Lead­ers mourn Peres, praise him as a man of peace

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

LON­DON (AP): URRENT AND for­mer world lead­ers mourned the pass­ing of Is­raeli statesman Shi­mon Peres on Wed­nes­day, prais­ing him as a vi­sion­ary who com­mit­ted his life to the elu­sive goal of last­ing peace in the Mid­dle East.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama de­scribed Peres as “sol­dier for Is­rael, for the Jewish peo­ple, for jus­tice, for peace, and for the be­lief that we can be true to our best selves – to the very end of our time on Earth.”

“To­dah rabah, Shi­mon,” Obama said, us­ing the He­brew for thank you.

Peres, who died early Wed­nes­day at the age of 93, was awarded the 1994 No­bel Prize af­ter he se­cretly helped bro­ker the his­toric Oslo in­terim peace ac­cords with the Pales­tini­ans a year ear­lier. He shared the prize with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin and Pales­tinian leader Yasser Arafat.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton re­called Peres’ joy 23 years ago when he signed the Oslo Ac­cords on the White House lawn, ush­er­ing in an op­ti­mistic mo­ment in Is­raeli-Pales­tinian re­la­tions.

“His crit­ics called him a dreamer. That he was – a lu­cid, elo­quent dreamer un­til the very end. Thank good­ness,” Clin­ton said in a joint state­ment with his wife, Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton. “Let those of us who loved him and love his na­tion keep his dream alive.”

Peres, who served in the largely cer­e­mo­nial role of pres­i­dent from 2007 to 2014, rep­re­sented a mod­er­ate face of Is­rael af­ter the more hawk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu

CPres­i­dent Barack Obama awards Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres with the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom at a din­ner at the East Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

took of­fice in 2009. Peres sought to re­as­sure the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that Is­rael seeks peace de­spite stalled ne­go­ti­a­tions un­der Ne­tanyahu, who said Peres “taught us never to give in to de­spair, but to cling to hope”.

Peres re­mained ac­tive at his peace cen­tre, which spon­sored pro­grammes pro­mot­ing Is­raeliArab co­ex­is­tence, un­til weeks be­fore his death.

“Though he grew older, his spirit never did,” said for­mer Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, who also worked as a Mideast peace en­voy. “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.”

Peres had a ma­jor stroke two weeks ago that led to bleed­ing in his brain. He was se­dated and on a res­pi­ra­tor dur­ing most of his hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion, but his con­di­tion sud­denly wors­ened.

Ne­tanyahu is­sued a state­ment mourn­ing the pass­ing of Peres and con­vened his Cabi­net for a spe­cial ses­sion. Prepa­ra­tions are un­der way for a fu­neral that many in­ter­na­tional dig­ni­taries and lead­ers from around the world are ex­pected to at­tend.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush noted Peres’ “in­nate hu­man­ity, his de­cency”, while his son, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, noted that his fam­ily “will miss Shi­mon Peres and his grace, dig­nity, and op­ti­mism.”

‘THOUGHT­FUL, SOFT-SPO­KEN’

As political lead­ers lauded his courage, artistes praised his grace. Singer Bar­bra Streisand said he had the sen­si­bil­ity of a “poet ... thought­ful and soft-spo­ken, but his words echoed loudly around the world.” Is­raeli au­thor Amos Oz cel­e­brated his abil­ity to change, from “ba­nal hawk” in the 1970s, who thought “the more land the bet­ter, the more power the bet­ter,” to an en­thu­si­as­tic and stub­born be­liever in peace.

Trib­utes came from the di­rec­tor-gen­eral of Is­rael’s mil­i­tary, the Mos­sad spy agency and from political lead­ers across the globe, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and his Cana­dian coun­ter­part Justin Trudeau. Queen El­iz­a­beth II sent her con­do­lences, and said she was “greatly sad­dened” to learn of his death.

Also of­fer­ing con­do­lences was Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, who de­scribed Peres as a part­ner in the “peace of the brave” with late Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Yasser Arafat and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin.

Some, how­ever, marked his pass­ing with no re­gret. The mil­i­tant group Ha­mas said the Pales­tinian peo­ple “are very happy at the pass­ing of this crim­i­nal who caused their blood to shed”.

“Shi­mon Peres was the last re­main­ing Is­raeli of­fi­cial who founded the oc­cu­pa­tion, and his death is the end of a phase in the his­tory of this oc­cu­pa­tion and the be­gin­ning of a new phase of weak­ness.” Ha­mas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Many of those of­fer­ing con­do­lences re­turned re­peat­edly to Peres’ op­ti­mism and hope for a bet­ter way in the Mid­dle East.

“He told me that ‘pes­simists and op­ti­mists pass away the same way, but if you leave as an op­ti­mist, you have had a bet­ter life,’” Bri­tain’s for­eign sec­re­tary, Boris John­son, said.

Peres’ son, Chemi, em­pha­sised the legacy his fa­ther left be­hind – a legacy of look­ing ahead to to­mor­row.

“To­day, we sense that the en­tire na­tion of Is­rael and the global com­mu­nity share this great loss,” he said. “We share this pain to­gether.”

Pope Fran­cis and Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres (right) meet in Jerusalem.

Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton (left) and Is­raeli For­eign Min­is­ter Shi­mon Peres in 1995.

NE­TANYAHU

TURN­BULL

TRUDEAU

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