Scientific and technological innovation is more effective than foreign aid in solving fundamental national problems, agreed President Shimon Peres and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in their meeting on Monday.

Hagel is visiting Israel to discuss regional security cooperation and the terms of a multi-billion dollar arms deal to provide Israel with advanced military hardware, including the highly-coveted Osprey V-22 hybrid airplane/ helicopter.

Pointing out that Israel had overcome her own lack of natural resources through technological innovations, Peres said of the many countries in the Middle East suffering from water and food shortages: “If we could do it, they can do it.”

Hagel conveyed greetings to Peres from President Barack Obama, who had asked him to express how much he had enjoyed his recent visit to Israel and the time that he had spent with the Israeli president.

Peres said in turn that Obama’s visit had been “highly important,” explaining that “if you want to impress the concept of peace and make policy, you have to speak to the people – and he did [so] with depth, straightforwardness and honesty.”

Peres also expressed condolences to the families of the recent Boston tragedy, and wished those who had been injured a speedy recovery.

Bringing up the issue of Iran, Peres said that Israel has nothing against the Iranian people, only against the Iranian leadership.

“No one threatened Iran.

Why did they become a threat to others?” he asked. If he were an Iranian, Peres continued, he would rather see that children have food for breakfast and get a good education.

“What’s wrong with peace?” he further pressed, insisting that Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear power. “Iran is not just a threat to Israel, but to peace in the world.”

Peres remains convinced that there is a chance to make peace with the Palestinians.

“We started with Oslo,” he said. “We agreed to a twostate solution.” With this foundation, he believed, remaining differences could be resolved.

Peres told Hagel that his visit was timely and meaningful because the security and defense relations between the US and Israel are the best they have ever been “and it sends a message that we are not alone.”

“Bitterness and belligerency in the Middle East is not as political as we think or as religious as we used to think,” Peres said.

The reason for the bitterness and belligerency, the president asserted, is existential.

There is not enough food and water, and people are hungry. Peres said he genuinely wanted to see the Arab people get out of their economic crisis, because this will change the political arena and everything else.

“We can and should make peace and help other people to overcome their existential problems. We should prevent the Iranians from creating a catastrophe for the world,” said Peres, expressing deep appreciation for US cooperation on the issue.

Hagel said that it was a personal pleasure for him to renew his friendship with Peres.

“We are living through the defining of a new world order, and it’s still within our capability to do something about it,” Hagel said about the turmoil in the Middle East and around the world.

Referring to his meeting earlier in the day with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the helicopter ride they had taken to Israel’s northern borders, Hagel said that he had been to the area several times during previous visits to Israel, “but I’d never seen it the way the minister laid it out for me.”

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