Shimon Peres on Obama, Iran and the Path to Peace

David Ben-Gurion  + Shimon Peres“This part of the conversation is highly sensitive,” said spokeswoman for Israel’s president. “I want all cellphones taken out of the room.” It was July 25, 2012, and I was interviewing Shimon Peres in a wood-paneled suite at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. I handed my phone to one of the guards standing at the door, Peres swiftly opened a scathing monologue against a potential Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. “Israel cannot solve problem alone”. “There is a limit to what we can do.” Referring to continuing tension between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, Peres said: “I cannot tell you what Bibi’s considerations are on subject of Iran. I am not his spokesman and also not [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak’s. That’s not my job. I am not looking for confrontations with them. I do think that I can explain American pattern. America knows how to throw a punch when it has to, in order to keep world balanced. But the punches follow a set procedure. Don’t begin by shooting. They try all the other means first, economic sanctions, political pressure, negotiations, everything possible. “But in the end,” he added, “if none of this works, then President Obama will use military power against Iran. I am sure of it.” I was surprised by Shimon Peres’s stridency. He had long been perceived as moderating force on Netanyahu, a mediator between the prime minister and international community that was losing patience with him. A month earlier, President Barack Obama awarded Peres Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. But the ceremony served only to deepen the rift between Peres and Netanyahu, and three weeks later, as the reports became more frequent that Netanyahu was planning to send bombers to Iran, Shimon Peres took advantage of his 89th-birthday celebrations to speak out publicly against an attack. Prime minister’s office responded with ferocity, proclaiming, “Peres has forgotten what president’s job is,” recalling that in 1981, Peres opposed Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor, an act many Israelis consider a great achievement. There are those who see Peres’s confrontation with Netanyahu as one of the principal reasons an attack on Iran has not yet materialized. “I will not attribute any such thing to myself”. “Let others say it. I expressed my opinion, and that was my duty. How influential was it? ‘Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth,’ ” said, quoting Book of Proverbs. Peres’s clash with Netanyahu over Iran is only one of many disagreements between the two men. On one hand, Netanyahu is a conservative prime minister who relies on hard-line, hawkish coalition and who is likely to win next week’s Israeli elections by a landslide. On the other, Peres is Israel’s elder statesman, who, very late in his life, has attained a degree of popularity that eluded him throughout his earlier career. In survey conducted by Israel Democracy Institute, 84 percent of Jewish respondents said Peres was trustworthy, while 62 percent thought Netanyahu was (…..)



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5 Responses to Shimon Peres on Obama, Iran and the Path to Peace

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Peres is quoted in the NYT as saying: ” Obama would like to reach peace in the Middle East and has to be convinced that Israel agrees. Of course, he’s not convinced.” Of couse, Shimon Peres –the smartest Israeli politician alive — is correct about Obama’s assessment of Netanyahu intentions in the Middle East. Shimon Peres main concern, however, must be the state of US public finances and foreign policy signals coming from the White House.

    Perhaps Obama is convinced that peace in the Middle East can only be accomplished if US strategic objectives come first, regardless of Israel. Public opinion in the US is slowly but steadily shifting from unilateral support of Israel. Similarly to a perfect wedding coming apart, the “special relation’ is being threatened not by love but money. Israel is becoming too costly to be afforded in times of lean budgets.

    The unwavering support of Israel means another costly war in the Middle East. This time against Iran. The US military- intelligence industrial complex would enjoy another war to keep privileges acquired since 2001. However, citizens are tired of costly wars as hard earned social benefits are under threat of being cut by the GOP. The problem for Israel is not Netanyahu’s strong support of Mitt Romney during last election.

    The ‘special relation’ is under threat by a US public debt reaching 100% of GDP. As the old Argentinian saying goes: “billetera mata galan”.

  2. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has prompted an outraged debate in Germany after it included a prominent German journalist’s remarks in its annual top 10 list of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs. The Los Angeles-based organization, named for a celebrated Nazi-hunter and dedicated to fighting anti-Jewish bigotry, listed Jakob Augstein, a well-known editor and columnist, among 2012’s top perpetrators of the slurs. It ranked his comments alongside those of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement, racist European soccer fans and Louis Farrakhan.

    The list, published late last month, cited articles in which Mr. Augstein referred to Israel’s nuclear power as a threat to world peace, condemned its actions in Gaza, and compared Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews to Islamic fundamentalists.

    German media colleagues have leapt to the defense of Mr. Augstein, who edits the weekly Der Freitag magazine and contributes regularly to the online edition of Der Spiegel magazine. Others, including the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League, have come out in support of the Wiesenthal Center. In a telephone interview with Rendezvous, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said it stuck by its judgment and called on the journalist to apologize “to his readers and to the Jewish people.”

    The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was quoted by Spiegel Online as saying the inclusion of Mr. Augstein, a 45-year-old left-wing writer, was a serious strategic error. “Not only has a critical journalist been placed in a group into which he doesn’t belong,” the daily wrote, “the nine other people and groups who have justifiably been pilloried can now exculpate themselves by pointing to such arbitrariness.”

    Juliane Wetzel at Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism expressed surprise that Mr. Augstein had been included in a list that also included Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “One could certainly argue that Augstein’s criticism of Israeli policy is sometimes excessive,” she said. “But that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”

    Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, also challenged the journalist’s inclusion in the list, telling German public radio that the Simon Wiesenthal Center was “very removed from German reality” (…..)

  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Time has come for Germany to free intellectual thinking about the state of Israel and the holocaust. Germany has apologized many times and is paying huge financial compensations to survival Jews and the state of Israel. This sad chapter in Jewish history — similarly to the Armenian people holocaust — has been closed. German intellectuals have the moral right to criticize Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinian people without being labelled anti-Semitic.

    Israel has to stop using the holocaust as a smoke screen to hide its aggressive policy of territory conquest in the Middle East. Is time to get over the past and move into the future. After all, Israel is the only country in the world that became affluent and prosperous under the aegis of US taxpayers.

  4. Shalom Freedman: Of course not all criticism of Israel is Anti- Semitic, for if it were almost all the citizens of Israel would be considered anti- Semitic. But Anti- Zionism is the most fashionable form of Anti- Semitism, uniting Extreme Left and Extreme Right throughout the world. It is both the message and its tone which tell the truth about the critic, and the sense is that Mr.Augstein belongs among the haters.

  5. Davz: Right… because Israel attacked it’s Arab neighbors the day it was created right? AND Israel chose to attack again on the most holy day of the year. I hope you don’t consider yourself a “German Intellectual” because you lack even the most basic knowledge of the history of the area. Also, this “huge compensation” you speak of? Do you have numbers? Can you compare it to the numbers of the brutally murdered? Or how about even just the numbers of property that were stolen from the victims of the holocaust? (I hesitate to say Jews, because they weren’t the only group Hitler genocided)


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