U.S. President Barack Obama has presented Israeli President Shimon Peres with the Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, during a formal dinner at the White House.
Mr. Obama Wednesday praised the 88-year-old Peres, a former prime minister, as “the essence of Israel itself — an indomitable spirit that will not be denied,” in the presentation speech. The U.S. president also praised Mr. Peres as the symbol of the decades-long alliance between the United States and Israel.
“Shimon knows the necessity of strength, as Ben-Gurion (first prime minister of Israel) said, 'An Israel capable of defending herself, which cannot be destroyed, can bring peace nearer,' so he has worked with every American president since John F. Kennedy. That's why I have worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu, to ensure that the security cooperation between the United States and Israel is closer and stronger than it has ever been. Because the security of the State of Israel is non-negotiable and the bonds between us are unbreakable.”
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Peres praised Mr. Obama for “his lasting friendship” towards the Jewish state.
“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 a 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, as state that they could really defend by themselves.”
Mr. Peres is one of 13 people who were recently awarded the Medal of Freedom, including musician Bob Dylan, John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth; and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. The other 12 honorees received their medals in a White House ceremony last month.
Among those in attendance at Wednesday's formal dinner was Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former U.S. president Bill Clinton.