WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama hailed Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday, as a friend who refused to give up on the dream of peace, while former president Bill Clinton called him “a genius with a big heart.”
Obama said Peres’ commitment to Israel’s security and pursuit of peace was “rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism.”
“Perhaps because he had seen Israel surmount overwhelming odds, Shimon never gave up on the possibility of peace between Israelis, Palestinians and Israel’s neighbors—not even after the heartbreak of the night in Tel Aviv that took Yitzhak Rabin,” Obama said in a White House statement.
“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves,” Obama said. “My friend Shimon was one of those people.”
Clinton, who oversaw the signing of the Oslo Accords that envisioned an independent Palestinian state, said “the Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow.”
“I’ll never forget how happy he was 23 years ago when he signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, heralding a more hopeful era in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
“He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration, and a nation, a region, and a world enhanced by caring and sharing, not torn asunder by the illusions of permanent dominance and perfect truth,” Clinton said in a statement.
Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin –who was assassinated in 1995—and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for his role in negotiating the accords.
Clinton noted that Peres’ critics called him a “dreamer.”
“That he was—a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness. Let those of us who loved him and love his nation keep his dream alive.”
Former president George H. W. Bush also hailed his devotion to peace.
“By his unyielding determination and principle, Shimon Peres time and again helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge.
“But it was by his innate humanity, his decency, that Shimon inspired the world over and helped pave a path to peace broad enough that future generations will walk it one day, side-by side,” he said in a statement.
His son, former president George W. Bush, said Peres led his country “with a deep and abiding concern for his people and a commitment to freedom and peace.”
“The Bush family will miss Shimon Peres and his grace, dignity, and optimism.” AFP