Peres: Croatia, once pro-Nazi, is our friend now

Croatia’s governments denounced fascism in 2000.

Peres and Ivo Josipovic (photo credit: Associated Press)
Peres and Ivo Josipovic
(photo credit: Associated Press)
President Shimon Peres said in Zagreb on Friday that Israel now sees Croatia as a friend because it has decided not to repeat past errors.
The country was pro-Nazi during World War II, became independent in 1991 and sympathetic to that historical era in the 1990s – prompting Israel to hold off recognizing it until 1997.
Since 2000, Croatia’s governments have denounced fascism. Peres’s predecessor, Moshe Katsav, visited in 2001.
Peres said that Israelis “look upon Croatia as a friend, not just a country” and have the “highest regard” for its people and its decision “not to repeat the tragedies of the past, introducing a new way of living and hoping together.”
On Sunday, Peres plans to visit Jasenovac, the site of Croatia’s notorious WWII-era extermination camp.
Peres, who wound up a twoday state visit to Slovenia on Friday and then proceeded to Croatia, was due to return home on Sunday.
When the president met with Slovenian journalists at the end of last week, they asked him when Israel would start talking to Hamas.
Peres replied that the destruction of Israel was part of the Hamas Charter, and that Hamas constantly declares its desire to destroy Israel. Under such circumstances, no one can expect Israel to negotiate with a terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction, he said.
If Hamas ceases its terrorism, recognizes Israel and states it willingness to negotiate with Israel, then Israel will also be ready to negotiate, said Peres, stressing that the blockade of ships trying to deliver goods to Gaza would be lifted instantly if Gaza abandons terrorism. Peres added that Gaza should learn from what is happening on the West Bank.
What the Palestinians have been able to achieve on the West Bank is amazing, he said.
“They are beginning to build their state and we are helping them.”
Annual Palestinian economic growth on the West Bank is around 7 percent, he said, reflecting a 180 degree difference from what is happening in Gaza. If Gaza adopts the policy of the West Bank, it will attain peace, he asserted. The decision, he said, “is entirely in the hands of Hamas.”
In discussions with Slovenian President Danilo Türk, the two presidents emphasized the need to enhance economic ties between their countries, and at their joint media conference, Türk emphasized the high regard that Slovenia has for Israel’s technological and scientific achievements, and said he looked forward to cooperative ventures in these and other fields.
In his private conversation with Türk, Peres underscored Israel’s commitment to peace and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s serious intention to enter into direct talks with the Palestinian Authority.
He also made it clear that the world must understand that it cannot expect Israel to implement final-status solutions before the peace talks begin.
Peres was confident that once that talks are completed, both sides will make a statutory declaration about the end of the conflict.