Peres talking at Madrid Congress.
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
There has been a dramatic change in the Middle East of late, President Shimon
Peres told Spain’s Congress of Delegates on Tuesday.
Events that no one
could have anticipated have created a new agenda, he said.
Madrid to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Spain, urged
the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table immediately and to end the
“We saw in the past that the Palestinians suspected that no
right-wing government of Israel would agree to a two-state solution, and Israel
suspected that the Palestinians would insist on the right of return of 5 million
refuges. We were both mistaken. Despite all speculations to the contrary, we
overcame out differences with Egypt and Jordan,” he said.
the efforts of the Palestinian leadership to build the infrastructure for an
independent state, said Peres.
He cited the economic improvement in the
West Bank, which enjoyed 7 percent growth in the past year. Gaza could also
enjoy such growth, he said, if it rids itself of the misguided concept that it
can achieve more through terrorism than through negotiations. The population of
Gaza would do better for itself if it built houses instead of rockets, he
Israel left Gaza willingly and has no intention of returning,
said Peres. “Our great hope is that all mothers in the area will be able sleep
without the sound of explosions.”
Peace negotiations are part of a
process that starts with each side trying to attain the maximum, but ending with
compromise, said Peres, who also urged Syria and Lebanon to negotiate peace with
Israel without any preconditions.
Peace would bring an upsurge of tourism
and global initiatives to the region, which would be beneficial to
“Don’t align with Iran,” he counseled the Syrians. “Iran does not
As for the Lebanese, he entreated them not to allow
Hezbollah to turn the whole country into a battlefield.
the power to destroy, but no message of hope,” said Peres.
At a working
session with Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, the Spanish leader told Peres
his country is very interested in elevating hi-tech relations with Israel to
reach the same level as political and security relations. Zapatero said Israeli
hitech was in the top league.
“That’s all very well,” quipped Peres, “but
we’re not Real Madrid.”
Happy to have the upper hand on the sports field,
Zapatero responded: “No. In football, we’re unbeatable.”
At a luncheon
hosted by King Juan Carlos in his honor, Peres, while lauding Spain’s democracy,
did not refrain from discussing the country’s inglorious past.
centuries, there were no Jews in Spain, he said. They went to other parts of
Europe and Spaniards did not know Jews, yet fostered negative stereotyped images
Much of that changed quarter of a century ago, recalled
Peres, when he and then-prime minister Felipe González signed an agreement in
The Hague on establishing diplomatic ties.
Just after arriving in Spain
on Monday, Peres addressed the situation in Libya, saying he believed Muammar
Gaddafi’s reign was approaching its end. It was an “irony of history” that
Gaddafi wished in a speech a few weeks ago for “a Middle East without Israel,”
but that it now looked like “there will be a Libya without Gaddafi,” Peres told
members of the Jewish community in Madrid.