Peres reaffirms US-Israel ties as major difference emerge on dealings on Iran

President says still has faith in Obama, Kerry on issues of dealing with Iran.

By
November 11, 2013 15:08
4 minute read.
President Shimon Peres at the 2013 Jewish Federations of North America GA.

Peres at 2013 GA 370. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

 
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Conceding that it is perfectly legitimate for Israel and the US to disagree on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear drive, President Shimon Peres expressed the wish that the media, when reporting on the dispute, would use a smaller typeface.

He was speaking on Monday at a plenary session of the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

No civilized nation can support the system that Iran suggests, said Peres, adding that sanctions taken against Iran were not for Israel’s sake but for the sake of humanity.

“The front of Iran is not the content of Iran,” he continued, explaining that all dictators who are weak and foolish put on a great front.

He cited Stalin, asserting that the Soviet dictator had not prepared himself to fight the Germans.

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Peres reiterated his strong belief that “America is our best friend,” adding that the friendship is “deep and meaningful.”

Despite differences of opinion, he continues to have faith in measures taken with regard to Iran by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

As he entered the auditorium, Peres received an ovation from the huge crowd. Mounting the stage, he turned toward some 3,000 American Jews and applauded them. Behind him was a backdrop with a collage of colored photographs from the time he was a young man to the current period in his life.

Peres chose to speak about his favorite subjects: the world’s transition to a scientific era; the notion that science that cannot be conquered is more important than land, which can be conquered; and Israel’s reliance on its human resources to triumph over a lack of land, water and natural resources and create a thriving economy.

The vision of Israel’s founding fathers, he declared, was based not so much on land as on the values of life and the desire to make a better world.

“Israel is a story of people and of values,” he said.

A day earlier, Peres spoke at a memorial service for his mentor and Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, on the 40th anniversary of his passing. He spoke of him again on Monday, saying he did not know why Ben-Gurion had chosen to work with him.

“He gave me responsibilities above my capabilities and beyond my experience,” he said.

The president said the two first met in Tel Aviv when Peres, then a young kibbutznik, was 24 years old. It was a wintry day, and Ben- Gurion, who was going to Haifa, invited Peres to join him. Seeking to get to know his hero better, Peres agreed.

“For me he was a legend,” Peres said.

They got into Ben-Gurion’s car. Ben-Gurion put on his coat. Peres didn’t have one.

Ben-Gurion turned around and went to sleep, waking up just before they reached Haifa and pronouncing: “Trotsky was not a great leader.” Peres asked why, and Ben-Gurion told him that Trotsky had been indecisive over peace and war, whereas Lenin, who was not as great an intellectual, was not afraid to make decisions and therefore was the better leader.

Aware that there would be discussion at the GA as to whether Israel can simultaneously be Jewish and democratic, Peres credited Moses with being the first democrat in his declaration that all people are born in the image of the Lord, and in his renunciation of slavery.

Relating to the existential threats confronting Israel and the Jewish people, Peres said: “For half of our history we were in exile and went through the Holocaust – and we’re here and we’re not going to give up. Judaism is not a business. It is a vision and a preference of moral values over assets.”

A constant proponent of educational opportunities for all, Peres opined that one of the reasons Israelis do so well in Silicon Valley is because their mothers would not allow them to stop studying.

Insofar as Israel’s mission to the world is concerned, Peres said: “We were born to bring peace, not strength. We need strength to defend – but peace is our goal.”

Moving on to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Peres stated: “We are negotiating not because we agree, but because we disagree.”

The purpose, he continued, was to convert disagreement to agreement and enemies to friends, and to eliminate prejudices.

Negotiations are difficult, he said, because negotiators not only have to convince each other, but also those among their people who think that too much is being given away.

Although it has been said by Peres as well as by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders on many occasions, the president thought it bore repeating that Israel could not be a Jewish State without having a Jewish majority, and that this could be achieved only by accepting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the realization that there will probably never be a time when all Jews live in the Land of Israel, Peres told his audience: “No matter what passport you have, what matters is your ethical passport.”

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