Peres: Olmert and Abbas closing in on ‘Declaration of Principles’

By David Horovitz September 12, 2007

Iran’s regime ‘will be brought down,’ president tells ‘Post’

(With Greer Fay Cashman)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are making steady progress toward a ‘Declaration of Principles’ for a permanent peace accord, based in part on the parameters laid down by Bill Clinton in the final months of his presidency, President Shimon Peres has told The Jerusalem Post.

The distances between the two sides’ positions have narrowed considerably since the era of the Oslo Accords and ‘are not so wide any more,’ Peres said in a Rosh Hashana interview.

‘There is agreement to a Palestinian state. Both sides know full well that the right of return [for Palestinian refugees to Israel] is out of the question,’ he said. ‘As for territory, the differences have been reduced to a matter of a few percent.’

Questioned about the future status of Jerusalem, Peres replied, ‘What Clinton said: Jewish parts of Jerusalem for Israel, and the Arab parts for the Arabs. And there has to be an arrangement whereby all of the faiths can pray in the places that are holy to them.’

Peres also used the interview to call on the leaders of those Arab states that express a desire for peace to reach out with more than mere ‘rhetoric.’

‘I greatly respect what the Saudis have said,’ the president elaborated, in a presumed reference to the Saudi peace initiative, ‘but this is music without an orchestra.’ Relations were ‘not merely rhetoric,’ he said. ‘They need to be expressed in deeds.’

Similarly, ‘the Syrians sometimes say some correct things,’ he went on. ‘But they’re sending weapons to Hizbullah; they are hosting Islamic extremist leaders; and they won’t speak directly to us.’

As for the threat posed by Iran, Peres said he was ‘not sure that it is possible to prevent them from attaining nuclear weapons. But that doesn’t mean they will prevail. Hitler also won, and broke his head… Whoever threatens the future of humanity has no future of his own.

‘It’s just a matter of time [until this Iranian regime] fails,’ he reasoned. ‘It foments terrorism; it seeks nuclear weapons; and it takes extreme religious positions. And if those three come together, the world becomes ungovernable. So in the end, they will be brought down. There’s no escaping this… The Iranian regime is trying to return its people to the past. They can’t just offer their own people nuclear arms… The world has changed. If they don’t move forward, if they don’t allow their own people to become educated, they will disappear from the world.’

Returning to the issue of the Palestinians, Peres was adamant that Abbas represented a credible negotiating partner, and rejected the notion that the PA chief had been ineffectual. ‘I don’t accept that Abu Mazen [Abbas] has proved not to be strong,’ said the president. ‘He has demonstrated strength. Look at the starting point and where he is now. He wasn’t outsmarted. But the Palestinians didn’t demonstrate enough talent to establish a state – the talent to establish unity, the talent to establish a single army.

At the annual presidential Rosh Hashana reception for the diplomatic corps on Tuesday, Peres also expressed optimism about the Olmert-Abbas talks, saying that the sides were closer than the opening positions between both Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan had been at the start of peace talks that had yielded permanent accords.

But a report cited by Israel Radio said Monday’s meeting between Olmert and Abbas was ‘tense’ due to a refusal on Olmert’s part to draw up, ahead of the regional peace summit planned for November, a detailed time frame for the resolution of the conflict.

Asked in his interview with the Post whether this or any other Israeli government would have the capacity to remove the large numbers of settlers who would be affected by the kind of agreement he said was taking shape, Peres said, ‘There could be relocation within Judea and Samaria… We’ll have to see.

‘Look, you can’t correct the past,’ he said. ‘What is possible is to correct the future. I don’t think the settlers are unaware of the problems that exist.’

But he added that any relocation would have to involve more effective planning for their future than was done for the Gaza settlers. ‘What happened to the Gaza evacuees has to be corrected, in terms of housing and compensation,’ he said.

Peres dismissed the idea that his overt support for the latest Olmert-Abbas dialogue represented the kind of partisan politicking he had vowed to eschew on becoming president. ‘To be in favor of peace is political?’ he asked. ‘To be in favor of security is political?… I, as president, am committed to respect all people, all opinions and all religions. But the president is neither empty- headed nor soulless. I want to be the president of everybody, not the president of nobody. How can I explain Israel [internationally] if I don’t have a point of view?

‘I look at the consensus,’ he said. ‘I explain the view of the majority.’

And seeking an accommodation with Abbas, he said, was ‘the official Israeli position, approved by the Knesset. It’s not my private position.’

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