Obama reaffirms bonds and commonalities between US and Israel.
He says both countries have flaws in their histories which they are reluctant to address. But because democracy was embedded from the start, “we have the capacity to do what’s right.”
Obama says he shared “a love of words and books and history” with Peres. “And perhaps like most politicians, we shared too great a joy in hearing ourselves talk.”
Obama says Zionism is a universal story.
Peres is a reminder that Israel, like US, “was not built by cynics.”
“And Shimon Peres was never cynical.”
Peres had accomplishments of “a thousand men.”
Now the work of peace-making is in the hands of Israel’s next generation and its friends, Obama says.
He ends with the biblical quote “choose life,” in Hebrew and English.
“Shimon, toda raba, haver yakar,” he says in Hebrew: “Shimon, thank you, dear friend.”
Obama says Peres recognized need for Palestinian statehood
Obama says Peres saw the need for Palestinian statehood. He quotes the former Israeli president as saying the Jewish people were not meant to rule over another people.
“Out of the hardships of the diaspora, he found room in his heart for others who suffered,” says Obama.
“Even in the face of terror attacks, even after repeated” failures in negotiations, he recognized Palestinian self-determination, he says.
“He believed the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians too had a state of their own,” he says.
Peres “never saw his dream of peace fulfilled. The region is going through a chaotic time. Threats are ever-present. And yet, he did not stop dreaming and he did not stop working.”
“By the time I came to work with Shimon, he was in the twilight of his years, though he would not admit it,” Obama continues.
Obama says he was the tenth US president to “fall prey to his charms.”
Obama compares him to Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth — “leaders who have seen so much, whose lives span such.. epics, that they see no need to posture or traffic in what’s popular in the moment. People who speak in depth and knowledge, not in soundbites.”
“He knew better than the cynic that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear, but with hope.”
Peres “believed in miracles, because in Israel, he saw miracles come true.”
Obama says Peres’ peace efforts ‘weren’t naive’
Obama turns to Peres’s early life, referring to the Holocaust and loss of his relatives.
“And so from an early age, Shimon bore witness to the cruelty human beings can inflict on each other… the particular madness of anti-Semitism, which has run like a stain through history.”
That understanding made him vigilant, but it “would never harden his heart. It would never extinguish his faith. Instead it broadened his moral imagination. It gave him the capacity to see all people as deserving of dignity and respect. It helped him see, not just the world how it is, but the world how it should be,” says Obama.
Obama says Peres “laid the foundation for the formidable armed forces that won Israel’s wars.”
“His boldness sent Israeli commandos to Entebbe” and rescued Jews from Ethiopia and his statesmanship built bonds with other countries, says the US president.
Peres “made hard choices, to roll back inflation,” he says, and “turned this tiny country in a central hub for the digital age.”
Obama says Pres’s contributions are “so fundamental, so pervasive, that perhaps sometime it could be overlooked.”
Younger generations remember Peres for Oslo accords, he says.
“But whatever he shared with his family or his closest friends, to the world, he brushed off his critics. And I know from my conversations with him, that his pursuit of peace was never naive.”
Obama says Peres “understood how hard peace would be “in a region where Arab youth are often taught to hate.
“I don’t believe he was naive. But he understood from hard-earned experience, that true security comes through making peace with your neighbors.”
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