Peres: Iran to be key topic in Obama's Israel trip

At Conference of major American Jewish organizations, Peres reiterates belief Obama's determined to prevent nuclear Iran.

February 11, 2013 13:16
3 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

President Shimon Peres 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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While pundits pontificate over what will be discussed between US President Barack Obama and Israel’s leadership when the American leader arrives in Jerusalem next month, President Shimon Peres left no doubt that Iran will be one of the key topics on the table.

In a wide-ranging address on Monday to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is convening in Israel this week, Peres said that American decisions on Iran is a worldwide concern, “but Israel is the candidate at the top of the list to meet the consequences of Iranian policy.”

Peres reiterated his previously expressed belief that Obama is serious in his determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear state from becoming a fact.

In preventing Tehran from becoming a nuclear power, Peres said, the US is acting not only on behalf of Israel, “but because of security in our times.”

The president noted that the other issue to be explored during the Obama visit will be the chances for peace with the Palestinians, and added that he was hopeful that Obama’s visit “will open a new chapter” not only in American- Israeli ties – which he declared to be unique despite occasional differences – but also in Israel’s relations with both Jordan and the Palestinians.

“I believe there is a chance,” he said in reference to renewing ties with Ramallah and Amman. “In spite of our differences, we want to live in peace. I don’t expect this to happen in one visit, but it will be a beginning.”

In reviewing the general situation in the Middle East, Peres said that the situation is much more complicated than ever before, and certainly more complicated than it was before the Arab Spring.

He cited Syria as an example, observing that if President Bashar Assad disappears, no one knows what might happen next.

Pointing to the general lack of stability in the region, Peres noted that there is hardly anything resembling an effective government in Syria, Iraq, Libya or Yemen, while in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is being tested on its ability to overcome problems involving the economy, employment and civil liberties.

The Arab world invested a lot in education while neglecting to invest simultaneously in industries that would provide jobs for university graduates, Peres added.

On the local scene, Peres referred to the difficulties in hammering out a coalition agreement because not all the potential coalition partners agree on certain issues, but said that he was confident that in the final analysis a government will be formed.

When asked whether he would make another appeal to Obama for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, Peres evaded the question and went off on a tangent about the complications related to forming a government.

Ayelet Frish, the president’s spokeswoman, later told The Jerusalem Post that Peres had met several weeks ago with Esther Pollard and members of the Justice for Pollard Committee and that he had reaffirmed his commitment to do everything in his power to secure Pollard’s release.

Peres’s evasion of the Pollard issues on Monday has been seen by some as a diplomatic ploy designed to avoid embarrassing the American administration.

The gathering of American leaders was the 39th annual visit to Israel by the Conference of Presidents. Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the organization, said that the group’s concerns were American-Israeli relations; Israel’s security; unity and divisiveness in Jerusalem; how to overcome the deterioration in Israel-Diaspora relations; changes in the Middle East; the geopolitical issues of the Jewish People; Israel’s new social agenda; problems vis-avis illegal migrants to the Jewish state; and Israel’s hi-tech industry.

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