Tributes continue to pour in for departed Israel President & Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who passed on Wednesday. He was 93.
“Shimon Peres led with unshakable humility and a firm commitment to our common humanity,” said Stuart Milk, Co-founder and President of the Harvey Milk Foundation. “An optimist and visionary, President Peres worked tirelessly to heal wounds and lay the foundation for peace, we have lost a giant among global leaders.”
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A Nobel Prize winner, Peres was the last of Israel’s living political leaders involved in the founding of the Jewish state. He served as the ninth President of Israel from 2007-2014 and twice as Prime Minister.
“It is undeniably heartbreaking and poignant that we have lost Shimon Peres as we approach the Jewish High Holidays, when the Jewish people are introspective, working to renew our commitments to family, community, social justice and repairing the world,” said Hava L. Holzhauer, Florida’s Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, in a news release. “May the memory of Shimon Peres be as much of a blessing for the people of Israel and the Jewish people as his life was.”
Born in what is now known as Belarus, Peres is remembered for his creativity and negotiation skills as well as transforming the Israel Defense Forces from ragtag refugees into an elite fighting force.
His planning of the Suez Canal in the mid 1950s earned Peres the highest medal of the French Legion of Honor. Peres is often cited as a driving force behind trade deals between Israel and France in regards to situations in Algeria, Egypt and development of a nuclear weapons program.
French President Francois Hollande said Peres was an “ardent defender of peace and a faithful friend of France.”
Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the Oslo Accords, a set of agreements between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
In one of his final interviews with the press, Peres told Time Magazine the Oslo Accords were a direct result of an ability to persuade France to help build a nuclear weapons facility in the Israeli city of Dimona.
“Dimona helped us achieve Oslo,” Peres told the magazine. “Because many Arabs, out of suspicion, came to the conclusion that it’s very hard to destroy Israel because of it, because of their suspicion. Well, if the result is Dimona, I think I was right.”
“Shimon’s life traced his country’s extraordinary journey,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “He was one of Israel’s founding patriots. He was an immigrant who went on to cultivate the land and plant the seeds of a modern state. He helped ensure Israel could defend itself in times of war, but was always ready to extend a hand to former adversaries.”
In keeping with his legacy of social justice, Peres recognized the importance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people to live with dignity and respect.
“Every LGBT person is a human being,” Peres said during a speech in Vilnuis, Lithuania in 2013. “You cannot take away someone’s rights because they are different. We cannot take away their right to breathe or right to form a family. We must allow everyone to live as is natural to them.”