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)
President Reuven Rivlin expressed confidence on Wednesday that his predecessor, Shimon Peres, will win his battle to remain alive following a debilitating stroke.
Rivlin received updates on Peres’s condition from the former president’s daughter, Tzvia Walden.
“Shimon knows to fight, and if it depends on him, he’ll win,” Rivlin said at the President’s Residence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Peres at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on Wednesday night and offered his family any help necessary, including bringing in expert doctors from abroad.
Peres’s office received calls from current and former leaders from around the world, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former US president Bill Clinton, who called multiple times to receive updates. There were even messages from Arab countries. Peres Center for Peace director-general Efrat Duvdevani said she and family members of Peres read him messages from world leaders and ordinary citizens while holding his hand. She said he reacted to the letters by grasping tighter, especially when he was read a letter from a six-year- old girl.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau called on the public to pray for Peres’s health saying that the former president “has much merit in his great work for many years for the Jewish people and in the strengthening and security of the State of Israel since its establishment, and it is fitting that everyone join together in prayer for his recovery.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said during his daily Torah lesson that prayers should be recited for Peres’s recovery, adding that the 93-year-old should be credited with “the saving of the Torah world,” since he “established the [military service] exemption for yeshiva students and had great appreciation for the Torah, which my father [Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former chief rabbi and mentor of Shas] recognized till the end of his days.”
Peres was tasked by prime minister David Ben-Gurion to negotiate the exemption from military service of haredi men in 1951. At the time Peres said it was important that religious study in yeshivot be a feature of Israeli life, but in 2012 he stated that the numbers of exemptions had become “impossible” and backed ultra-Orthodox integration into the IDF.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman visited Peres on Wednesday morning in the hospital, and said he was getting the best and most professional medical treatment, adding that the country needs Peres, “a man who has many merits and whose contribution to Israel is enormous.
Litzman said he was continuing to pray for Peres’s recovery, “and God willing he will return to us quickly, healthy and whole.”
MK Moshe Gafni said he had been in close contact with Peres for many years, and had held meetings with him before, during and after his presidency.
“He never was tempted to join in the waves of incitement against the haredim,” commented Gafni, while also crediting him with the military exemption of yeshiva students.
“In his merit, Torah students were able to diligently engross themselves in their study since the establishment of the state, and he has many other merits in all walks of life of the state,” the United Torah Judaism lawmaker said.
Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin expressed frustration that the Right has been silent about Peres.
He said it was because the Right had not provided a sufficient alternative to the Oslo Accords.
“It’s as if Peres has immunity from criticism,” Feiglin said. “Why it is illegitimate to say anything? It’s because the Right has never provided a different narrative. So it doesn’t matter how much damage Oslo caused, how much blood spilled, how much money wasted.
That is why there is blind tribute to the man, no matter what he did.
He is controversial but the Right hasn’t dared to criticize. We see the weakness of the Right. Peres is such an icon and the Right hasn’t come up with an alternative to his philosophy.”