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President Shimon Peres

Just hours after we wrote about the world’s oldest hit pop band, The Zimmers, and their debut song, “My Generation,” 83-year-old Shimon Peres has been elected Israel’s new president.
He will assume office on July 15, just before he celebrates his 84th birthday, so he will be about to turn 91 when his seven-year term ends.
Peres is the elder statesman of Israeli politics and his wisdom and experience will be a welcome relief to Israelis, whose scandal-riddled government is the most unpopular ever.
Peres, a former Israeli prime minister, defense minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was born in Belarus. His first cousin is the Hollywood screen goddess Lauren Bacall, whose original surname, like Peres’ original name, is Persky.
Peres has been at the forefront of Israeli politics for almost 50 years. He was a senior aide to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and was elected to parliament in 1959. Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, many Israelis are hoping Peres will play a role in ensuring better governance in Israel.
While Peres is highly thought of around the world, in Israel — until now at any rate — he has been considered a serial loser. This morning’s front page of Israel’s popular daily Ma’ariv was bordered by individual portraits of Peres detailing each one of his previous eight electoral defeats ranging back to the 1970s.
Another former Labor party prime minister, Ehud Barak, narrowly won the race to regain the leadership of the Labor Party yesterday, making it likely he will become Israel’s next defense minister in the government of Ehud Olmert. Barak had absented himself from politics after his term as prime minister, from 1999 to 2001, ended in failure.

Tom GrossTom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.

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