Shimon Peres, on the eve of becoming President of Israel, tells AP that he won't insult the minority, but that he has not changed his opinions.
Shimon Peres took the oath of office, administered by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, in a ceremony accompanied by musical interludes of Biblical verses. The singers were unaccompanied by musical instruments, except drums, apparently in respect for the current Three Weeks mourning period for the Holy Temples.
In the AP interview, which took place just hours before Peres was sworn in in the Knesset as Israel's 9th President, Peres expressed his surprised joy at being elected President. "I don't think there was any person who was so much attacked and criticized in these last 60 years like myself," Peres said. "But the fact [is] that after 60 years of criticism, of terrible remarks, they decided to elect me as the president. I didn't expect it."
Peres also said he would continue his crusade of surrending parts of the Land of Israel in exchange for promises of peace from Israel's enemies. He noted that this would require Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria. "We have to get rid of the territories," he said. "I won't make any secrets of my mind. I shall respect the minority. I shall not insult them. I changed my position [to President]. I didn't change my beliefs and concepts."
Eldad on the Attack
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) responded with anger at Peres' remarks. "I wanted to accept Peres as the President of the entire country," Eldad said, "but he decided to begin with divisiveness and discord. To say so derisively that Israel must 'get rid' of area and, consequently, a quarter of a million people who live there... This is not the way to start."
Peres is famous for having a way with words and unique comparisons. As Jerusalem Post editor David Horowitz wrote on Friday about a recent Peres speech, "Peres was full of clever aphorisms that sometimes seemed rather less wise when they sunk in."
For instance, on April 10, 1999, Peres said on New York television, "We have to replace the fire of hatred with the water of existence."
In May 1997, Peres told the Jerusalem Report, "In Argentina, the home of the tango, you know that in order to dance well, you have to close your eyes and let the romance begin... Peace is a romantic process."