Former President Shimon Peres talks to the press after meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House during his presidency last June.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In accepting the Diplomacy Award for 2015, former president Shimon Peres, whose many high ranking positions included that of foreign minister but as head of the Labor party, rather than the ruling Likud party, joked to diplomats and would-be diplomats on Sunday he wasn’t sure they had made the right choice.
“You demonstrated great courage and took a great risk,” he said at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry marking the 68th anniversary of the United Nation’s General Assembly’s adoption of Resolution 181.
Unlike Israeli Independence Day celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar date, Kaf Tet B’November as it is called in Hebrew is always celebrated on November 29, the actual Gregorian calendar date in which the resolution for the partition of Palestine was voted in with 33 states in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions.
The resolution established the principle of two states for two peoples, and presaged the birth of modern Israel the year after.
Had the Arab population of Palestine accepted the resolution, there is no telling how much bloodshed could have been avoided, how much better the economies of both sides may have fared, and what could have been jointly achieved in various cooperative endeavors.
Without the UN there would be no State of Israel, Peres said.
Foreign Ministry director general Dore Gold applauded Peres as part of the generation that established the state, and that the ministry’s staff remained proud of him.
Jeremy Issacharoff, vice director-general, recalled working with Peres 23 years ago, and how he had helped him throughout his diplomatic career.
He said Peres had inspired generations who came after him.
Ambassador Pini Avivi, president of the Israeli Diplomats Association, referred to Peres as “our teacher and rabbi” and spoke of how Israeli security “rested on the shoulders of” its foreign ministry.
“Diplomacy can prevent war,” Avivi said, remarking how such steps as sanctions imposed against Iran would never have come about without the dedicated efforts of Israeli diplomats around the globe.
Peres said for 2,000 years Israeli diplomacy was diplomacy without geography, and after that “we had more history than geography.”
He mentioned Israel’s lack of natural resources, adding that Israel has some exceptional human resources, “but unfortunately not enough of them.”
Harking back to the earliest days of the state, Peres said that the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had insisted it be a Jewish state, specifically because he had visited refugee camps after the war, and seen those who survived the Holocaust which made him furious when the British would not allow the survivors to land at the shores of the Land of Israel.
Although Israel does not interfere with the policies of other countries said Peres, it is a given that wherever Jews are oppressed, under attack, victims of anti-Semitism or in any kind of peril, Israel will go to the rescue.
Peres kept his audience riveted as he spoke for an hour without interruption about Ben-Gurion’s Moshe Dayan’s and his own quiet diplomacy achievements in the face of the impossible.