Eulogizing former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, former President Bill Clinton called Peres “Israel’s biggest dreamer.” Clinton went on to describe a meeting at Peres’ official residence, where Israeli and Arab children sang together John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
In the same spirit, I would like to offer a few additional imagination teasers:
Imagine, for example, if Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, had the imagination, spirit, heart and soul big enough to turn to Mr. Mahmud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (who, despite significant disapproval of his constituency, came from Ramallah to pay last respects to Peres), and said: “Mr. Abbas, the People of Israel and myself understand the importance of both gestures and honor. Therefore, we deeply appreciate the gesture you made in honor of our late President and Prime Minister, Mr. Peres, and in honor of his relentless drive to bring a better future to all our children. In the spirit of your gesture, and in order to equally honor the memory and wishes of Mr. Peres – indeed, of all of the people of the region – I would like to offer that after the funeral, you and I will drive directly to my office to officially re-launch the peace process between our peoples.”
Imagine, for example, what would have happened if Mr. Mahmud Abbas – instead of just shaking Mr. Netanyahu’s hand, listening to miles of sugar-coated clichés, and then driving back to Ramallah – would have said, “Ahlan wa Sahalan” (Arabic for “Welcome!”).
Imagine that President Barak Obama had the statesmanship and courage to grab the unique historical opportunity that rolled to his doorstep and conclude his eulogy of Mr. Peres by saying: “My dear friend, Shimon, in your memory, your honor, but more so in honor of the countless millions whose very lives depend on the ability of people like us – political leaders – to create a vision, a future and a reality that will improve their lives – or at least enable them to stay alive until a better person, opportunity or both allowed for more – I am not going to return to Air Force One immediately after your funeral. Instead, I am going to get together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and the three of us are going to sit together, quietly and make a fresh and serious start on the road to peace. A road that will be hard and probably frustrating at times but a road that will be always illuminated by your spirit and legacy. I cannot think of a more worthy effort to conclude my presidency and to honor your life.”
Imagine that the region – indeed, the world – had leaders, real statesmen, instead of just politicians. People who were willing and able to lead, guide, create hopeful realities, instead of bowing down to nightmares constructed by others, nightmares destined to bring further pain and horror to countless people in the near and not-so-near futures.