Middle East

End of an era as leaders, locals alike remember 'genius with a big heart' Shimon Peres


Nobel laureate and former Israeli president Shimon Peres, who died Wednesday, aged 93, left an indelible mark on world affairs. Here is a selection of the tributes paid to one of Israel's best-loved elder statesmen.

Former Israeli president and elder statesman Shimon Peres died in Tel Aviv on Wednesday aged 93, family and his doctor said.

Peres was hospitalised following a stroke two weeks ago and had made some progress before a sudden deterioration in his condition on Tuesday.

In Jerusalem Israelis expressed their feelings after the news of his death.

"It's a huge passing of an era. He is the last of the people who were around when the state started. Over the years he didn't get credit frankly for all the good things he did.

"People forget about the fact that he founded Israel's aircraft industries and represented us incredibly well in the world, was a recipient of the Nobel Prize foremost in trying to find peace agreement with Palestinians. It will be very very difficult to replace what he has done for us and the kind of person he was," said Sagrwim Pomerantz.

"So I, as every citizen in this country, I feel that he did a lot for this country," said Yossi Ohana.

Another resident, Andi Arnovits, said: "We've lost a consummate statesman, we've lost a leader with integrity. He knew exactly how to maneuver in the world, he was a diplomat, he was a peace maker, he was an innovator, he was incredibly courageous and forward thinking for someone who was his age and believed in innovation and taking risks and we've really lost an old fashioned diplomat."

Peres was part of almost every major development in Israel since the country's founding in 1948. In a career spanning nearly 70 years, he served in a dozen cabinets and was twice a Labour prime minister.

He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with the late former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for reaching an interim peace deal in 1993 which never turned into a lasting treaty.

Peres held the largely ceremonial post of president from 2007-2014 and used the pulpit to continue to advocate peace.

Earlier in September, after a series of health scares including a mild heart attack, Peres received an artificial pacemaker.

Leaders remember Peres

'Moral imagination'

"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.

"Perhaps because he had seen Israel surmount overwhelming odds, Shimon never gave up on the possibility of peace between Israelis, Palestinians and Israel's neighbours."

US President Barack Obama

'Genius with a big heart'

"The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow.

"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."

Former US president Bill Clinton

'Political giant'

"Shimon Peres was a political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply."

Tony Blair, former British prime minister and ex-special envoy to the Middle East Quartet

'Ardent defender' of peace

"Shimon Peres now belongs to history, which was his companion during his long life.

"With the death of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost one of its most illustrious statesmen, and peace one of its most ardent defenders."

French President Francois Hollande

'Mortal challenge'

"By his unyielding determination and principle, Shimon Peres time and again 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."

Former US president George Bush

'Solid principles'

"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

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