Israel is an island of stability and domestic cohesion at a moment of upheaval everywhere else, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said Tuesday night.

Kissinger, the keynote speaker at the opening of President Shimon Peres’s fourth annual Facing Tomorrow conference, said that the essence of all revolutions, including those now taking place in the Arab world, is that they begin with resentment “and then have to find a positive direction in which to evolve.”

Kissinger, who received Peres’s Presidential Award of Distinction for his “exceptional contribution to the State of Israel and humanity as a whole,” said that one of the peculiarities of the Arab-Israeli negotiations is that “one side [the Arabs] consider recognition of another state as sufficient for the formation of peace. But the recognition of the state is the beginning of peace, it is not the end of peace.”

“Everyone knows the sacrifices Israel has made, and is prepared to make for peace, but the other side has to give some content to what a peace would look like,” said Kissinger, who was instrumental in brokering disengagement agreements after the 1973 Yom Kippur War in which Israel battled Egypt and Syria.

Regarding the current negotiations with Iran, Kissinger noted that the UN Security Council has stated for a decade that a military nuclear program in Iran was unacceptable.

While now the world powers see a need for diplomacy, Kissinger said that “a point will be reached where they will have to define what they mean by unacceptable, and how that should be implemented.”

This moment, Kissinger declared, is approaching in the months ahead, “and it is something we should all do together.”

Kissinger, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that when one looks at history he realizes that in order to have peace there must be two elements: justice, meaning that the people concerned must feel they live in a world that meets their essential needs; and equilibrium, “so that the strong cannot dominate the weak.”

“This is our challenge today, and it is at a strange moment, because we find that the nation-state on which the European and international polices have been based is in the process of disintegrating in many parts of the world,” he continued.

Peres, in a warm speech bestowing his award on Kissinger, praised him for putting Israel on the track of peace with Egypt, ensuring a US airlift of arms to Israel during the Yom Kippur War and helping to open the door for the exodus of Soviet Jews.

Kissinger, who seemed moved by the honor, quipped that it was unusual for an 89-year-old man to say, “I wish my parents could be here.”

“They would be moved more by this distinction than any of the other honors that have come my way,” he explained.

Lost in the evening of praise for Kissinger were some recently uncovered harsh statements that he made about Jews while working in the Nixon White House, reputedly plagued by a garden-party style of anti-Semitism.

For instance, a 1973 recording from the White House released in 2010 had Kissinger – then president Richard Nixon’s national security adviser – telling him that helping win the freedom of Soviet Jews was “not an objective of American foreign policy.”

“And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern.

Maybe a humanitarian concern,” said Kissinger, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938.

Kissinger later clarified that the quotations needed to be “viewed in the context of the time.” He said that Nixon pursued the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration as a humanitarian matter, separate from foreign policy issues, because normal diplomatic channels were closed, and to avoid questions of sovereignty.

In another instance, the State Department released documents in 2011 showing that the White House was flooded with appeals in 1972 from Jewish organizations and then-prime minister Golda Meir on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

Kissinger, at the time an assistant to national security adviser Alexander Haig, was asked by White House official Leonard Garment how to proceed on the matter.

According to transcripts released by the State Department, Kissinger said to Garment: “Is there a more self-serving group of people than the Jewish community?” Garment, also Jewish, replied, “None in the world.”

Kissinger was then quoted as saying, “What the hell do they think they are accomplishing? You can’t even tell the bastards anything in confidence because they’ll leak it.”

It has also been widely reported that for six crucial days during the 1973 war Kissinger delayed the badly-needed airlift of weapons to Israel. An unnamed source close to former US defense secretary James Schlesinger has widely been quoted as saying Kissinger’s strategy was to “let Israel come out ahead, but bleed.”

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