Israel’s President Shimon Peres was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday, which is the highest civilian award the United States government can bestow upon an individual. In a gala dinner held in Washington in Peres’s honour, US President Barack Obama praised the Israeli president’s personal legacy and achievements leading Israel and working for peace. Obama said at the event, “The United States is fortunate to have many allies and partners around the world. Of course, one of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel. And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and bring our two nations closer.”
Receiving the award, Peres said he accepted it on behalf of all Israelis and was profoundly moved by the honour, adding that it was “a testament to the historic friendship” between Israel and the US. “You are paying tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, and fought for, a State of their own,” Peres said.
Prior to the official dinner and reception at the White House President Shimon Peres discussed with President Barack Obama the fate of former US naval intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1986. Following the meeting, White House officials said that the US position on the matter of Pollard remained the same. However, speaking with Israel Army Radio following the meeting, diplomatic advisor to Peres Nadav Tamir said, “it was not a decisive no. If people are expecting Pollard to return home now with Peres on a plane, that won’t happen, but the door hasn’t been slammed.”
During the meeting the two also discussed the strengthening of the strategic alliance between the two nations, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the changes the Middle East is going through.