Israeli President Shimon Peres appeals for calm with Iran (NATIONAL POST) Tristin Hopper TORONTO, CANADA 05/10/12)
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Toronto — Calling an Iranian nuclear bomb “a real danger to
humanity,” Israel’s President on Wednesday night nevertheless
reiterated his appeal for calm in dealing with the Iranian regime.
“It is better to start with non-military efforts than to go straight
to war,” Shimon Peres told journalist David Frum during a live
interview in Toronto. “The fact that Iran is ready to enter
negotiations shows [sanctions] are having an impact.”
The talk, conducted before a packed, flag-waving crowd at Toronto’s
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, was part of a five-day state
visit to Canada by Mr. Peres. It was sponsored by the United Jewish
Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto.
On the Arab Spring, which has been viewed as destabilizing for
Israeli-Arab relations, Mr. Peres cheered that it is now “very
uncomfortable to be a dictator in the Middle East,” but criticized
the restriction of women’s rights in newly democratized Arab
countries, saying it’s hindering Arab efforts to rebuild their
“If they do not permit tourist ladies to wear a bikini, they will not
have tourism,” he said.
“[U.S. President Barack] Obama asked me ‘who is against democracy in
the Middle East?” said Mr. Peres. “I told him ‘the husbands.’”
Mr. Peres called the gap between Israel and the Palestinians “very
much narrow” and noted the Palestinians had achieved “an economic
peace” and that the two had gone three years without violence.
As Israeli foreign affairs minister, Mr. Peres shared the 1994 Nobel
Peace Prize with then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for negotiating the Oslo Accords.
Within five years, however, Israeli-Palestinian relations had
devolved into the Second Intifada.
“There are two things in life that you cannot achieve unless you
close your eyes a bit, and that is love and peace,” he said.
When asked about divisions between Arab and Jewish Israeli citizens,
Mr. Peres acknowledged that there remain vast economic and
ideological rifts between the two. “[Arabs] won’t become Zionist, and
I won’t ask them to become Zionist,” he said.
Mr. Peres pointed to Israeli hospitals as the one bastion where there
is “total equality.”
“I don’t know why when people become healthy again, they forget how
to live together,” he said.
The Israeli President’s visit came amid a surprise political upset at
home. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a late-night
deal, ushered the centrist Kadima party into his own rightist
The resulting parliamentary majority — the largest in Israeli
history — is widely seen as giving Mr. Netanyahu a free hand in
dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.
In the first days of his visit, Mr. Peres spoke little of politics —
or the Iranian nuclear threat — instead taking a more philosophical
“In the Middle East, the conflict today is a matter of generations
and not of cultures,” he said before a state dinner at Rideau Hall
Speaking before a Canada-Israel panel earlier Wednesday, Mr. Peres
expressed his support for advanced brain research, “We know what’s
happening around us without knowing what’s happening within us.”
At 88, Mr. Peres is the world’s oldest head of state, although the
position is largely ceremonial.
Introduced as “the personification of the Zionist dream,” Mr. Peres
is among the last of a generation of Israeli pioneers.
Born in Poland, as a child Mr. Peres’ family immigrated to what was
then the British mandate of Palestine. During the 1948 Israeli War of
Independence, Mr. Peres was in charge of procuring arms for the
nascent Israeli army.
“The first guns we got was from Canada,” he said.
In the years since, Mr. Peres has held almost every senior position
within the country’s government, including three terms as prime
minister.(© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.
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