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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"This is the time for the Israeli government to initiate a change" in finding a solution to the Palestinian issue, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Wednesday.
Addressing an international conference at the Center for European Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya marking the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, Peretz said that war had "made us sink deep into our own arrogance and belief in our military."
The defense minister said the blessing of victory in the 1967 war had become a curse of occupation. 'Our dreams of land clash with other dreams - land is not more important than human life...evacuating land [in Gaza] was the right direction. The establishment of a Palestinian state is not only a Palestinian interest, but first and foremost is an Israeli interest."
Addressing the Saudi peace initiative, Peretz said that there are items in it which can move the process forward. However, he said that the return of refugees under UN Resolution 194 and the Saudi initiative cannot happen.
Nonetheless, Peretz said the Israeli government should take the lead in working towards bridging the gap between Israel and the Arab world, but this should not preclude the Arabs from taking strides towards peace.
"They should create an Israeli initiative which would be discussed at the next conference in Riyadh. It would show courage," he said.
Peretz said that such an initiative would create a situation in which Arab moderates would unite with not only Israel at the forefront of their interests, but it would also serve as a deterrent to the Iranian threat.
Speaking about potential threats to Israel, the defense minister said; 'When we have voices of war and peace coming from Damascus, we must prepare for both. [Regarding Lebanon,] we have to prepare for all scenarios. The time has come where the use of force is not only to protect citizens, but to give politicians room to act."
To better protect Israelis, Peretz said he hoped that there were other directions the government could take to ensure the safety of Israel and its citizens. "Because of Iran's attempt to attain nuclear weapons, and their uses of proxies in Syria, Lebanon and the Sudan, we [need] to have moderates such as Abu Mazen and [Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora.
"I think we are not at a period where all the doors are closed. However, if we try hard, we will find a window of opportunity to make peace with the Arab world," Peretz added.