‘A Lion of Israel’


A wide range of world leaders, Israeli politicians and heads of Jewish organizations this week praised the legacy of Shimon Peres following the death of the former Israeli president on Sept. 27 at 93.

“Todah rabah [thank you very much], Shimon,” President Obama said.

“There are few people who we share the 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 in a prepared statement. “My friend Shimon was one of those people. 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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, once a bitter political rival of Mr. Peres, called him “one of Israel's great leaders, and one of the founding fathers who established the State of Israel. He worked until his last days toward reconciliation with our neighbors for a better future for our children.”

President Reuven Rivlin, Mr. Peres’ successor in that post, said “There is not a chapter in the history of the State of Israel in which Shimon did not write or play a part. As one man he carried a whole nation on the wings of imagination, on the wings of vision. Shimon made us look far into the future, and we loved him. We loved him because he made us dare to imagine not what was once here, nor what is now, but what could be.”

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, tweeted in Arabic that “Shimon Peres' death is a heavy loss for all humanity and for peace in the region.” The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that Abbas had sent a condolence letter to Peres' family, in which he said that Peres had been partner to the “peace of the brave” signed by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1993 and that he had “striven for peace until the day he died.”

But the Palestinian news agency, in describing Mr. Peres as an architect of Israel’s settlement movement, also said he was responsible for the deaths of many Palestinians and committed “many crimes.”

Former President Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, said in a statement that Mr. Peres’ “critics called him a dreamer. That he was – a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness.”

Susan Rice, US National Security Adviser, said, “President Peres inspired generations with his profound commitment to his country. He was dreamer and a doer, working to make the desert bloom and build the state of Israel brick by brick. He was a warrior who helped secure Israel against its adversaries and a peacemaker who knew, as he liked to say, that there are no hopeless situations, only hopeless people.”

Most leaders of Jewish organizations in this country praised Mr. Peres’ tenacity and commitment to a Middle East peace.

Among their comments:
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism: “We have truly lost a giant. He was a tough-minded lover pf peace who understood that Israel lives in a tough neighborhood and must have the deterrence it needs, but that in the end, the best deterrence is hope for a better tomorrow.”

Marvin Nathan, national chair, and Jonathan Greenblatt, national director, of the Anti-Defamation League: “He merged a stalwart, hands-on commitment to Israel’s viability and security with a dogged determination to promote peace … His moderation and insight not only drew world leaders and dignitaries to meet and consult with him, but also served Israel in its ongoing fight against delegitimization and other anti-Israel forces.”

David Harris, American Jewish Committee CEO: “One of the great visionary leaders of the Jewish people.”

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress: “He was ‘Mr. Israel.’ He embodied the Zionist dream … He didn’t just talk about peace, he worked toward it.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center: “No Israeli leader was more respected around the world than Shimon Peres.”

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund: “He was a true leader, one who reminded all of us that the right choices are often difficult and unpopular.”

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City: “He helped transform a dream into a nation and no one worked harder to bring peace to the region. Throughout his extraordinary career in public service, he sought to bridge political differences and find common ground, an example that our world needs today more than ever.”

Allen Fagin, president of the Orthodox Union: “A 'lion of Israel', a world-renowned leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people. Peres was a beacon of light in times of darkness for our people.”