With this week’s passing of Shimon Peres the world has lost a warrior for peace – as full of contradictions as those words suggest.
Much has been written and eulogized about this truly great man. He was an optimist; he was naïve; he was an egoist; he was a wonderful grandfather; he sought lasting peace; he was twice Defense Minister and architect of Israeli’s nuclear program. He was first and foremost a great statesman and the last of a generation of lions.
I met with Shimon regularly, in Davos, in London and once, very memorably, in Tel Aviv. It is that personal memory I recount here. While I was chief executive of Reuters, I visited Israel every couple of years to see clients like everywhere else, to meet with tech entrepreneurs from this start-up nation, to support the brave Reuters journalists in Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza, and to visit my family.
On one such trip in 2006 I had one of the most exciting and fulfilling days of my career or, for that matter, my life. I was scheduled to meet Peres in his Tel Aviv office for a coffee in the morning and to visit Mahmoud Abbas for a late night tea in Ramallah. Ever the peacenik, I was looking forward to gaining insights from the Nobel Laureate for Peace on his current views of the seemingly intractable Israeli – Palestinian peace process. While I recall repeatedly attempting to turn our conversation back to these matters of state, Peres preferred to speak about the latest technology investments by his son Chemi, and the prospects for advancements in nanotechnology in particular.
Those who know me well know that I never shy away from a good technology discussion, but I pressed Shimon to discuss Arab-Israeli relations and raised the problems we at Reuters were having obtaining travel permits for our excellent Palestinian journalists. He finally got animated and declared that Reuters journalism was “pro-Palestinian.” Coming from a man I admired and respected so much I was alarmed and somewhat hurt by the charge; however, I would recover later that day when President Abbas accused Reuters of being “pro-Israeli.” I concluded that if both sides claimed we were biased we must either be really bad or very good. I chose to believe the latter.
This weekend Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Hebrew new year. We should enter this new year with renewed hope and optimism as this would certainly be Shimon’s advice and attitude. Shanah Tovah Shimon; we will miss you.