Peres tries to woo his 'old friend' Abbas

Peres tries to woo old

Peres addresses Brazilian Parliament 248 (photo credit: GPO)
Peres addresses Brazilian Parliament 248
(photo credit: GPO)
President Shimon Peres, currently on a state visit to Brazil, has appealed yet again to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace negotiations. Abbas is to visit Brazil later this month. In his address to the Brazilian parliament on Tuesday, Peres called Abbas "my old friend" and urged him to get the negotiations back on track. "I know that it's difficult," Peres said. "It's difficult for you and it's difficult for us. You remember when Yitzhak Rabin and I started talking to you? Not everyone agreed with our opinion. Yitzhak was assassinated before our eyes. The assassin wanted to kill me, too. I survived in order to continue the quest. Today there are many supporters. We both went through hard times in the peace process." He went on to speak about the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and Hamas's subsequent turning of the area into a battlefield. Hamas wants to take over the Palestinian Authority, said Peres, who then declared that the rifle of the fanatics will not triumph. "The future is green like the peace symbol of the olive leaf," he said. Peres told his hosts that he had not come to argue with them about the president of Iran, who is due in Brazil on November 23. "As you know," he said, "we are convinced that his policies endanger the peace of the world." Historically, said Peres, the people of Iran had not been hostile to Israel, and there was no need for the two countries to be enemies. Nor had the Islamic religion been hostile. In fact there were periods in history in which Jews and Muslims lived very well together, he said. But nowadays, it was impossible to ignore the fact that a country that is developing nuclear weapons is calling for Israel's destruction. A clear voice was needed to cry out against annihilation and terrorism, he said. "A clear voice is needed to call out for coexistence and peace." Peres said that he was fully aware that Brazil condemns threats of annihilation and terror, and that it supports the peace process. Although relations with Brazil were not always ideal under previous regimes, Israel was greatly indebted to Brazil for its support in the UN resolution of November 1947 that paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel. It was something that Israel would never forget, he said. Peres also thanked Brazil for having opened its doors to Holocaust survivors. He refrained from mentioning that it had also opened its doors to Nazis who were fleeing from justice. Prior to addressing the Brazilian parliament, Peres became the first serving president to be conferred with honorary Brazilian citizenship. Earlier in the day, he met with Defense Minister Nelson Jobin. Commenting on Brazil's near miraculous economic recovery, Peres said that regardless of the state of the economy, defense was never subjected to budgetary constraints. The two agreed that because the nature of war has changed, and modern technology can wreak so much destruction, it was important to utilize technology as a means of preventing wars and thereby make the world a safer and more peaceful place. Defense is always ahead of economy, said Peres, because you can't have a second-rate defense. "It is better to be a builder of force than a user of force," he said. He offered Brazil Israel's cooperation in various aspects of technology, and Jobin said that there was plenty of room for such cooperation. Giora Becher, Israel's ambassador to Brazil, told reporters that Brazil's foreign policy was to engage with everyone rather than to participate in sanctions. Brazil wants to be an influential player on the world stage, said Becher, and also wants to play a significant role in moves to achieve peace in the Middle East. The visit follows a July trip by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Brazil, during which he tried to enlist help in stymieing Iran's effort to build a nuclear weapon. During his seven years in office, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has maintained a broad range of ties around the world - from Cuba's Castro brothers to former US president George W. Bush to Ahmadinejad - and analysts say he is becoming a key player in Israel's diplomatic struggles. "This is a chance for the Brazilians to perhaps play a constructive role in the Middle East peace process and to demonstrate a greater grasp and involvement in one of the issues most critical to world peace," said Ray Walser, from the Washington-based Heritage Foundation think tank. Brazil, Latin America's most populous country, with about 190 million people, has emerged as an economic powerhouse in recent years, and appears to be gaining a diplomatic punch to match. It has become a voice for poor countries in the G-20. And adding to its influence, some foreign governments see it as the moderate voice of Latin America's leftist-led countries. Gaining Brazilian support would lend credibility to Iran's government, analysts say. Israeli officials have expressed concern over Iran's growing ties with leftist governments in Latin America. Iranian companies are building apartments, cars, tractors and bicycles in Venezuela and the countries' leaders have exchanged visits. Iran has also opened embassies in Bolivia and Nicaragua, and an Israeli report recently suggested that Bolivia and Venezuela were supplying uranium to Iran - an allegation denied by both countries. Brazil's president, during the UN General Assembly session in September, defended Iran's right to have a nuclear program for energy and called it a "great partner." AP contributed to this report.