When peace is being negotiated, it’s better to use discretion, President Shimon Peres told visiting Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday.
Kurz, who is in Israel with a large delegation, met with Peres only a few weeks ago when the president visited Austria.
Peres explained that Israel was encountering more disadvantages than advantages in the peace process, but reiterated his conviction that each side in the negotiations needed peace for its own good reasons and for the future of its children.
In speaking about the need for discretion, the president said: “It’s not too wise to publicize compromises because people want to see their representatives winning.”
In his opinion, the current negotiations have been too much in the public eye, causing many complications.
Kurz told Peres that as a member of the younger generation of Austrian politicians – at 27 he is one of the youngest foreign ministers in the world – he thought it was “very important” to make an early visit to Israel. He added that because of the historic responsibility the European country had toward the Jewish state, there was a need for strong relations.
Peres assured him that Israel’s relations with Austria were in good shape and constantly improving in the fields of business and science.
On learning that this was Kurz’s first visit to Israel, he said he had come at the right age but at the wrong time.
Peres also spoke briefly about Syria and voiced his disgust that the Syrians are using poison gas to kill innocent children. With regard to that country’s upcoming elections, he questioned whether they would be conducted with bullets or ballots.
The relationship between the United States and Russia was having its own effect on the situation in Syria, said the president, adding that Israel was trying not to become involved because involvement could “raise flames of hostility and war.”
He expressed regret that Syria was receiving the support of Russia and Iran.
Peres then proceeded to give his visitor a history lesson on the Middle East, its conquerors and its colonizers, including the Turks, the British, the French, the Russians and the Americans, and their failure to impose their ideologies on the region.
“We are seeing the end of the French and British division of the Middle East,” he said.
He also expressed regret over the billions of dollars that had been spent by the superpowers during the Cold War, saying the money had been wasted and could have been better used for social progress.
He also noted that neither Communism nor democracy triumphed in the Middle East.
Egypt, which received aid from the Soviet Union, did not become Communist, he said, and those countries that received aid from the US did not become democratic. The only democracy in the Middle East was Israel.
Kurz, who is also scheduled to visit Tehran, preferred to bring the discussion into the present and toward the future, and asked whether Peres thought negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians could be extended beyond the end of April.
At that point Peres’s political adviser decided that the media should leave the room, so the president’s answer will remain a mystery.