Shimon Peres never spoke about peace without evoking the security for Israel, and he was fully aware about the importance of the survival of Israel as a nation, but he also knew that there was no alternative to peace.
He persuaded Yitzhak Rabin to accept the Oslo Accords. Peres shook hands with Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the P.LO. It earned them a Noble Peace Prize. We all know what happened next. But even after Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli religious extremist, Peres continued tirelessly to work for peace.
Shimon Peres wasn’t perfect, but he was the first Israeli president to withdraw Israeli forces from Lebanon and deal with the economic crisis the country was facing.
Here is what Shimon Peres believed in: “An ancient Greek philosopher was asked what is the difference between war and peace. ‘In war,’ he replied, ‘the old bury the young. In peace, the young bury the old.’ ”
Who will reassure us in the future that Israel will achieve peace? Shimon Peres was Israel’s moderate, in a nation led by hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Peres was an optimist who once said, “What happened until now is over, unchangeable. I’m not going to spend time on it. So I am really living in the future. I really think that one should devote his energies to make the world better and not to make the past remembered better.” This is a good lesson I still have to work on. I belong to the generation who is still hurting from the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and I often catch myself thinking what could have been.
On his 90th birthday, Peres said that he still believed that he would see peace in his lifetime. I, too, want to see peace in my lifetime and firmly believe that peace is the only way forward. Let’s celebrate a visionary and Israel’s rebirth while, at the same time, we work relentlessly at bringing about a just peace for all. I was disappointed that Arab leaders were notably absent at the funeral, but, following Peres’ example, I want to emphasize the positive, the courageous attendance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Shimon Peres was one of the last surviving pillars of Israel’s founding generation. May he rest in eternal peace, a peace that eluded him in his lifetime.