviv, occupied multiple times by late president Shimon Peres during his stints at the Defense Ministry, was officially renamed the Shimon Peres House in his honor on Thursday.

Taking part in the unveiling ceremony were Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Adam and members of the Peres family.

Peres, Israel’s ninth president, died on September 29, 2016, at the age of 93, some two weeks after suffering a massive stroke.

Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot (in uniform) and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (to his left) with defense ministry staff and Peres family members at the renaming of a defense ministry headquarters building for the late President Shimon Peres, Tel Aviv, September 28, 2017. (Dana Shraga, Defense Ministry)

The nonagenarian spent more than seven decades in public service, and is credited with helping to establish the Israeli army and developing both the nuclear reactor in Dimona and the Sorek nuclear research facility in the center of the country.

At the age of 24, Peres was recruited by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to help arm Israel’s nascent military forces during the Independence War.

He rose quickly to become director general of the Defense Ministry at the tender age of 29, when he began secretly developing the Dimona and Sorek facilities.

Shimon Peres, center, and Chemi Peres, right, celebrating Chemi’s birthday in 1962 (Courtesy: GPO)

Together with Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, Peres was one of the initiators of the 1956 Operation Kadesh to invade Egypt in a bid to aid Britain and France to regain control over the Suez Canal after Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser announced its nationalization.

It was Peres who negotiated a military agreement with the two European powers and started the security cooperation with Germany that allowed Israel to obtain weapons for the IDF.

He is also credited with a central role in the creation of the Israeli Air Force, and was a cofounder of what grew into Israel Aerospace Industries.

During an official state visit to Israel in 1986, prime minister Shimon Peres and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher chat during a bus ride in the Negev. (Herman Chanania/GPO)

In 1959, Peres became deputy defense minister and in 1974 was appointed defense minister under the late Yitzhak Rabin. In 1976, he helped plan and oversee the daring rescue of Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Uganda.

After Rabin’s assassination in 1995, he served as acting prime minister and acting defense minister for seven months until the 1996 elections, which he lost to Benjamin Netanyahu.

A major figure in the history of the Israeli defense establishment, Peres also worked for decades to promote peace between Israel and its neighbors, winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in launching the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians in 1992.

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