Jerusalem Elder statesman Shimon Peres took office as Israel's ninth president Sunday, pledging to devote his seven-year term in the ceremonial post to his lifelong dream of Middle East peace.
Taking his oath of office before parliament, Peres, 83, said Israel must make peace with the Palestinians and Arab countries through measures small and large, including cooperatively digging a canal and lakes in the desert between Israel and Jordan.
"We must encourage peace here at home, with our neighbors, in the region," he said.
The swearing-in capped a six-decade political career that has included international acclaim and a Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to create peace in the region. But Peres also suffered a string of embarrassing electoral defeats at home, where he was perceived by many as an unrealistic dreamer.
Peres has long been among the most dovish members of the Israeli leadership. He said that would require Israel to withdraw from significant pieces of territory captured in the 1967 Mideast War - a position still opposed by large parts of the Israeli public.
"We have to get rid of the territories," he said, referring to the West Bank, insisting that his long-held position is the majority view in Israel today.