Obama says ‘a light has gone out’ with Shimon Peres’s death

Obama says ‘a light has gone out’ with Shimon Peres’s death

Bill Clinton, UN’s Ban lead chorus of current and former leaders hailing Israel’s founding father as a champion of peace

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Ex-president Shimon Peres greets US President Barack Obama at a reception held in Obama's honor at Peres's residence in Jerusalem on March 20, 2013. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Ex-president Shimon Peres greets US President Barack Obama at a reception held in Obama's honor at Peres's residence in Jerusalem on March 20, 2013. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Moments after news of Shimon Peres’s death emerged early Wednesday morning, eulogies began pouring in from world leaders from across the globe.

“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,” US President Barack Obama, who is expected to attend the late president’s funeral Friday, said in a statement.

“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,” he said.

Peres worked with every US president since John F. Kennedy, noted Obama, adding that “no one did more over so many years as Shimon Peres to build the alliance between our two countries.

“A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever,” Obama continued. “Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace, and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves — to the very end of our time on Earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others. For the gift of his friendship and the example of his leadership, todah rabah, Shimon.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with Israel's president Shimon Peres after a joint press conference at the president residence in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with Israel’s president Shimon Peres after a joint press conference at the president residence in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed Peres as 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, a commitment duly recognized when he shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.” The late Israeli president was “a good partner of the United Nations, eager to see Israel contribute to the work of the international community,” Ban said in a statement.

“Even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Peres for his “courage and patriotism”.

“I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak with this remarkable person many times. Every time I admired his courage and patriotism, his wisdom and vision, his ability to grasp the essence of the most difficult issues,” Putin said in a message of condolence. “In our country he will be remembered as a staunch supporter of the development of friendly Russian-Israeli ties, having done much to strengthen mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.”

The Kremlin said Putin also praised Peres for his “personal contribution toward achieving a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.”

Vladmir Putin (L) and Shimon Peres at Peres' residence in Jerusalem on June 25, 2012 (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)
Vladmir Putin (L) and Shimon Peres at Peres’ residence in Jerusalem on June 25, 2012 (Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she was “heartbroken” to learn of Peres’s passing, calling him an “immense source of inspiration.” Writing on Twitter, she added that the “only way to honor [his] memory” is to work toward a two-state solution.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “Shimon Peres was, above all, a man of peace. My deepest condolences to his loved ones and to the people of Israel on his passing.”

US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, lamented the loss of a leader who championed his country’s “security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth.” They said they had lost a “true and treasured friend.”

“I’ll never forget how happy he was 23 years ago when he signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, heralding a more hopeful era in Israeli-Palestinian relations,” they said.

“He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration, and a nation, a region, and a world enhanced by caring and sharing, not torn asunder by the illusions of permanent dominance and perfect truth. His critics called him a dreamer. That he was — a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness. Let those of us who loved him and love his nation keep his dream alive.”

Bill Clinton’s predecessor in office, George H. W. Bush, said that he and his wife, Barbara, saluted Peres’s “singular life of service — to the universal cause of freedom, to the timeless cause of Israel, to the noblest cause of peace.” Time and again, Peres “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.”

“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.

Indian PM Narenda Modi tweeted: “In former President Shimon Peres, we lost a key world leader & a friend of India. Pained by his demise. Our condolences to people of Israel.”

Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican president and leaders and FM and ambassadors from across the globe also issued statements

Former British prime minister and Middle East Quartet chair Tony Blair called Peres “a political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply.”

Condolences also poured in from Jewish organizations. The Anti-Defamation League hailed Peres as Israel’s longest serving and most prominent leader and statesman. “We will deeply miss his clarion voice, statesmanship and wisdom,” the group stated.

J Street highlighted Peres’s transformation from warrior to peacemaker, calling him “a hawk turned dove, a fierce political fighter turned unifier.”

“We shall not see his like again,” the group said in a statement.

News agencies contributed to this report.

read more: