Peres: If Arabs accepted ’47 UN plan, we'd have peace

President holds joint press conference with Italian counterpart, who is in the country to receive prestigious Dan David Prize.

Peres with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano 311 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Peres with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano 311
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Less than two hours before Palestinians broke through the Syrian border into the Golan Heights, President Shimon Peres was asked at a joint media conference with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem to comment on the “Nakba” demonstrations taking place in Israel’s Arab communities and in neighboring countries.
The United Nations made a decision in 1947 to establish two states, one Jewish and one Arab, said Peres.
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“We accepted the decision. The Arabs rejected the decision and attacked us. The Nakba began then. If the Arabs had accepted, the situation would be different and we would live today in peace.”
While clinging to the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, Peres was less inclined to accept a possible UN decision this coming September declaring the establishment of a Palestinian state. It would be a declaration without foundation, Peres stated.
Going to the UN on this issue “is not the right thing to do,” he said and emphasized that “peace cannot be imposed. It must be achieved.”
Such an achievement can come about only through direct negotiation with the parties concerned, he insisted.
Peres was optimistic that with a little more patience, all the remaining difficulties between Israel and the Palestinians could be resolved. A lot of headway has already been made, he said, as he expressed confidence in the Palestinian Authority team led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He commended the latter for doing a good job on the ground and getting the Palestinian economy to flourish.
While clarifying that he was not opposed to a union between Fatah and Hamas, Peres underscored that such a union was operable only if Hamas renounced terrorism, respected written agreements and recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.
“A union without principles cannot hold water,” he said, referring several times to the principles set down by the Quartet.
Napolitano was no less emphatic than Peres about the significance of the UN resolution on the partition of Palestine, saying that “the State of Israel represents a historical event which cannot be questioned. We cannot accept the Nakba concept.”
Napolitano termed the UN’s 1947 resolution as “an absolutely unremovable reality.”
He also concurred with Peres on the matter of direct negotiations, warning how important it was that “there be no new obstacles” and stressing “the necessity to be consistent.”
Peres and Napolitano are of the same generation, and only two years apart in age, with Peres the older of the two. They have been friends for more than a quarter of a century and embraced warmly when they met in the hotel’s lobby.
At the media conference following their working meeting, Peres described Napolitano as a friend of Israel and “a man I profoundly admire.”
He also called him an outstanding statesman and praised his depth, honesty and goodwill. Presidents don’t have executive powers, said Peres, “but they have moral authority,” and considered Napolitano to have a strong moral voice.
Napolitano for his part said that he had always admired Peres’s determination to pursue peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and he was pleased to see him freshly determined once more. Italy, he said, fully understands Israel’s position and the need to guarantee Israel’s existence and security for which he said he had been a consistent advocate.
He said that he had been pleased to read in an interview that Abbas gave to an Italian newspaper that the PA president also favors direct negotiations.
The role of the UN in this regard should be to offer assistance and cooperation for direct negotiations and their conclusion, said Napolitano.
The Italian president announced that Peres had accepted his invitation to participate in Italy’s 150th anniversary celebrations in Rome at the beginning of June.
Napolitano primarily came to Israel to receive the prestigious Dan David Prize awarded by the Dan David Foundation at Tel Aviv University on Sunday night. In the citation announcing him as one of the recipients, it was stated that he is known for his dedication to the cause of parliamentary democracy and his contribution to the rapprochement between the Italian Left and European socialism.
As one of the most prominent leaders of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), Napolitano was pivotal in moving his party from the Soviet orbit and orienting it toward a European model of social-democracy, the citation continues. With the realignment of the Italian political scene in the 1980s and onward, he has been a crucial player in the process of the Italian ‘Historical Compromise’, which bridged the chasm between the Italian left and right, and thus integrated the PCI fully into Italian politics, enabling its participation in government for the first time since World War II.
Napolitano became one of the first members of the PCI to serve in an Italian government coalition, was later elected speaker of the chamber of deputies, and his election in 2006 as president of the Italian republic was supported by a wide parliamentary coalition, encompassing the Italian political spectrum.
The citation also notes Napolitano’s courage and intellectual integrity, which have been crucial in healing the wounds of the Cold War in Europe, as well as the scars left in Italian politics and culture in the wake of fascism.
The Dan David Prize was inaugurated in May 2002.
Napolitano is scheduled to meet with Abbas in Bethlehem on Monday morning.