WASHINGTON – Regardless of party alignment, of branch of government or of the dense summer heat here in Washington, the nation’s policymakers came out in force this week to celebrate the life of President Shimon Peres, and the efforts that define him – a man cast here repeatedly as Israel personified.
Supreme Court justices mingled with foreign policy journalists, and humanitarian interventionist diplomats with hawkish senators in an air-conditioned tent at the Israeli Embassy, eating kosher foods, waiting for the man of honor Wednesday night. He arrived to fanfare and cameras, the latter of which he told US President Barack Obama on Wednesday he will not miss.
After their meeting together – the staffs of Peres and Obama say they get along famously – Peres exited the West Wing portico to greet visiting Israeli press, and the White House press corps, with a statement in Hebrew and English. The Israelis knew what the Americans did not: Peres speaks very softly, big stick notwithstanding.
Less than three feet away from the world leader, nobody could hear a word the man was saying.
“Stand lower, closer to the mic!” One veteran cameraman yelled. Peres’s aide placed an iPhone in the picture to record him, making matters worse.
The president of Israel does not stand lower, Peres replied.
He continued on in his whisper, virtually inaudible to the print reporters in front of him.
The tone was fitting: a man, comfortable in his ways that have brought him to success, confident that he would get his message across.
A leader known for optimism, delivery might not concern Peres; he knows Washington has listened.
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