Israel has to decide whether it wants to remain a Jewish state, President Shimon Peres said on Wednesday.
This is the only consideration that should guide Israel’s peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and it was preferable to have a smaller Jewish state than a larger state whose Jewish identity would eventually be overwhelmed, Peres told his interlocutor, Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, at a Q&A session on the second day of the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Rabinovich is a former ambassador to the US and a former president of TAU.
Peres was at a loss to understand the fears that are being injected into the national debate on the peace process, saying that there was no place for them because Israel had successfully confronted far more difficult security challenges in the past and was capable of doing so in the future.
Security is not the issue, he insisted. The only issue is for Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic state, and this can be achieved only by ceding territory and having two states, a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and harmony.
Israel is now in a critical situation similar to that of 1948, said Peres. Even then, there were voices calling for a two-state solution, he said.
David Ben-Gurion had known what to do even though he was in the minority. Peres suggested that everyone learn the lesson of 1948, when Israel’s population was only a few hundred thousand without missiles, tanks or planes standing against some 40 million people from seven Arab states.
Today, he emphasized, Israel has one of the most sophisticated armies in the world as well as peace treaties with two Arab countries. The situation has changed dramatically in Israel’s favor, he said.
Peres also related to the Iranian nuclear program and the interim nuclear agreement between world powers and that country, and said that if President Hassan Rouhani thinks that the agreement he signed with P5+1 is just a cover- up for continuing nuclearization, he is greatly mistaken. “The world will not allow that to happen.”
Peres declared that he was convinced that a nuclear Iran poses a threat to the whole world and not just to Israel.
If Iran was developing nuclear capability for civilian purposes, it would have no need for missiles that can travel 20,000 km., nor would it have a need for nuclear warheads, Peres said.
Whoever makes use of nuclear weapons will be in big trouble, said Peres, because the world will not accept another nuclear explosion.
Peres was confident that US President Barack Obama shared his opinion on this matter.