Obama at Peres' funeral: Peace-making is now in next generation's hands

Last to speak at Peres' funeral, the US President said Peres "showed us that justice and hope were at the heart of the Zionist idea."
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US President Barack Obama on Friday honored Israel's ninth President Shimon Peres with a powerful speech on Mount Herzl, praising Peres' vast contribution to Israel's security but also describing his relentless efforts for peace. "He understood that true security comes from making peace with your neighbors," Obama said.

Early in his speech, Obama addressed the presence of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at the funeral, saying it was "a reminder of the unfinished business of peace." "Now," he added, "the work of peace-making is in the hands of Israel’s next generation and its friends."

Recounting Peres' childhood in Poland, during which he had to cope with the loss of his grandfather in the Holocaust, Obama said, "From an early age Shimon saw the ways in which one group of people can dehumanize another. But that understanding would never harden his heart, it never extinguished his faith. It made him see that all people were worthy of dignity and respect. It helped him see not just the world as it is, but the world as it should be."

"Even in the face of terrorist attacks," Obama said, "even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews and must therefore be equal in self-determination. He believed that the Zionist idea was best protected when the Palestinians had a state of their own."

Photo credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Both Israel and the United Stated, Obama said, "were not built by cynics. And Shimon Peres was never cynical. He knew better than the cynic that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear, but with hope."

The President ended his eulogy with a quote from the biblical book of Deuteronomy, "Choose life," which he said in Hebrew and English. He then said in Hebrew "Toda raba, chaver yakar" – "Thank you very much, dear friend."

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