While pundits pontificate over what will be discussed between US President
Barack Obama and Israel’s leadership when the American leader arrives in
Jerusalem next month, President Shimon Peres left no doubt that Iran will be one
of the key topics on the table.
In a wide-ranging address on Monday to
the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is
convening in Israel this week, Peres said that American decisions on Iran is a
worldwide concern, “but Israel is the candidate at the top of the list to meet
the consequences of Iranian policy.”
Peres reiterated his previously
expressed belief that Obama is serious in his determination to prevent an
Iranian nuclear state from becoming a fact.
In preventing Tehran from
becoming a nuclear power, Peres said, the US is acting not only on behalf of
Israel, “but because of security in our times.”
The president noted that
the other issue to be explored during the Obama visit will be the chances for
peace with the Palestinians, and added that he was hopeful that Obama’s visit
“will open a new chapter” not only in American- Israeli ties – which he declared
to be unique despite occasional differences – but also in Israel’s relations
with both Jordan and the Palestinians.
“I believe there is a chance,” he
said in reference to renewing ties with Ramallah and Amman. “In spite of our
differences, we want to live in peace. I don’t expect this to happen in one
visit, but it will be a beginning.”
In reviewing the general situation in
the Middle East, Peres said that the situation is much more complicated than
ever before, and certainly more complicated than it was before the Arab
He cited Syria as an example, observing that if President Bashar
Assad disappears, no one knows what might happen next.
Pointing to the
general lack of stability in the region, Peres noted that there is hardly
anything resembling an effective government in Syria, Iraq, Libya or Yemen,
while in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is being tested on its ability to
overcome problems involving the economy, employment and civil
The Arab world invested a lot in education while neglecting to
invest simultaneously in industries that would provide jobs for university
graduates, Peres added.
On the local scene, Peres referred to the
difficulties in hammering out a coalition agreement because not all the
potential coalition partners agree on certain issues, but said that he was
confident that in the final analysis a government will be formed.
asked whether he would make another appeal to Obama for the release of convicted
spy Jonathan Pollard, Peres evaded the question and went off on a tangent about
the complications related to forming a government.
Ayelet Frish, the
president’s spokeswoman, later told The Jerusalem Post that Peres had met
several weeks ago with Esther Pollard and members of the Justice for Pollard
Committee and that he had reaffirmed his commitment to do everything in his
power to secure Pollard’s release.
Peres’s evasion of the Pollard issues
on Monday has been seen by some as a diplomatic ploy designed to avoid
embarrassing the American administration.
The gathering of American
leaders was the 39th annual visit to Israel by the Conference of Presidents.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the organization, said that the
group’s concerns were American-Israeli relations; Israel’s security; unity and
divisiveness in Jerusalem; how to overcome the deterioration in Israel-Diaspora
relations; changes in the Middle East; the geopolitical issues of the Jewish
People; Israel’s new social agenda; problems vis-avis illegal migrants to the
Jewish state; and Israel’s hi-tech industry.