TEL AVIV – President Barack Obama joined statesmen from all over the world in eulogizing former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who passed away at the age of 93 on Tuesday night, calling him “the essence of Israel itself.”
“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” the president said in a statement.
“I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend,” he continued. “Shimon was the essence of Israel itself — the courage of Israel’s fight for independence, the optimism he shared with his wife Sonya as they helped make the desert bloom, and the perseverance that led him to serve his nation in virtually every position in government across the entire life of the State of Israel.”
Peres’ political career stretched over seven decades; he served twice as Israel’s prime minister and most recently as the country’s president. As Obama noted, the late statesman and Nobel Peace Prize winner worked with every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy.
Obama asserted that “no one did more over so many years as Shimon Peres to build the alliance between our two countries—an unbreakable alliance that today is closer and stronger than it has ever been.”
“A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever,” the president added.
Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton released a joint statement saying they had “lost a true and treasured friend.”
“With the passing of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost a leader who championed its security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth,” the Clintons wrote. “The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation, and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow together.”
Former President George W. Bush and his wife mourned Peres’ passing, saying he was a man of hope.
“Laura and I join the people of Israel and those around the world in mourning the death of Shimon Peres. As a young man, he worked for his country’s independence. For the rest of his life, he led it with a deep and abiding concern for his people and a commitment to freedom and peace. The Bush family will miss Shimon Peres and his grace, dignity, and optimism.”
Meanwhile, former President George H.W. Bush added his thoughts on Peres’ lifetime of achievement, saying: “Time and again he helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge. But it was by his innate humanity, his decency, that Shimon inspired the world over and helped pave a path to peace broad enough that future generations will walk it one day, side-by side.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan hailed Peres as “a gift to the country he helped establish and lead, and a persistent voice for the cause of peace.”
“President Peres’ countless contributions to the world earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the Wisconsin Republican wrote in a statement. “While we join the State of Israel and people around the globe in mourning his death, we also give thanks for his incredible life.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in statement that Peres was a man who “worked tirelessly for a two-state solution that would enable Israel to live securely and harmoniously with the Palestinians and the wider region.”
European leaders joined in mourning the former president.
“Shimon Peres now belongs to history, which was his companion during his long life,” said French President Francois Hollande. “With the death of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost one of its most illustrious statesmen, and peace one of its most ardent defenders.”
“Shimon Peres marked Israel like no other politician. He served his country in different roles with solid principles when it concerned Israel’s security and a strong will when it was about advancing the peace process with the Palestinians,” German President Joachim Gauck said.
Peres was hospitalized for two weeks after suffering a major stroke.