Saturday, October 24, 2009

Peres interview with the Washington post on Iran, peace, U.S. and Netanyahu

Washington Post Interview by Lally Weymouth:

Everyone here is talking about the Goldstone report. Now it has gone to the Security Council. Do you think it puts Israel in a corner that it's impossible to get out of?

I think it's a great victory for terror. Never before did any terrorist organization gain such recognition, in the most unfair way.


Yes. First of all, we have a problem in the United Nations: There is a built-in majority against Israel. Israel doesn't stand a chance to win any single issue because the Muslim and the Arab nations and the ones who follow them are a majority. I think Mr. Goldstone made a mistake by agreeing to preside over a committee which has an anti-Israeli majority -- it cannot be objective if the judges are not objective. And the terms of reference were one-sided: to investigate the war crimes of Israel. And the conclusions -- they're one sided. There are 26 recommendations. Not one deals with terror. The terrorists are flying free and high. It's unbelievable.

Israel does not occupy Gaza. We left Gaza completely. We are the only country that forced our own settlers and army [out] without any foreign pressure to leave Gaza. And for eight years we restrained [while they fired missiles]. No reference to it.

You refer to the missiles coming into Israel from Gaza during those eight years and the Israeli towns that had to be evacuated.

Yes, there were about 12,000 missiles. No country would stand it. And all this -- it doesn't exist in the report. When you read the report, you think Israel woke up in a poor mood and went to attack Gaza.

You say the dispute over land between Israel and the Palestinians is only [about] 2 or 3 percent [of the land].

Yes, it is nothing. We can solve it.

You mean between Olmert and --

Yes, Netanyahu too. He said, "I'm ready to have a two-state solution." That is a major change. And we are being described as rightists, as extremists?

Is Netanyahu being unfairly portrayed as a rightist in the United States?

He came from the right, but he's no longer a rightist. He agreed to a two-state solution and to what no other prime minister ever agreed to -- to freeze settlements.

I understand that you meet with the prime minister quite often. That you discuss the peace process quite often.

Yes. What I can say is that he is listening to me. Maybe I have had a certain influence upon the steps that he has taken. I don't expect him to take everything that I say. My advice is simple: We have to make peace. We shouldn't postpone it.

I've never heard of a U.S. president at 4 percent or 5 percent in the Israeli polls.

I'm telling you my view. I think that we have to and can work with him. It's for the good of the United States; it's for the good of Israel. It's for the good of peace. I don't think we have to create an artificial or hostile relationship. That is totally unnecessary, and it is a mistake.

How do you feel about the Iran situation? Many say that Iran is close to getting a nuclear weapon.

I don't think we have now to enumerate all the options. The present situation is that the danger of Iran is recognized as a world danger, and not just as an Israeli danger. So we shouldn't monopolize it and make it again an Israeli danger. President Obama says he wants to handle the situation in a certain way. If he will fail, he will look for another way. Let the president try his hand.

What do you think of the Geneva talks, with the proposal that Iran would send most of its low-enriched uranium out of the country?

I'm a little bit worried because the policy should be of prevention, not just of inspection -- to prevent the building of a bomb. Because later on to inspect the procedure of enriching uranium is very, very difficult, particularly when the Iranians are extremely economical about telling the truth.

Do you think the Iranians agreed to the Obama suggestion in order to buy time for the regime -- to legitimize it?

My impression is that they try to maneuver rather than to agree. To create an impression of an agreement without agreeing. But, you know, I don't think our people or the Americans are foolish.

Do you think it is a realistic dream to separate Syria from Iran?

It's their decision. They cannot have both. They cannot make peace with the country that calls to destroy us and make peace with us. They have to make up their minds. Look, governing is choosing.

You've seen the U.S. relationship in its various ups and downs through the years. How would you describe the current situation?

I think there is a deep friendship between the United States and Israel, and the ups and downs are of a passing nature. And I don't think that one of us is going to abandon [the other]. President Obama was elected by a majority of the American people. I do believe he will continue the same American tradition vis-à-vis Israel.

So many people your age are looking back. How is it that you keep looking ahead?

We are just at the beginning of a very long journey into the future. I think that we have to conclude a peace agreement. Some people ask, "What will happen to Israel in the coming 100 years vis-à-vis the Arab world?" And my answer is, the Arabs will change. Not us. They have to join in a new age.

With Abu Mazen [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas]? Is he strong enough to make peace?

I would like [it] to be with Abu Mazen. I hope it will be with Abu Mazen. But what I said in the Knesset, I shall repeat here: It won't be a romantic peace. It won't be peace out of love; it will be peace out of necessity.

What is holding up peace talks?

The problem is a serious one. Bibi [Netanyahu] says "without preconditions." And there is logic to what he says. Because if we will negotiate about the negotiations, we'll never finish the pre-negotiations. And the Palestinians insist on some preconditions.

Like freezing settlements?

Yes. I think it's not necessary. We can find solutions.

So you're still looking ahead to tomorrow?

Yes. I'm looking ahead at tomorrow, self-assured, full of hope. I know that we are in a difficult passage. And I don't deny it. But, you know, passages are passages. The world is not made only of passages; it's made of continents. And the continent of peace is the greatest one.