Poverty is the greatest menace to the Middle East, overtaking terrorism and conventional wars, Israeli President Shimon Peres told the Dutch parliament in a speech Tuesday.
“Of the three dangers that threaten the Middle East — war, terror, hunger — poverty looms today over the others,” Peres told parliamentarians in The Hague on the third day of his diplomatic trip to the Netherlands. “Poverty claimed more victims today than the swords of yesterday.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Peres met with Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with whom he discussed the Iranian nuclear issue, the crisis in Syria, and Israeli-Dutch relations.
Israel succeeded in overcoming poverty through its science-based economy, Peres claimed in his speech, calling on Israel’s neighboring countries to emulate it.
The Israeli president also appealed to his audience to heed the call of US Secretary of State John Kerry and postpone the implementation of new EU guidelines banning cooperation with Israeli entities that operate beyond the Green Line — set to take effect on January 1, 2014.
“When peace will be completed, and it may happen quite soon, those guidelines will anyway become unnecessary,” Peres said, adding that postponing the implementation of the settlement boycott would allow negotiations to “flow uninterrupted.”
Palestinian officials as well as former European leaders have urged the EU in September not back down from its guidelines, arguing that such a decision would have detrimental repercussions on peace talks.
Breaking with his protege in the Oslo peace process Yossi Beilin, Peres rejected the idea of an interim agreement with the Palestinians.
“We shall make peace, there is no need for half measures,” Peres said. “To cross a chasm, it is safer to do it in one brave step. Two steps is dangerous.”
In July, Beilin, a former justice minister and head of the Meretz party, told reporters in Jerusalem that a permanent accord is “almost impossible,” and that Abbas and Netanyahu may yet agree to a provisional deal.
Referring to the Iranian nuclear threat, Peres echoed comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahyu at the UN General Assembly, lauding the affect of economic sanctions on Iran while warning against European complacency.
“The sanctions led so far to the new tone of Iran,” Peres said. “President Rouhani’s address to the United Nations must stand the test of real implementation. Today it is just a declaration in a rhetoric competition.”
In stark contrast to Rouhani’s conciliatory words, Iran’s nuclear program as well as its engagement in international terror “remain a menace to the entire world,” Peres said.
The Israeli president dedicated a significant portion of his speech to the memory of the Holocaust. Over 100,000 Dutch Jews were killed during World War II, some of them at the hands of Dutch collaborators, but the bravery of 5,000 Dutch “heroes” who endangered their lives to save Jews “kept the honor of the Netherlands,” Peres said.