The international community should boycott Iran beyond economic sanctions, as it did to South Africa, said President Shimon Peres, speaking Friday morning at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
“All of a sudden, they were boycotted by the rest of the world,” Peres said of Apartheid-era South Africa. “They weren’t invited to football games. They weren’t invited to the Olympics. They weren’t invited to anyplace. All of a sudden, they felt alone. If Iran will continue to do what they are doing, then automatically, I believe, in addition to the sanctions, they will see that the world doesn’t like these sorts of bluffs, which are so dangerous.”
Peres was speaking at a Q&A session with WEF founder, Klaus Schwab.
The president said he was not impressed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Davos speech.
“The declaration was so promising and the omission was so obvious,” Peres said, referring to Rouhani’s speech on Thursday in which he called for better relations with all countries in the world.
“Do you include all countries?” Schwab had asked the Iranian leader after his speech, presumably referring to Israel. There was a hum of laughter and expectation from the audience.
Rouhani paused for a moment and laughed. “There are no exceptions; we wish for a better future and to have beneficial relations with all that we recognize,” he then said with a smile.
Rouhani’s statements on Thursday thus evidently excluded Israel, which is not recognized by the Islamic Republic.
“You got a smile, it’s nice, but it’s not an answer…,” said Peres Friday. “For the time being, it is a happy story… The part that you omit is more important than the part that you announce.”
Still, said Peres, the two countries are not fated to hostilities forever.
“For us, Iran is not an enemy. We don’t want to fight. We are not historically hostile.”
Earlier in a CNN interview, Peres said he stood by his previously declared readiness to meet with Rouhani. The problem with Iran’s president is “his positions, not his declarations,” Peres said.
Turning to the ongoing peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Peres said that neither side has an alternative to peace.
“All told, the present situation is killing the Arab world. The terror is tearing them to pieces… Israel offers, in real terms, a sincere peace.”
Peres was pessimistic about this week’s conference in Switzerland, known as Geneva II, to find a solution to the brutal conflict in Syria.
“All the elements which exist today in Syria are not elements for solutions, but elements for confrontation,” he said. “We have to discover a new element that may unite them.”
Schwab asked Peres about his secret to staying young, noting, “You are the oldest participant on paper, but in your mind, you are one of the youngest participants.”
“The greatest entertainment and interest is in working, and not resting,” Peres told the crowd, and urged them to focus more on the joys of work and less on vacationing.
Peres said he would continue working after he steps down from office this year. “I don’t need the official title to do anything,” he claimed.
The discussion ended with Schwab presenting Peres with a bell, in recognition of his efforts at “tolling the bell of peace.”
The president received a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the stage.
Also Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a special conference called “Risk and Responsibility in a Hyperconnected World.” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was also in attendance, according to a statement released by Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu spoke about cybersecurity, noting Israel’s many leading companies in the field.