President Shimon Peres Bestowed Upon President Barack Obama Israel's Highest Honor – the Presidential Medal of Distinction – for his unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel
President Peres to President Obama:
"It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor, the Medal of Distinction. This award speaks to your tireless work to make Israel strong. And peace possible. Your presidency has given the close ties between Israel and the United States a new height."
President Obama to President Peres:
"We go forward together, with confidence, knowing that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit we will always be neighbors and friends."
The President of the State of Israel, President Shimon Peres, bestowed upon the President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama, Israel's highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Distinction at a state dinner in the President's Residence in Jerusalem in honor of his unique contribution to Israel's security. During the ceremony, which included speeches from the two presidents, President Peres placed the medal around President Obama's neck.
President Peres began his remarks and said, "It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor, the Medal of Distinction. This award speaks to your tireless work to make Israel strong. And peace possible. Your presidency has given the close ties between Israel and the United States a new height. A sense of intimacy. A vision for the future. The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security. To defending our skies. To the collaboration in the domain of intelligence, which is the right way to preempt bloodshed. The diplomatic and military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level. When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart: America is so great and we are so small. But I learned that you don't measure us by size, but by values. When it comes to values, we are you and you are us. On occasion, when we were alone, you stood with us. So we were not alone. We were alone together. We shall never forget it. During your previous visit to Israel, you asked me if I had any advice to offer. It is not in my nature to let questions go unanswered. So I suggested that while people say that the future belongs to the young, it is the present that really belongs to the young. Leave the future to me. I have time. It was right."
President Peres concluded his remarks by thanking President Obama and said, "You inspire the world with your leadership. תודה רבה, Mr. President. תודהFrom a grateful nation, to a great leader."
President Obama thanked President Peres and said, "Mr. President, you mentioned that this medal is presented in recognition of progress toward the ideals of equality and opportunity and justice. Yet I am mindful that I stand here tonight in part because of so many others, including the example and sacrifices of the Jewish people. In a few days, as we do at every Seder, we’ll break and hide a piece of matzoh (mat-zah). On the one hand, it’s a great way to entertain the kids. On a much deeper level, it speaks to scope of our human experience: how parts of our lives can be broken while other parts can be elusive, and how we can never give up the search for the things that make us whole. Few know this better than the Jewish people.
President Obama continued and said, "Our very existence, our presence here tonight, is testament that all things are possible, even those things that, in moments of darkness and doubt, may seem elusive. The stories of our peoples teach us to never stop searching for the things—the justice, the peace—that make us whole. And so we go forward together, with confidence, knowing that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit we will always be neighbors and friends."
During his speech President Peres also addressed the major diplomatic issues of the day including the rocket fire on Sderot and said, "This morning several rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip towards civilian targets, including Sderot, which you have visited. From here, in the name of all of us, I want to convey our love to the inhabitants of the South. Who carry this heavy burden so courageous. And continue to plow their fields, plant their trees and raise their children. It is an inspiration to each of us. Today the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know, the language of terror. I am convinced that together we will defeat terror." President Peres continued and spoke about Iran and said to President Obama, "I am convinced that you will do whatever is necessary to free the world's horizons and the skies of Jerusalem from the Iranian threat. Iran denies the Shoah and calls for a new one. Iran is building a nuclear bomb and denies it. The Iranian regime is the greatest danger to world peace. History has shown, time and again, that peace, prosperity and a stable civil society cannot flourish where threats and belligerence abound." President Peres also added a happy new year to the Iranian people and said, "Tonight, the Iranian people are celebrating their New Year, Nuruz. I wish them from the depth of my heart a happy holiday. A real freedom."
On the peace process with the Palestinians President Peres said, "Dear President, You noted in your address today that peace is the greatest hope. I share your vision. Your call to reopen the peace process may pave the way for the implementation of the Two State Solution agreed by all of us. As you said: A Jewish state – Israel. An Arab State – Palestine. Next to you sits the reelected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He opened his address to the Knesset by reiterating his commitment to the Two State Solution."
The dinner began with a welcome reception for distinguished guests – senior officials from the White House and the State of Israel including; The Prime Minister, the head of the Shin Bet, the Chief of the General Staff, The Chief Rabbi's of Israel, leaders of the faith groups, Nobel prize winners, heads of local municipalities. At the end of the dinner there was a short performance by Rita who sang 'Jerusalem of Gold' and David D'or who sang 'Amazing Grace'.