Peres: Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad won’t be forgiven for killings

President recalls offering to meet Syrian president, who refused to set a meeting; says hopeful for younger generation in Arab world.

March 18, 2011 04:13
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres in Tel Hai

Peres in Tel Hai 311. (photo credit: Upper Galilee Local Council)

Almost every time President Shimon Peres talks about renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, he makes some reference to “running out of time” to make peace.

His preoccupation with time comes from previous experience, as he recalled on Thursday in Tel Hai, when speaking at a State memorial ceremony for Joseph Trumpeldor.

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Trumpeldor was of the founders of the Zion Mule Corps, who died on March 1, 1920, while defending what was then an isolated Jewish agriculture village in the Hulah Valley in the Upper Galilee, against a gang of Shi’ite marauders.

Peres related that in 1996, after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Americans brought him a message to the effect that President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current President of Syria, was interested in reviving the peace process.

Peres had been willing to negotiate, and suggested a face-to-face meeting – which he noted should take place quickly because of impending elections in Israel. Indeed, it would have been mutually advantageous to conclude a peace agreement before the elections.

Assad agreed to the meeting, but refused to commit to a date. That refusal is reflected in the ongoing situation of no peace no war, said Peres.

If and when Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad, decides once and for all to opt for peace, said Peres, “he will find a responsible partner in Israel.”

Peres has repeatedly expressed sorrow for what happened to Lebanon, which in the Israeli perspective, looked like a probable peace partner.

“Now it’s the victim of conquest,” said Peres, underscoring that Hezbollah, “which is subservient to Iran more than to Lebanon,” wants to turn Lebanon – and the whole of the Galilee –into a battlefield.

Yet against this backdrop, Peres saw a sign of hope in the fact that the younger generation of the Arab world is rising up against poverty, humiliation, tyranny and lack of progress.

The younger generation, he said, wants to pull itself out of the cycle of poverty and emulate what has been done by China and India in building a modern economy.

The younger generation of the Arab world, Peres continued, wants to enter into the global era – to be innovative and equipped with all the new technologies.

Peres said he believes the despots can no longer distort reality, and therefore cannot remain in control for much longer.

“The progressive Arab camp will not shoot at its brethren,” he said. “Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad shoot at their brethren, and this is something for which their people will not forgive them.”

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