President Shimon Peres said Sunday that US President Barack Obama has shown understanding and support for Israel’s security needs, and that he trusted that Obama would do what it takes to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.
Peres told a delegation of American policymakers he was excited the US president was coming to visit next month, adding that on “the major issue of Israel’s security, President Obama has shown both deep understanding and forthcoming support.”
Headed by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bipartisan delegation of US congressmen and senators met Peres at his official residence in Jerusalem. The president focused on human rights and Iran, since Cardin serves as the co-chair of the US’s Helsinki Commission, tasked with overseeing America’s security cooperation in Europe, and many members of the delegation serve on the commission.
Israel and the US share a goal, “to maintain freedom, liberty and human rights,” the president told the American politicians. “Around us today there is a great deal of confusion, I wouldn’t even say that we know who our enemies are because we don’t know who runs the countries. All of us are terribly disturbed by the tragedy in Syria; we cannot stand to see children killed by their president.”
The idea of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights “was a watershed in history,” Peres said, praising former president Jimmy Carter’s insistence on universal rights. “It was the first time the Soviet Union was forced to deal with human rights. In my eyes it was a great moral and political victory for the United States of America,” he said.
Helsinki “is relevant still today about Iran,” the president said. “We talk so much about the Iranian bomb, but we must not forget that Iran is the greatest danger to human rights in Iran and outside of it. They export weapons, terrorists and money to whoever is ready to kill. They hang people for being homosexual, they hang people without trial, they imprison them and they shoot at demonstrators. The point of Helsinki, of human rights, should not be secondary to the other issues we are facing with the Iranians.”
Peres also stressed the need to return to the peace process. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “repeated his commitment to the two-state solution. There is no other solution if you want peace but to enable the Palestinians to have a demilitarized state of their own,” the president said.
The only alternative “is a binational country, which means an ongoing quarrel, ongoing hatred and an ongoing conflict which is bad for them and for us, for their children and for our children,” Peres said.
The US will “continue to be a guarantor of Israel’s security,” Senator Cardin assured Peres, thanking him for his hospitality. The American legislator said Obama’s visit to Israel, in the wake of the Israeli elections, presented “a window of opportunity between Israel and the Palestinians that could lead to a significant breakthrough.”
“Security is based not just on physical security but also on economic security and the human rights issues. Our visit underscores just how important the relationship is, not just to Israel but also to the US. We came here to underscore that relationship,” Cardin said.