Obama Delivers Speech At Funeral For Former Israeli President Shimon Peres
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Obama and former President Bill Clinton joined many other dignitaries in Jerusalem today to pay their last respects to Shimon Peres. The former prime minister and president of Israel died this week at the age of 93. He was one of Israel's founders and shared a Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to make peace with the Palestinians. President Obama was among those who expressed hope today that peace is still possible. NPR's Daniel Estrin sent us this report from Jerusalem.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in Hebrew).
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: This was the Hebrew prayer sung beside Shimon Peres' coffin, as he had requested before he died. It's a prayer asking God to end war and hate. Peres wanted Israel to sign a comprehensive peace deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It hasn't happened, but the Palestinian leader came to Peres' his funeral. It was Abbas' first official visit to Israel in six years. He shared a brief, awkward handshake with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When President Obama delivered his eulogy, he said Abbas' presence was a reminder of the unfinished business of peace.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BARACK OBAMA: Shimon accomplished enough things in his life for a thousand men. But he understood that it is better to live to the very end of his time on Earth with a longing not for the past, but for the dreams that have not yet come true - an Israel that is secure in a just and lasting peace with its neighbors. And so, now, this work is in the hand of Israel's next generation.
ESTRIN: Outside the funeral, I spoke with some of Israel's next generation. They said they admired Peres, but they didn't focus on his peace efforts. They spoke about his contributions to Israel's security from earlier chapters in his career, like helping build Israel's nuclear arsenal in the 1950s.
Thirty-nine-year-old Miki Steinhart, who watched the funeral on TV while at a fitness center, said he doesn't share Peres' vision of ceding West Bank land to the Palestinians.
MIKI STEINHART: I don't think it can be peace when I give some part of Israel. I think he was wrong about that.
ESTRIN: At the funeral, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he didn't always agree with Peres about how to secure peace for Israel, but looking out at all the world leaders at the funeral, he acknowledged Peres, quote, "swept so many with his vision and his hope." Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.