Peres Ashton 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
In an early morning meeting on Thursday with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton, President Shimon Peres reiterated what has been Israel's construction policy vis-à-vis Jerusalem for the past forty years, and stated that it should remain so.
"The pattern was for building in suburbs that were basically Jewish and not in those suburbs that were basically Arab. We have to continue that policy," he said. "We shouldn't build where we didn't, and we should build where we did – and we should get on with the negotiations."
Peres made the point that this policy had until now been accepted by everyone including the Palestinians and had not generated any real problems in the past with regard to negotiations.
Aware of Ashton's concern for the population in Gaza, Peres made it clear that the governments of Israel have had nothing against the population of Gaza, but could not and cannot condone the Hamas leadership, which supports and engages in terrorist activity against Israel.
Israel wants the people of Gaza to enjoy the same economic opportunities and standard of living as Palestinians in the West Bank, said Peres, "but their leaders don’t want peace."
Israel has no interest in making the people of Gaza suffer, Peres emphasized, revealing that the response of the Hamas leadership to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza had come somewhat as a surprise.
The constant firing of rockets from Gaza was not what Israel had expected, nor was the abduction from Israeli territory of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, according to Peres.
With regard to Schalit, Peres noted that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for his safe release, but Hamas so far, has refused what Israel is willing to give and has taken a belligerent stance – which Peres termed "a mistake".
Ashton expressed her pleasure at being back in Israel and said that
there were two purposes to her visit: one was to support the peace
process and the other was to recognize the bilateral relationship
between the EU and Israel, especially in terms of the economic
relationship, and for this reason she had brought economics experts
She also wanted to be sure that the EU was playing its
role in support of the peace process and wanted to look at the projects
in the Palestinian Authority that the EU is supporting.
her arrival, a cameraman for one of the international news networks,
wanting to test the sound system which is often flawed at Beit Hanassi,
sat down in the chair reserved for the president, and pretending to be
Peres said succintly: "You worry about a balcony in Gilo instead of a
nuclear problem with Iran."