President Shimon Peres addressed the annual AIPAC Conference in Washington DC on Monday. He opened with praise of AIPAC, Israel's history, and U.S. President Barack Obama, then focused on the "dark and growing cloud" whose "lightning is made of rockets, thunder made of bombs."
While his reference to the Iranian nuclear threat was poetic, Peres was blunt in his assertion that Israel would not tolerate an existential threat. He noted that in fact, the entire region is being threatened, adding pointedly, "It may be looming over the global community at large."
He emphasized that the Iranian government is as invested in controlling Arab states through terror and coercion as it is bent on destroying Israel.
Iran funds and arms the Hizbullah and Hamas terrorist organizations in order to spread division and terror, he said, "trying to impose a foreign and violent ideology. Their agents target Americans, Europeans and Arabs alike."
Saudi Initiative: 'It's A Start'
Israel is more than willing to talk about peace, he told the conference, with those who have a real desire to negotiate a settlement. Peres added that he believes "Today there is a chance for real peace. History is on our side."
Significantly, he referred first to the 2002 Saudi initiative, championed by the Obama White House, rather than the U.S. Roadmap plan preferred by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
"Israel wasn't a partner to the wording of this initiative," he said, "There it doesn't have to agree to every word." But Peres called it a "U-turn" in the Arab policy set forth in 1967 at Khartoum, known as the "3 No's" – no peace, no negotiation and no recognition of Israel.
He expressed the hope that President Obama would be able to advance a regional agreement and "meaningful" bilateral negotiations. Peres praised Obama as "young enough to offer hope to the world and great enough to bring it to life."
Netanyahu Will Uphold Olmert's Commitments
Almost as an afterthought, Peres slipped in the comment that "in pursuing peace, the present government of Israel shall respect commitments made by the previous one."
The remark put to rest comments made by Lieberman a couple of months ago insisting that the Netanyahu coalition would not be held to fulfilling the terms of any commitments made by the Olmert government at Annapolis in November 2007.