Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president, prime minister and Nobel laureate, died Wednesday, aged 93. He was the last of the nation’s founding fathers present at its birth in 1948 and served two terms as its prime minister and one term as the country’s president.
Peres died in the intensive care unit of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv with his family by his bedside, reports said. He suffered a major stroke two weeks ago and was on a respirator when his condition deteriorated rapidly leading to his death.
Local reports said that Peres’ funeral will take place at 11 a.m., local time, on Friday (4 a.m. EDT). The body of the former president will lie at the country’s parliament, the Knesset, in Jerusalem on Thursday where the public can pay respects. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are expected to attend the funeral. Peres will likely be buried on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, in a plot reserved for Israel’s founding fathers.
Obama called Peres the “essence of Israel itself,” in a statement released by the White House.
“A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever. Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace, and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves - to the very end of our time on Earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others. For the gift of his friendship and the example of his leadership, todah rabah, Shimon,” Obama said.
Peres received the Nobel Prize in 1994 for being one of the key architects of the Oslo peace Accords. He shared the honor with the-then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was later assassinated, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“What we are doing today is more than signing an agreement: it is a revolution. Yesterday a dream, today a commitment,” the statesman said of the Oslo Accords at the time. He once called Palestinians Israel’s “closest neighbors” and added that he hoped Palestinians might one day be Israel’s “closest friends.”
Peres was long viewed as a controversial figure in Israel but later became one of its most popular ones. He served as the country’s ninth president retiring in 2014.
His son, Chemi Peres, spoke to the media from the Sheba Medical Center, saying, “Our father’s legacy has always been to look to tomorrow. We were privileged to be part of his private family, but today we sense that the entire nation of Israel and the global community share this great loss. We share this pain together.”
Chemi Peres added that his father "worked tirelessly for Israel from the very first day of the state to the last day of his life. My father used to say - and I'm quoting - you are only as great as the cause you serve.”
The statesman had an active public schedule into old age working on his nongovernmental Peres Centre for Peace. The organization promotes a closer relationship between Israel and Palestine. “There is no alternative to peace. There is no sense to go to war,” he once said.
Tributes poured in for the Nobel laureate a few hours after the news of his death came to light. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in a statement, expressed their condolences and added that Netanyahu would deliver a special address later in the day and convene the cabinet for a mourning session.
Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush also expressed their sorrow. Clinton tweeted a picture of the two leaders together, calling Peres his “brilliant and eloquent friend.”
“He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration, and a nation, a region, and a world enhanced by caring and sharing, not torn asunder by the illusions of permanent dominance and perfect truth,” Bill and Hillary Clinton said in a statement. “His critics called him a dreamer. That he was – a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness.”
In a statement to the Guardian, Bush said, “By his unyielding determination and principle, Shimon Peres time and again helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge. But it was by his innate humanity, his decency, that Shimon inspired the world over and helped pave a path to peace broad enough that future generations will walk it one day, side-by side.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences to Peres’ loved ones and the Israeli people.
“Over the course of his long and distinguished life, Mr. Peres made enormous contributions to the founding and building of the State of Israel… Mr. Peres was an internationally-respected statesman and a great friend to Canada. He visited our country often, and helped build relations that remain strong to this day,” Trudeau said in a statement. “His legacy as a tireless advocate for peace will not be forgotten.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Peres’ passion for Israel and his commitment to peace.
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier also took to Twitter to express his condolences on Peres’ passing.