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"Today is a great day not only for the United States of America, but for the entire world," President Shimon Peres said in a statement Tuesday, issued just before the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
Referring to slavery, Peres characterized Obama's election as "the correction of one of the greatest mistakes in the annals of history."
Slavery made history ugly, said Peres, noting that women had been slaves to men and that black people had been slaves to white people.
Only in the 20th century had women been liberated, and it was not until the 21st century that people of color had been truly liberated.
"This is a profound historic and ethical change" said Peres, underscoring that nobody had done Obama any favors. "He won because of his personality, because of his philosophy, and because of the hope he offers to all of us."
Peres said that he prayed that Obama would be a great president.
"If he will be a great president of the United States, he will serve all humankind, all nations and all persons. To be a great American president today means to struggle for peace, to fight terror, to correct the environment, and to offer the young generation a better future.
"It is a great day for the United States because this most unusual hope and election, only 10 years ago, would have been unimaginable. From now on, all of us have the right to be different and equal, to be equally different. We don't have to apologize, and we don't have to divide humanity between inferior and superior," said Peres, who added that he was certain that Israel will be a good partner to President Obama.
"They say Obama will be a good president to Israel, and I say Israel will be a good country for the president, because his goals are our goals, his hopes are our hopes, his source is our source. All of us come from the same depth of biblical convictions, with a permanent respect for the Ten Commandments.
"I want on behalf of the people of Israel, actually all of the Jewish people, to tell the president, 'God bless you.' Your success will be our success. Your hope will become a reality. We should continue to dream to make the world move ahead further, better, and peacefully."
Asked by reporters why he thought that Obama might be more successful than his predecessors in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, Peres replied, "Obama has mobilized the greatest amount of goodwill and support in all walks of life. This mobilization of goodwill is becoming a strength in its own right.
"I think that all of us expect to translate this occasion into a real opportunity to pacify, to meet through dialogue, and bring a peaceful solution to all parties concerned."
In an interview with Army Radio's Razi Barkai on Tuesday, Peres said that he was not concerned about Obama engaging in talks with Hamas and Iran, because he doubted that those entities would respond favorably to an overture from Obama, since their aims are different from Obama's.
"He wants to build peace, but they want to build war and destruction," Peres said.
With regard to the Iranian threat, Peres said that under no circumstances would Israel take on the onus of Iran alone.
Israel must not shoulder the burden, he said, insisting that Israel would act only within an international framework.
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