A star-studded international extravaganza in Jerusalem this week celebrated President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday and served as a reminder of his 65 years of service to the state and his undying vision of peace for Israel and its neighbours.
While Mr Peres’s actual birthday is in August, the official reason for the jamboree that brought together Nobel prize winners, former and serving heads of states, film stars such as Robert De Niro and a rare performance by Barbra Streisand, was the president’s annual conference, “Facing Tomorrow”.
Although the aim of the conference was to deal with the challenges facing Israel and the world, the focus was on the host, now entering his seventh and final year as president. Topping the bill of guests was former US president Bill Clinton, who called Mr Peres “the world’s social Einstein” and said that he had “tried to put together a unified theory of meaning to unite politics and philosophy and psychology and history and science and technology”.
The president talked about his attempts to forge a peace agreement with the Palestinians, saying “the past between us and the Palestinians is full of sorrow”. But he added: “I believe that the Israel and Palestine of tomorrow could grant our children hope.”
On a more sober note, in one of the conference’s main sessions, former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan warned that Israel was running out of time to make peace with the Palestinians.