MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Israel and the world are honoring Shimon Peres as a visionary and a fighter for peace.
The former president and prime minister died overnight at age 93. He was the last surviving leader of Israel’s founding generation.
Peres shared a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a 1993 peace deal with the Palestinians.
President Barack Obama gave this tribute: “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.”
He also said Peres changed the course of human history, working with other world leaders for decades to bring peace to the Middle East.
The consul general of Israel to Florida remembers traveling with Peres during his presidency, and recalls he was well-liked everywhere.
“He got a lot of love from people all over the world, obviously in Israel,” said Lior Haiat. “It’s like I don’t know if I’ll say a father, but it’s like our grandfather had died and we’re all gonna miss him. He was part of all our lives.”
Even for his own people, Peres was a puzzle.
He spoke eloquent Hebrew with a foreign accent, lacked formal education yet brimmed with culture. He was a mediocre politician who became a statesman of spectacular vision.
His service in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was to last a record forty-eight years. Peres served as a minister in twelve cabinets and was prime minister twice.
His political career encompassed all of Israel’s wars but Peres believed his country’s security lay as much in making peace as it did in being prepared for conflict.
Peres co-operated with his fierce political rival Yitzhak Rabin to secure an interim peace accord with Egypt which formed the basis of the historic treaty signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
As foreign minister, Peres was in charge of the peace process with the Palestinians. “The Oslo Accord,” signed at the White House in 1993, won Peres, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1994, Peres sat down for one of his many interviews with Charlie Rose.
“May I say, almost with a smile on my face, that only politicians have the right to make mistakes, and without mistakes, you cannot reach peace,” said Peres during an interview with Rose.
A long and mostly secret special relationship with King Hussein of Jordan culminated in Israel’s second peace treaty with an Arab state.
In what perhaps summed up his life best, Shimon Peres once said, “the duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly…even in the face of hostility…in the face of doubt and disappointment…just imagine what could be.”