There are few things that President Shimon Peres regrets. Although there is a large Israeli camp that argues that the Oslo Accords were Israel’s most misguided attempt at peace, Peres disagrees.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Jerusalem Post, the full text of which appears in Monday’s Independence Day supplement, the president contends that the Oslo Accords, signed in September 1993, were not a mistake, because without them, there would be only one Palestinian camp – a camp of terror.

Because of the accords, he says, there is a Palestinian peace camp.

If he does have any regrets, they extend further back than Oslo. When he was foreign minister, Peres entered into a secret agreement with Jordan’s King Hussein. The agreement – signed in London on April 11, 1987, in the presence of Jordanian prime minister Zaid al-Rifai and Yossi Beilin, who was then director-general of the Foreign Ministry – outlined a framework for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 224 and 338. The details were to be discussed at an international conference hosted by the UN, with the stipulation that a solution would not be imposed on the parties concerned. The agreement also called for the renunciation of terrorism and violence.

To keep the agreement as neutral as possible, Peres and Hussein decided that the most effective thing to do would be to ask US secretary of state George Shultz to present it as an American initiative.

There were, however, aspects of the agreement that did not meet with the approval of prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, and he torpedoed the whole idea.

Had things gone according to plan, Israel and the Palestinians would be focusing more on science and other areas of education and developing their respective economies, Peres believes.

Peres, the eternal optimist, is sufficiently realistic to realize that even if the agreement had not been demolished, there would have been setbacks and interventions along the way, but he is convinced that greater progress would have been made than has been made to date.

Peres is still pained over what could have been and has not yet eventuated. This is one of the reasons that he urges the resumption of peace negotiations as soon as possible. He thinks that now that both sides have agreed to a two-state solution, the nations of the world should be saying to the Palestinians, “You agreed to a two-state solution; why aren’t you implementing it?” Israel has already said time and again that it is willing to negotiate, but the Palestinians are holding back.

The purpose of negotiations is to overcome disagreements, says Peres.

“We can and should bring an end to the conflict – and we have to be the initiators. Playing hard to get may be a romantic proposition, but it’s not a good political plan.”

His ardent wish, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of Israel’s independence, is to bring an end to the conflict, so that all children in the region can live in freedom and friendship. He hopes that neither Israel nor the Jewish people as a whole will see more wars or another Holocaust.

He would like to see Jewish unity with adherence to a moral code and a greater pursuit of knowledge and science.

Peres longs for a day when the IDF will be made up of soldiers for peace.

“My main message to [the soldiers] is that the story of Israel is not a story of the rich land that has enriched the people, but a story of rich people that enriched the land. Our natural source is the human vein. Everybody can be as great as the cause he serves.”

He remains confident that peace is not impossible, if people can rid themselves of preconceived notions.

“Impossibility is a product of our prejudice,” he says.

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