Peres condemns extremist violence in Beit Shemesh

Israel must remain on the outside looking in on Arab Spring, and must refrain from trying to exert any influence, president says.

President Shimon Peres_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
President Shimon Peres_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
President Shimon Peres issued a scathing denunciation on Tuesday of the violence perpetrated against women and an eight-year-old girl recently in Beit Shemesh.
“No one has the right to threaten a little girl,” he said, as he appealed to the nation to save the country from the actions of a few that impact so severely on the many. Speaking in advance of Tuesday night’s anti-radical demonstration in Beit Shemesh, Peres said that religious, secular and traditional citizens must band together to save the soul of the nation and the substance of the state.
Peres was addressing the annual conference in Jerusalem of Israeli ambassadors and consuls serving abroad, including those who are due to take up new positions overseas in the summer.
Referring to religious extremists who would impose their will on others, Peres said, “We are not the masters of this country; we are the citizens of this country,” meaning that everyone, without exception, must abide by the rule of law.
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Peres reiterated his oft-repeated contention that Israel and the Palestinians must resume peace negotiations as soon as possible. This time, however, he added the rider that aside from all else, it was important in terms of Israel’s image. While negotiations remain frozen, Israel is widely perceived as an occupier.
This perception would diminish, Peres was convinced, if negotiations were to get underway.
Peres said that he was pleased that Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria were more affluent than in former years and were enjoying a better quality of life. He was also pleased that the Palestinians have their own efficiently run security forces. Yet for all that, there was a note of dissatisfaction in his remarks, especially when he stated that the Palestinian Authority is a small body with a big shadow.
“So much is happening beneath that shadow,” he noted.
Iran is a serious problem and decidedly dangerous to the whole world, but there is no need to get hysterical about it, Peres said.
Israel has successfully confronted worse existential threats, said Peres, recalling the early days of the War of Independence when Israel emerged triumphant, despite the shortage of arms, ammunition and manpower.
A factor in Israel’s victories, he implied, was the imagination of the enemy. It was important for the enemy to believe that Israel has an enormous arsenal of resources. In this context, Peres mentioned Dimona, saying that no one knew exactly what Dimona was.
Although he had previously admitted publicly that Israel’s nuclear research center was located in Dimona, Peres refrained on this occasion from elaborating, even though it is now common knowledge. For many years, the nuclear research center in Dimona functioned in the guise of a textile factory.
There was much speculation about what was really going on inside, but no one other than those involved actually knew the details until nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu blew the whistle to the British press in 1986.
Likewise today, no one knows to what extent Israel is capable of dealing with the Iranian problem, but with the reputation that Israel has built up in science and technology, it is imagined that Israel can overcome this hurdle just as it has in the past.
A former foreign minister, Peres was very much at home in the diplomatic environment and spoke extemporaneously without any reference to notes.
On the subject of the Arab Spring, Peres did not hazard a guess as to how it will play out, beyond saying that spring is supposed to be a calm, happy season and the he had never seen such a tempestuous spring as this. There is a new element that is quite frightening, he admitted, “Because no one knows its strength or how it will end.”
Whatever happens, Peres cautioned, Israel must remain on the outside looking in, and must refrain from trying to exert any influence one way or the other.
Nonetheless, he said, Israel must remain alert, because there are those who blame Israel for everything.