In his farewell speech as president of Israel, Shimon Peres has spoken of his belief in the country’s strength to overcome Hamas, and his intention to continue his public service.
Speaking at the Knesset as he prepared to hand over to incoming-head of state Reuven Rivlin, Mr Peres said he had watched Israel become a “great state”.
“I know of no other country on the face of the earth or throughout history, which amazed and surprised so much,” the 90-year-old said.
“It is a great privilege to be a citizen among citizens who know toil and struggle. Who made a supreme effort and carried determined hope until the first dew of our dawn.
“We returned. We built. We fought. We prayed. Until we began to see contours that even surprised us. We are an ancient people who are getting older. We are a people, first and foremost, that rebuilds itself time and again.”
Charting the history of the Jewish people and their state, Mr Peres said there were “still idols to be smashed, slaves to free, lives to save and justice to uphold. There is still a world to fix”.
Mr Peres, who has reached the end of his seven-year term, also referred to the current conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
“Challenges are not invited. They occur spontaneously. That is how the current challenge occurred. I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families. Tears in their eyes. And faith in their hearts,” he said.
Many of the festivities associated with the hand-over have been toned down due to the severity of the ongoing violence. Mr Rivlin will be sworn-in as the country’s president later today.
“I did not imagine that it would happen again, after we were hit with rockets which were intended to harm innocent civilians,” Mr Peres added.
“We must alert the world to the madness of the terrorist threat. Israel will win because of the IDF. Because of its excellent commanders and dedicated soldiers. There is no other army like the IDF. Its power is great. Its equipment is advanced. Its values are clear.
“The country is proud of its army. The people love the army. The nation trusts it.”
Mr Peres concluded by promising to continue supporting the Israeli people.
“I have come to bid you farewell as a citizen, as a man whose dream is still alive,” he said. “As a man who has learned from experience that the greatness of Israel's reality is greater than the dream which begot it at its dawn.
“I am taking leave of my position as President, but not from my duty as a citizen. I was a President who loved his people. As of now, I am a citizen in love with my people.
“I will not give up my right to serve my people and my country. And I will continue to help build my country, with a deep belief that one day it will know peace.”