Peres: Israel could benefit from 'Arab Spring'

President says revolutions could help Israel if it makes peace with Palestinians; adds Iran "world's main problem."

President Shimon Peres at Herzliya Conf 390 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
President Shimon Peres at Herzliya Conf 390
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Restarting the peace process is the best way for Israel to take advantage of the Arab Spring and the changes rocking the Middle East, President Shimon Peres said Tuesday in the keynote address of the annual Herzliya Conference.
“Israel is not the cause of these revolutions... This isn’t an Israeli question but an Arab one. It doesn’t depend on us but it does affect us,” he said. “The only way... is to reach an Israeli-Palestinian accord like we did with Egypt and Jordan. I say this because I believe an agreement is possible.”
Peres described his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as committed partners for peace.
“I’ve known these people for decades. I believe Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Fayyad want peace and want to end the conflict,” he said, adding that it is in Israel’s interest to strengthen Abbas’s Fatah faction at the expense of its rival Hamas.
“Any delay of negotiations could reinforce Hamas,” he said. “Today Hamas is promised donations of close to a billion dollars a year without being required to stop terrorism or to prevent the Gaza Strip from becoming a forward base for the terrorism of Tehran... There’s not a lot of time left.”
Peres described the Iranian regime as an existential threat to Israel and “the main problem of the world.”
“Iran is trying to equip itself with weapons of mass destruction in order to scare the world and achieve its imperialist ambitions under a religious guise,” he said.
“Nuclear weapons must not be allowed to [enter] the ayatollahs’ regime in Iran,” he said, adding that “no option should be taken off the table.”
Peres was followed by Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who joined the conference at the IDC Herzliya via video from Amman.
Hassan – the brother of Jordan’s late King Hussein and uncle of its current monarch Abdullah II – is a veteran peace and human rights activist. The 46-year-old echoed Peres’s remarks in calling for a renewal of the arduous process of peacemaking.
“Peace has never been an easy ride for any of us,” he said, “But the comradeship between Muslims, Christians and Jews has existed for longer than has conflict.”
Hassan – who studied Hebrew as part of his undergraduate studies at Oxford University – finished his remarks by reciting a four-verse passage from the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” he said in Hebrew. “A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.”
“It is time to restore our faith in the chain of humanity and in each other,” he concluded in English to loud applause.