Peres, Abbas optimistic about peace

Leaders meet at Beit Hanassi as terror attack unfolds less than a kilometer from Peres' residence.

peres abbas 224.88 (photo credit: GPO)
peres abbas 224.88
(photo credit: GPO)
Even as President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were meeting on Tuesday at Beit Hanassi, less than a kilometer away a terrorist attack was taking place. Both Peres and Abbas issued statements condemning the attack, but earlier had continued to express optimism in the peace process. When the two spoke to the media after their meeting (but before the attack), it was obvious that they were both on the same page, with Peres in Hebrew and English, and Abbas in Arabic, saying almost exactly the same thing; the bottom line was an expression of their faith that despite the hurdles that still exist, the end to the conflict between their two peoples was in sight and peace was attainable. Peres and Abbas waxed nostalgic over their first meeting almost 15 years ago, when they had signed the first agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization on the White House lawn. At that time "it looked like a hopeless enterprise," Peres said, but to anyone who remembers the starting point, those 15 years were not wasted. "We have gained in years, but we did not lose faith," he added. Although there have been six governments in Israel in the post-Oslo period, the commitment to peace had been unwavering, Peres said, adding, "Governments change, but policies remain." What concerned Israel most at this time, he said, was the safe return of Gilad Schalit. Negotiations for Schalit's release were "not true to the spirit of civilized relationships," he added. Abbas said the Palestinians were troubled the most by ongoing settlement activity, the way Palestinians are treated at military checkpoints and Israeli aggression in Palestinian towns and villages. "We hope all this will end," he said, adding that it was time complete negotiations on Jerusalem, settlements, water and the refugee situation. Abbas spoke of his belief in peace and stability in the region and condemned the violence emanating from the Gaza Strip. He said the PA was opposed to the killing of innocent people. "Killing one person is like killing all of humanity," he said. AP also contributed to this report