Israel has never faced a better opportunity to reach a peace deal with the
Palestinians than it has today under the leadership of PA President Mahmoud
Abbas, President Shimon Peres told The Jerusalem Post in a pre-Independence Day
interview on Tuesday.
“I think the Palestinian window is still open,”
Peres said. “Everybody makes mistakes in his sayings and doings, but President
Abbas is constant in his announced position – for peace, against terror, and for
a two-state solution. I think we have never had a wider basis to conclude peace
than under his leadership.”
Peres and Abbas were the architects of the
Oslo Accords two decades ago, for which Peres received a Nobel Peace Prize
together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.
Peres added that the need
for a new peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was “immediate,”
and suggested that it could represent “a real contribution to pacify... the
stormy Middle East.”
On Iran, he said he believed that US President
Barack Obama would not allow “an extreme group of people” to build a nuclear
“I think Israel owes a great deal of appreciation to its
unbelievable friends all over the world, beginning with the United States of
America, and her president, Obama,” Peres said. “President Obama, during his
tenure as president, did everything he promised to strengthen the security of
the State of Israel, [thereby] deterring the danger of war and helping to
advance the chances of peace.”
Obama, in a letter to Peres for the
country’s 64th Independence Day on Thursday, reiterated Washington’s “steadfast”
commitment to Israel.
“Based on shared values and interests, the bonds
between our two countries are deep and strong,” Obama wrote. “In a time of
momentous change, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to
Israel’s security and a comprehensive peace in the region.”
He added that
“as we work together to pursue common goals and meet shared challenges, I wish
the State of Israel continued prosperity and a peaceful future.”
sent his “warmest regards and congratulations on behalf of the American
Speaking at a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Western Wall on
Tuesday night, Peres said the sons and daughters of Israel who had died in
battle had paid the highest and most painful price for its establishment, its
existence and its security.
While Israel most certainly exists today, he
said, its peace is still under threat from those who want to destroy it, but it
is now stronger than ever.
“If the need arises, we will know how to
defend the country yet again,” he said. “Today, we are more prepared. We are
stronger. We are greater in number. The IDF of today is mightier than ever
before, smarter in strategy and equipped with the most sophisticated
At the same time, he emphasized, the IDF is a moral army
with quality personnel. “We know that, and our enemies have experienced that in
The following are excerpts from Peres’s interview with the
Post, conducted in English:
What is your Independence Day message to the world
I would like to use the good offices of The Jerusalem Post to thank
our very many friends all over the world. You know, from time to time, we voice
some criticism about foreign countries and foreign people, but I think Israel
owes a great deal of appreciation to its unbelievable friends all over the
world, beginning with the United States of America, and her president, Obama.
The United States stood and stands on the side of Israel all these 64 years of
our independence, helping us to face great and almost impossible
President Obama, during his tenure as president, did
everything he promised to strengthen the security of the State of Israel,
[thereby] deterring the danger of war and helping to advance the chances of
The American support is bipartisan, and we thank all parties and
all people who help us and understand us so much.
Do you think Israel can
rely on the Obama administration when it comes to Iran?
Yes. I think it’s not a
matter of Israel relying on America, because America herself sees a nuclear Iran
as a world problem, a danger to the peace and security in the world. I think
there’s no American leader, and clearly that’s the view of President Obama, that
can accept a nuclear bomb in the hands of an extreme group of people.... I think
that the president explained in clear words his strategy concerning Iran, that
there are two ends: One says we cannot live with a nuclear Iran. The other is
that we would like to stop it by civilian means, but all options are on the
table. I think clearer than that it cannot be said for the time
Are you concerned about the situation with Egypt and the gas line?
Egypt is facing tremendous challenges, and as an Israeli I wouldn’t say anything
that can bring or create any embarrassment to Egypt. I think Egypt has to find
her own course. And we pray that she will be able to find her way so that she
can escape the real problems that she is facing – problems of food, water,
security and of peace.... I’m surely concerned, but I’m also praying for a
stronger Egypt, a united Egypt, a modern Egypt.
What about the situation
with the Palestinians and the latest crisis over the Ulpana outpost?
I think the
Palestinian window is still open. Everybody makes mistakes in his sayings and
doings, but President Abbas is constant in his announced position for peace
against terror, and for a two-state solution. I think we have never had a wider
basis to conclude peace than under his leadership. I think he’s a responsible
leader. I think the Palestinians have a very impressive group of leaders. It
doesn’t mean that everything they say, we will accept and do, and everything we
say, they will agree with. But I think the base for an agreement is wide. The
need for it is immediate, and this can be a real contribution to pacify a little
bit the stormy Middle East.
Finally, what is your message to the people
of Israel this Independence Day?
Sixty-four years ago, we had a great dream.
Sixty-four years later, the reality has exceeded the dream. I would like that we
shall have a new dream, as great as is possible, and let our youngsters make the
dream in another few decades look smaller than the new reality that we shall
create in the domain of values, science, friendship and peace. I mean the
achievements are really far greater than the ones I recall that we had as a
dream in the early days. That shows that we have a small land and a great
people. And greatness doesn’t have limits.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed
to this report.