Obama at Peres funeral: Abbas's presence reminds us of the unfinished business of peace

US president eulogizes his "dear friend" Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl, praises his optimism.

September 30, 2016 11:41
2 minute read.

Barack Obama Eulogy for Shimon Peres at funeral

Barack Obama Eulogy for Shimon Peres at funeral


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US President Barack Obama spoke at the funeral of former president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on Friday, referring to the senior Israeli statesman as "a friend."

"He showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea - a free life in a homeland regained. A secure life in a nation that can defend itself, by itself," Obama said.

Obama thanked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for attending, saying that "President Abbas's presence here is a reminder of the unfinished business of peace."

The US president discussed Peres's history, describing how his family had been killed in the Holocaust

"From an early age Shimon saw the ways in which one group of people can dehumanize another," Obama said.

"It steeled him against hardship and made him vigilant against threats to Jewry around the world...But that understanding would never harden his heart, it never extinguished his faith," the president said.

"It made him see that all people were worthy of dignity and respect. It helped him see not just the world as it is, but the world as it should be," Obama stated.

He lauded Peres for his help in building Israel's defense capabilities and his efforts to turn Israel into "a central hub of the digital age - making life not just better for the people here, but for the people around the world."

Obama said that his contribution to Israel was so pervasive, that it could be overlooked.

As Bill Clinton said in his speech earlier, Obama rejected the idea that Peres was naive. "He brushed off the critics. I know from my conversations with him that his pursuit of peace was never naive."

"He understood in this war-torn region, in which Arab youth are often taught to hate from an early age - he knew how hard peace would be," Obama said.

"He understood that true security comes from making peace with your neighbors," the US president said.

"'The Jewish people weren't born to rule another people' he would say," Obama quoted Peres as saying.

Even after terror attacks and disappointments, Peres believed that Palestinians must be seen as equal to Jews in dignity, as people, and therefore in self-determination, Obama said.

"Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled," Obama stated. "The region is going through a chaotic time. Threats are ever present. And yet he did not stop dreaming and working."

"I was the tenth president since John F. Kennedy to sit with Shimon," Obama said. He compared him to great leaders such as South Africa's Nelson Mandela, "people who speak in depth and knowledge, not in soundbites.

"He knew better than the cynic that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear, but with hope," the US president said.

"Toda Raba Chever Yakar," Obama concluded his speech, the Hebrew for "Thank you dear friend."

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