Friday, June 08, 2012

President Obama To Host Medal of Freedom Dinner For President Shimon Peres of Israel

Special dinner will be Wednesday, June 13th; Peres arrives bearing special gifts for his hosts...
UPDATE: Click here for the post about the dinner
President Obama will award President Shimon Peres of Israel the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a special dinner on Wednesday, June 13th, the White House announced on Friday. The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor bestowed by a US president, and President Peres will be feted in the historic East Room with a guest list of dignitaries, followed by a a reception that includes musical performances. (Above: The two Presidents at the White House last year)

In addition to First Lady Michelle Obama, dinner guests include Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who has been campaigning with President Obama.

The dinner begins at 7:10 PM. The President will present Peres with the Medal, and each will give a toast. The reception follows in the East Room at 8:30 PM. Before the festivities begin, the President and Vice President will have an Oval Office bilateral with Peres at 3:20 PM.

Peres is "an ardent advocate for Israel's security and for peace," the White House said. "Through his life and work, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States."

A former Defense Minister in Israel, Peres was named a Nobel Laureate in 1994. He was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007.

He is not the first world leader to be so honored by Mr. Obama: The President awarded the Medal of Freedom to German Chancellor Angela Merkel last June during a State Dinner in her honor.

Gifts for the President and Mrs. Obama...
As is protocol, Peres will arrive at the White House with special gifts for the President and Mrs. Obama. For the President, he will present a collection of historic documents, including a letter from Chaim Weizmann urging President Harry Truman to recognize the State of Israel; a short letter signed by Truman, in which he recognized Israel's first government; and a missive from David Ben-Gurion, thanking Truman for recognizing Israel's provisional government, reported Haaretz. (Above: The Presidents at the White House in 2009)

Mrs. Obama will be presented a special necklace created from "uniquely Israeli materials," made by people with disabilities.

Peres arrives in the US on Sunday and will visit New York before traveling to Washington on Monday, when he will meet with top Pentagon officials. On Tuesday, he will join Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a special discussion hosted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. On Thursday, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren will host a reception for Peres at his Washington residence.

The President honored this year's other Medal of Freedom recipients during a White House ceremony on May 29th. Honorees included cultural icons Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, as well as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and astronaut John Glenn.

Peres's Medal of Freedom bio from the White House...
"An ardent advocate for Israel's security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007. First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government, including in twelve Cabinets as Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Transport and Communications. Peres served as Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996. Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as Foreign Minister during the Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords. Through his life and work, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States."

*Updated on June 12.

*Photos by Pete Souza/White House.