AMSTERDAM — President Shimon Peres said Monday “all options” are being kept open in forcing Iran to give up its nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but Israel and others believe is aimed at building nuclear arms.
President Hasan Rouhani’s “impressive” speech to the UN General Assembly last week did not reflect what’s actually happening in Iran, he warned, referring to Iran’s ongoing nuclear program and its development of long-range missiles. The “only way to judge” whether Iran was serious about abandoning its rogue nuclear program was though its “actions” not the rhetoric of its leaders, he said.
He said the economic sanctions against Iran now have not dissuaded the country from enriching uranium or building long-range missiles, although it may have affected Tehran’s public statements.
Peres said it would be better if sanctions did stop Iran from being “a center of terror, but all options are otherwise being kept.”
“The Syrians were forced this time by an agreement between the United States and Russia to give up their chemical arsenal,” he said. “They didn’t do it before the world threatened them with the military option.”
Peres spoke at the Peace Palace in The Hague after meeting with judges at the International Court of Justice, sometimes called the World Court, on Monday. The ICJ ruled in 2004 in a nonbinding advisory opinion that Israel’s security barrier violated international law. Israel rejected the opinion.
Asked whether Israel would be willing to join the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons as Syria is now doing, Peres said his government, which is widely believed to possess chemical weapons, “will consider” it.
Israel has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which forbids the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons and automatically leads to membership in the OPCW.
After Syria’s agreement last week to join the organization, only Israel, Egypt, North Korea, Burma, Angola and South Sudan are not members.
On Friday, the UN Security Council ordered the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to help Syria destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014. Inspectors from the OPCW were leaving the Netherlands on Monday for Syria to begin the process.
Asked what he thought of the speech by Rouhani to the United Nations last week in which Rouhani argued Iran’s nuclear program is purely civilian, Peres told reporters it contradicted a speech the Iranian leader gave just two days earlier to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In that, Rouhani vowed to continue building long-range missiles.
Peres said those missiles could have no purpose other than to carry nuclear warheads, so the two speeches were contradictory.
“Rouhani’s speech to the United Nations was impressive… but it was based on a false reality, as Iranian centrifuges, at this very moment, continue to work and produce enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, the program to develop long-range missiles which can carry nuclear warheads is being expanded and the Revolutionary Guards continue to support terror organizations,” said Peres. “We listen to the speeches at the United Nations, but the only way to test Iran’s intentions is by actions and not just words. The Iranian nuclear threat is not just an Israeli problem but for the whole world which doesn’t want to be threatened by one country.”
“I hope that the facts will justify the hopes of many that we will see a different Iran, but finally we can judge only by the acts and by the deeds,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet with President Barack Obama later Monday in Washington and discuss relations with Iran.
The President of the International Court of Justice, Judge Peter Tomka, told Peres: “We are honored by your presence. Peace can be based on justice and solid legal foundations. Whenever we solve disputes between sovereign states we always emphasize that the most efficient way is through negotiations. We wish your people peace and justice in a safe and secure environment with peace with your neighbors.”
Peres, in a rare meeting with the judges of the court, began by stressing the importance which Israel attaches to international law, Israel’s constant struggle against terrorism and the countries which finance it, and the importance the ICJ has in solving disputes between states. Regarding Israel’s fight against terror, Peres said “IDF soldiers hold morality and justice as their highest values. The IDF is committed to defense and peace while securing human rights and maintaining international law.”
The president added: “Peace exacts a heavy price but it remains the desire of the people of Israel. I stood with the citizens of Israel in the streets after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. As an Israeli I was under a tremendous wave of brutal terror attacks during which buses exploded in the streets and children were murdered in shopping centers. In the years which followed, after the painful and difficult disengagement from the Gaza Strip during which Israel removed families from their homes, rockets were fired at innocent civilians. Mothers and children slept for long periods of time in bomb shelters… Israel underwent seven wars but we never stopped our search for peace with our neighbors.”