Peres says he's willing to meet Rouhani: 'Iran is not our enemy'

President says Israel prefers diplomatic solution to Iran threat, claims peace can be achieved, and comes out in favor of gay marriage.

Peres and Richard Quest 370 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Peres and Richard Quest 370
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Shimon Peres said on Sunday he would have no problem meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“Why not?” he said in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv. Israel and Iran are not enemies, he added.
The important factor was not the man in question, but his policies, and the goal was to turn enemies into friends, the president said. Peres compared the decision to Israel’s choice to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ahead of the Oslo Peace agreements.
The fact that structural players in Iran opposed Rouhani’s perspective complicated the matter, Peres said.
“If it was only him I’d take it with greater assurance, but there are other structures, other people,” he said. “The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, half army and half organization, spreads terror all over the world and I’m not so sure they support the president. We have to see the balance of the situation.”
Peres also said he believed relations with the United States had not been harmed over the Iran issue, and that US President Barack Obama remained a solid friend to Israel. He stressed the importance of using the next six months to sign a final deal that would ensure Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon.
On Saturday, Obama said tough sanctions helped put Rouhani in power in Iran, but “that doesn’t mean that we should trust him or anybody else inside of Iran.”
However, Obama continued, “the best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that.”
Obama said there was a 50-50 chance the recent interim agreement, which loosened minor sanctions in exchange for some nuclear rollbacks, would successfully develop into a comprehensive nuclear deal.
Peres also addressed the state of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, saying though peace was possible, Israel’s unsuccessful previous attempts to move peace forward left the population reluctant. In particular, the experience of withdrawing from Gaza, which led to a Hamas takeover and regular rocket fire, raised security concerns.
“It’s complicated to negotiate, not only with the other side but also with your own people, to convince them that it’s a plan that will make them safe,” Peres said.
Asked his stance on gay marriage in Israel, Peres responded that everybody was born equal and had a right to love who they wanted to love.
When pressed, as to whether that was a “yes” or “no” to whether he supported gay marriage, Peres responded: “I think everybody will take it as a yes.” Though the question referenced a bill that would give gay male couples equal tax status, which does not explicitly legalize gay marriage, Quest specifically used the term “gay marriage” in his question.