President Shimon Peres on Thursday conducted an interview broadcast on Panet.co.il, a popular Arabic-language website serving Israel’s Arab communities. In the unusual interview, which was conducted in Hebrew and which briefly crashed the website’s servers due to the massive interest, the president answered questions originating in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
Much of the discussion focused around Iran, as the IDF had intercepted on Wednesday the “Klos-C,” a ship bound from the Islamic Republic to Sudan which Israeli authorities said was carrying long-rage missiles ultimately intended for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“I don’t understand why the Iranians continue to do this” as the Middle East does not need “more weapons and more bloodshed,” Peres said as he began the interview. Gaza, he said, needs “development and infrastructure” and noted that if Hamas continues to fire missiles on Israel, “we will be forced to respond strongly.”
Without the threat of terror emanating from Gaza, “there will be no need for a naval blockade,” Peres said. Israel has no interest in making the people of Gaza suffer and would rather “see Gaza developing and prosperous. But instead they invest in arms, why?” he asked.
In response to a direct question from an Iranian about Israel-Iranian relations, Peres said he could not understand why Tehran continues to threaten Israel through state-sponsored terror and its drive to acquire nuclear arms.
The president noted that Israel historically maintained good relations with Iran and said that “the Iranian people are not our enemies and we have never threatened them…Why does an Iranian leader stand up and say he wants to destroy Israel? What has Israel done to Iran?”
Today, Peres said, “the whole world condemns Iran. The former Iranian president denied the Holocaust, something that is simply unthinkable. Iran must be honest or the world will expose its true face.”
Answering another query and turning to Israeli-Arab relations, Peres said, “I think the Arab world understands that its main problem is not Israel. There is no country that wants to see a prosperous Arab world more than Israel. What Israel achieves through high-tech the Arab world can achieve as well. Israel can assist its neighbors – it’s a shame to waste time on rivalry and rhetoric.”
The president opined that the general consensus regarding a two-state solution as the desired outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a great achievement, since such was not always the case. Peres expressed optimism about the current round of US-brokered negotiations, and said he has peace “will come sooner than we think.”
“The whole world is watching and expects a peace deal,” he said. “I believe we can solve the disputes over land and the dispute over recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by agreeing that the peace deal is signed between two states: a Jewish state, Israel and an Arab state, Palestine. The UN designed two states: a Jewish state and an Arab state. We can find language that allows both sides to overcome the disagreement.”
“This isn’t a simple process,” he acknowledged, and added, “I remember the total lack of trust during the peace negotiations with Egypt and with Jordan. There were those who said we would never be able to speak to Arafat, and we did.”