Parliamentary tributes to Shimon Peres

October 11, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Israel’s embassy in Australia opened a condolences book at the Federal Parliament to record tributes on the passing way of Shimon Peres the last of the surviving founders of the modern State of Israel.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull writes in the condolences book watched by President of the Senate, Senator Stephen Parry, Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten.

Parliamentary heard of motions of condolence from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “On September 28, Shimon Peres, former President and Prime Minister of Israel, died.

We mourn his passing, but we honour and we celebrate his long and eventful life.

The passion of Shimon Peres for the State of Israel, which he helped to found, was matched only by his commitment to pursuing peace for Israel with its neighbours.

The man whose chosen surname is derived from an ancient Hebrew word for “bird of prey” would become known over seven decades of statesmanship as a “dove” of peace.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in support of the Oslo Accords. To this day, his Peres Centre for Peace seeks to link Israelis and Palestinians in programmes that promote co-existence and reconciliation.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop signs the book

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop signs the book

Shimon Peres’ deep personal commitment to his nation began when the State of Israel was but a dream for the Jewish diaspora.

Born Shimon Persky on 2 August 1923 in Poland, he was the son of Jewish parents Yitzhak and Sara. At the age of 11, Shimon and his family moved to Tel-Aviv in British-mandated Palestine.

Shimon formed his first political leanings in Israel’s Kibbutz system, joined the Zionist movement to establish the nation state of Israel, and 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.

At the age of just 29 Shimon was appointed Director-General of the Defence Ministry.

In 1959 he was elected to Parliament and served in the Knesset until 2007, working for multiple governments as foreign minister, finance minister and defence minister. He served twice as Prime Minister, once in the early 1980s, and again briefly after incumbent Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.

Shimon Peres served as Israel’s’ ninth President from 2007 to 2014, retiring just days before his 91st birthday, and remained a powerful advocate for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘The Palestinians’ Shimon said, ‘are our closest neighbours; I believe they may become our closest friends’.

His dream was to see both Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and security—to build; to educate their citizens; and to prosper.

Senator Penny Wong signs

Senator Penny Wong signs

My wife Lucy recently visited Israel with a group of businesswomen to visit hi-tech innovators and universities, key assets in the economic success story of modern Israel.

The group had the privilege of visiting Shimon Peres at the Peres Centre for Peace.

Mr Peres told Lucy the secret of perpetual youth was to ensure that your list of dreams always remained longer than your list of achievements.

He spoke emotionally of the sacrifices made by Australians who fell in World War 1 in the Middle East, and he would recall warmly the friendliness and informality of the Australian troops stationed in Israel during World War 2.

But perhaps his affection for Australia was more personal.

His father, Yitzhak Persky, was saved from Nazi execution by a fellow Prisoner of War, Australian Methodist Minister Rex Dakers. After escaping from the Nazis, his father was re-captured.
Padre Dakers convinced the Nazi soldiers that Persky and his co-conspirator had not received a proper trial and to shoot the men would be considered a war crime. Then Padre boldly warned that if they were shot, the Nazis would have to shoot him as well.

Yitzhak Persky lived because of Rex Dakers’ moral courage. When Shimon Peres’s son, Chemi, visited Melbourne last year, he visited the Dakers family: a moment that Shimon called the closing of a circle.

I extend Australia’s sympathy to his children: Yoni, Zvia and Chemi and their families and I take this opportunity to acknowledge his marriage of 66 years to their mother Sonya Gelman, who passed away a few years ago. I also extend Australia’s condolences to the Government and people of Israel and the many people in the Australian Jewish community who enjoyed a friendship with Shimon Peres.

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten signs the book

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten signs the book

We understand and share your loss.

Mr Peres once said that, ‘The duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly, even in the face of hostility, in the face of doubt and disappointment. Just imagine what could be’.
He echoed there, and often invoked, David’s words in the 34th Psalm verse 14 – “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” It is not enough to want peace, to yearn for it, but we must, like Shimon Peres did and David urged, pursue it with the relentless determination of the hunter.
Israel’s prosperity—forged by the intellect and innovation of its people—has proved Shimon Peres was right to believe in great opportunities for his nation and he was right to dream of greater possibilities in a peaceful future to come.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten spoke in his motion of condolence: “Today we pay our respects to the last of Israel’s founding generation

A youthful prodigy, an elder statesman, an icon, a magnetic orator, a deep thinker, a servant of peace.

I had the privilege of meeting with him on a number of occasions, including with Chloe, when we were in Israel in 2012.

He was a very charismatic man but also generous with his time, his advice and his attention.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Labor Senator Glenn Sterle and Labor MP Michael Danby sign the book

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Labor Senator Glenn Sterle and Labor MP Michael Danby sign the book

Shimon Peres lived the story of his people, a migrant story, leaving Poland to join the diaspora, pursuing a new life in Palestine.

His father scratching out a future for the family in unforgiving soil. His grandfather, who gifted young Shimon a love of reading, stayed in Poland and was burned alive in a synagogue when the Nazis captured his village.

The teenage Shimon wept for his lost loved ones, studied hard, tilled the fields by day and guarded the kibbutz with a rifle by night.

His story, the Jewish story, is a story of indignities endured and atrocities overcome.

A humanity stronger than the jackboot, a faith more powerful than hatred.

A people who, from the ashes of Shoah, built a new nation in their ancient homeland.

From the first days of modern Israel to its seventh decade, Shimon Peres served his people and spoke for his nation.

The child of the kibbutz drove the transformation of the desert.

He armed his nation against existential threat.

He helped lead Israel’s embrace of science, technology and research.

He fought for a country secure in its independence, confident of its place in the region and safe in the world.

But, for all his success, the breadth of his achievements and the long shadow of his legacy, one noble goal eluded him—peace.

As he once said of Israel’s wars:“We won them all, but we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories.”

With the passing of Shimon Peres, the quest for a secure and lasting peace in the Middle East passes to all those whom he mentored and inspired.

Let us vow to do what we can to assist the cause of peace, to support the right of all who call this region home to live in peace with one another.

Let that be Shimon Peres’s final legacy and his greatest.

Olev-hasholem.   May he rest in peace.

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