In his final address to Congress as Israel's president on Thursday, Shimon Peres thanked the U.S. for its friendship and support and urged the Americans to continue working with Israel to reach peace, eradicate terrorism and eliminate poverty.
"America and Israel should continue to work together to advance peace. Wars can be waged alone. Peace calls for a collective effort," Peres said, in his address, ahead of receiving a Congressional Gold Medal.
"The challenges we face are considerable," Peres said. "Together, we must fight terrorism, advance peace, and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Like President [Barack] Obama, Israel hopes that the issue of Iran will be resolved peacefully. And like President Obama, we believe that Iran should be judged by its actions not by words."
The Middle East as the world has known it is changing, Peres added, and individual nations must now rely on the global community for security.
"The foundations of the Middle East are shaking as the artificial structures built by the previous empires is unraveling," said Peres. "At the same time, the rules governing the world are being rewritten. Security and prosperity are no longer mainly national issues. They are now increasingly dependent on the global economy. And national security is now increasingly dependent on fighting global terrorism."
The whole world is vulnerable evils of terrorism, Peres added.
"The terrorists are the enemies of both of us. Terrorists spread danger over the entire region. The region must come together to stop them. The time is ripe to do so. Religions can play a meaningful role in restoring tolerance and hope. Religion can never permit terrorists to hijack faith and perpetrate violence in the name of heaven."
"Today and together, we must tackle the two monumental challenges we face: Terrorism and poverty. Terror knows no borders and obeys no rules. It kills hundreds of thousands, and turns millions into refugees. We see it in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Gaza and elsewhere. Terrorists act globally. Therefore, they should be fought globally. We must fight not only the acts of terrorism but the roots of terrorism. And not by military means alone. But by drying up their financial resources. By sanctioning their suppliers of arms. By delegitimizing their actions. By weaving a modern regional net that can catch terrorists and protect our populations."
"Many people call me a dreamer," he told U.S. lawmakers. "I suppose that’s why I have always felt at home here in America – the country that history has given the privilege to carry the dreams of humanity."
"[The] two great bodies that sit under this iconic marble dome – the Senate and the House of Representatives – offered a tiny Israel, struggling for life, an unbelievable and unbreakable friendship," Peres added.
"You helped Israel out of its loneliness. You helped Israel overcome our small size in a tough neighborhood. You helped us maintain a resilient democracy, to become strong enough to take risks for peace. Whether through military assistance and security cooperation or through diplomatic and moral support, you sent our people a clear message: That we are not alone.
"On behalf of all the people of Israel, I want to thank my friend and Israel’s friend, President Barack Obama, for standing by our side with an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security," he said. "I want to thank the American Congress, for your unwavering, bipartisan and generous support. Thank you for helping us weather so many storms, And for giving us confidence to meet challenges ahead."
In his parting words, Peres told lawmakers:
I leave you today with one piece of advice. It is the advice of a boy who dreamed on a kibbutz who never imagined where his blessed life would take him. When Theodore Herzl said: "If you will it, it is no dream."
He was right. Looking back on the life of Israel, our dreams proved not to be too big, but too small. Because Israel achieved much more than I could have ever imagined. So I ask only one thing of the United States of America, this mighty nation of dreamers. Don’t dream small. You are great. So dream big. And work to will those dreams into a new reality for you and all humanity. God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America."
As part of his tour of the U.S. capital, a month before he is due to leave office, Peres met with Obama and was granted a Human Rights Prize named in honor of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, in addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor. On Wednesday, Obama told Peres that since Congress usually disagrees with him about everything, the fact that both chose to award him with a medal is an exception to the rule.
In his meeting with Obama, Peres asked the American leader to support Abbas, whom he called a “courageous partner in peace."
After meeting for almost three hours with Obama and his staff as well as with American Jewish leaders who had been previously scheduled to come to the White House, the 90-year-old Peres went on to brief Israeli reporters and then the American press on the talks.
Peres and his aides emphasized that Obama opened his meeting with an unequivocal condemnation of the recent kidnapping of three yeshiva students.
Peres told reporters that Obama “said this was a top concern for him, and that America would do whatever it can to help bring the boys home.”
He also said that Obama had agreed to have the U.S. Attorney General examine a “new proposal” regarding the release of jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard that Peres had conveyed on behalf of Pollard’s family. Peres refused to give more details on the proposal.
Despite Peres' aides' best efforts, Obama did not agree to talk publicly at Peres’ side, or to make a statement at their joint photo-op.
In June 2012, Obama presented Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony.
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