Political and religious leaders in Israel and Palestine remember the late statesman. For Mgr Pizzaballa, he realised the “value of the Christian presence" at the local and international levels. Bernard Sabella stressed the lights and shadows of a clever diplomat who “was not successful." Rabbi Milgram noted that he was “obsessed with security."
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Nobel prize laureate Shimon Peres died last night at the age of 93 years. For some political and religious figures who spoke to AsiaNews about him, he was a “complex personality” who spent most of his life genuinely seeking peace between Israel and Palestine, but was unable to reach his goal for human, political and strategic mistakes he made along the way.
A man of peace and war, a hawk and a dove, he truly believed in coexistence between the two peoples but in the end failed because he gave priority to Israel’s security over the peace process with the Palestinians.
Mgr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, remembers a man "of serene but determined steadfastness in pursuing his goals."
For the prelate, one example stands out, namely the prayer meeting for peace in June 2014 at the Vatican with Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"He wanted to be present at any costs on that day and did everything to overcome obstacles,” said Mgr Pizzaballa, who was one of the main organisers of the event.
For Mgr Pizzaballa, Shimon Peres "died at a ripe old age but was still young at heart and able to dream that it was possible to do something for peace, that it was possible to talk and meet one another. He leaves an important example in a Middle East where everything seems complex."
He was convinced that peace was "the only possible solution", that it alone could guarantee Israel’s security. In recent years, “he had also realised the value of the Christian presence” in the Middle East. For the apostolic administrator, the late president "came into contact” with that presence, “realising its importance" on the local and international levels.
Bernard Sabella, a Catholic representative of Fatah in Jerusalem and executive secretary of Palestinian Refugees Service of the Middle East Council of Churches, also remembers the "complex personality" who cared about "the fate of Israel."
Peace with the Palestinians, Sabella added, was for Peres "the best solution for his country". He also did not neglect domestic security; he was behind "the Dimona nuclear complex".
Peace, for Peres, was instrumental to “Israel’s stability and security." For Palestinians, he was "perhaps a clever diplomat", more interested "in promoting the interests of his country, who, "unfortunately, was not successful." He met resistance at home, among his people and politicians, an opposition from that part of Israel that is now dominant that "did not want to achieve the peace that [Peres] had in mind."
His political and government career is also marked by some shadows, the Catholic leader said, like his "support for new colonies" that still weighs heavily today "on the memory of the Palestinian people."
In general, Palestinians "see more the downside than the positive aspects and the quest for peace.”
They look “Not only to the settlements but also to the war in Lebanon (Grapes of Wrath operation in April 1996, when he was prime minister) with all its victims,” Sabella noted.
Some Palestinians "acknowledge that he was different" from the current Israeli leadership, acclaimed internationally as a man of peace. “Still, no one is without sin and we must grant him the fact that he tried."
"Now with his death, a page is turned,” Fatah’s representative in Jerusalem said. “Among current leaders, there is no one able or willing to take up his heritage. Despite his mistakes, he always said loud and clear that the future can only be peace between Israel and Palestine."
Rabbi Jeremy Milgram, a member of the NGO Rabbis for Human Rights and one of the proponents of interfaith dialogue in Israel, who is currently in Italy for a series of conferences, also sees Peres through lights and shadows.
"Some of the things about Peres give confidence, but there are also elements of strong opposition and frustration," the rabbi told AsiaNews.
The Oslo agreement and the Nobel for Peace "were a time of hope," but one cannot forget "the attack on Lebanon, which he authorised" when he was prime minister, and "cost him the victory" in the next election when he lost the support of Israeli Arab voters and "opened the door to the rise of the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . . . a serious error."
For Rabbi Milgram, Peres represents that part of Israel that "wants peace, but has not really worked towards a just peace for both sides. Ultimately, he failed in his goal, because he failed to convince Israel’s establishment of the need to respect Palestinian rights."
On of the biggest flaws of the peace plan, he added, was "the failed return of Palestinian refugees. How can we speak of peace, if one questions the return of refugees?"
For the Israeli religious leader, he represented the desire for peace, "but he was obsessed with security ... the idea of peace through security prevented him from reaching his objective." DS