Peres opened his speech by thanking US President Barack Obama for the Medal of Freedom. "Beyond my own personal gratefulness for the decision of President Obama to award me this medal I felt a profound sense of national pride. It was in my eyes a moving gesture of a great leader and a great friend of Israel."
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Addressing the Iranian issue, Peres said that the leadership in Tehran was the "greatest threat to world peace." He added, "I am convinced that President Obama will stand on this issue strong as a lion.
"President Obama has assembled a coalition to lead the international campaign of sanctions and diplomatic understanding to call upon the Iranian regime to change its course. He prefers to achieve an end to the issue peacefully but he has made it clear that all options remain on the table."
Unable to attend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a video message in which he apologized for his absence explaining that he had hurt his leg playing soccer. He thanked Ambassador Shapiro for the "wonderful job" he is doing in Israel and also expressed his appreciation of President Obama.
"As the leader of one of the world's most vibrant democracies, I appreciate all the great sacrifices that America has made in order to advance liberty and democracy throughout the world."
Netanyahu also addressed the Arab Spring. "The Middle East is undergoing a profound transformation. To be a real democracy it's not enough to have a government that represents the majority of the people.
"It's not about holding popular elections, but about what happens between elections. It means ensuring that no one is above the law. It means upholding the rights of women, minorities, gays, children, everybody. Will this happen? There is ample reasons for skepticism."
Speaking earlier, Ambassador Shapiro wished Netanyahu a quick recovery and sent his condolences to the family of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Shapiro noted that there is no other nation the US feels closer to than Israel and said the US will not stop until it achieves its goal of preventing Iran from becoming nuclear.
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