He had been wanting to come to Israel for a long time, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta,
president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor and a co-recipient of the
1996 Nobel Peace Prize, told President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi on
East Timor's president returns after assassination attempt
East Timor President wounded in attack on his home
The two men previously met at the United Nations just before East
Timor gained independence in 2002.
Ramos-Horta, 61, and his entourage
flew from East Timor to Singapore and from there to Bangkok to catch a flight to
Ramos-Horta said that he had first become aware of Israel and the
Jewish people as a teenager in the 1960s when he read Exodus.
he read many books about the history and fight for survival of the Jewish
people, and of the persecution, discrimination and abuse to which Jews had been
To him, Peres represents “the best of the Jewish
Ramos-Horta lauded Peres’ compassion and his permanent quest for
He said he had come to Israel to seek support for agricultural
self-sufficiency, food security and maritime security.
Timor does not suffer conventional security threats, he said, “but we have to be
prepared for piracy on the high seas.”
While keen to enhance relations
with Israel, he admitted that the fruits of friendship would be a one-way street
because there is very little that East Timor can do that will benefit
This didn’t seem to bother Peres, who pledged: “Whatever we can
do for you, we will do gladly and full-heartedly.”
Later in the day,
Ramos-Horta was at the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for
International Relations to speak on “Peace-Building, State-Building and
Reconciliation: Experience and Perspectives.”
He had touched briefly on
this at the luncheon at Beit Hanassi, when he said: “We have reconciled with all
those who have occupied us, and today we have exemplary relations with
These state-to-state and people- to-people relations have
resulted in Indonesia being East Timor’s strongest advocate in its efforts to
join ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations).
“There is no
short cut to peace,” Ramos-Horta said.
“There is a long, tortuous
Only those who have dreams, vision and determination can attain
Ramos-Horta’s visit to the region includes meetings with the
leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
His message to both Israelis and
Palestinians is identical.
“Palestinians and Israelis, without lectures
from the outside, must be able to find a way to live together in this crowded
region,” he said Located in Southeast Asia, East Timor was colonized by Portugal
in the 16th century and decolonized in 1975, when East Timor gained
A few months later, East Timor was invaded and annexed by
Indonesia, which for 24 years regarded it as a 27th province. Following United
Nations intervention, Indonesia relinquished control of East Timor, but the
country did not officially regain its independence until May 20,
Its population is slightly in excess of a million people. East
Timor and the Philippines are the only predominantly Catholic countries in
On completing his law studies in the United States, Ramos- Horta
returned home and became a political activist dedicated to restoring his
country’s independence. In 1970, when his political activities put his life at
risk, he fled to Mozambique.
Two years later, he was back in East Timor
where he was among the founders of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent
East Timor, or Fretilin.
During the brief period of East Timor’s
independence in 1975, Fretilin was the ruling party and Ramos-Horta was named
foreign minister. His career as such was cut short nine days later with the
Indonesian invasion. His life was in peril yet again, and exile was once more a
During the 24 years of Indonesian occupation,
Ramos-Horta served as East Timor’s spokesman-in-exile and de facto ambassador to
the UN. He frequently spoke out against human rights violations by the
Indonesians and formulated a peace plan that he was convinced would bring an end
to violence in his country, where a brutal civil war turned what was basically a
natural paradise into a hellhole.
The money that he received with the
Nobel Prize in 1996 was channeled into a program called Microcredit for the
Three years later, when the UN established a Transition
Administration in East Timor, Ramos-Horta allowed himself to go home.
2006, he became prime minister, and survived an assassination attempt, being was
shot at and wounded near his home. In 2007, he was elected the second president
of the country.
Peres described him as “a man of courage who brought
independence and peace to his land at a high cost.”
Later at a state
luncheon that he hosted in honor of Ramos- Horta, Peres said of him that he
represented the highest order of morality.
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