NEW YORK – President Shimon Peres on Wednesday slammed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's United Nations speech, saying the fact that the Iranian president was allowed to speak before the General Assembly was a disgrace in itself.
The president also addressed the peace negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, stressing the obstacles imposed by terror organizations and calling on the international community to make the Gilad Shalit affair its top priority.
"The Iranian people are not our enemies. Their fanatic leadership is their problem and the world's concern. Their leader is a danger to his people, the region and the world.
"He is a disgrace to the ancient Iranian people. He is a disgrace to the values of Islam. He is a disgrace to this very house, the United Nations, its basic principles and values. His appearance here is already shame," Peres said.
"Yesterday, on this very stage, the Iranian leader renewed the darkest anti-Semitic libel – the protocols of the elders of Zion. An attempt to bring to life one of the ugliest plots of history.
"Their despicable denial of the holocaust is a mockery of indisputable evidence, a cynical offense to survivors of the horror. Contradictory to the resolutions adopted by this assembly.
"Iran continues to develop enriched uranium and long range missiles. They introduce a religion of fear, opposing the call of the lord in respect of life.
"At the center of violence and fanaticism stands Iran. It built a danger to the entire world," Peres went on to say. "Its quest for religious hegemony and regional dominance divides the Middle East and holds back chances for peace, while undermining human rights.
"The Jewish People have known, throughout history, to stand firm at the face of evil. Alongside the enlightened humanity we shall know to enable good and freedom to prevail.
"Tehran combines long range missiles and short range minds. It is pregnant with tragedies. The General assembly and the Security Council bear responsibility to prevent agonies before they take place," the president said.
Iranian representatives were not present at the auditorium during Peres' speech.
'Follow Sadat, Hussein's example'
"Israeli prime ministers indicated to Syria that for peace, we are ready to explore a comprehensive compromise. In order to gain trust, and save time, we have suggested face-to-face meetings with President Assad: 'Follow the successful example set by President Sa’dat and King Hussein.' We await an answer.
"I know there is a growing concern that peace is far away. My life-long experience provides me with a different point of view," Peres added.
"True, I have seen stagnation and regression in our journey. But, today, I can identify a road leading to the right direction. Israelis and Arabs are marching towards peace. After a long internal debate, Israel accepted the two state solution."
The president went on to address the peace negotiations in the Middle East, stressing the obstacles imposed by terror organizations.
"With the Palestinians, we negotiate full peace. Both parties agreed to building a Palestinian State side by side with Israel, living in peace, security and respect. We tried to conclude the negotiations this year. It will take longer. But, I believe it can be accomplished within the next year.
"Gaps have been narrowed through negotiations. Particularly the territorial ones. But, peace is not just a matter of territorial compromise. Rogue politics reject peace even where territorial dispute was resolved.
"In Lebanon, we implemented resolution 425. Yet Hizbullah paralyzed the country and cut the road to peace. Israel, on its part, shall continue to seek peace. We suggest immediate peace with Lebanon.
"From Gaza, we withdrew completely and dismantled our settlements. Hamas responded with a bloody takeover and turned the strip into a basis of rocket fire. These militants carry no positive alternative – but the agonies of Jobe.
"I invite, respectfully, all leaders to come and discuss peace in Jerusalem, which is holy all of us. Where we all pray to the same lord, as offspring of the same father. Israel shall gladly accept an Arab invitation at a designated venue where a meaningful dialogue may take place."
'Make Shalit release top of agenda'
During his speech, the president called for the immediate release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
"From this important stage, I call for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit. The son of Aviva and Noam. A peace-loving family. This honored assembly should make his release top of its agenda. Holding a hostage in Gaza determines its isolation and further deterioration," he said.
Peres went on to discuss the global war on terror, noting that "terrorism did not solve a single problem. It never has, and never will. They will make the world ungovernable. If small groups of violent killers are allowed to threaten innocent masses, the world will be without order or security. A hopeless battleground. The free world must unite to combat it."
In the historic part of his speech, the president surveyed the development of the relations between Israel and Arab states, since the Arabs rejected the Plan of Partition and led to war.
"What happened in the ensuing years is much different from the resolution’s original intent. While much has changed, the ironies of history summon similar circumstances today.
"Today, again, we are the middle of the lake. There is no sense in rowing back. Continuing forward will show how near we are to the shore of peace.
"The Arabs replaced the three NAYS of Khartoun (no peace, no negotiation, no recognition) with a peace initiative, inaugurated by King Abdullah Abdul Azziz Al Saud.
"I call upon the king to further his initiative; It may become an invitation for comprehensive peace, one to convert battlegrounds to common grounds."
Peres concluded his speech by addressing the global economic process, proposing that " maybe it has happened because we are rich and light with funds and poor and heavy with ideas. While we live in an era where science, not land, is the basis of economy. Science does not stop at borders. Is not disturbed by distance. Wisdom is not conquerable by armies."
"The future is not in the hands of oil or gold. Intellectual assets, new inventions and superior education hold the key to our future.
"In our region, border areas can become open economic zones. Enabling free movement of people, commodities and ideas. They may encourage tourism and build high-tech incubators.
"The 21st century calls for pioneers. It is an opportunity to provide our children with peace and knowledge. Strength and friendship. It is their right. It is our moral obligation."