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.
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The United Nations made a decision in 1947
to establish two states, one Jewish and one Arab, said Peres.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
At the media conference following their working meeting,
Peres described Napolitano as a friend of Israel and “a man I profoundly
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
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.
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.
of the UN in this regard should be to offer assistance and cooperation for
direct negotiations and their conclusion, said Napolitano.
president announced that Peres had accepted his invitation to participate in
Italy’s 150th anniversary celebrations in Rome at the beginning of
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
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.
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.