peres smiles 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
"Fighting terror is rather like fighting crime, not like fighting another army," Vice-Premier Shimon Peres told a London think tank on Wednesday in a speech urging a strategic re-thinking of Israel's military and economic priorities.
"Neither force nor diplomacy can resolve the long-standing tensions in the region as peace would come through sustained economic growth," Peres told the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House).
"When it comes to peace, I believe that we tried using strategy and diplomacy too much and did not use economy enough," he continued.
"The war with Hizbullah has ushered in a new style of military conflict in the Middle East, one the IDF is unprepared to fight," said Peres.
The Lebanon war was "a new confrontation in the military sense," Peres told the London foreign policy think tank, with "terrorists equipped with missiles and rockets."
This new style of warfare had changed "the nature of military confrontation from being territorial to becoming ballistic. It wasn't anymore a struggle for land or to win another piece of territory, but really trying to kill as much as you can without entrenching themselves on the land itself," Peres said. And, "it came as a surprise to us."
While "trained and equipped to fight other armies" the IDF was not "equipped properly to fight terror or terrorists", he argued, saying airpower was not a cost effective response to terrorism. "It's a little bit out of proportion to send against a single terrorist an F-16 plane that cost a hundred million dollars to chase him," he said.
The solution to the mismatch between the IDF's mission and its current force structure lay in "new technologies" Peres suggested. "We have to produce weaponry which is more minute, more robotic, more organized to discover a danger before it arrives," he said, not placing the burden on a "single soldier" who "is not properly equipped to face it."
Technology coupled with economic development would also produce the most radical change in the region. He told Chatham House that peace lay in creating a viable economy for the Palestinians by "opening a new port, lowering barriers and opening the skies."
Israel's future also lay in an educated globally competitive workforce, as "the age of an economy dependent upon land is over because there is a new age of an economy dependant upon technology and science," Peres said.
A spokesman for the British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told The Jerusalem Post that she would meet with the vice premier on Thursday evening to discuss "peace through economic development" in the region.
The vice-premier also warned in his Chatham House address that Iran's "endless ambitions" in the region, its "very unique leader", its nuclear development program and the designs of its "two adopted daughters, Hizbullah and Hamas" made it the chief threat to regional security.
Peres greeted with skepticism reports that Syrian president Bashar Assad wished to talk with Israel.
In interview published Monday in Der Spiegal Assad stated his attitude towards Israel differed from Iranian president Ahmadinejad. "I don't say that Israel should be wiped off the map. We want to make peace, peace with Israel," Assad told the German newsweekly.
"Now again, Assad is saying he wants peace," Peres said in response to a question from the audience of over 250. "How? That Israel gives back the Golan Heights? That Israel will settle the Palestinian problem and then he will deal with us? What sort of a proposal is that?"
If Assad wishes to deal with Israel "let him come with his opening positions, we shall offer counter positions and we shall negotiate."
However, Syria's continued support for terrorist groups proved an obstacle. "You know the Palestinians don't make peace" because Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal "sits in Damascus," he said.
Mashaal was blocking the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, he charged, even while "the Hamas people want to release him."
"Do you think that gives us great pleasure" that Assad gives sanctuary to him while he blocks Shalit's release," Peres said.
"Nonetheless, our choice is to have peace," he continued.
"We're not looking for a military victory. The only victory that we are looking for is peace. We don't have any intention to govern another people: it stands against everything we stand for. We didn't leave the house of slaves in Egypt to build a house of masters in Israel," he said.