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"Many young people today think that the political system is very corrupt. If that is the case, why not join politics yourself and try and change that? After all the country always needs honest, upstanding people," Kadima No. 2 Shimon Peres told high school students in Jerusalem's Givat Ram on Tuesday.
In a question and answer session held at Leyad Ha'universita High School, students were invited to ask, "without censorship," for Peres's views on a wide range of issues.
Peres asserted that having a central party representing the needs of the majority of Israelis was of vital importance to moving the country forward efficiently and productively. Were Kadima to achieve 40-50 mandates or more, he said, this would go some way towards eradicating the problems generated by unhealthy coalitions and compromises that frequently arise as a consequence of the present Knesset system. "Neither the US nor England could function properly in this way," he added.
In response to a question about the possibly egocentric motives of some of Kadima's candidates, the former prime minister noted that he fully understands why a politician would want to enter the Knesset, to help his country by implementing useful and creative ideas.
Regarding Hamas, Peres was adamant that any potential threat was minor in comparison to dangers that Israel had faced in the past.
Referring back to the 1948 War of Independence, when the country had a much smaller army and comparatively few weapons, he noted that Israel had nevertheless managed to defeat the surrounding Arab armies without showing fear.
"What are people scared of now? If Hamas hit us with terrorist attacks we will strike them back much harder," he said. He maintained, however, that the ideal scenario would be a peaceful solution to the conflict whereby Israel would offer to assist the Palestinians economically should the latter tender their own olive branch.
"Peace is the key to everything," he said.
Peres also urged the students to invest heavily in their studies, informing them that today's global marketplace is primarily governed by a knowledge economy.
"In order to compete with the rest of the world, which is changing at a very fast rate, each of you must focus on developing your own specific talents and characteristics," he said. He added that charisma, team work, the ability to relate to others, imagination and creativity formed the basis of personal and national success, and for that reason there should be no one in the country who does not get the opportunity to go to university.