'He epitomised optimism': World leaders pay tribute to Shimon Peres


Eulogies have poured in from around the globe for Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president, who died early this morning.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said: “This is a sad day for the Israeli people, and the state of Israel. We all bow our heads at hearing of his passing. I will carry his memory with me, his handshake, his sensible advice which he always gave lovingly, and in particular his spirit of hope which he breathed into this people. The spirit of hope and peace which was his path and desire.”

The country’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he bowed his head “in memory of our beloved, the dear one of the nation, the late Shimon Peres.

He added: "Shimon, the dear one of the nation, has departed from us. But he has not departed, he will never depart, from our hearts and our memory. Shimon Peres's name will be immortalised in the book of revival of the Jewish people, as one of the greatest leaders Israel had, and one of the founding fathers who established the State of Israel. May his memory be ingrained in the heart of the nation.”

US President Barack Obama said a light had gone, “but the hope he gave us will burn forever.”

He added that Mr 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. ‎”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May called Mr Peres "a visionary and courageous statesman, who worked relentlessly for peace and never lost hope that this would one day be achievable".

She added: “My thoughts go out to the Israeli people and the family of Shimon Peres as they mourn the loss of a beloved father and compatriot – a great man who epitomised optimism and a belief that by working together we can build a brighter future for generations to come.”

Former President Bill Clinton said he would miss his "brilliant and eloquent friend", adding, "His life was a blessing to all who strive for peace.”

In a message on Facebook, French President Francois Hollande said: “With the death of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost one of its most illustrious statesmen, peace has lost one of its most ardent defenders and France has lost a true friend.”

Donald Tusk, the current EU President, sent a letter of condolence to his counterpart, President Rivlin. He commended Mr Peres's "unwavering dedication to co-existence in the Middle East and between all peoples", praising him as "a man of tremendous wit, humour, charm, hard work and dedication."

Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, praised Shimon Peres as: "A political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply."

Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, called Mr Peres's death "a great loss for humanity and peace in the region".

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the Labour party, tweeted: “Shimon Peres's role in Israel-Palestine negotiations won a Nobel Peace Prize & should be the spur for a renewed drive for peace and justice.”

Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, added that Mr Peres was a "true statesman" and said "millions will mourn his passing."

David Quarrey, Britain's ambassador to Israel, sent his "deepest condolences" to President Peres's family and to all Israelis "from the Government & people of the UK", calling him "a towering figure of our time".

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "deeply saddened to hear of the death of one of the great leaders of our time.

"He was a man of action but also one of peace and we should remember his tireless efforts to secure a lasting peace for the Middle East."

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis called Mr Peres "a great statesman, the noblest of soldiers, a born leader, a uniquely talented diplomat, an inspiring speaker and a relentless campaigner."

He added: “But, more significantly than any of those things, Shimon Peres was the greatest living example of an unshakable belief in the pursuit of peace against all odds.

“However dark the day and however distant the dawn seemed, his unflinching optimism gave hope to millions of people, not just in Israel but across the world, that if we could just cling onto that dream of peace for a little while longer, we would eventually celebrate its realisation.

“Tragically, thus far, we have not succeeded. But from Shimon Peres we learned that we must never let go of that audacious commitment to peace, even when all around us are ready to do so."

Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, drew on her personal memories of Mr Peres, saying "one of the greatest blessings of my life was having grown up alongside Shimon and Sonia Peres.”

The former Israeli president and prime minister was, she said: “A brave, visionary and endlessly optimistic leader. Relentlessly working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians

“I loved him and know that his memory will be a blessing and an enduring beacon in Jewish history.”

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Shimon Peres. One of Israel’s founding generation, Peres was a towering statesman and a humanitarian, who served Israel from the time it was a fledgling nation struggling for survival until his retirement as President in 2014.

“He will be particularly remembered for his Nobel Prize-winning efforts towards peace with the Palestinians and as a negotiator and through the Peres Centre for Peace. While he will be sorely missed, we hope that his example will inspire a new generation of peacemakers to bring reconciliation to the Middle East and to the wider world.”

Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, described Mr Peres as "the last of the great founding political leaders of the modern State of Israel" who was "driven to ensure that Israel became the prosperous and successful country we all love and appreciate today.

“He was a great innovator and his creative efforts were a crucial factor that propelled Israel into the OECD. He was a tireless campaigner for peace in the region and an inspiration to Jewish people across the world in his pursuit of that goal. The fondness with which he is held is without peer in the Diaspora and his legacy will be felt for generations to come."

In North West London, the Barnet Labour group, led by Councillor Barry Rawlings, requested a book of remembrance be opened at Hendon Town Hall, for people to pay their respects. They also asked for the Israeli flag to be flown at half mast from the Town Hall. Both requests were agreed to by Richard Cornelius, the Leader of the Council. The condolence book will be organised in due course.

Meanwhile, residents of Peres's hometown of Vishneyeva, in Belarus, gathered outside the childhood home of their most famous son.

"Shimon Peres brought pride to our village through his life and accomplishments and we felt obliged to pay our respects following his death", said Oleg Demidchik, a Vishneyeva resident.

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