WASHINGTON (JTA) — Members of the U.S. Congress introduced legislation to award Israeli President Shimon Peres the Congressional Gold Medal.
Should the legislation pass, Peres, who turns 90 on Friday, would be one of just nine individuals to win both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Obama accorded Peres last year. The two medals are the highest U.S. civilian honors.
Dual recipients include Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa; Martin Luther King, the U.S. civil rights giant; Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist; and Aung San Suu Kyii, the Burmese democracy activist. Of the eight dual medalists, five — like Peres — are also Nobel peace laureates.
“Shimon Peres has honorably served Israel for over 70 years, during which he has significantly contributed to United States interests and has played a pivotal role in forging the strong and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel,” said the legislation introduced Thursday in the Senate by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
Almost identical legislation was introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Both bills cite praise for Peres by Obama and by Ronald Reagan, who was president during Peres’ first term as prime minister.
The Congressional Gold Medal recognizes those who “have performed an achievement that has 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.”
Spearheading the push to award Peres the medal are Ezra Friedlander, a New York-based lobbyist, and Rabbi David Baron of the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills.