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Peres' dream of peace saluted year after death

In a career spanning seven decades, Shimon Peres held nearly every major office and won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating the Oslo peace accords
Alberto Pizzoli (AFP/File)
Tony Blair, Dr. Henry Kissinger among dignitaries at state ceremony held at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl cemetery

Friends and old political rivals joined together Thursday in saluting Israel's Nobel laureate and Shimon Peres and his dream of peace, on the first anniversary of his death.

In a state ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery, President Reuven Rivlin paid a warm tribute, along with British former premier and Middle East peace envoy Blair.

"It's sad without you, even for those who didn't always agree with you," said Rivlin, a former lawmaker in the right-wing Likud party, who lost to Peres in the 2007 presidential race but won the post in 2014.

Peres, a Labour party stalwart, served twice as prime minister and held senior cabinet posts during a public career spanning 70 years, predating Israeli statehood.

He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for his role in negotiating the Oslo peace accords, which envisioned an independent Palestinian state.

But attempts to resolve the dispute have been at a standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in 2014.

"The dream of peace which you wove is still far, far off," Rivlin said Thursday, addressing his remarks to "my dear Shimon."

JACK GUEZ (AFP)

"You taught us that the world, including our neighborhood, can be a friend, not just a predator," he said. "That peace and security are two sides of the very same coin."

"You have left us much more to do, but the path you paved, the dream you spoke of, and most of all, your determination and faith, will be with this people for generations to come, and you will continue to be an advocate of all of us," Rivlin said.

Other dignitaries in attendance at the ceremony included former US secretary of state Dr. Henry Kissinger, who Peres awarded with Israel's Presidential Award of Distinction in 2012.

Ministers Gilad Erdan and Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), Opposition Chairman Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union), Labour Party Chairman Avi Gabay, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, MK Nava Boker (Likud) and incoming-Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Hanan Melcer also attended the ceremony.

Peres died aged 93 on September 28, 2016. His funeral in Jerusalem was attended by a gallery of world leaders including then US president Barack Obama.

The anniversary according to the Hebrew calendar falls on Saturday.

Sabrina BLANCHARD, Thomas SAINT-CRICQ (AFP)

Blair, who became envoy of the Middle East Quartet of peacemakers after leaving the British prime minister's office in 2007, said that Peres always stayed true to his vision.

"I was asked to describe Peres in three words: Compassionate, brave and creative, but compassionate above all else," Blair said.

"He never gave up on peace with the Palestinians or on his belief that peace was best secured by an independent state of Palestine alongside a recognized state of Israel," he said.

Chemi Peres, one of the late president's three children, said that in his biography, published in English on Tuesday, his father shows that he knew his life was coming to an end.

He quoted from the final chapter of the book, "No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination and the Making of Modern Israel."

"I was given about two and a half billion seconds and I decided to make use of each one of them in order to make a difference," he read.

"I don't regret any of my dreams," Simon Peres wrote. "My only regret is not having dreamed more."

(Staff with AFP)

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