But admired as he was at home and abroad, Mr. Peres was seen as a more complicated figure among Palestinians, who remembered his role in advancing settlements in the West Bank and in ordering a brief but intense military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1996 that led to civilian deaths.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, which emerged from the Oslo agreement, sent a letter of condolence to the Peres family, calling him a “brave” partner in peace who had labored intensively until his death to realize the promise of the accords, according to the Palestinian news media.
But leaders of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and other nations, alternately celebrated Mr. Peres’s death or complained that it had allowed him to escape justice.
“He is a criminal who committed massacres against the Palestinian people and justified wars in Gaza,” Hazem Qasem, a spokesman for Hamas, said by telephone. “He is one of the founding leaders of the Israeli occupation that caused the displacement of millions of Palestinians.”
In a way, though, Mr. Peres was the Israeli leader Mr. Obama wished he had had as a partner. Never enamored of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Obama clearly would have had a better connection with Mr. Peres.
“Peres was the last Israeli political leader who wholeheartedly believed in and advocated for a negotiated two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for the Middle East under Mr. Obama.
Even now, Mr. Obama is considering laying down his proposed parameters for peace after the November election, despite Mr. Netanyahu’s objections. For Mr. Obama, Mr. Peres’s death is an opportunity to prod Israel to fulfill its former leader’s legacy.
“I can think of no greater tribute to his life than to renew our commitment to the peace that we know is possible,” Mr. Obama said.
Some Israeli analysts said they expected Mr. Obama to use the occasion to make a new pitch for a peace settlement, but they doubted that Mr. Peres’s death would change the political dynamics.
“Just by appearing here, he’ll probably want to make a speech that will mention the two-state solution,” said Zalman Shoval, a two-time Israeli ambassador to the United States and a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party. “On whom will this have an impact is another question. On the Israeli public? I don’t think so. On the Palestinians? They have their own problems.”
Mr. Obama does not harbor any illusions about making great progress in the few months he has left in office. “Obama doesn’t believe that peace is possible with the current leadership in Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” said Martin S. Indyk, his former Middle East special envoy. Instead, the idea would be to lay down a marker for the future Mr. Peres talked about.
When Mr. Obama first met Mr. Peres, they traded notes on how dysfunctional each of their political systems really was.
“They took an immediate liking to each other,” said Einat Wilf, then an adviser to Mr. Peres, who was at the meeting, “and had a sense that they both shared the same fundamental attitude of optimism, the belief in the ability of humans to shape their future through their own actions, and that the arc of history bends toward progress and justice.”
After Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Mr. Peres made a point of visiting him at the White House before Mr. Netanyahu did. Three years later, Mr. Obama awarded Mr. Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom and hosted a gala East Room dinner for him. A year later, Mr. Obama visited Israel and spent time with Mr. Peres again.
“He had a special relationship with Obama, no question about it,” said Yehuda Ben Meir, a former Israeli deputy foreign minister now at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “Although they were totally different in background and personality, evidently there was some mutual admiration of each other and an understanding that each one was a special person.”
Indeed, Mr. Peres was protective of Mr. Obama, who has been criticized fiercely in Israel for his handling of the Palestinian conflict and for his accord with Iran intended to curb its nuclear program. When Mr. Ben Meir wrote an article defending Mr. Obama, he said, Mr. Peres called at 7 a.m. to congratulate him on it.
The regard went both ways. “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever,” Mr. Obama said. “Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves — to the very end of our time on earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others.”