Conceding that it is perfectly legitimate for Israel and the US to disagree on
how to deal with Iran’s nuclear drive, President Shimon Peres expressed the wish
that the media, when reporting on the dispute, would use a smaller
He was speaking on Monday at a plenary session of the Jewish
Federation of North America’s General Assembly at the International Convention
Center in Jerusalem.
No civilized nation can support the system that Iran
suggests, said Peres, adding that sanctions taken against Iran were not for
Israel’s sake but for the sake of humanity.
“The front of Iran is not the
content of Iran,” he continued, explaining that all dictators who are weak and
foolish put on a great front.
He cited Stalin, asserting that the Soviet
dictator had not prepared himself to fight the Germans.
his strong belief that “America is our best friend,” adding that the friendship
is “deep and meaningful.”
Despite differences of opinion, he continues to
have faith in measures taken with regard to Iran by US President Barack Obama
and Secretary of State John Kerry.
As he entered the auditorium, Peres
received an ovation from the huge crowd. Mounting the stage, he turned toward
some 3,000 American Jews and applauded them. Behind him was a backdrop with a
collage of colored photographs from the time he was a young man to the current
period in his life.
Peres chose to speak about his favorite subjects: the
world’s transition to a scientific era; the notion that science that cannot be
conquered is more important than land, which can be conquered; and Israel’s
reliance on its human resources to triumph over a lack of land, water and
natural resources and create a thriving economy.
The vision of Israel’s
founding fathers, he declared, was based not so much on land as on the values of
life and the desire to make a better world.
“Israel is a story of people
and of values,” he said.
A day earlier, Peres spoke at a memorial service
for his mentor and Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, on the
40th anniversary of his passing. He spoke of him again on Monday, saying he did
not know why Ben-Gurion had chosen to work with him.
“He gave me
responsibilities above my capabilities and beyond my experience,” he
The president said the two first met in Tel Aviv when Peres, then a
young kibbutznik, was 24 years old. It was a wintry day, and Ben- Gurion, who
was going to Haifa, invited Peres to join him. Seeking to get to know his hero
better, Peres agreed.
“For me he was a legend,” Peres said.
got into Ben-Gurion’s car. Ben-Gurion put on his coat. Peres didn’t have
Ben-Gurion turned around and went to sleep, waking up just before
they reached Haifa and pronouncing: “Trotsky was not a great leader.” Peres
asked why, and Ben-Gurion told him that Trotsky had been indecisive over peace
and war, whereas Lenin, who was not as great an intellectual, was not afraid to
make decisions and therefore was the better leader.
Aware that there
would be discussion at the GA as to whether Israel can simultaneously be Jewish
and democratic, Peres credited Moses with being the first democrat in his
declaration that all people are born in the image of the Lord, and in his
renunciation of slavery.
Relating to the existential threats confronting
Israel and the Jewish people, Peres said: “For half of our history we were in
exile and went through the Holocaust – and we’re here and we’re not going to
give up. Judaism is not a business. It is a vision and a preference of moral
values over assets.”
A constant proponent of educational opportunities
for all, Peres opined that one of the reasons Israelis do so well in Silicon
Valley is because their mothers would not allow them to stop
Insofar as Israel’s mission to the world is concerned, Peres
said: “We were born to bring peace, not strength. We need strength to defend –
but peace is our goal.”
Moving on to peace negotiations with the
Palestinians, Peres stated: “We are negotiating not because we agree, but
because we disagree.”
The purpose, he continued, was to convert
disagreement to agreement and enemies to friends, and to eliminate
Negotiations are difficult, he said, because negotiators not
only have to convince each other, but also those among their people who think
that too much is being given away.
Although it has been said by Peres as
well as by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders on many
occasions, the president thought it bore repeating that Israel could not be a
Jewish State without having a Jewish majority, and that this could be achieved
only by accepting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
In the realization that there will probably never be a time
when all Jews live in the Land of Israel, Peres told his audience: “No matter
what passport you have, what matters is your ethical passport.”