President Shimon Peres and Chilean President Sebastian Pinero are on the same
page with regard to peace in the Middle East impacting the world at large; a
two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the potential of
science- and technology-based economies for both Israel and a future Palestinian
These and other subjects occupied the two presidents when they met
on Sunday at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which has to a large extent become an
adjunct of Beit Hanasssi, where the two would ordinarily have met, but for the
fact that Beit Hanassi is undergoing renovations.
Immediately after their
meeting, both presidents made statements to the media, on which they embellished
soon after at a state luncheon that Peres hosted for Pinera.
Peres – who
on many occasions in recent months has stated in one way or another that Pinera
restored humanity to the world by remaining resolute in his determination to
rescue the 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days – did so again, when he
congratulated Pinera and called him a hero of our times.
Pinera for his
part said that he had chosen to come halfway around the world to meet with
Peres, who has dedicated his life to peace and freedom.
this dedication to the fact that Peres lost a large number of close family
members to Nazi atrocities.
“I always respected the work of this great
man Shimon Peres, who came at a young age to the promised land.
his relatives who remained behind were burnt alive in the synagogue. Perhaps
that is why he decided to devote himself to peace, freedom and
Pinera, who has previously visited Israel and the Palestinian
Authority on several occasions in his pre-presidential capacities, is a man who
obviously likes to make history. An economist by training and a highly
successful businessman, he brought the credit card revolution to Chile and
channeled his entrepreneurial skills toward a construction company, a publishing
house, a television channel, a large regional airline and a soccer
He was also active in Chile’s transition towards
Almost exactly a year ago, and less than two weeks after a
major earthquake, he came into office as head of the first right-of-center
government in two decades.
He also happened to be president in the year
in which his country celebrated its bicentennial, and he can now boast that he
is the first president of Chile to visit Israel, even though Chile officially
recognized Israel in February 1949, nine month after Israel’s declaration of
“We have always recognized the rights of the Jewish people
to a free, democratic and secure state, and we also recognize the rights of the
Palestinian people to their state,” said Pinera.
Peres lauded Pinera for
overseeing Chile’s splendid recovery from the widespread and horrific damage
caused by the earthquake, as well as for creating jobs that have had an
enormously positive effect on the economy. Chile was one of the poorest
countries in Latin America, said Peres, but now has advanced to the extent that
nearly all her citizens can live in dignity and freedom.
Peres noted that
both Israel and Chile recently became members of the OECD.
“Start-Up” program is bound to attract a lot of hitech initiatives and the
development of local technologybased industries, he predicted, adding that Chile
has more trade agreements than any other country in the world, and hopefully
will add Israel to its list of trade agreements.
On a somewhat lighter
note, Peres hoped that one of Chile’s exports to Israel would be the harmony
that exists with its Palestinian and Jewish communities. Chile hosts one of the
world’s largest Palestinian expatriate communities, numbering around 350,000,
and a strong Jewish community of around 25,000. The two communities contribute
separately and together to Chile’s economy and culture – and in fact to many
other facets of Chile’s society.
Turning closer to home and to the
significant political uprisings in the region, Peres said that the wave of
protest demonstrations came not from religious or political organizations or
from the army, but were like a spontaneous geyser that rose from the depths of
Participants in the rallies were primarily young people, Peres
underscored, saying that the whole world must help to give the young the taste
The battle in the Middle East today, he continued, is between
moderate governments that seek peace and freedom and despotic governments that
want to impose their hegemony on others.
“The moderates don’t shoot at
demonstrators. The fanatics shoot and kill. The moderates have a message for the
The fanatics have only hatred and no message.”
singled out the Iranian dictatorship as the most radical, not only because of
its nuclear programs but also because it finances and arms Hezbollah in Lebanon
and Hamas in Gaza. Hezbollah has divided Lebanon and brought an end to its
Christian character, he said, and Hamas has split the Palestinians and has
prevented them from continuing with the peace negotiations.
said, has established terror cells beyond the Middle East, including South