Peres to GA: Focus on science and education is the long-term answer to economic crisis

"What matters is the intelligence of your country, not its length, its width or its depth," says president.

peres speaks 224 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
peres speaks 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Many of the people now giving advice on what should be done about the global financial crisis were the same ones who had failed to see it coming, President Shimon Peres told the plenum of the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities that convened in Jerusalem on Monday. Referring to those who attribute the economic crunch to globalization, Peres said: "It's not a matter of less globalization, but more responsibility. The banks lost their sense of proportion." As far as Israel was concerned, Peres is convinced that greater focus on science and education will, in the long run, solve the country's economic woes. "We can build a strong economy on knowledge, education and research," he said. "What matters is the intelligence of your country, not its length, its width or its depth." Confident that Israel would withstand the current crisis, Peres added: "If we have to suffer a little, we have the reserves and strength to overcome." The world's greatest problem, he insisted, was the cost of oil. "Oil pollutes our lives and makes poor people poorer," he said. Oil-rich governments, he added, spend their surplus funds on missiles and bombs. "Terror is the greatest thing produced by oil," he said. For this reason, he said, "we have to make oil a non-commodity." Peres emphasized the importance of investing more in solar and other energy sources as a means of reducing terrorism, because if there were alternatives to oil, there would be less dependence on it, and with depleted oil revenues, there would be less money to finance terror. Israel, he noted, had considerable expertise in researching and harnessing solar energy. It is also a world leader in desalination, which was an important national asset, said Peres, because "two-thirds of the world is covered with water, but only one per cent of this water is drinkable." He was also proud that "Israel is first in the world in developing the most modern medical equipment." Israel has cured 5,500 Palestinian children suffering from life-threatening illnesses, he said. This, he added, was "the best investment in peace." Another of Israel's areas of expertise, he said, was homeland security. In this domain Israel had developed invaluable technologies for combating terrorism, he added. Referring to Israel's victories in the seven wars in which it had been embroiled during its 60 years of independence, Peres said: "If we [had] lost [only] one, we wouldn't exist." Yet the glory of military victories hadn't diminished Israel's desire for peace, he added. From his meetings with Arab leaders at the United Nations Interfaith Conference in New York last week, Peres gleaned that the Arab states are even more concerned than Israel about the Iranian threat, not because of Iran's nuclear program, but because of Iran's ambition to take over the whole of the Middle East. "Iran doesn't want a Middle East of states, it wants a Middle East of religion, and no other country in the Middle East wants to sacrifice its independence," said Peres. As for Israel's relations with the Palestinians, Peres said that negotiations were moving in slow motion, "but if we work properly, maybe in a year's time we'll see results." There were loud cheers and applause when Peres said that he didn't have the slightest doubt that relations with the incoming US administration would be "warm, profound and responsible." The cheers were even more enthusiastic after Peres stated: "America is not the policeman of the world. America is a country that helps other people to remain free." Peres left for London on Monday afternoon.