.contact us |.about us
News > International News ... ...
Peres marks 80th birthday in Tel Aviv
( 2003-09-22 09:26) (Agencies)

A parade of global figures ! from Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev to actress Kathleen Turner ! filed into Tel Aviv Sunday to celebrate the 80th birthday of former prime minister Shimon Peres, the Nobel laureate, visionary of peace and oft-failed political candidate.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres (L) attends one of his 80th birthday celebrations at Presidential residence with global leaders in Jerusalem Sept. 21, 2003. [Reuters]
The extraordinary guest list reflected global appreciation for Peres' efforts toward a "New Middle East" ! the title of his 1993 book dismissed by many here as utopian ! and a longing for the days before the Israeli-Palestinian peace process collapsed in violence that has killed thousands in the last three years.

But Israeli critics saw an extravaganza whose security costs and general disruption suggested an oversized ego and somewhat poor form at a time when fighting continues and the ranks of poor Israelis and Palestinians are swelling.

Peres, whose birthday was actually last month, says he only went along with the party idea to bring some cheer to the region. It was organized by both supporters and the right-wing Likud government whose policies he opposes.

The tight schedule included a reception at the "Peres Center for Peace" in Jaffa, a meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem and a gala at a Tel Aviv concert hall ! followed by a symposium Monday.

"I feel strange," Peres said Sunday. "But it happens once in 80 years, so you can survive."

Peres emigrated from Poland at age 11, but he retains a European accent and genteel manner that, along with a penchant for parliamentary maneuvering, lofty pronouncements and electoral defeat, brought him occasional ridicule.

Nonetheless, he has walked the corridors of Israeli power since his 20s, when as a top aide to its founder David Ben-Gurion he helped build the young nation's defenses; in the 1960s, he was instrumental in creating the Dimona nuclear facility where Israel reportedly has amassed a stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Although in the 1970s Peres was briefly considered a supporter of the Jewish settler movement, he soon concluded Israel's occupation since 1967 of the West Bank and Gaza was not just unfair to the millions of Palestinians who live in the areas but a disaster for the Jewish state. He now supports a Palestinian state.

After a brief 1977 stint as acting premier, he ran for the job five times and never won outright. He served two years from 1984 to 1986 after a tied election, using the period to bring down hyperinflation and withdraw troops from much of Lebanon ! popular moves that still failed to win him the hearts of the masses.

In 1993, as foreign minister, he helped push Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin into interim peace accords on Palestinian autonomy with Yasser Arafat's PLO, and the three shared the Nobel Peace Prize a year later.

Peres served another eight months as premier after Rabin's 1995 assassination before losing narrowly and unexpectedly to Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2000, he lost to a Likud backbencher, Moshe Katsav, in a parliamentary vote for the largely ceremonial post of Israeli president.

"Peres turns 80 in the feeling that he has not enjoyed the credit he deserves," columnist Dan Margalit wrote in the Maariv newspaper. "The thanks of the nation (today) are but a brief respite."

Peres implored Sharon, seated in the first row at Sunday's gala, to make peace, saying "it is closer than you think, and perhaps closer than I believe."

But internationally, few Israelis ! or former prime ministers of any kind ! seem to muster more respect.

American entertainment figures wished Peres a happy birthday by video at the Tel Aviv ceremony ! including Barbara Streisand and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Filmmaker Woody Allen sent greetings "from a bad Jew to a very great Jew."

But Clinton stole the show. He was mobbed by reporters and admirers upon arrival, and was invited to the stage to sing John Lennon's "Imagine" with a choir of 40 Arab and 40 Jewish children.

Clinton praised the role Peres played in Middle East peacemaking and implored Israel to keep pushing for an accord with the Palestinians.

"Every year the Palestinians grow larger, younger, poorer and angrier," Clinton said. "We can go on. They will continue to kill, and you will continue to prevail. But they will break your hearts and twist your children's' future and theirs."

Other guests included former South African President and fellow Nobel laureate F.W. de Klerk and leaders past and present of countries from Austria to Australia. Also on hand were a host of Palestinian politicians ! a rarity these days in Tel Aviv.

  Today's Top News   Top International News
+First private publications venture OK'd
( 2003-09-22)
+Endangered tiger endangers men
( 2003-09-22)
+16 stranded on small island in Tibet
( 2003-09-22)
+US$9.7 billion to roll into auto industry
( 2003-09-22)
+Executives arrested over tunnel cave-in
( 2003-09-22)
+Martin easily wins Canada leadership vote
( 2003-09-22)
+In Japan, Koizumi cabinet resigns en masse
( 2003-09-22)
+Strong quake shakes Myanmar, no casualties reported
( 2003-09-22)
+Martin clinches Canada leadership vote
( 2003-09-22)
+Palestinian PM-designate tries to rally support
( 2003-09-22)
  Go to Another Section  
  Article Tools  
  Related Articles  

+Israeli forces kill Hamas activist in Gaza raid

+Israeli forces kill Gaza militant

+Fierce fighting erupts in central Gaza Strip

+Israel envoy: Arafat founded 'mega-terror'

+US rejects Israeli threats against Arafat

+Powell tells Israel: Don't kill Arafat

+Israeli vice premier says killing Arafat an option

+Arafat urges Israel to resume talks

+Israel shrugs off criticism over Arafat

+Israel takes step toward expelling Arafat

        .contact us |.about us
  Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved