The Jewish state of Israel was established on 14th May 1948 when the British mandate over Palestine came to an end. Soon afterwards Peres was appointed as head of naval services. Later he served as Director General of the Defence Ministry (1953-59).
A member of the Labour Party, Peres was elected to the Knesset in 1959. Golda Meir appointed him Minister of Defence in 1974 and in 1977 became Chairman of the Labour Party.
Peres became prime minister in 1984 and served for two years. He became leader of the opposition in 1986 but was replaced as leader of the party by Yitzhak Rabin in 1992. Later that year Rabin became prime minister. He favoured Palestinian self-government. In 1993 Rabin and Peres negotiated a peace agreement with Yasir Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. This involved Israelis withdrawing from Jericho and the Gaza Strip. As a result the three men shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
When Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 Peres took over as prime minister but was defeated in the general election held in May 1996.