Peres completes an active first year as president

President: Politicians shouldn't be judges, judges shouldn't be politicians.

Peres speaks 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Peres speaks 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
President Shimon Peres celebrated the completion of his first year in office this week and, notwithstanding his age, (he will be 85 on August 2), he has proved to be one of Israel's most active heads of state. Peres met on Tuesday with reporters who regularly cover Beit Hanassi to review the year gone by. Reporters tried to pin him down to specifics such as the prime minister's current legal predicament. Quoting his mentor, David Ben-Gurion, Peres said that politicians should not be judges and judges should not be politicians. None of the allegations against Olmert had been proven he said, adding that there was enough tension in the country without everyone getting involved in the Olmert affair. "We have to allow the judicial system to take its course, and we have to act in accordance with the law," he said. Another question related to the efforts to free abducted soldier Gilad Schalit from Gaza while he is still alive. Peres said he was absolutely convinced that everything possible was being done and would be done to bring Schalit home safe and well. He was reluctant to talk about the case of IAF navigator Ron Arad, which he termed "a very sad story," but said he was as aware as anyone else of whatever there was to know about the Arad case, because one of his sons was connected with the group that is looking for information about his fate. On prospects of peace with the Palestinians, Peres gave credit to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his efforts, saying that even though the process was taking too long there had been progress. "Peace is not just a rationale but based on emotion," he said. "If Sadat had not come to the Knesset, I'm not sure that we would have a peace treaty with Egypt. Even people who were opposed to making peace with Egypt were moved by the fact that he came. We have to make a concerted effort for peace even when the chances do not look promising." The conversion issue also came up at question time. Peres is convinced that converts should not be subjected to additional stress. "All conversions carried out to date should be honored," he said. "That would solve part of the problem." Peres has hosted 136 events at Beit Hanassi in which more than 24,000 people have participated, and conducted 25 official visits to cities and towns throughout the country, including 11 in the North and seven in the South. He also held working meetings in his office with some 90 visiting dignitaries, including 20 heads of state, 13 of whom attended his Facing Tomorrow mega-conference in May. His overseas travel has been cut down somewhat. Peres, who used to be in and out of Israel like a yo-yo, has made only six trips abroad during the past year, to Italy, Turkey, Jordan (twice), France and Poland. His next trip, which will be during his birthday week, will be to China for the opening of the 2008 Olympics. Peres, who is arguably the most interviewed of Israeli personalities, gave more than 600 interviews over the past year to foreign and local media outlets. And oh yes, he still found time for regular meetings with Olmert and the heads of the security services, plus a host of other tete-a-tetes. He also attends weddings and bar mitzvas, goes to concerts and the theater, and keeps himself updated on technological developments, especially those affecting the environment.