Peres warns of danger of Iranian, Syrian regimes

In meeting, German president Joachim Gauck says of Bashar Assad: ‘A president is supposed to be the father of the nation. Instead, he shoots at his children,’

Peres and Germany's Gauck 370 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Peres and Germany's Gauck 370
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
The Iranian people are not the enemy, but the Iranian government policy casts a heavy shadow on world peace, President Shimon Peres told German President Joachim Gauck at an official reception in his honor at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Gauck, who was greeted with full pomp and ceremony, came to Israel with a large media contingent and an extensive itinerary.
The leader of Iran says that religion forbids the building a nuclear arsenal, said Peres, but those people who work in his name are producing nuclear weapons. The leader of Iran denies the Holocaust while threatening a new Holocaust, he continued.
This is an issue that cannot be avoided or evaded, because indifference will pave the way for the greatest of all atrocities, Peres warned.
In addition to the Iranian peril, said Peres, there is also the outrageous situation in Syria.
“How can anyone sit dry-eyed in the face of a row of dead bodies, including those of many children who were shot to death for no reason on the orders of their president?” he declared.
“A president is supposed to be the father of the nation. Instead, he shoots at his children. Children are the most beautiful and innocent creatures in the world, regardless of race or nationality.”
What Syrian President Bashar Assad has done, Peres charged, has been “a crime against humanity.”
Gauck concurred on the danger posed by Iran, and said he was very concerned, but was simultaneously hopeful that the problem could still be resolved by negotiation. As things stand now, the Iranian nuclear program is not just a threat to Israel but to the whole region and to Europe, he said. He was no less aghast than Peres about the wholesale slaughter in Syria, and with regard to the Israel- Palestinian conflict said that both states have the right to live in peace and security with mutual respect for each other’s rights.
The German president was also hopeful that Egypt, in the wake of its elections, would move toward democracy.
Gauck spoke of German responsibility to Israel, and said that the impossible had been achieved in terms of friendship because Israel had demonstrated confidence in Germany’s ability to learn from the past in order to build a better future.
It is part of German foreign policy that Israel should live in peace and within secure borders, said Gauck, who advocated direct talks between the parties, a move that he was certain would lead to a resolution of the conflict.
Acknowledging that he had arrived during a stormy period in the region, he said that he could understand Israel’s uncertainty about what the future would bring, but he was optimistic that eventually the whole region would move in the direction of democracy.
Peres warmly greeted the German leader before getting down to the crux of the matter, saying, “We welcome you in great friendship and with deep respect both as a president and as a person who fought for freedom all his life while safeguarding his humanity of conscience.”
Gauck was very touched, he said, that Peres in his opening remarks had placed an emphasis on friendship.
Peres went on to say that Gauck’s recent election as president of Germany was a form of declaration by his people of its unwavering and uncompromising commitment to democracy, reflecting a preference for a European Germany rather than a German Europe.
Gauck’s visit to Jerusalem was of great significance, said Peres, coming as it does during a period of economic crisis in Europe and social crisis in the Middle East. What happens in Europe, Peres continued, will impact on the whole world, and certainly the Middle East.
The world needs moral and political balance no less than political and military strength, said Peres, who credited Europe with achieving this balance.
He expressed appreciation to the people and the government of Germany, and above all Chancellor Angela Merkel for the development of good relations between Germany and Israel, which are expressed both in deeds and in shared values.
This friendship did not come at the expense of forgetting the Holocaust, said Peres, but out of a desire by both countries to look forward to a new Germany whose vision is to repair the world.
Peres underscored Germany’s role in guaranteeing Israel’s security and in promoting peace between Israel and her neighbors, first and foremost with the Palestinians.
Peres reiterated that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a two-state solution to their conflict, and the fact that Europe, especially Germany, was in favor of this solution. Support of this kind, said Peres, was helpful in working toward the realization of an end to the conflict and was greatly appreciated.
The two presidents and their aides then sat down to a working meeting before leaving for Yad Vashem.