Former President Shimon Peres talks to the press after meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House during his presidency last June.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If there is any Israeli politician who understands the ins and outs of nurturing, cultivating and enriching an enduring relationship with the United States, it is Shimon Peres.
Peres has worked closely with 11 US presidents over the course of his storied career as a statesman, has witnessed the state of relations between the two nations at its peak and nadir, yet acknowledges one undisputed fact: throughout the highs and lows, America’s commitment to Israel is an unwavering one. Last week, the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce awarded Peres a lifetime achievement award for his deep commitment to supporting that enduring bond. “[ Barack] Obama is a great president and a great man,” Peres said during his acceptance speech, which ardently backed America’s commitment to Israel’s security needs.
In an interview via email prior to the award ceremony, The Jerusalem Post
spoke to Peres about the significance of this award and how he views the current state of relations between the US and Israel.Of all the prestigious awards you’ve been given, what does this Lifetime Achievement award from the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce mean to you?
I am very honored by this award, although I believe that it is the United States that deserves it. What America did for Israel is an unparalleled and unforgettable act of friendship. From the very dawn of Israel’s establishment, America was there to support us in every way. We were alone, outnumbered and out-gunned in a hostile environment. We had no resources, neither water nor oil. We had swamps in the north and deserts in the south. Our survival was against all odds and all chances. America’s friendship was a godsend.
Much has been made in headlines over the past year about differences between the US and Israeli leadership.Do you feel as if any of that has trickled down to business relations between the two countries?
The beauty of our friendship is that it is unflagging. I have worked with 11 US presidents and have been able to count on each and every one of them. Throughout the years, countless Israeli governments have come and gone. One reality remains: the friendship of closest allies. This closeness with the United States has indeed trickled down to so many different parts of our country. America taught us that a nation should always welcome the new and give an equal chance to every individual. We discovered that the human capital is the greatest resource for our economy and that the future is our most valuable market.What must Israel and its government do to ensure that the Israeli market thrives, and not just in the hi-tech sector?
Israel must achieve peace. Only a full, safe, durable two-state solution will enable us to pursue our successful beginnings.
Today more than ever, cooperation with the Arab world at large can provide extraordinary growth for our market and for our future. Israel’s efforts have resulted in an extraordinary start-up nation. Innovation is the key to development, yet technology without values is dangerous. Our morality is our greatest promise for progress.What kind of advice would you give Israeli children who are interested in business?
They must try hard and trust themselves.
Every child should understand their potential is greater than they, their parents and their teachers believe it to be. Talent is not always a gift from heaven. It must be found, developed, honed, it comes with hard work.
And potential must be used for a cause that makes it worthy. Our children must know that in life there is nothing smaller than one’s ego. People are only as great as the cause they serve. We are taught to love our neighbor as ourselves. Work hard and serve your community.What do you think the Israeli business world will look like in the future? Any predictions of what Israel has in store?
I believe we shall see the betterment of the person after having perfected the functioning of machines. We are starting to wonder how to improve human senses, human functioning, and uncover the mysteries of the human brain. There lies the promise of the future. For with better people we shall have a better world.Given the Orange scandal a few months ago, how much do you think the BDS phenomenon has been able to impact Israeli business? What must Israel do to tackle this phenomenon head-on?
Scandals come and go. We have to look forward instead of letting the past paralyze us. People say we have to study the past in order not to repeat mistakes. I do not see the advantage of new mistakes upon old ones.
We have to be sure of ourselves, that we are answering our moral call and moving forward in a righteous way. The BDS movement doesn’t have a real message other than hatred. Boycotts do not serve peace. Hope, understanding, bridging gaps serve peace.
Peace cannot be achieved by offering words. We work toward peace by negotiating with obstacles, battling prejudices of the past. Israel was making peace far before the BDS movement came along. We reached agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and we continue to work towards a peace with our Palestinian neighbors.