Israeli President Shimon Peres says that the Arab Peace Initiative constitutes a meaningful change and a strategic opportunity.
In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Peres turned to the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who is also participating in the conference, and told him that he is Israel’s partner in the peace process.
“We should not permit the hurdles to overcome us. History will judge us not by the process of negotiations, but by its outcome. The today obstacles will pale in the light of peace,” Peres said Abbas.
Peres stressed that he is convinced that the gaps that prevent the resumption of negotiations can be bridged and noted that the parties agree on how to finish: two states living side by side in peace, dignity and freedom – the state of the Jewish people, Israel and an Arab state of Palestine.
Peres earlier said that Israel and the Palestinians should not miss the opportunity created for peace, and work to overcome doubts. He said that the time for peace is now, and if this chance is missed, it could be replaced by a great disappointment. Peres said that he is aware of the difficulties but still thinks that you can establish an agreement with the Palestinians based on the two state principle.
A Jordanian journalist asked Peres if he is speaking on behalf of the Government of Israel and Peres replied, “I am an Israeli, and it just so happens that I’m also president of the State of Israel.”
But back home, few in government were amused. Minister Yuval Steinitz said the government is in charge of making policy decisions, and that any statement, especially on the eve of entering this kind of negotiations is not useful to Israel’s positions.
But the tone of Steinitz’s voice was a lot less restrained.
In response, Peres told reporters that he had spent two hours coordinating his message to the forum with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and that if Steinitz had a problem with it, then he had a problem with it.
Jewish Home chairman, Minister Naftali Bennett, said that he respects and appreciates the president, but it so happens that the great majority of Israelis strongly opposes withdrawal to the ’67 lines, because they understand that this would bring Hamas terror to the cities of central Israel.
“The Israeli public has experienced the results of the Oslo Accords and the thousands who were killed, and they have the good sense to know that the path to achieving peace and security is through strength and not through weakness and retreats,” Minister Bennett said.
Minister Uzi Landau of Yisrael Beiteinu quoted the late Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who said that the Israel’s 1967 borders were ‘Auschwitz borders.’ Before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Landau said that Israel cannot give up its ability to defend itself, it must remain realistic and not build on pipe dreams.
Finally, Jewish Home Minister Uri Ariel commented that President Peres’s speech had no connection to the reality in Judea and Samaria—where some 400,000 Jews live in towns and villages, and another 300,000 in the neighborhoods of annexed East Jerusalem.
In an interview on Reshet Bet, Minister Ariel said that the president is allowed to express his opinion: “Everyone is allowed to dream and to say what he thinks.”
Ariel reminded listeners that Jews pray for peace three times a day and will continue to do so, but in the real world, when the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wanted to give the Palestinians everything, Abbas fled the discussion..
Welcome to Israel, where internal clashes between left wing presidents and right wing governments are par for the course, where we have a special name for such clashes: Monday.