By Anna M. Tinsley
03/23/2015 3:29 PM
FORT WORTH — Former Israeli President Shimon Peres has dedicated his life toward finding peace.
And the former president — who left office last year after seven decades of public service, holding every notable post in Israel’s government, including prime minister twice — isn’t stopping now.
The 91-year-old, who visited Fort Worth Monday to speak at a luncheon honoring the 50th anniversary of Tarrant County College, spends much time working at the Peres Center for Peace in Israel.
“Enemies are very expensive,” he told a crowd of hundreds gathered at the Fort Worth Convention Center ballroom for the “A World View” TCC Foundation luncheon. “Friends ... pay off in different ways.”
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican and honorary co-chair of the luncheon, was among those to note that Peres “has had a remarkable career.”
As Peres — who has had the rare honor of receiving the Nobel Peace Price, Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Peace Prize — talked about his vision for the Middle East and the world, a small group of Palestinian protesters marched downtown.
They chanted “Free Palestine” through a bullhorn and carried signs that read “Peace for Palestine,” “Free Palestine” and “End Occupation.”
Peace in the Middle East
Peres, the ninth president of Israel who is often described as the last of the country’s founding fathers, answered questions asked by former U.S. Ambassador and moderator Tom Schieffer.
Schieffer asked, for instance, about a proposed two-state solution to resolve some conflict in the Middle East, which would divide Israelis and Palestinians, creating an independent state of Palestine right next to the state of Israel.
Peres said he supports the concept.
“It’s better to have two states living in peace than one state without peace,” he said.
Schieffer also asked about Israel’s relationship with the United States and whether other countries — from China to Russia — could become competition for the U.S.
“America became great by giving, not taking,” Peres said, noting that unless other countries adopt the same attitude, they won’t be in the same league.
“You will not have a serious competition unless the other people will be as generous and wise as (the United States) is.”
When asked who his favorite U.S. presidents and Secretaries of State were, Peres noted that many were friendly and impressive.
And when asked why so many American presidents begin their terms with the goal of finding peace in the Middle East, but seem to have problems with that, Peres noted that “they were successful on occasions.”
Country music star Pat Green was among those present at the event, even singing the Israeli national anthem.
Israel and its ties to the United States is a popular topic among politicians.
On Monday, as Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was announcing that he’s in the race to become the 2016 GOP presidential nominee, he weighed in on the issue.
When he said, “Imagine a president who stands unequivocally with Israel,” he drew some of the loudest applause given during his speech.
And last week, when former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Fort Worth for a World Affairs Council program, he noted that the U.S. has “a very special relationship with Israel.”
That’s why, he said, it’s key for Obama to overcome an often strained relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There are a whole series of threats (both countries) face,” Panetta said. “The last thing we need is the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel to not get along.”
Monday’s luncheon was the first of two major events Tarrant County College has planned to mark the college’s 50th anniversary this year.
Granger and former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Fort Worth, served as honorary co-chairs for the event, although Wright was unable to attend.
The second will be a community celebration at historic Panther Island on Aug. 1.
TCC first opened its doors in 1965 as Tarrant County Junior College. Through the years, the college has grown to five campuses.
“I want to congratulate Tarrant County College on reaching this significant 50-year milestone,” Granger said, adding that the college has had a profound impact on North Texas.
“It has helped shape the direction and success of Fort Worth over the last five decades,” she said.