The office of the president of the State of Israel is largely symbolic, intended to unify the country and bring it enhanced stature. But from the outset the definition of the role, to “stand at the head of the state,” has been vague, leading critics to call for its abolishment on the grounds that it is unnecessary and costly.
Pope Francis should have learned in his visit last week to the West Bank and then to Jerusalem that praying for peace between Israelis and Palestinians is like talking to a wall. But he’s not one to give up easily, so he invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the Vatican on June 8 to seek divine intervention.
That may be the best hope for peace, and that’s a very sad commentary.
The absence this week of Israel’s two leading political figures, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, at the massive memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa was both painful and sad. Whether or not illness made it impossible for President Peres to attend is something we cannot know, although surely, it would not have been an easy trip for a man of Peres’ age.
To honor the 90th birthday of Israel’s president Friday, members of the House and Senate are to vote on whether to honor long-serving politician and diplomat Shimon Peres with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Peres, who presided over a celebrity studded conference in Jerusalem in June to mark his upcoming nonacentennial, was already awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama this year.
The annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international professional association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, will take place this coming week in Jerusalem. In my capacity as President of the RA, as it’s commonly referred to, it will be my great honor to formally introduce Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel, at a reception that he is hosting for us in his official residence, known as Beit Hannasi.
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