President Obama presented the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Israeli President Shimon Peres tonight, calling him “the essence of Israel itself – an indomitable spirit that will not be denied.”
”Shimon teaches us to never settle for the world as it is. We have a vision for the world as it ought to be, and we have to strive for it,” Obama said at a White House dinner in Peres’ honor. “He knows what we must never forget: With faith in ourselves and courage in our hearts, no dream is too big, no vision is beyond our reach.”
The president said the longtime Israeli leader knows the “necessity of strength” but also that a nation’s security depends on “the righteousness of its deeds – its moral compass.”
Obama praised Peres for strengthening the “unbreakable” bond between the U.S. and Israel, saying “no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and to bring our two nations closer.”
Accepting the award, Peres, 88, said it was a “testament to the historic friendship between our two nations.”
”I receive this honor today on behalf of the people of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor. With this moving gesture, you are paying, Mr. President, tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, fought for a state of their own – a state that would give them a shelter; a state that they could really defend by themselves,” he said.
”On their behalf, I thank you. I thank America for days of concern, for sleepless nights, caring for our safety, caring for our future,” he said.
Peres also discussed the threats facing Israel today, notably rising concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
”It is our responsibility to our own people, to our friends throughout the world, to posterity, that the Iranian threat must be stopped, and it cannot be delayed,” he said, thanking Obama for building a coalition to meet this threat.
”You started, rightly, with economic sanctions. You made it clear – rightly, again – that all options are on the table. Clearly, we support you and your policy,” he said.