Just over four years ago, my father Shimon Peres left this world. He left an indelible mark on it. He was rightly renowned as a visionary, as a man driven by hope and optimism until his last breath. As we entered a new year, I cannot help but wonder what he would have made of the world today, filled with chaos and uncertainty.
I believe that in many ways, the global turbulence we are experiencing would have come as no surprise to him. With characteristic clarity, he saw that the sun was setting on the age of nation-based wars. He firmly believed that it was being replaced by an era of immense global challenges, not bound by borders and which do not discriminate between nationalities or faith. Covid-19 is proving to be a seismic illustration of this shift. As he once said, "The new world of science and knowledge calls you to forget the partitions." He saw that the computer is taking the place of the sword, bringing immense opportunity to prolong rather than threaten life.
My father was a pioneer and one of the founding fathers, not only of the state of Israel, but also of Israel's 'Start-Up Nation'. However, not for a moment did he believe that Israel should keep the secrets of innovation to itself. Quite the opposite. He always said that innovation should be harnessed to create a better future for everyone. He envisaged a world in which innovators, creators, scientists and experts would enrich one another, working together for the sake of humankind.
As a champion of international cooperation, and as one of the strongest links in a chain of Israeli statesmen who tirelessly promoted peacebuilding, I believe he would have been thrilled at the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Likewise, he would have been delighted at the normalisation agreements Israel has reached with Morocco and Sudan. In his book, A New Middle East he made clear that peace in the region was not just a dream, but a tangible and attainable goal. The Abraham Accords is unquestionably a significant step on this path.
I believe my father would have warmly applauded the UAE and Bahrain, as they have clearly understood that the tide of history is changing. They realise that treating Israel as an island in the Middle East is detrimental to everyone. Our countries have much in common and so many things we can achieve together.
However, my father always encouraged me and my family, as well as every person he met, not only to dream, but to dream big. Given this outlook, one can assume he would have viewed the Abraham Accords as a step towards something even greater. I can only imagine how he would have worked tirelessly to leverage the agreement, inspiring other countries to break down barriers, encouraging them to extend the hand of friendship towards Israel and beyond. The Abraham Accords would have energised him to increase the circle of peace.Â Â
He would probably have identified an additional opportunity too. For him, peace was not only a political act, but a social and moral choice. He believed that enduring peace, warm peace is made between people, not just leaders. More than many of us perhaps, he knew that signing ceremonies must be followed by the hard work of building relationships, of bringing people together, from the ground up - we need to privatise the peace process, while setting the right near-term expectations. That is why he founded the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation so soon after signing the Oslo Accords. Today, the Peres Center continues to pioneer a wide array of people-to-people peace-building programmes, in the same belief that grassroots relationships are the basis of a better tomorrow. Now, we have to put to use the Abraham Accords as a catalyst for true friendship between the Abrahamic peoples themselves. With this in mind, I was thrilled to lead a recent Peres Center delegation to the UAE, taking further steps to advance cooperation in innovation, sports, education, medicine and beyond.
Just before he died, he was asked if he could see the light at the end of the tunnel. My father replied, "I clearly see the light, even if right now I cannot see the tunnel." Today, more than ever, we need to see the light. The Abraham Accords gives us an opportunity to do so, to achieve so much together, not only for our economies but for our societies. Our mission now is to bolster the bonds of social and human solidarity between us. That would be a true tribute to President Peres' legacy.Â
Chemi Peres, son of Israel's ninth president Shimon Peres, is the Chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
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