Friday 19 July 2019

Tributes paid to Peres: 'a great statesman'

Israeli President Shimon Peres pictured in Tel Aviv in May. Picture: Getty
Israeli President Shimon Peres pictured in Tel Aviv in May. Picture: Getty
In 1994, Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat shaking hands as they pose with the Norwegian foreign minister Bjoern Tore Godal in Oslo. Picture: Getty
Israeli women look at a framed portrait of Peres displayed outside the presidential compound in Jerusalem yesterday. Photos: Getty
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Rory Tevlin and Raf Sanchez, Dublin and Jerusalem

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins led tributes from politicians in Ireland following the death of Shimon Peres.

The 93-year-old Israeli statesman died early yesterday, two weeks after suffering a major stroke.

News of his death prompted an outpouring of tributes from across the planet to the leader who never gave up on the dream of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

A host of dignitaries is expected at his funeral in Jerusalem tomorrow.

Mr Peres's political career stretched across seven decades and he was a constant presence in Israeli public life from before the founding of the Jewish state in 1948 until well into the 21st century.

Mr Kenny said that the Nobel Peace Prize winner found a cause to fight for and devoted his life to it.

"I learned with sadness of the death of Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister and President of Israel, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize," he said in a statement.

"On behalf of the people of Ireland, I offer my condolences on the passing of a man who believed that the purpose of life was to 'find a cause that's larger than yourself and then to give your life to it'. This is exactly what Peres did, in serving the state of Israel for over 66 years as a member of the Knesset, minister of foreign affairs, prime minister and president."

Mr Kenny said that Israel had lost a great statesmen.

"Peres' political career was as illustrious as it was long, and included many noteworthy achievements," he said.

"Perhaps his greatest, though, was his role in negotiating the Oslo Accords with Israel's Palestinian neighbours, who Peres hoped, would also become 'our closest friends'. For these efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.

"With Peres' passing, Israel has lost one of its greatest statesmen. At the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, the laureates were praised for having 'not only shown that a road to reconciliation can be found, but also very bravely taken several steps down that road'.

"I hope that Peres' legacy, along with that of Arafat and Rabin, will continue to inspire both Israelis and Palestinians leaders, as they continue on the road to reconciliation."

President Higgins paid tribute to a man he said was driven by his "ideals". He said: "Shimon Peres' life and political actions were shaped by his deep commitment to his ideals, by his wisdom and by dedication to his country and to peace in the region.

"His approach to peace was recognised when he, in 1994, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

"His life mirrored some of the great dramas of 20th century Europe and the Middle East and he shall be remembered for his courage that saw him change course from confrontation to reconciliation. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."

US President Barack Obama said: "Perhaps because he had seen Israel surmount overwhelming odds, Shimon never gave up on the possibility of peace between Israelis, Palestinians and Israel's neighbours.

"I can think of no greater tribute to his life than to renew our commitment to the peace that we know is possible."

British Prime Minister Theresa May called him "a visionary and courageous statesman, who worked relentlessly for peace and never lost hope that this would one day be achievable".

Mr Peres and Bill Clinton worked closely in the 1990s and the former US president called him "a lucid eloquent dreamer until the very end".

His death brought Israeli politics to a halt and Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister and a former political rival, said: "Few people contributed as much to our people and to our state."

Mr Peres's son-in-law and personal physician, Dr Rafi Waldan, said that the former president died peacefully with his family around him.

"For us, it is a double grief because he was really a family man as well as a public figure," he said. "We have the grief of losing a very beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather but as citizens we also have the grief of losing one of the leading figures in the history of Israel and one of the country's greatest statesmen."

Mr Peres was married to his wife Sonya for 66 years until her death in 2011. They had three children. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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