(photo credit: AP [file])
In the first public comments by a senior Israeli official regarding Egypt's recent arrest of a Hizbullah terrorist cell, President Shimon Peres on Monday accused Iran of having imperial designs on the Middle East.
"Sooner or later, the world will realize that Iran wishes to take over the Middle East, and that it has colonial ambitions," Peres said.
"They are fighting without us, and this is good," he said after visiting the home of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in the capital's Har Nof neighborhood.
"The conflict between an Arab-Sunni Middle East and an Iranian minority that wants to conquer it is inevitable," the president added, after visiting the homes of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Although the visits on Monday were largely ceremonial, with discussions focused on the history and traditions of Pessah, they were not without political and security overtones.
In his talks with the rabbis, Peres underscored the stance taken by Cairo both as an intermediary and in its moderate attitude with regard to Israel. He was also appreciative of Egypt's hard line reaction to Hizbullah operatives planning terrorist attacks against Israel from inside Egypt.
Peres's optimism was reinforced by a telephone call from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with good wishes for the holiday, not only to Peres but to the whole of Israel.
Peres responded that the people of Israel had always sought peace and prayed for peace and freedom for all the nations of the region.
"We must not lose hope on the path to peace," he told Abbas.