Peres praises Abbas as ‘peace partner’ at Capitol medal ceremony

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Accepting the Congressional Gold Medal, Israeli President Shimon Peres lauded Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and called for renewing talks with the Palestinians.

“President Abbas is clearly a partner for peace,” Peres said Thursday at the U.S. Capitol, where the congressional leadership and Vice President Joe Biden conferred the honor on him.

“There were people who thought otherwise,” he said. “I feel they are now closer to my judgment than their own.”

Peres appeared to be alluding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who suspended peace talks with Abbas in April after the Palestinian leader launched unity talks with the Hamas terrorist group, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Peres attributed the change of heart to Abbas’ outspoken condemnation of the suspected kidnapping this month of three Israeli teenagers.

“He spoke bravely in Saudi Arabia, in Arabic against the kidnappings, against terror and for peace,” Peres said.

Peres said Israel “will do everything in our power to bring home our three boys.”

Peres, 90, is one of a handful of people to be awarded both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Honor. His term ends next month.