Israeli President Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

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In his last official trip to Washington before he leaves office next month, Israeli President Shimon Peres was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

The Congressional Gold Medal, awarded by the U.S. Congress, is the highest civilian award in the U.S. along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  It's given to those who have achieved something deemed to have "an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement."

Peres is the fourth person to win the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize, joining Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

Born in Poland in 1923, he came to pre-State Israel in 1934.  He worked with David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol commanding the Haganah - Israel's pre-State defense -- from 1947 until after the establishment of the State.

Over the years, Peres has been the Prime Minister of Israel as well as the Minister of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Religious Affairs, Internal Affairs and a number of others.

Known in Israel for his key role in the Oslo Accords that kicked off the so-called peace process more than 20 years ago, Peres' political views are extremely left wing.  While many in Israel would say the negotiating process with the Palestinians is dead, Peres called it "the most possible impossibility."

According to the Jerusalem Post, Peres was greeted in Washington by three Supreme Court judges, half of Congress, top-ranking diplomats, cabinet members and national security staff.  He also spent three hours with President Obama.

Peres said as he looked back on the life of Israel "our dreams proved not to be too big but too small, because Israel achieved much more than I could have ever imagined."  He encouraged America, "this mighty nation of dreamers: Don't dream small.  You are great. So dream big."

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