President Shimon Peres.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas is “absolutely” still a peace partner for Israel,
despite his signing of a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, President Shimon
Peres has told The Jerusalem Post.
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In an interview conducted to mark
Israel’s 63rd Independence Day, the president described the Fatah-Hamas accord
signed last week as “a temporary bridge.”
Peres said he “criticized”
Abbas over it, but “that doesn’t free me of the need to talk with him.... I have
no intention of turning my back on the Palestinian peace camp, even if I
Abbas was and remains a partner, said the president,
“because he wants to hold negotiations for peace with Israel.... He opposes
violence and he wants peace.”
In dealing with the new Palestinian
leadership, Peres urged the international community to hold firm to the
preconditions it had set for legitimizing Hamas – that the Islamists recognize
Israel, accept previous agreements and renounce terrorism.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should make that demand a centerpiece of his
speeches and meetings in the US later this month.
The president also
highlighted the need for the international community to take heed of Israel’s
security needs when considering Palestinian calls for recognition of a
unilateral declaration of statehood.
“Going to the UN solely with a
declaration of statehood, without giving an answer to Israel’s security
concerns, that will mean a continuation of the conflict, not an end to the
conflict,” he said.
Asked whether Israel should itself recognize
Palestinian statehood, the president replied, “I’m in favor of recognizing them
provided they recognize Israel’s security needs.
“There are two
components: a Palestinian state and Israel’s security needs. If we only
talk about Israel’s security needs, that’s only half of it. If they only
talk about a
Palestinian state, that would only be half of it. And if only half the
done, that will mean a continuation of the conflict.
“I’ve also said this
to the UN secretary-general [Ban Kimoon],” he continued. “I said to him, ‘Sir,
you want to take a decision for a Palestinian state? Can you stop the terrorism?
Can you stop the gunfire? Can you stop the incitement? So there’ll be a
Palestinian state and all of that will continue? And that will be peace? Is that
what you want?’”
Peres gave an emphatic “yes” when asked whether he would state
unequivocally that US President Barack Obama is a true friend of
He recalled the president telling him, and others, on several
occasions that “as long as I’m the president, the security of Israel will be at
the top of my agenda.”
Peres also noted that Obama had vetoed February’s
anti-settlement resolution in the UN Security Council, even though the veto
“went against his own opinion [on settlements]. The Security Council
wanted to issue a condemnation, and he opposed it.”
Strongly backing the
push for democracy in the Arab world, Peres said the current turmoil could end
in one of only two ways: “Either [the Arab world] will return to tribalism and
poverty, or the Arab world will enter the 21st century. There’s no middle
Israel’s interest, he declared, was that “they should enter the
21st century, of course. We’re not idiots. All of Judaism is built on the
basis that all men are created in the image of God. Our values must be stronger
even than our policies.”
Asked whether he envisaged the revolutionary
upheaval reaching Iran, he replied dryly: “Iran is a good candidate. They
certainly deserve it.”