Ever one to steal the spotlight, President Barack Obama upstaged iconic Israeli leader Shimon Peres at this own funeral Friday.
“I could somehow see myself in his story, and he could see himself in mine,” said Obama, speaking on behalf of the deceased leader, who not only helped found the state of Israel, but also served stints as both president and prime minister.
Obama noted that Peres reminded him of former South African president Nelson Mandela and the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth. The president hailed his friendship with the former Israeli leader, who he met with several times during his political career and once awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“He knew better than the cynic that if you look at the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear but with hope,” said Obama.
Obama also took an opportunity to point out the ongoing stalemate in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled,” he said.
The President ended his speech in Hebrew, saying: “Todah rabah, chaver yakar.”
“Thank you, dear friend” in English.
It is not the first time Obama has compared himself to great leaders of history. He made a similarly veiled comparison to himself, Mahatma Ghandi and Mandela at a fundraising event in March, 2012.
Peres, who also won a Nobel Peace Prize, began his political life at a young age. He was a key player in the founding of Israel in 1948, and was the last of Israel’s founding fathers. He spent nearly five decades in public service, including stints as president, prime minister, minister of defense and minister of foreign affairs, to name a few. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for the trio’s peace talks that eventually led to the Oslo Accords. Peres, who died at age 93, was also known for his optimism and brilliant oratory, in addition to his half-century of impressive accomplishments.
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