(photo credit: AP [file])
While Israel's heart is with the Darfur refugees, "we have to be realistic about the extent of the aid that we can provide for them," President Shimon Peres told a British Parliamentary delegation at Beit Hanassi on Monday.
Peres was responding to a question about Israel taking in Darfur refugees. There are some three million of them, he explained, and Israel cannot absorb them. "It is beyond our capacity, but we are trying to help as much as we can," he said.
The delegation, comprised largely of the Labor Friends of Israel, quizzed the president on a number of issues including his transition from politics to the presidency and how he sees his new role; the possibility of improving relations with Iran; the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; prospects of negotiations with Syria; his opinion of the Quartet; and the possibility of Israel joining NATO.
Peres also discussed some of these issues later with Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. Regarding Iran, Peres spoke of the nuclear threat which he said was a world problem, not just an Israeli one, and could be resolved only by a strong united front made up of all the countries of the free world, which would impose severe economic sanctions on Iran. Peres cited examples of such a measure succeeding with other belligerent countries.
In his discussion with the British delegation, Peres warned that if the Iranians were to succeed in developing a nuclear bomb and combine it with terror, the world would become ungovernable. Peres expressed a fear that in such a case, any individual would be able to carry a nuclear device. The world would then be forced to unite, but Peres preferred an early economic solution to a later nuclear one.
As for the Palestinian issue, Peres reiterated to Gusenbauer what he had said to the British delegation: that Hamas is not interested in building a Palestinian state, but in destroying the State of Israel. They want to have a religious hegemony and take over the whole of the region, he said.
Peres was particularly angered by the Kassam assault on Sderot on the second day of the school year. Following the evacuation from Gaza, he said, he was at a loss to understand why Hamas persisted in firing rockets into Sderot. "Why do they want to hurt women and children?" he asked. There was no reason when there were no longer any Israeli settlements in Gaza, he said.