President Shimon Peres in his office 521.
(photo credit: Rachel Marder)
There are few things that President Shimon Peres regrets. Although there is a
large Israeli camp that argues that the Oslo Accords were Israel’s most
misguided attempt at peace, Peres disagrees.
In a wide-ranging interview
with The Jerusalem Post, the full text of which appears in Monday’s Independence
Day supplement, the president contends that the Oslo Accords, signed in
September 1993, were not a mistake, because without them, there would be only
one Palestinian camp – a camp of terror.
Because of the accords, he says,
there is a Palestinian peace camp.
If he does have any regrets, they
extend further back than Oslo. When he was foreign minister, Peres entered into
a secret agreement with Jordan’s King Hussein. The agreement – signed in London
on April 11, 1987, in the presence of Jordanian prime minister Zaid al-Rifai and
Yossi Beilin, who was then director-general of the Foreign Ministry – outlined a
framework for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on United
Nations Security Council Resolutions 224 and 338. The details were to be
discussed at an international conference hosted by the UN, with the stipulation
that a solution would not be imposed on the parties concerned. The agreement
also called for the renunciation of terrorism and violence.
To keep the
agreement as neutral as possible, Peres and Hussein decided that the most
effective thing to do would be to ask US secretary of state George Shultz to
present it as an American initiative.
There were, however, aspects of the
agreement that did not meet with the approval of prime minister Yitzhak Shamir,
and he torpedoed the whole idea.
Had things gone according to plan,
Israel and the Palestinians would be focusing more on science and other areas of
education and developing their respective economies, Peres
Peres, the eternal optimist, is sufficiently realistic to
realize that even if the agreement had not been demolished, there would have
been setbacks and interventions along the way, but he is convinced that greater
progress would have been made than has been made to date.
Peres is still
pained over what could have been and has not yet eventuated. This is one of the
reasons that he urges the resumption of peace negotiations as soon as possible.
He thinks that now that both sides have agreed to a two-state solution, the
nations of the world should be saying to the Palestinians, “You agreed to a
two-state solution; why aren’t you implementing it?” Israel has already said time
and again that it is willing to negotiate, but the Palestinians are holding
The purpose of negotiations is to overcome disagreements, says
“We can and should bring an end to the conflict – and we have to
be the initiators. Playing hard to get may be a romantic proposition, but it’s
not a good political plan.”
His ardent wish, on the occasion of the 65th
anniversary of Israel’s independence, is to bring an end to the conflict, so
that all children in the region can live in freedom and friendship. He hopes
that neither Israel nor the Jewish people as a whole will see more wars or
He would like to see Jewish unity with adherence to a
moral code and a greater pursuit of knowledge and science.
for a day when the IDF will be made up of soldiers for peace.
message to [the soldiers] is that the story of Israel is not a story of the rich
land that has enriched the people, but a story of rich people that enriched the
land. Our natural source is the human vein. Everybody can be as great as the
cause he serves.”
He remains confident that peace is not impossible, if
people can rid themselves of preconceived notions.
“Impossibility is a
product of our prejudice,” he says.
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