Politics broke up my marriage, Peres says

Sonya Peres objected to her husband’s 2007 presidential candidacy, but he chose to serve the state

Then prime minister Shimon Peres and his wife Sonya, 1984. (photo credit: Nati Harnik/GPO Flash90)
Then prime minister Shimon Peres and his wife Sonya, 1984. (photo credit: Nati Harnik/GPO Flash90)

President Shimon Peres says he and his late wife decided to go their “separate ways” after he insisted on running for the presidency in 2007.

The 90-year-old Peres, who rarely discusses his personal life, told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that his wife Sonya asked him to retire from politics — something he couldn’t accept. The remarks, published Monday, came as Peres is wrapping up his seven-year term as the country’s largely ceremonial head of state in July.

“‘Look,’ I said to her, ‘I have served the country, the people, all my life. This is what gives my life content, I don’t even know what time off is, for me time off is like dying. I will die if I don’t do this,'” Peres recounted.

“She said to me: ‘You’ve done enough. There are other people who can serve the country now,'” he continued. “‘Maybe so,'” I answered, ‘but I feel I can’t help but do this.’ So we decided to go our separate ways.”

Sonya Peres died in 2011 at the age of 88.

Throughout her husband’s decades-long career, she determinedly stayed out of the public eye and was fiercely independent.

When Peres became president in 2007 and moved to Jerusalem, she remained in their apartment in Tel Aviv and they lived separate lives. They never officially divorced.

The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In the interview, Peres said they had a happy, loving marriage but that eventually his wife could not accept that politics came first.

“It was difficult, but I respected her will and she respected mine. Had I stayed (with her), I would have suffocated,” he said.

Peres added that even now as his term expires, he is thinking about life after the presidency.

“Today, too, I have more plans than time to carry them out,” he said. “I am not retiring. I will continue to serve the country in other ways.”

The Times of Israel will publish an interview with Peres on Monday evening.

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