Australia mourns the passing of Shimon Peres, his life was as eventful as it was long: his passion for the State of Israel, which he helped found, as strong as his commitment to peace.
Moving to Tel Aviv with his family from Poland in 1934, he served in Israel’s pre-independence military organisation, the Haganah. Following Israel’s independence in 1948, he worked alongside Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
In the decades that followed he served twice as Prime Minister, including after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. He served in multiple governments as foreign minister and defence minister and later as President of Israel, from 2007 to 2014.
Shimon Peres was a fierce defender of Israel’s security and its ability to defend itself. He was equally a tireless advocate for peace.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts in support of the Oslo Accords and for his continued pursuit of peace for Israel with its neighbours.
He remained staunchly committed to the belief that Israelis and Palestinians could live side-by-side, in peace and security. He sought to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, using his Peres Centre for Peace to support programs aimed at co-existence, reconciliation, tolerance and innovation.
My wife Lucy had the honour of visiting Shimon Peres a few months ago, at the Peres Centre for Peace. He told her the secret of perpetual youth was to ensure that your list of dreams always remained longer than your list of achievements. On that test, Shimon Peres remained the youngest of leaders.
Shimon Peres had a special fondness for Australia. He spoke emotionally of the sacrifices made by Australians who fell in World War 1 in the Middle East, so far from home, and he would recall warmly the friendliness and informality of the Australian diggers stationed in Israel during World War 2.
We extend our condolences to Shimon Peres’ children, to the government and people of Israel, and to his many friends in the Australian Jewish community who enjoyed a friendship with Shimon Peres spanning many decades.