Peres slams UN HR group that depicts Israel as evil

President responds to reports depicting Israel as antagonist and says peace talks possible only if Hamas renounces terror.

President Shimon Peres and  Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Bu (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Shimon Peres and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Bu
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Shimon Peres on Sunday denounced the Geneva-headquartered United Nations Human Rights Council for invariably depicting Israel as the evildoer while never condemning human rights abuses by its enemies.
Peres was responding to a remark made by Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter during their meeting at the President’s Residence.
Referring to improved relations between their countries, Burkhalter spoke of a Swiss-Israel dialogue on UN human rights issues. Peres replied that while Israel was appreciative of the role played by Switzerland in working toward the renewal of the peace process with the Palestinians, there had to be some rethinking with regard to human rights.
“If you have a frame with the wrong scale, the frame becomes unimportant,” said Peres, declaring that one cannot have violators of human rights on a human rights council, much less at its head.
Peres also took exception to the frequency with which friends of Israel call for the state to open a dialogue with Hamas. For this to happen, Peres insisted, Hamas would have to renounce terror and violence.
Peres accused Iran of being the world’s worst violator of human rights, and a supporter of terror, backing not only Hamas, but also Hezbollah, which has turned Lebanon into a battlefield.
“Iran is the gravest threat to human rights in the world today. Iran is a center of terror, is developing nuclear weapons and hangs people in the street,” said Peres.
In welcoming Burkhalter, Peres spoke of the excellent cooperation which the countries have in various spheres, most notably scientific research, security, and counter- terrorism.
In speaking of his hopes of reviving the long suspended peace process, Peres said that it should not be postponed any longer, especially because it is not yet clear where recent changes across the Middle East are leading.
Most countries have been shaken by terrorism, said Peres, using an earthquake analogy, and adding: “When it comes to an earthquake we cannot be neutral.”
He did not elaborate on this remark, and thus it may or may not have alluded to Syria.
In reiterating his hope for the renewal of the peace process, Peres said that it would serve to restabilize the situation in the Middle East.
Acknowledging that Switzerland has invested a lot of effort in peace, Peres said that the problems of the Middle East are more existential than ideological.
He was pleased that the foreign minister had come to Israel at a time when relations between the two countries were reaching new heights.
Burkhalter, who arrived last week, and met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday, said that when he had come, the only Hebrew he knew was “Ani sameah lehiyot b’Israel.”
(“I am happy to be in Israel”).
Now after a few days of intense visits and discussions including with security forces, he was pleased to be able to say “Ani sameah lehiyot b’Israel im haverim tovim.”
(“I am happy to be in Israel with good friends”).
He said that he had seen a lot and had learned to understand a lot more about the country than prior to his arrival.
“We would like to open a new chapter of constructive, pragmatic and concrete friendship,” Burkhalter said.
Switzerland’s three major interests are security, prosperity and independence, he said.
“Security is very important to us. Terrorism is condemned in Switzerland. We are very active in counter-terrorism.
Terrorism is not to be compared with neutrality.”
The Swiss foreign minister shared the Israeli president’s conviction that there is still a window of opportunity for the peace process.
“There is a state of emergency and we have to relaunch the peace process,” Burkhalter said as he offered Switzerland’s help and support in any way possible.
Seizing on Israel’s frequent insistence on no pre-conditions for the resumption of the peace process, the foreign minister suggested that even so, a framework for what happens afterwards must be established, and that this was an area in which Switzerland was ready to contribute.
He also suggested that the Geneva Initiative for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be reviewed and upgraded.
A conference on the initiative dedicated to the memory of former chief of staff the late Amnon Lipkin-Shahak who was one of the signatories to the Geneva Initiative, will be held today in Tel Aviv.
Speakers will include Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri who is a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Geneva Initiative chairman Yossi Beilin who is a former justice minister, Brig.-Gen.
(res.) Israela Oron and former agriculture minister Haim Oron.
As far as scientific cooperation with Israel is concerned, Burkhalter said Swiss companies are already working on brain research with major Israeli institutions preferring direct cooperation rather than through political intervention.
Since Peres is one of Israel’s leading advocates for brain research, he was delighted to hear about this area of cooperation.