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Peres accepts US Presidential Medal of Freedom (JERUSALEM POST) By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER JPOST CORRESPONDENT 06/14/12) Source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=273781
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The White House decided to award President Shimon Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his singular achievements leading Israel and working for peace, but Peres is accepting the award on behalf of all Israelis.
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“I receive this honor today on behalf of the people of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor,” Peres said upon receiving the award Wednesday night. “With this moving gesture, you are paying tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, fought for, a state of their own.”
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Peres is only the second Israeli to receive America’s highest civilian honor, after president George W. Bush awarded former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky the medal for his vigorous defense of democracy.
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Peres detailed Israel’s triumph out of the ashes of the Holocaust, vanquishing numerically superior armies and emerging as a technological and economic dynamo. But he also warned of the dangers that face Israel. Referring to Iran’s threat to annihilate Israel and its quest for a nuclear weapon, Peres declared: “We have a solemn responsibility to our own people, to our friends throughout the world, to posterity. The Iranian threat must be stopped. It cannot be delayed.”
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His words also included praise for US President Barack Obama’s efforts to build an international coalition to meet this threat and to implement economic sanctions while keeping all options on the table, moves Israel supports. Peres, a long-time advocate of the effort to make peace with Palestinians, also reiterated his support for a two-state solution and his belief that both sides should be working toward its realization at this very time.
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Obama described Peres as someone “who has done more for the cause of peace in the Middle East than just about anybody alive,” at the ceremony in May in which the other 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients were honored.
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Obama stressed the importance of the US-Israel relationship as well as praising Peres’s contributions to building ties between the two countries.
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“One of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel,” Obama said. “And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and bring our two nations closer as the leader we honor tonight — our friend, Shimon Peres.”
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Obama praised Peres for his role in strengthening Israel, a country that must be able to to safeguard itself and that is better able to make peace when able to defend itself.
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“It’s why I’ve worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu to ensure that the security cooperation between the United States and Israel is closer and stronger than it has ever been,” Obama said. “Because the security of the State of Israel is non-negotiable. And the bonds between us are unbreakable.”
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He praised Peres not only for working to secure Israel, but for pursuing peace: “It has been the cause of his life — peace, security and dignity, for Israelis and Palestinians and all of Israel’s Arab neighbors.”
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Peres said, “I believe that peace with the Palestinians is more urgent than ever before. It is necessary. It is crucial. It is possible. A delay may worsen its chances.
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“Israel and the Palestinians are ripe today to restart. A firm basis already exists.”
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And in an expression of his inveterate optimism, he added, “The Palestinians are our closest neighbors. I believe they may become our closest friends.”
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While acknowledging that Israel’s pluralistic society was not perfect, Peres emphasized the long road that the Jewish people have trod to realize Israel’s promise.
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“It is not yet perfect, but it is an example of what can be.” (© 1995- 2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/14/12)
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