Peres urges democracy following Egyptian revolution

President hopes historic Israel-Egypt relations will remain, PM hints in AFP interview that action against Iran could boost peace process.

Peres 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Peres 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
President Shimon Peres said that the connection between Israel and Egypt are historic, warning against a shift away from these ties in the wake of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt between 1981 and February 2011, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
Speaking from Rabbi Ovadia's house during the Pessah holiday, Army radio reported Peres saying that this year the Egyptians seek to leave the house of bondage, unaware of where the Promised Land may lie.
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The president commented that international accusations that Israel was seeking to undermine democracy in the Arab world were "nonsense," Army Radio reported Wednesday. Peres added that Israel desires a free and democratic Arab world.
Speaking to AFP Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netnyahu also warned that the“Arab Spring” sweeping the region could turn into an “Iranian Winter."
Netanyahu warned that the Iranians were trying to exploit the tide of unrest sweeping the region, and – referring to his demand that any peace agreement with the Palestinians include an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley – said: “We need a physical barrier to prevent penetration by Iran and its operatives.”
Illustrating why this was important, Netanyahu said that when Israel pulled out of Gaza, a European force was left along the Egyptian border “who left shortly after Hamas took over.” He said this allowed Iran to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.
In what AFP said was a reference to the military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Netanyahu said that “If Iran is de-fanged, or if the regime is subjected to the same pressure as other regimes in the region, there will be a chance for peace and progress.”
“If the Iranian regime goes down, how long will it be before Hamas goes down?” he asked.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview of his own with AFP, said he would not allow any Israeli troops in a future Palestinian state, including along the Jordan River. Abbas said he told Netanyahu in September that a troop presence in the Jordan Valley would torpedo the possibility of an independent Palestinian state.
“If he wants to stay for 40 years, it means that it is an occupation – so he will keep his occupation,” Abbas told AFP. “I told him, ‘If you insist on that, keep your troops here and keep your occupation forever.’”
Abbas said Netanyahu rejected the idea of an international force, or NATO deployment, along the border with Jordan.
Netanyahu, during his interview with AFP, said he was working on details of a new initiative that he would present during a speech before the US Congress in May. However, he did not offer any details.
“The core of the conflict has always been the persistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize the Jewish state in any borders,” he said. “That is why this conflict raged for nearly 50 years before 1967 – before there was a single settlement in the West Bank.”
Netanyahu said in the interview that the two-state paradigm was the only viable solution to the conflict, because the only other option was a binational state. But he said that the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state raised questions about whether they were serious about a two-state solution.
“Why don’t the Palestinians do something so simple as recognizing the Jewish state? After all, we are prepared to recognize a Palestinian state. Why can’t they reciprocate if they really want peace? This explains the root cause of why you don’t have peace,” Netanyahu said.
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, cited American and European diplomats as warning that if Israel did not present a vision for restarting the diplomatic process, then the Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and UN – may attempt to “jump-start” the process by endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
A Quartet meeting, originally scheduled for last Friday in Berlin to discuss the matter, was postponed due to US pressure.
The feeling in Jerusalem is that it is unlikely that the meeting will be rescheduled until Netanyahu gives his speech to Congress in May.
“The ball,” one government official said, “is widely seen now as being in our court.”