NEW YORK, Sept. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC joins with the people of Israel and lovers of peace around the world in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres, the last surviving leader of Israel's founding generation, at the age of 93.
"Shimon Peres will forever be remembered as one of the great visionary leaders of the Jewish people," said AJC CEO David Harris, who met with Peres many times both in Israel and the U.S.
"Peres had extraordinary energy, boundless optimism, and future-oriented vision, not only about the possibilities of peace and coexistence in the region, but also about the exciting pathways of new technologies for the benefit of humankind—from nano-science to mapping the brain," Harris added.
Harris also noted Mr. Peres's close relationship with AJC, saying, "His door was always open to us."
AJC leaders met with Peres often over the years both in Israel and the U.S. "He would often graciously thank AJC for its support during the 1960s, when he and his mentor, David Ben-Gurion, were in the political wilderness," said Harris.
Peres addressed AJC meetings on a number of occasions, notably AJC's 2001 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., where he shared the platform with President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vincente Fox, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher.
"Among all Jewish organizations, I have found that yours is the most profound," Peres said of AJC. "Your organization was the first one to focus on the globality of our life. I don't know any other organization that pays so much attention to what's happening outside the United States, with respect to and beyond Jewish life, from India to Germany to France and in many other places."
The life of Shimon Peres was virtually synonymous with the history of the State of Israel. Born Szymon Perski in Poland in 1923, Peres was brought to Palestine in 1934. He was a member of the Haganah during Israel's War of Independence, supervised the new nation's arms purchases in the U.S., and, as Director-General of the Defense Ministry, negotiated an arrangement with France to supply vital arms to the Jewish state.
Peres spent decades at the center of Israeli political life. First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he was named Minister of Immigrant Absorption ten years later, and then Minister of Transportation and Communications, Information Minister, Minister of Defense, and Foreign Minister. He twice served as Prime Minister (1984-86, 1995-96). While he was Foreign Minister in 1994, Peres—along with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Yasir Arafat for the Oslo Accords aimed at securing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Peres reached the peak of his popularity during his term as President of Israel from 2007 to 2014. Liberated from the constraints of partisan politics, he emerged as a revered symbol of national unity and a visionary spokesman for peace between Israel and its neighbors. In 2012, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.
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SOURCE American Jewish Committee