President Shimon Peres on Thursday rejected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s
contention that his country’s nuclear program is designed for peaceful
“If you don’t want nuclear bombs, why do you have missiles? Why
do you need nuclear carriers?” Peres asked in a question-and-answer session with
editor- in-chief Steve Linde at the paper’s second Diplomatic
Conference at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya.
Asked by Linde for his
opinion on Rouhani, Peres stated that the Iranian people had voted for Rouhani
not because he was a total revolutionary, but because of all the candidates, he
was the least extreme and represented a moderate position.
aim for hegemony in the Middle East, Peres continued, but they cannot succeed,
because the entire region is in turmoil.
“Terrorism is splitting up the
Middle East,” he said.
Taking into account Iran’s economic crisis,
impoverished populace and brain drain, Peres assessed that Iran might fear an
The president opined that terror would increase over
the next decade, as America takes over from the Middle East as the world’s
largest supplier of oil and gas. He said that the enemies of terror will need to
form a united front and emphasized that “pacification is a must.”
was critical of the fact that in a rapidly changing world, decision makers
continue to talk as if nothing has changed.
Responding to a question
regarding statements by MK Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee, saying that there is no peace partner on the
Palestinian side, Peres said that he disagreed.
He said that as someone
who has known Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for 30 years, he
could state that Abbas had not given up his hope for peace.
acknowledging points of disagreement, Peres said there was enough common ground
between the two sides to start negotiations.
“If you want peace, you have
to make a partner out of a non-partner,” he added.
Peres also disagreed
with those members of Knesset who want to change what constitutes a majority
when voting on the future of Jerusalem. Throughout his own 48 years in the
Knesset, he said, he always had doubts about privilege laws, because it is wrong
to allow 55 people to decide what 80 people had previously decided. He warned
that next time, it might be 45 instead of 55.
Fielding a question from an
overseas admirer about how to deal with Israel’s poor image, Peres joked that he
didn’t “feel any hostility from a small country like China,” nor from India or
He asserted that Israel is admired for its scientific
capability and its achievements, and that compared to other countries, Israel is
not in bad shape.
Peres is a veteran reader of The Jerusalem Post
he said was “a responsible and consistent” supporter of Israel without losing
its journalistic objectivity.
Linde asked the president what he would do
when his seven-year tenure ends in nine months.
“I won’t stop ‘doing’
because I stop being president,” Peres replied. “A man who wants to serve the
public does not ask himself what to be, but what to do.”
At the end of
the interview, Linde asked Peres his own version of the famous question of
French interviewer Bernard Pivot, “If Heaven exists, what would like to hear God
say when you arrive – or what would you say to Him?”
“I have some suggestions on
how to improve the world,” quipped Peres.
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