Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres: A special friendship

The two's friendship, which spans more than 3 decades, marked by a mutual admiration and respect which is shown whenever they meet.

Clinton Peres Jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Ben Spier)
Clinton Peres Jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Ben Spier)
There is a special relationship between Hillary Clinton and Shimon Peres that the US secretary of state does not have with any other Middle East leader. Their friendship, spanning more than three decades, is marked by a mutual admiration and respect that show whenever they meet.
When Clinton arrived at Beit Hanassi on Wednesday morning, Peres walked out into the grounds of the presidential compound to greet her. The pleasure of the meeting was reflected in both their faces as they walked hand in hand along the red carpet into the main reception hall and then into a smaller hall, where they posed for the customary photo-op and made brief complimentary statements about each other and about the urgency of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
RELATED:Analysis: Sides speak more with US than with eachother
Then Peres, Clinton, US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell and long-time Peres adviser Avi Gil, who is a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry and has been closely involved in policy-making and peace negotiations, spent the best part of an hour in the president’s office, while Clinton’s entourage, presidential aides and ministry representatives remained in the small reception hall.
While everyone waited for Peres and Clinton to emerge from their private talks, the president’s military adjutant, Brig.-Gen. Hasson Hasson, was in deep conversation with Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
Recalling his earliest meetings with Clinton some 30 years ago, Peres said that even then he held her in high regard, and even more so now because of her determination to bring about peace. He dubbed her “a good, trustful and able leader” and “a traveling ambassador of goodwill.” She was the most mobile of statesmen, he said, bearing hope and responsibility.
Turning to the purpose for which Clinton had come to the region at this time, Peres said there was less of a religious conflict today between Muslims, Christians and Jews, and more of a conflict with Iran, which is trying to establish hegemony over the whole Middle East by funding and employing terrorism and posing a nuclear threat.
As for the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the everoptimistic Peres noted that people were extremely skeptical about whether the two sides could go from proximity talks to direct negotiations – and yet the opening of the talks at Sharm e-Sheikh had been much better than all the pessimists and naysayers anticipated.
From talking to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Peres said he gained the sense of “let’s do what can be done.” He said the fact that President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had all met in Washington was indicative of the urgency of making peace.
“It can be achieved,” said Peres. “It must be achieved.”
Clinton said it was always a privilege to hear Peres’s advice regarding peace, to which he has devoted his life. “Israel has no better champion,” she said.
While well aware of the obstacles to peace, Clinton said she could see a future that would deliver the aspirations of both Israel and the Palestinians. America is convinced that these legitimate aspirations are compatible, she added.
“Peace is both necessary and possible. The challenges facing people in this region make our task more urgent.”
Observing that Peres had lived long enough to experience all the frustrations and disappointments of the peace process, Clinton noted that he nevertheless remained an optimist, and a source of inspiration for others.
Even if the status quo lasts for several more years, it is unsustainable, she said. The only path to ensure a secure, democratic and Jewish State of Israel is to negotiate a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace, she insisted, stressing the importance of allowing the Palestinians to live in peace and dignity in a state of their own.
“It’s always easier to sit on the sidelines, and it’s always easier to doubt than to trust,” said Clinton, who expressed confidence that both Netanyahu and Abbas understood the importance of moving forward and are “getting down to business.”
The two leaders are “serious about reaching an agreement” that is not only in the interests of Israel and the Palestinians, but also of the US and people everywhere, Clinton said, concluding with the hope that just as Peres had seen the creation of the Israeli state, so he would be present to see Israel emerge from the end of the conflict.