“The Syrians are refusers of peace,” Peres said. According to Peres, the current Syrian president is hosting in his home a known terrorist – Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal. He added that Mashaal was preventing diplomatic advances between Israel and the Palestinians and was blocking the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit – which even the Hamas government had agreed to.
Peres said that Sadat had called Assad, Sr., to join him in Camp David, and it is too bad he did not acquiesce to the invitation, because “I can promise you he would have gotten all of the Golan Heights.”
“A number of other prime ministers in Israel were willing to give back a good deal of the Golan Heights. That includes Yitzhak Rabin, Binyamin Netanyahu – who sent an envoy with the message that he was willing to give up most of the Golan, and even I, after Rabin’s murder when I was appointed prime minister, sent a message through the United State, that I would respect what Rabin promised,” Peres said.
“But since I was right before elections (March 1996 – ed.), I clarified that I needed an answer right away. The answer I got was that Assad was willing to meet with me, but he couldn’t name a date,” he explained.
Peres further noted, “What Syria is asking for now is that we return the Golan Heights and solve the Palestinian problem – and only then will they agree to talk with us. This is unacceptable. You don’t make demands before sitting at the negotiating table, but rather during the negotiations.”
'One government - one army'As for the recent conflict with Hizbullah, Peres said, “There are a lot of Arab nations that wanted Hizbullah to lose the war, but they don’t have the power or ability to say these things out loud.”
“Israel expressed its readiness for peace with four countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinians. We succeeded in two countries – Egypt and Jordan – and the reason is that in those countries there is one army and one government. In Lebanon there is more than one army and the Palestinians have no government, but just organizations that don’t agree with each other.”
Peres expressed his frustration over the peace process with the Palestinians, especially in light of the fact that Israel is still subject to Qassam rocket attacks and terrorism despite its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. He expressed hope that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could meet soon to advance processes.