A new world ahead, Israeli President Peres says after apology

A new world ahead, Israeli President Peres says after apology

Cansu Çamlıbel JERUSALEM / Hürriyet
A new world ahead, Israeli President Peres says after apology

President Peres answers questions of daily Hürriyet’s Cansu Çamlıbel. Hürriyet Photo

There is a brand-new world in the Middle East and both Israel and Turkey must aid the people of the region in realizing a fairer and freer future, Israeli President Shimon Peres has said following a thaw in relations between the two.

“Look, we live in the same world, the same age with the same priorities. There is a new world. We cannot approach the new world with an old mind,” Peres told daily Hürriyet in an interview in Jerusalem after Israel apologized to Turkey and agreed to pay compensation over the 2010 Mavi Marmara killings. 

Asked if Israel’s apology meant a rapprochement, Peres said: “It is not a matter of rapprochement. It is more than that, we have to pave a better way for our children. … The Middle East is the home of many things: starvation, terror, bloodshed. … Turkey, like Israel, has to really try and enable the people of the Middle East to live fairly and freely in a better future.”

The president also underlined the centuries-old friendship between the two countries. “Turkey was the first to recognize Israel from the Muslim world. Since the 15th century, Turkey was a shelter for the Jewish people. I can think about 1,000 reasons why Turkey and Israel should be friends. There is an affinity in history; there is a closeness in geography.”

Peres also praised Israel’s resourcefulness. “For 10,000 years, we made our lives out of the land of agriculture. Now we live in an age of science; armies cannot conquer science. Police cannot arrest scientists. Borders cannot stop the spread of knowledge. It is a different world and anyone who doesn’t enter it will have to pay a cost. In Israel we don’t have land, water or natural resources. Now we have gas,” he said. “In simple terms Israel can make from one drop of water three drops of water. We are telling the countries across the Nile: Don’t go to war, there is no need for it.”

Meeting with Gül

The president also hinted at soon meeting and shaking hands with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül.

“It could happen soon. I mean, we never interrupted relations with Turkey,” Peres said. “I must say that if we are talking about memories, I have memories as well. I was invited with my friend President Abbas [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] to speak before the Turkish Parliament. It is a rare honor and I spoke in Hebrew. So I have many memories,” he said.

Asked if Israel was against a possible visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Gaza, Peres said it would not be a problem but added that the strip’s rulers, Hamas, were against peace.

“I don’t think it is a problem. There are many leaders that have visited Gaza – the emir of Qatar, for example. We have nothing against it,” he said. “Hamas is against peace, negotiations … and against recognizing Israel. If somebody doesn’t want to talk with you, can you talk with him? If somebody says he doesn’t want to make peace, how can you make it? So it is up to Hamas.”

Peres also said he believed Ankara could contribute to peace talks between his country and Palestine. “Turkey can contribute to peace. Before the interruption, Turkey had shown an interest in constructing Gaza. We helped them. I myself met the head of Turkish industrialists. We paved the way.”

The president also commented on Erdoğan’s recent clarification of earlier remarks in which he equated Zionism with fascism. “Look, let’s be honest. The Jewish people went through a Holocaust. Six million Jews were killed, among them 1.5 million children. We did not seek war, we did seek friendship. Zionism is a humanistic movement ... So I understand those words were corrected because nobody can change realities,” he said.

Peres also said armed militants in Gaza should stop firing rockets into Israel. “We spent $2 billion for a free Gaza Strip. Please explain to me why they are shooting? What is the purpose? Does it make sense? There are 7,000 rockets. We left Gaza completely and if Gaza wants to live in peace, it is in her hands because it should stop shooting. And also we are not crossing into Gaza … we are preventing the smuggling of arms into Gaza.”

Syria and Iran

On Syria, the president reiterated the need for an Arab League force to end the bloodshed in Syria. “I think the best way to bring an end to the bloodshed is to have the Arab League come in, build a transitional government, create an Arab force with blue helmets with the support of the United Nations because the Arab League knows the situation more than any foreigner. And I think all of us should support it if they can do it with a mandate from the United Nations,” he said.

On the future of Iran, Peres said Tehran was a threat to the entire world. “I don’t think the world can accept a nuclear Iran. The leader of Iran says religions forbid nuclear bombs or their use, but they are using them. They are building missiles with nuclear bombs. What for? There is nobody in the world that threatened Iran. Iran threatens to destroy us,” Peres said, forecasting that Iran would ‘lose’ in the end.

“I think Iran will lose. They don’t have a chance. They don’t have any positive message to anybody. The present regime of Iran will lose. Because this is the view of the world and this is also I think the view of the Iranian people. It is not the Iranian people that are our enemies. It is the present regime which is brutal, violent and looks for terror and war and occupation,” Peres said.