Shimon Peres on Life, War, and Israel: 10 Best Quotes

'The Jews' greatest contribution to history is dissatisfaction! We're a nation born to be discontented. Whatever exists we believe can be changed for the better.'

Shimon Peres and Nelson Mandela,  after a meeting at Mandela's house in Houghton, Johannesburg, Tuesday Sept. 3, 2002.

Shimon Peres was not only a politician and statesman, but a thinker and an effective orator. During the course of his career, but particularly in his last years, he made many trenchant observations about life, war and peace and the nature of Israel.

Here are 10 of his best.

"If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact – not to be solved, but to be coped with over time."

Israeli President Shimon Peres with Mark Zuckerberg Launching his Facebook page California, March 6, 2012.
Moshe Milner, GPO

"The Jews' greatest contribution to history is dissatisfaction! We're a nation born to be discontented. Whatever exists we believe can be changed for the better."

Shimon Peres with the Dalai Lama at the Petra Conference in Jordan, June 21, 2006.
Moshe Milner

"When you have two alternatives, the first thing you have to do is to look for the third that you didn't think about, that doesn't exist."


"The Middle East is ailing. The malady stems from pervasive violence, shortages of food, water and educational opportunities, discrimination against women and – the most virulent cause of all – the absence of freedom.

Shimon Peres pours water into a glass and hands it to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the UNESCO in Paris, France, February 18, 1995.
Michel Lipchitz, AP

"My heart goes out to the brave citizens of Syria, who each day risk and even sacrifice their lives to achieve freedom from a murderous regime. We in Israel welcome the historic struggle to forge democratic, peace-loving governments in our region."

Shimon Peres addresses a rally commemorating the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Tel Aviv, Israel, November 12, 2005.
Oleg Popov, Reuters

"You know who is against democracy in the Middle East? The husbands. They got used to their way of life. Now, the traditional way of life must change. Everybody must change. If you don't give equal rights to women, you can't progress."

Then President Shimon Peres kisses then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after their meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, March 3, 2009.
Menahem Kahana, AFP

"Television has made dictatorship impossible but democracy unbearable."


"Israel doesn't intend to introduce nuclear weapons, but if people are afraid that we have them, why not? It's a deterrent."

An undated photo of Shimon Peres with a missile ship in the background.
IDF Archives

"Sometimes people ask me, ‘What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime or that you will reach in the future?’ So I reply that there was a great painter named Mordecai Ardon, who was asked which picture was the most beautiful he had ever painted. Ardon replied, ‘The picture I will paint tomorrow.’ That is also my answer."

Shimon Peres prepares for Passover at Kibbutz Revivim, Israel, April 17, 2014.
Menashe Levi

"At my age, after looking back, if I feel that I have to make a choice between being experienced and cynical or being curious and innocent, I prefer the second. It is much more appealing."

Shimon Peres looks on during the opening of the 'Mini World Cup for Peace' in Herzliya, Israel, May 9, 2016.
Ahmad Gharabli, AFP