Standing for the last time in an official capacity with Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, President Shimon Peres welcomed the potential of a ceasefire on Tuesday that he said would provide a window of opportunity to bring an end to the fighting in Gaza.
Until now, the violence had brought nothing but death and damage, he said.
Although continued fighting brought more suffering to the people of Gaza, Hamas had until now ignored calls to stop firing rockets at Israel, said Peres, noting that the rockets had not achieved their aim.
Peres and Blair welcomed the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire.
Peres was critical of the Hamas provocation.
“There are two camps, the camp of terror and the camp of peace – not only here but across the world,” he said, explaining that the operation by the IDF had been in response to the terrorist camp.
He emphasized that Israel and the international community want the flames to be lowered.
“We want an end to the fighting and we hope to see it soon,” he said.
Peres and Blair agreed that there could be no compromise with terrorism, which Peres said was a global threat that was destroying the fabric of the Arab world.
The president reiterated Israel’s desire for peace with its neighbors.
“The Palestinian people are not our enemies. The people of Gaza are not our enemies. We share the same aim, which is an end to terrorism.”
He urged a return to the peace talks that he said would achieve the only viable solution – two states for two peoples.
Addressing himself to the people of Gaza, Peres said that the current operation was the third major escalation in six years, with innocent civilians paying the price each time.
“Rockets and terrorism bring you no closer to your national aspirations,” he said, adding that the children of the Gaza Strip deserve the same opportunities as children everywhere to be secure and free. But Hamas continues to hold them hostage, seeking death over life, and destruction over growth, he said.
Peres said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not only a partner for Israel but was the best hope for the Palestinians for a future of stability, respect, independence and prosperity.
“He is a man of peace, a responsible leader. This is a time for peace, not war,” he said. “You cannot conduct both at the same time.”
Peres commended Blair for his refusal to compromise on attempts to bring peace, and thanked him for his continuous support.
Blair said that the Egyptian cease-fire initiative had been accepted by the Arab League, Abbas, the Israeli cabinet and the international community.
It will stop the loss of life, and people in Israel will not have to live in fear of terrorism and rockets, he said.
He was emphatic that the cease-fire was not just a lull in the shooting, but an opportunity to bring genuine hope to the people of Gaza and real and permanent security to the people of Israel.
People have suffered in a way that has brought anguish and grief to many families, Blair said, and there is a genuine desire to bring about a real and lasting solution to these issues.
Blair paid tribute to Peres, calling him “an outstanding leader, a magnificent servant of the State of Israel and a striver for peace.”