Peres ends Calif. tour with meeting with Hispanic leaders

Israeli President Shimon Peres ended a weeklong visit to California with a wide-ranging discussion with Latino leaders.

Sunday morning’s event with Peres at a Beverly Hills hotel drew some 120 invited guests, predominantly members of the Latino community and religious leaders, their Jewish counterparts, a smattering of Hollywood personalities, and numerous politicians eager to reach out to Latino and Jewish constituencies at the same time.

An audience question about the influence of the Latino electoral vote triggered a fervent declaration by Peres on American exceptionalism, a catchword of the current Republican presidential primary campaign.

“The United States is the only country with global responsibilities and there are some things only America can do,” Peres said. “When you [Americans] vote, you vote for the future of your own children, but also for the children of other nations.”

An emotional moment came during a question-and-answer period in a one-sentence statement by Pastor Carlos Ortiz, director of Hispanic outreach for Christians United For Israel. Following up an earlier literary allusion by Peres of “I am alone, you are alone, let’s be alone together,” Ortiz declared, “There are 80 million Christians here that say Israel is not alone.”

Peres, 88, showed his familiarity with Latin American literature and politics, but no sign of fatigue after a packed seven-day schedule that included visits to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and in Los Angeles a mass Jewish community meeting and a trip to the DreamWorks Animation studios.

Israeli deputy consul general Gil Artzyeli, a fluent Spanish speaker who organized the Sunday event, also noted that the evening before, Hollywood had assembled the largest gathering of stars and studio heads to ever meet an Israeli dignitary.

The Israeli was introduced by John A. Perez, speaker and legislative leader of the California Assembly, which led to some banter about the correct spelling and pronunciation of their respective last names.