The World Remembers Shimon Peres
DU dean recalls former prime minister’s work for peace
“They don’t make them like they used to,” says former U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill about the passing of Shimon Peres. Over the course of more than 60 years, Peres filled nearly every political position in Israel, including prime minister and president.
Peres died Wednesday at age 93. Today more than 90 delegations from 70 countries are in attendance at his funeral. Some of the dignitaries include: President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Britain’s Prince Charles and King Felipe VI of Spain.
“I think he will be remembered for the historic figure that he is,” says Hill, dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Hill and Peres met on two different occasions. Their first meeting was 15 years ago when Hill served as U.S. ambassador to Poland. Their second meeting was in 2012 when Hill visited Israel. He says then-President Peres wanted to discuss different issues around the word, including North Korea and China.
“He did a lot of good for Israel around the world and most importantly, he was a reconciler of conflicting views and was truly a man of peace,” Hill says. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and representatives from Egypt and Jordan are attending the funeral, testament to Peres’ wide reach. In 1994, Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward achieving peace. He shared the award with another Israeli, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Rabin was later assassinated by a Jewish extremist who opposed peace efforts.
“To have had a steady reputation as a person of reason and a person who really sought to find the best in people is truly unique,” Hill says of Peres. In a political career that spanned more than seven decades, Peres often struggled to win widespread support in Israel. Five times he ran for prime minister (Israel’s highest political seat), but only once was he victorious.
“It’s always difficult to be a prophet in your own village. I think with some Israelis, it’s only in recent times that they have come around to understand what a national asset he was.”