Peres envisions Middle East as ‘start-up region’

President tells European Commission sharing knowledge and goodwill can bring peace to the area

President Shimon Peres  (photo credit: CC BY-SA World Economic Forum, Flickr)
President Shimon Peres (photo credit: CC BY-SA World Economic Forum, Flickr)

Israel is willing to share its knowledge and wisdom with its neighbors and asks only for peace in return, President Shimon Peres said Thursday.

Peres’s comments to the European Commission in Strasbourg, France, were made as he described an ideal “start-up region,” a reference to Israel’s moniker, “start-up nation.” The introduction of high-tech regions throughout the Middle East and the sharing of goodwill, Peres said, could in turn bring peace and stability.

Peres described Israel as a harsh place in a harsh region that managed to climb out of the swamp.

“We have only two lakes,” Peres said, referring to the lack of natural resources faced by Israel. “One is dead. The other is dying. We have one river, the Jordan River, that has more fame than water. We don’t have any natural resources.

“We are surrounded by hostility,” the president told the audience. “In 65 years of hostility we’ve had to go through seven wars, outmanned, outgunned, alone and yet we have the best agriculture on earth based on high-tech and the people. We can make one drop of water into three, four, five drops. We can have a yield from an acre that is ten times higher than the rest of the world. No secret.”

Israel, Peres said, is ready and willing to share information with its neighbors, as it does with China and India, to create regional prosperity.

“We have been a start-up nation. We took science to compensate for our shortages. I believe we can build a start-up region. What we did in Israel can be done in the Middle East.”

Peres said the key to bringing good fortune to the region lay through the sharing of knowledge and goodwill, and the building of high-tech centers as science and technology change the global landscape and expectations of young people.

Democracy, he said, can be brought about through the proliferation and sharing of knowledge.

“Zionism is a renaissance not an occupation,” he said in response to a question regarding anti-Zionism. “We’re being accused of occupation,” he said, but countered, “once the Egyptians agreed to peace we gave back everything [in the Sinai]. Once the Jordanians agreed,” he said, “we gave back everything.”

“We are not here to force, to occupy, to govern. We are here to contribute, to help. And we are open and shall do it gladly. We shall not ask for any return but peace, a better life, a better quality,” he said.

Peres noted that “neither the Egyptians nor the Jordanians offered the Palestinians independence. “It’s Israel that offers independence to the Palestinians. We offered Gaza. Alas, it was taken over by a group of terrorists and turned into a base of terror.

“We shall continue to negotiate with the Palestinian people and PA,” he said, adding “their president is a friend of mine and I have the greatest respect for him.”

Peres addressed the continuous desire of the Jewish nation to improve the world. “We Jews cannot be satisfied,” he said. “If a Jew is satisfied I doubt his Jewishness. We are dissatisfied. We don’t want to accept the current situation. We think it can become better.”

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