Published On: Wed, Sep 28th, 2016

World leaders mourn loss of Shimon Peres

President Barack Obama pays tribute to Peres’s ability to ‘change the course of human history'; other prominent leaders pay their respects to the last of Israel's founding fathers.

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Dozens of statements of condolence were issued Wednesday by world leaders following the death of Israel’s ninth President and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who passed away overnight Tuesday after having suffered a stroke.

In US President Barack Obama’s statement he praised Peres for his visions of peace, described Mr. Peres as the very essence of Israel and referred to him as a friend.

“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. My friend Shimon was one of those people, ” Obama’s statement began.

A large delegation of American officials are expected to arrive in Israel to attend President Peres’s funeral which will be led by President Obama and include former US President Bill Clinton.

“Tonight, Michelle and I join people across Israel, the United States and around the world in honoring the extraordinary life of our dear friend Shimon Peres—a Founding Father of the State of Israel and a statesman whose commitment to Israel’s security and pursuit of peace was rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism. I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend, ” the statement continued.

“I first visited him in Jerusalem when I was a senator, and when I asked for his advice, he told me that while people often say that the future belongs to the young, it’s the present that really belongs to the young. ‘Leave the future to me, ‘ he said, ‘I have time.’ And he was right. Whether it was during our conversations in the Oval Office, walking together through Yad Vashem, or when I presented him with America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, Shimon always looked to the future.

“He was guided by a vision of the human dignity and progress that he knew people of goodwill could advance together. He brought young people from around the world together because he knew they could carry us closer to our ideals of justice and equality.”

Former US President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton praised Peres as a “leader who championed its security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth, ” adding that the Middle East had lost “a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow together. And Hillary and I have lost a true and treasured friend.”

Clinton recalled the days of the Oslo Accords—which were signed when Peres served as foreign minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—describing the Israeli statesman’s elation as peace appeared to be on the horizon.

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“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. His 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 remembered Peres’s “unyielding determination and principle…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.”

Similarly, former President George W. Bush praised his contribution toward achieving Israeli independence and his dedication to pursuing peace. “As a young man, he worked for his country’s independence. For the rest of his life, he led it 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.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also lamented the passing of Peres, saying that he was sadder than words could express and describing him as a political giant and a statesman. Blair predicted that he would “rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era” and said that Peres was “someone I loved deeply.”

“He was an inspiration, a mentor and a friend. His intellect, his way with words that was eloquent beyond description, his command of the world and how it was changing were extraordinary, ” Blair’s statement read.

“Though he grew older, his spirit never did. Above all, his commitment to peace and his belief that it was in the interests of the country he adored marked him out as a visionary whose vision was never dimmed or displaced. He saw every setback as a spur to further action and every moment of hope as a sign of what could be done.”

Blair’s sentiments were joined by those of other European leaders such as EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini.

“President Shimon Peres has never lost hope in peace, and has never stopped working to turn hope into reality. Even in the darkest moments his wit, his irony, his obstinate pursuit of dialogue have been a source of inspiration for many around the world, including myself.

In a letter to President Reuven Rivlin, German President Joachim Gauck wrote, “I would like express to you as well as to the Israeli people…my profound condolences.

“Shimon Peres left his mark on Israel like no other politician…Despite the atrocities perpetrated (by the Nazis) against his family during the Holocaust, Shimon Peres extended his hand” to Germans, Gauck continued. “For this attitude, we are very grateful to him.”

French President François Hollande commented, “Shimon Peres now belongs to history, which was the companion of his long life.”

“With the passing of Shimon Peres, Israel loses one of its most illustrious statesmen, peace one its most ardent defenders, and France, a faithful friend, ” wrote the French head of state, who last met with Peres on March 25.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also furnished praise on the Israeli political giant, listing his multiple accomplishments and hailing him as the very embodiment of of Israel’s story. “With all of his heart, this farmer, fighter, author, Nobel Peace Prize winner, prime minister and president worked to guide his nation into a secure and confident future. I valued his friendship. He was an intellectual resource who personified the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.”

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan described Peres as “a true legend and statesman. Shimon Peres was a gift to the country he helped establish and lead, and a persistent voice for the cause of peace. President Peres’ countless contributions to the world earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While we join the State of Israel and people around the globe in mourning his death, we also give thanks for his incredible life.”

Condolences also flowed in from international Jewish figures. Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky commended his achievements and celebrated his “deep sense of responsibility toward the entire Jewish people.”

“When I was released from captivity and arrived in Israel, he was the first Israeli I saw upon landing when he came as prime minister to greet me. I will always remember him as the individual who started the Israeli chapter of my life, ” Sharansky continued.

“I have always admired his devotion to his values and vision. He will be sorely missed by all of Israel and the entire Jewish people.”
Former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote, “Shimon Peres was the great visionary of Israeli politics in our time. The tough edge of his early career softened over time into a distinctive economic and technological road map to peace in the Middle East. ”

Lauding Peres’s achievements as president, he added, “During those presidential years, he was a living embodiment of much that is best in Israeli and Jewish life, and he was an outstanding ambassador for his people.

“With his death an era has come to an end—marked by a series of outstanding leaders who showed as much courage in pursuit of peace as they did in the course of war. We will mourn him and miss him.”

Sacks’s successor since 2013, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, commented on the world’s loss: “There will be countless tributes to Shimon Peres over the coming days, but I fear that few, if any, will adequately capture the palpable sense of collective grief felt across the world, nor do justice to the memory of a true giant amongst men.

“No matter what the future holds, your legacy lives on in the Jewish people who will never rest until we achieve our eternal dream of peace among the peoples of the world, ” he concluded.

Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, said: ‘Shimon Peres, the last of the Founding fathers of the Jewish state has passed away. Responsible for developing the defence infrastructure of the Jewish State in his earlier years , he nevertheless believed in a peaceful future in the Middle East. A man respected by all facets of Israeli society, he commanded much respect in all the capitals of the world. His death is a great loss for the state of Israel and for the Jewish people.’

Orly Azoulay, AFP and Associated Press

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