Shortly after returning to Jerusalem from Sycamore Farm, where he had attended the burial of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, US Vice President Joe Biden called on President Shimon Peres at the president’s official residence.

Biden was accompanied by a congressional delegation, as well as former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer and current US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.

Peres waited outside and greeted Biden as he alighted from his car. The two men hugged each other, then walked the length of the red carpet with their arms around one another’s shoulders.

Peres told Biden and the delegation how moved he was by their presence, saying, “You are an outstanding friend of Israel” – referring not only to Biden personally but also to the United States.

Peres expressed appreciation to Biden and the delegation for making the trip to honor “one of our greatest soldiers” and complimented Biden on the eulogy he had delivered earlier in the day and for his inclusion of the historic perspective of US-Israel relations.

“You come not only on a sad day, but at a time when Israel has to take tough and serious decisions,” said Peres, adding that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is making a serious attempt to take the right decision and make peace.

Peres voiced his belief that, once peace is achieved, “the whole of the Middle East will change.” The president warned that a decision must be taken soon and not postponed.

He commended US Secretary of State John Kerry “for his dynamic efforts for peace” and thanked Biden and US President Barack Obama “for supporting him and energizing him.”

Biden praised Peres as “one of a handful of men in the world who possess not only great experience, but great wisdom” and said that he learned something from him every time they met.

He said that Obama had wanted him and the delegation to come to Israel not only to pay tribute to a war hero who embodied the concept of a nation state, but also to encourage Israel and the Palestinians to realize that the two-state solution “is an opportunity that has to be seized.” Kerry is trying to accommodate that outcome, he said.

Biden also voiced his confidence that “the prime minister is up to it,” adding that “Abu Mazen also has to make difficult decisions.”

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