Peres and Netanyahu: A brief summary of a rocky relationship

In a complex relationship that spanned 40 years, the two leaders walked on a fine line between deep political rivalry and mutual respect.
Photo credit: Channel 2 News

On Independence Day Eve 1995, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu were both guests on a popular television talk show. The former was then the Foreign Minister in Yitzhak Rabin's government and the latter the head of the opposition. For a few moments during their joint interview, they managed to put their political differences aside and recounted the first time they had met – at the funeral of Netanyahu's brother Yoni.

"Shimon had a special connection with Yoni," Netanyahu said. "But he also treated me and my family in a special way during our days of grief and sorrow. And that I will never forget." Peres revealed that he "couldn't help" but cry when hearing about Yoni's death.

These friendly moments of reminiscing were not at all indicative of what was to come. By early 1996, following Rabin's assassination, the two political figures were fiercely competing against each other for the country's leadership.

In the beginning, the odds were clearly in Peres' favor. But a series of strategic errors, primarily Peres' reluctance to consider the young and charismatic Netanyahu a serious competitor, eventually led him to losing the election by a 1% margin.

Photo credit: GPO/Channel 2 News

13 years later, with Peres two years into his tenure as Israel's President, Netanyahu assumed the position of Prime Minister once again. This time, no longer being in positions of political rivalry, the two leaders became closer than ever. They met on a weekly basis and had frequent dinners together.

This newfound idyll didn't last long, though. In 2012, as Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were secretly planning a military attack on Iran, Peres went out of his way to block the move, which he called "a national disaster."

Suddenly, the 90s were back. Likud was accusing Peres of undermining the government's authority while Peres spoke about a fear-mongering Netanyahu. At one point, the 91-year-old Peres even considered quitting his position as president and running against Netanyahu again.

Having met for the first time on the Mount Herzl cemetery 40 years ago, the two leaders will meet on Friday for the very last time, in a different section of the same mountain.

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