President Shimon Peres on Wednesday awarded the 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton with Israel's highest distinction, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, stating that the "two-state solution is your gift to Israel."
Speaking at the fifth Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, Peres told Clinton: "Your work laid the foundations which will one day bring peace to our region – the two state solution."
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Peres opened his speech by saying: "My dearest friend President Bill Clinton - and when I call you my friend I know that I speak for the entire people of Israel.
"Your unwavering commitment to the Jewish People and your moving support for Israel will always be cherished by each and every one of us," Peres said.
"Through this modest gesture, the entirety of my country and my people thank you for your support, for your care, for your friendship. Toda rabba, Bill. God bless you," he said.
In his acceptance speech, Clinton said, "There are no perfect solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict," adding that the "key is to expand the definition of 'us' and shrink definition of 'them.'"
"We live in a time where we truly are interdependent. We cannot escape consequences of what others do or what we do. There is a constant struggle for Tikkum Olam," he said.
'Thank you for your support.' Clinton receives award (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Past recipients include US President Barack Obama, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Maestro Zubin Mehta, Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael-Steinsaltz and the Rashi Foundation.
Earlier, at the opening address of the "Facing Tomorrow" conference, Peres said that a nation "needs a majority to do the right thing."
"Leaders today should not lead, they should agree to be lead by the people," the president said, adding that a leader has to "enhance the capacity of the people to express their deep worries."
Blair (L), Emanuel and Peres at conference (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
A plenary session featuring Peres, the Middle East Quartet's envoy Tony Blair, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem Wednesday morning. During the plenary session on "Leadership that Makes a Difference," former British Prime Minister Blair said "No-one wants military action, but a nuclear armed Iran is the worst choice, and we must not make it."
"We have to be prepared to be strong in defense of our values, that is why Iran is a threat, and we must be determined to confront it."
Turning his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Blair said, "Some say two states is a fantasy, the fantasy is thinking one-state is sustainable or consistent with Israeli values."
He warned that the two-state solution has a short window of opportunity that "could close, maybe forever."
"Peace will symbolize reconciliation not only between two states, but two peoples," Blair said, adding that the Palestinians "should have state not as a reward but a right."
Emanuel, who spoke after Blair, said that "Every leader fails, and the question is whether they learn from their failure."
The Chicago mayor also stated that "Too much focus on the process of peace, not enough on the benefits of peace."
On Tuesday night Peres celebrated his 90th birthday at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, with hundreds of world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities in attendance.
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