Peres doesn't anticipate civil war if land ceded for peace

Speaking in Ashkelon where he received honorary citizenship, president says settlers would be angry but willing to relocate.

Peres 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Peres 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
There will be no civil war in Israel if an agreement is reached with the Palestinians that includes the ceding of territory in the West Bank, President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters in Ashkelon, Peres was confident that settlers affected by such a measure would accept the majority decision.
It would not be easy, he acknowledged, because the settlers would be inclined to blame everyone for their change in status.
But even if a major dispute should erupt, Peres was certain that things would work out in the long run and that the settlers would agree to return to live inside Israel’s defined borders if they were adequately compensated in a territorial exchange or if they were helped to relocate to one of the three major settlement areas.
Peres was in Ashkelon to receive honorary citizenship of the seaside city, yet another of the many honors that have been conferred on him throughout his years of public service.
Peres was the first national leader to designate Ashkelon as a development area deserving of government support and investment. He was influential in the construction of Ashkelon’s marina and in the development of regional tourism. He also helped to maintain the morale of the residents during the most difficult periods of Operation Cast Lead.
For these and other reasons the people of Ashkelon turned out en masse to cheer him and shake his hand.
In a question and answer session with some 1,000 high school students Peres said that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was absolutely in Israel’s interest.
“If we lose the Jewish majority, we will not have a Jewish state,” he said. “If we don’t reach an agreement, we will remain in a perpetual conflict.
There will be more sophisticated weapons and both our political and security situations will deteriorate.”
Peres reiterated his frequent contention that the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians are not so great that they cannot be overcome. He underscored his belief that an agreement is possible and that it will be reached in the near future, providing both sides return to the negotiating table.
The differences are more psychological and emotional than territorial, he declared, noting that the Middle East is at a crossroads that could result in Iran-style extremism or in a move towards democracy, stability and peace.