Peres winds up U.S. trip in Los Angeles

In a deft performance exuding good vibes, President Shimon Peres wowed a large audience in Los Angeles, a city that knows a thing or two about celebrities and star turns.

Speaking Thursday evening to a full house in the 1,400-seat ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Peres was introduced by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as a “Prince of Peace” and “larger than life figure.”

Peres reciprocated during a one-hour interview, conducted by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, by expressing his “highest regard for President Obama” and praising the pioneer spirit of the American West and the dedication of the American Jewish community.

Interviewer Brown tried to draw Peres into a discussion of U.S.-Israel differences on policy toward Iran, but Peres turned aside the attempt, saying “While everybody is looking for differences, the basis is common and agreed.”

He urged that sanctions be given a chance to work, but emphasized that more militant options remained on the table.

Peres’ arrival in Los Angeles came at the conclusion of a demanding week-long trip, which took him from New York City to a meeting with President Obama in Washington, and joint appearances in California with Silicon Valley royalty Sergei Brin, co-founder of Google, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Showing no sign of fatigue or jet lag, however, the 88-year old Nobel Laureate was unflaggingly optimistic in his Thursday evening appearance, frequently responding to questions with a quip.

For instance, when Brown asked if the United States and Israel were on the same page, Peres shot back, “We’re on the same globe.”

Some other Peres observations and avuncular advice:

  • The People of the Book are becoming the people of the Facebook.
  • The greatest Jewish contribution to civilization is our dissatisfaction. We’re never satisfied [with the status quo] and a good Jewish mother asks her schoolboy son, “Did you ask any good questions today?”
  • Israel’s and the Palestinians’ older generations must not impose their pasts on the younger generations.
  • In the next decade, the most exciting scientific advances will be in exploring the human brain.
  • Israel’s greatest domestic challenge is to bridge the country’s social gap through education.
  • “If you want to be great, serve a great cause.”

Winding up his whirlwind American trip, Peres is set Friday to visit the DreamWorks Animation studios and speak to their staff on the connection between Hollywood and education.

He will be feted at a Hollywood reception Saturday night and on Sunday morning will meet with Latino and Jewish community leaders to discuss their mutual interests.

Among the participants will be Latino actors Eva Longoria, Andy Garcia and Edward James Olmos, as well as Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban, chairman of the Spanish-language media company Univision Communications.

Peres is scheduled to return to Israel on Sunday.