President Shimon Peres was honored at a special plenary session of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday.
He received the Spirit of Davos award from WEF founder and chairman Klaus Schwab in recognition of his contribution to the cause of peace, to economics and technology, and to the spirit of Davos.
Before receiving the award, Peres participated in a short question and answer session with Schwab, where he responded to queries about Iran, Syria and peace talks with the Palestinians.
“Iran is not an enemy,” he said in response to a question about the Islamic Republic’s seriousness in developing nuclear weapons. “We are not historically hostile. We don’t share a border. I don’t see a reason to spend so much money in the name of hatred.”
On negotiations with the Palestinians, he said there were “difficulties,” although “neither of us has another choice.”
“Terrorism is killing the Arab world, and Israel offers, in real terms, sincere peace,” he told the forum.
On Syria, he said the solution “will come from within” rather than from outside parties, which “are not looking for solution.”
“We can help, but not be major players,” he said. “The Arab world must support the new generation in Syria to save the land.”
Peres also spoke about his vision for a more humanitarian role for science in the future.
“The new goal and spirit of science is to be more humane, to make people richer in human capacity, not just to make money,” he said.
Peres was lauded by Schwab for his “vision, soul, values, heart, and his compassion, which he has shown again and again.”
“You are the oldest participant [at the WEF] on paper, but in your mind one of youngest participants,” he told Peres.
On receiving the bell-shaped award with the inscription “for tolling the bell of peace and harmony,” Peres said: “We have to use it, not just to keep it.”
The president, who described himself as a “dissatisfied optimist,” said he planned to continue working after his retirement from public life on July 27, which will mark the end of his term.
One of the most high-powered gatherings in the world, the WEF, founded in 1971, brings together some 2,500 heads of state and government along with business leaders, entrepreneurs, reporters for financial publications and a few celebrities who want to rub shoulders with people who affect change in the world.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.