The Arabs are not Israel's enemies, terrorists are, President Shimon Peres said Thursday in his final address to the American people as the president of Israel.
This statement perfectly sums up the spirit of the president's speech at the Capitol. Speaking to both houses of Congress after being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, Peres stressed the importance of advancing peace by uprooting terrorism.
"We must fight not only the acts of terrorism but the roots of terrorism," he said. "And not by military means alone. But by drying up their financial resources. By sanctioning their suppliers of arms. By delegitimizing their actions. By weaving a modern regional net that can catch terrorists and protect our populations."
Because terrorists act globally, Peres said, they should be fought globally.
"Terror knows no borders and obeys no rules. It kills hundreds of thousands, and turns millions into refugees. We see it in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Gaza and elsewhere," the president said.
Recounting a history of seven wars and two peace accords reached with Egypt and Jordan, Peres stressed that Israel strives for peace with the Palestinians.
"Israel does not intend to rule over other people. It stands against our values and heritage. Israel is committed to Tikkun Olam, bettering the world, and making peace with its neighbors," the president said.
But this peace can't be achieved alone, Peres noted, urging continued cooperation between the United States and Israel to advance peace.
"Wars can be waged alone. Peace calls for a collective effort," he said.
Peres receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.
Peres also spoke on the behalf of the three Israeli teenagers who were abducted two weeks ago and on behalf of their families.
"Israel did and will do everything in our power to bring home our three kidnapped boys – Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal," he said.
Left to right: Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel
"I met with their parents. They had one request. They asked me to speak here on their behalf. To make your voices heard all over the world to help bring our boys home. To sound a call across the world against terror."
He praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for speaking "bravely in Saudi Arabia, in Arabic, against the kidnapping, against terror, and for peace."
But while Peres considers Abbas to be a partner for peace, he stressed the Israeli government's position that Hamas was "clearly not a partner for peace."
"You cannot put fire and water in the same glass," Peres said of the Palestinian unity government. "Hamas fires rockets at our civilians. They oppose peace and support terror."
The president noted that "there is no better solution than two states for two peoples," adding that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can lead to a broader regional peace.
"A bridge should be built that will enable an Israeli peace initiative to meet the Arab peace initiative," he said.
Advancing regional peace was not the only goal Peres believes required American-Israeli cooperation.
"Together, we must fight terrorism, advance peace, and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability," the president said.
"Like President Obama, Israel hopes that the issue of Iran will be resolved peacefully. And like President Obama, we believe that Iran should be judged by its actions not by words," he stressed.
Ever the optimist, Peres spoke of hope and dreams. "I have lived long enough to see the impossible become possible. To skeptics, I can say: Believe me. Peace is the most possible impossibility."