US President Barack Obama today paid tributes to former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, comparing him to "giants of the 20th century" like Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth.
US President Barack Obama today paid tributes to former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, comparing him to “giants of the 20th century” like Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth.
“In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I’ve had the honour to meet,” Obama told mourners, comparing Peres to Mandela and Elizabeth.
These are “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 soundbytes,” he said at the funeral for Peres attended by the world leaders at Mount Herzl cemetery.
Obama, who awarded Peres the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, wore a black Jewish skullcap as he delivered his eulogy for the Israeli leader.
Acknowledging that he fell prey to Peres’ charms, Obama said the Israeli leader showed the world that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea.
“A free life in homeland regained, a secure life of a nation that can defend itself by itself, a full life of a friendship with nations who can be counted on as allies, always. This was Shimon Peres’ life. This is the state of Israel. This is the story of the Jewish people,” he said.
“Shimon once said the message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and vision will triumph over all adversity,” Obama said. “It is a full life, driven by the simple pleasures of family and by big dreams. This is Shimon Peres’ life. This is the State of Israel,” he added.
Obama also touched upon the issue of Palestinian statehood, saying Peres saw the need for it and the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the ceremony “is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace”.
“Out of the hardships of the diaspora, he found room in his heart for others who suffered,” Obama said.
“Even in the face of terror attacks, even after repeated failures in negotiations, he recognised Palestinian self-determination,” he said.
“He believed the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians too had a state of their own,” he stressed.
Turning to Peres’ critics, he said, “I don’t believe he was naive. But he understood from hard-earned experience, that true security comes through making peace with your neighbours.”
“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,” he said.
Peres “believed in miracles, because in Israel, he saw miracles come true,” the US President emphasised.
Obama and President Bill Clinton were among leaders from 70 countries paying their respects to Peres, who died Tuesday while hospitalized for a major stroke. He was 93.