Obama reflects on Peres’s life, praises ‘dream of peace’

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President Obama on Friday joined a number of world leaders in Israel to commemorate former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday at the age of 93.

{mosads}In a eulogy delivered at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, Obama reflected on his friendship with Peres, who reminded him of other great leaders “who have seen so much, whose lives span such momentous epochs, that they find no need to posture or traffic in what’s popular in the moment.”

“I would be the 10th U.S. president since John F. Kennedy to sit down with Shimon; the 10th to fall prey to his charms,” Obama said. 

“I think of him sitting in the Oval Office, this final member of Israel’s founding generation, under the portrait of George Washington, telling me stories from the past, but more often talking with enthusiasm of the present — his most recent lecture, his next project, his plans for the future, the wonders of his grandchildren.”

During what may be his last trip to the Middle East before he leaves office, the president called on Israel to renew its commitment to peace with the Palestinians.

At the beginning of the speech, Obama gave a nod to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “whose presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace.”

Despite countless setbacks, Obama said, Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, never gave up in his pursuit of peace and human rights, saying that he “came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target.”

“Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination,” the president said. “Because of his sense of justice, his analysis of Israel’s security, his understanding of Israel’s meaning, he believed that the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own.”

Obama’s trip to Israel — his second as president — lasted under six hours, and the delegation he led included former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Three House Republicans made the trip — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Kay Granger (Texas) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) — but no GOP leaders were a part of the delegation.

During his eulogy, Obama said that both Israel and the U.S. share ideals that form a bond between the two nations: both “were built in large part by stubborn idealists and striving immigrants, including those who had fled war and fled oppression.”

“Both our nations have flaws that we have not always fixed, corners of our history which date back to our founding that we do not always squarely address,” Obama continued. 

“But because our founders planted not just flags in the eternal soil, but also planted the seeds of democracy, we have the ability to always pursue a better world. We have the capacity to do what is right.”

Tags Bill Clinton John Kerry Kay Granger

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