The world’s biggest annual gathering of Israel supporters opened yesterday with a tribute to Shimon Peres.

The late president and prime minister’s son Chemi appeared on stage in front of 20,000 delegates at the AIPAC conference in Washington alongside Yousef Qaraja, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy whose life was saved a decade ago by cardiac surgery in Israel through one of the Peres Centre’s healthcare initiatives.

Yousef said: “For me and for my friend Shimon Peres, I ask that you continue working to make peace.”

The conference was shown video footage from one of the statesman’s last interviews in which he says he would like to be remembered above all for the having the opportunity to save one child. The programme run by the Peres Centre has saved the lives of around 12,000 Palestinian children, many of whose families come into contact with Israelis when they travel to the country for treatment.

Chemi Peres said: “I have never been so proud to be my father’s son. He was one of the forefathers of the State of Israel and worked to establish the Israeli defense industry. My father devoted his life to peacebuilding; he believed that through innovation, medicine and education, peace could be achieved, and he believed that science and technology could be harnessed in the service of Tikkun Olam.”

Chemi added: “My father said, ‘Let us dream big, let us make the world a better place’; I invite everyone to take part in realising the vision of my father, the Ninth President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres.”