Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been compared to David Ben-Gurion
more than once due to his pragmatic policy, which has been manifested in his plan to establish a Palestinian state within two years. On Tuesday night, Fayyad was almost officially recognized as the "Israeli Ben-Gurion" by one of the closest people to the first Israeli prime minister who is still alive – President Shimon Peres.
"Fayyad is the Palestinians first Ben-Gurionist," the president told the Herzliya Conference, praising the Palestinian prime minister for his efforts to establish a Palestinian state and advance peace. Fayyad was expected to address the conference later Tuesday, but was not present during Peres' speech.
Peres explained that the peace process with the Palestinians is being conducted on two levels. The first is an effort to resume the peace talks, while the second is the establishment of a Palestinian state, with Israel's
He expressed his full support for Fayyad's efforts to build the institutions of "the future state".
"We agree that the Palestinians should build their own defensive force and improve the economy," the president said. "We are helping them, removing roadblocks. For the first time, they are building a new city."
He also explained that "the Palestinians' enemy is Hamas, not Israel. They must fight Hamas, which is the enemy of Egypt,
and the Palestinians. It's a destructive enemy."
Peres speaks. 'Arabs' problem is not the occupation' (Photo: Ori Porat)
Peres slammed the proposal, which has been gaining popularity recently, to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a bi-national state. "There is no country which can hold two nations," he ruled, "because then there will be a conflict between people, which brings about terror, which will make life impossible. There is no choice but to settle our relations, in order to prevent terror from determining our sons' fate."
Peres reiterated his vision, that economic development and prosperity are the keys for peace. "I am very concerned about the future of the Middle East, if we fail to take the right steps," he said. "The population in the Middle East has grown threefold in 30 years. Water hasn't, and neither have the treasures. Only poverty. If the Middle East is hungry and disgruntled, we will not be able to establish islands of stability."
The method for creating prosperity and stability, he said, is technological development. "We must adjust to the global reality. The source of livelihood is not land, but science. This requires a fundamental change.
"The Arabs' problem is not the occupation. We will stop the occupation, and they must not be dictated by tomorrow. They must give women equality. Those preventing it are punishing their people."
The president slammed elements in the Arab world "who still claim that Israel is the greatest danger." According to Peres, "Everyone knows Iran
is the danger, the enemy of the Arab world and Israel. Israel is willing to evacuate territories, but Iran wants to take over.
"Iran is the biggest problem we're facing," he added. "It's the uranium and the oppressing regime. The young people don't want such a regime. We must recruit the entire world to fight (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad,
a combination of an ethical battle and sanctions.
"In the struggle against Iran we have abandoned the ethical aspect. We must attack the ethical aspect. The Iranian government is the climax of governmental corruption. Who is Ahmadinejad? A dictator! We must raise the voice of ethics. Iran is a danger to the world! Iran is the source of evil, not only where Israel's security is concerned, but also against the Arabs."
The 87-year-old president went on to express his opinion about the duty of today's leaders. "The leader's duty is to see what is happening, not to maintain what is already there. I don't know why people complain about leaders. They don't design a reality; the reality designs them. We must understand that there is a tug of war today between old and new. There is no war of civilizations, but a war between generations."
"The world is not only global, but individual," he added. "We must give the youth knowledge. Look at Google, at Microsoft – they have created an economy bigger than a nation's economy."
According to Peres, the need to give children knowledge can be met through the army. "The IDF is an extraordinary school. It's the best state school there is. We must turn the IDF into a university, and everyone serving should come out with a B.A."
He noted that the Israel Defense Forces is scheduled in June to start a pilot for a plan allowing soldiers to get an academic degree during their military service.
The president elaborated on the army's importance as an educating factor. "Without the IDF, teenagers would sleep until 11 am, walk around with an iPhone and then go out to clubs. The IDF wakes them up at six. There is no reason why they should not leave the army with an academic degree. A Golani soldier works with a computer, while officers live with the cutting edge of technology."
Peres went on to address additional issues on the agenda. He said that US President Barack Obama was "pro-Israel" just like his predecessor, George W. Bush. He complimented the United States and praised Russia for its tight relations with Israel.
"I told a Russia leader: If you were Russian, I would not compete with the US. There's no chance. America has been blessed. It's so big that it can make mistakes and still be strong. The US will not find a better friend than us in the Middle East."
He also mentioned the Israeli rescue team which returned from Haiti recently. "Saying that we went to Haiti in order to be on television is an insult. We went there to save lives," he stated.
The president concluded his address with a prophecy: "I predict that the next decade will be the most sensational one in man's history. What has been achieved so far will turn pale."