DEAD SEA, Jordan — An optimistic President Shimon Peres on Sunday reiterated Israel’s willingness to achieve peace with the Palestinians in the framework of a two-state solution.
“It’s time for peace,” Peres told dozens of reporters at the World Economic Forum.” “It shouldn’t be so complicated…. I do believe it is a real possibility.”
Citing US Secretary of State John Kerry’s renewed efforts to restart peace negotiations, which he said were an “important opportunity,” Peres said the principle of two states for two peoples was the “functioning solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli impasse.
“I’m aware of the missing links,” he said, addressing skeptics who don’t believe Kerry’s efforts will bear fruits, “but from my experience I believe it is possible to overcome it. It doesn’t require too much time. I think it is the real interest of all parties concerned.
“It’s an important opportunity to reiterate our will and the possibility, not to waste time, and to… complete the peace negotiations with the Palestinians based on two states for two peoples – an Israeli state and a Palestinian state living as good neighbors and cooperating economically for the good of future generations.”
Asked if he was speaking on behalf of the Israeli government — considering that some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet are vocal opponents of a two-state solution — Peres responded, “I’ll tell you a secret: I am an Israeli, and it just so happens that I’m the president of Israel.”
Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz criticized Peres for his comments, saying the president, whose authority does not extend to matters of policy, should not be expressing opinions on the desired objectives of the peace process.
“I didn’t know Peres aspired to be the government’s spokesman,” he said in mock surprise ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “Any statement on the eve of negotiations of this sort — how shall we put this gently? — is unhelpful.”
Peres responded to the minister’s criticism, saying the state had granted him a mandate to speak his mind and he was exercising it. He added that during a recent meeting with Netanyahu, he received the impression that the prime minister “understands the opportunity created and the decisions that need to be made.”
Later on Sunday, Peres was scheduled to speak at a panel together with Kerry, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Throughout the day, he was also expected to hold meetings with world leaders gathered at the conference.