President Shimon Peres on Sunday denounced the Geneva-headquartered United
Nations Human Rights Council for invariably depicting Israel as the evildoer
while never condemning human rights abuses by its enemies.
responding to a remark made by Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter during
their meeting at the President’s Residence.
Referring to improved
relations between their countries, Burkhalter spoke of a Swiss-Israel dialogue
on UN human rights issues. Peres replied that while Israel was appreciative of
the role played by Switzerland in working toward the renewal of the peace
process with the Palestinians, there had to be some rethinking with regard to
“If you have a frame with the wrong scale, the frame
becomes unimportant,” said Peres, declaring that one cannot have violators of
human rights on a human rights council, much less at its head.
took exception to the frequency with which friends of Israel call for the state
to open a dialogue with Hamas. For this to happen, Peres insisted, Hamas would
have to renounce terror and violence.
Peres accused Iran of being the
world’s worst violator of human rights, and a supporter of terror, backing not
only Hamas, but also Hezbollah, which has turned Lebanon into a
“Iran is the gravest threat to human rights in the world
today. Iran is a center of terror, is developing nuclear weapons and hangs
people in the street,” said Peres.
In welcoming Burkhalter, Peres spoke
of the excellent cooperation which the countries have in various spheres, most
notably scientific research, security, and counter- terrorism.
speaking of his hopes of reviving the long suspended peace process, Peres said
that it should not be postponed any longer, especially because it is not yet
clear where recent changes across the Middle East are leading.
countries have been shaken by terrorism, said Peres, using an earthquake
analogy, and adding: “When it comes to an earthquake we cannot be
He did not elaborate on this remark, and thus it may or may not
have alluded to Syria.
In reiterating his hope for the renewal of the
peace process, Peres said that it would serve to restabilize the situation in
the Middle East.
Acknowledging that Switzerland has invested a lot of
effort in peace, Peres said that the problems of the Middle East are more
existential than ideological.
He was pleased that the foreign minister
had come to Israel at a time when relations between the two countries were
reaching new heights.
Burkhalter, who arrived last week, and met with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday, said that when he had come, the
only Hebrew he knew was “Ani sameah lehiyot b’Israel
(“I am happy to be
Now after a few days of intense visits and discussions
including with security forces, he was pleased to be able to say “Ani sameah
lehiyot b’Israel im haverim tovim
(“I am happy to be in Israel with
He said that he had seen a lot and had learned to
understand a lot more about the country than prior to his arrival.
would like to open a new chapter of constructive, pragmatic and concrete
friendship,” Burkhalter said.
Switzerland’s three major interests are
security, prosperity and independence, he said.
“Security is very
important to us. Terrorism is condemned in Switzerland. We are very active in
Terrorism is not to be compared with
The Swiss foreign minister shared the Israeli president’s
conviction that there is still a window of opportunity for the peace
“There is a state of emergency and we have to relaunch the peace
process,” Burkhalter said as he offered Switzerland’s help and support in any
Seizing on Israel’s frequent insistence on no
pre-conditions for the resumption of the peace process, the foreign minister
suggested that even so, a framework for what happens afterwards must be
established, and that this was an area in which Switzerland was ready to
He also suggested that the Geneva Initiative for ending the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict be reviewed and upgraded.
A conference on
the initiative dedicated to the memory of former chief of staff the late Amnon
Lipkin-Shahak who was one of the signatories to the Geneva Initiative, will be
held today in Tel Aviv.
Speakers will include Science, Technology and
Space Minister Yaakov Peri who is a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security
Agency), Geneva Initiative chairman Yossi Beilin who is a former justice
(res.) Israela Oron and former agriculture minister
As far as scientific cooperation with Israel is concerned,
Burkhalter said Swiss companies are already working on brain research with major
Israeli institutions preferring direct cooperation rather than through political
Since Peres is one of Israel’s leading advocates for brain
research, he was delighted to hear about this area of cooperation.