MEXICO CITY – Peace is in the hands of the Iranians, President Shimon Peres told members of the Mexican Senate on Thursday.
From the podium of the Senate, Peres called on the Iranians to reject terrorism and to stop their nuclear program and the development of long range missiles.
“There is an opportunity to solve this issue diplomatically,” Peres said. “It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles!” Peres said that Israel, like the rest of the international community, preferred a diplomatic solution, but would not tolerate a nuclear Iran.
“No one threatens Iran,” he said. “When Iran will cease to threaten others, it will liberate itself from the burden it has brought upon itself.”
Peres voiced the hope that the interim deal signed with Iran in Geneva would free its people from being “a source of menace” and turn it into a contributing nation for peace.
“Israel extends a hand to all its neighbors but has learned from bitter experience to beware of tyrants,” said Peres.
Closer to home, Peres said that Israel’s greatest challenge today is to bring to an end to the conflict with the Palestinians.
“Peace will open new vistas, both to us and the Palestinians,” he declared.
With less than a dozen exceptions, all the members of the 128-member Senate were in attendance together with Ameya Cortez of the House of Deputies and Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade.
Senate President Raúl Cervantes Andrade, in welcoming Peres, said that visit was one of great significance towards extending the links and strengthening the friendship between Mexico and Israel in all fields of mutual interests.
He observed that since the signing of a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries 13 years ago, trade had increased by 80 percent, making Israel Mexico’s largest-trading partner in the Middle East.
Peres received three standing ovations from the Senate, the first when he entered the chamber, the second at the conclusion of his address and the third after he signed the guest book.
On Thursday night, Peres was given a tumultuous welcome by members of Mexico’s Jewish community at the luxurious Mexico City Jewish Country Club where some 1,400 people representing the various Jewish organizations and institutions went completely wild as Peres entered the auditorium.
Though heavily guarded, Peres broke ranks to shake hands with some of the many enthusiasts crowding the aisles. He was officially welcomed by Rafael Saga, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the United States of Mexico, to whom Peres presented an ancient coin, quipping, “We never have enough money, but always enough old coins.”
In an interview with Saga, Peres was asked what he considered to be Israel’s greatest success. He replied, “Becoming the best start-up nation in the world.”
When asked what he considered to be Israel’s greatest failure, the reply was, “We haven’t achieved peace. But when we achieve peace we will become a model and light unto the nations.”
Rodica Radian-Gordon, Israel’s ambassador to Mexico, who together with her staff had prepared energetically for the Peres visit, said that she had high expectations from the very start.
“We worked for a year to bring you here,” she told Peres, “and I can’t remember any other visiting head of state getting so much coverage in the Mexican media.”
Zvika Oren, president of the Israel Manufacturers Association, a veteran of many such visits, explained the importance of traveling with Peres to find new markets.
“We don’t want to fire people,” he said. “Exports are down and we want to change this and increase production. Mexico is politically stable and offers good opportunities especially in water recycling and agromechanics, because 70 per cent of agricultural labor in Mexico is still manual.”
Oron, who could not believe his luck when he was seated at the same table as Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and some of his top people, gave full credit to Peres.
“I don’t know a better marketing man,” he said of the president.