Citing his “moral example,” President Barack Obama said today that his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, would receive the US Medal of Freedom later this year.
Obama made the announcement at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington. The Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian honor.
“Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, ‘Slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom,’” Obama said, AFP reported. “He has lived those values. He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings. I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example.”
Peres, 88, has twice held the prime minister’s office. He first took power in 1977 after Yitzhak Rabin’s resignation.
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He’s a tireless proponent of peace and helped write the 1993 Oslo Accords that established future peace drives with Palestine, AFP said. He also negotiated a treaty with Jordan.
He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Rabin for their work on the Oslo Accords.
Peres was foreign minister during his work on the accords.
He also took the stage today to address the 13,000 delegates at AIPAC, a pro-Israel US lobby group.
Peres lauded Obama’s efforts when dealing with Iran, and said the world must stop that country’s nuclear efforts.
“Peace is always our first option. But, if we are forced to fight, trust me – we shall prevail,” he said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Peres also suggested, though, that change is upon the Arab world, and it’s imperative to reach out to a younger generation of Muslims anxious for peace.
“The Palestinians are our neighbors for life. Peace can and must be achieved, a peace based on a two state-solution: a Jewish state – Israel, an Arab state – Palestine,” he said.
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