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Peres. Gloomy prophecy
Photo: Hagai Aharon
Peres: Time running out on peace
President warns against stalemate in negotiations with Palestinians, says 'there is no peace without regional peace. In this era missiles can be fired on us not just from Gaza, but even from Alaska'
The European Union expressed its faith in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on Monday, but President Shimon Peres believes there is not much time left. "We are starting the countdown for peace, and time is running out," he said Tuesday at a Galilee convention in the northern city of Beit Shean.

 

"There are serious processes of de-legitimizing Israel, radical Islamization in the region and Iran arming itself. We must come to our senses now. There is not much time left for discussions," the president warned.

 

Addressing the situation in the Galilee, Peres estimated that a permanent peace agreement would speed up the development of the area.

 

"There is no peace that is not regional peace. There is no country which not affected by the global economy, and security no longer depends on one country. In this era missiles can be fired on us not just from Gaza, but even from Alaska."

 

Addressing the Carmel disaster, Peres noted that "in the recent fire we saw that the front is now in the home front." He said he believed the Israeli society had two main missions to accomplish: "Not to have one hungry baby in this country, and not to have one young man or woman without a bachelor's degree. Not giving them an educational admission ticket to the modern world would be injustice."

 

Shalom: Security, foreign affairs favored

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom explained during the conference why he believed why the main issue on the agenda is diplomacy and security. "If it wasn't for the fire and the weather, we would have been dealing with (US Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton's announcement that she is giving up on the settlement freeze."

 

Shalom noted that "each of us votes for the party matching our stand on security and foreign affairs. So it's no wonder that when the parties are elected they deal mainly with foreign affairs and defense issues. All the budgets and resources go to foreign affairs and security."


Shalom. 'Great threats ahead' (Photo: Hagai Aharon)

 

According to the vice premier, "Everyone talks about education and the firefighters and the health services and welfare and agriculture, but when we vote it's always about foreign affairs and defense issues. There are great threats, but we cannot focus on one thing only. The security budget is growing at the expense of other things."

 

Shalom, who also serves as minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee, added that "my vision is to have 300,000 Israelis living in the Galilee. I think it's possible and achievable. It requires a lot of work, but at the end of the day, if we're all focused – we'll succeed. When there is infrastructure, factories don't have to be relocated."

 

He said the education level in Israel was improving. "There are hundreds of smart classrooms in the Galilee and we want to reach 1,000 smart classrooms. These are classrooms without a blackboard and chalk, but a computer screen. It's interactive – complete interaction between the teacher and pupils, and it works great."

 

The European Union pressed the Israeli government on Monday to freeze settlement building, offered the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip more aid and urged Israel to open Gaza's border crossings more fully to increase trade.

 

EU foreign ministers "noted with regret" Israel's failure to extend a moratorium on construction of Jewish settlements, and took a stand at odds with the decision by the United States to drop efforts to persuade Israel to freeze settlement building.

 

 


First published: 14.12.10, 11:15
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