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Peres Says Peace Possible Before September

Ignoring criticism that Israeli presidents serve a ceremonial rather than political role, Peres continues to push his peace agenda.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 6/16/2011, 9:30 PM / Last Update: 6/16/2011, 9:54 PM

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President Shimon Peres said Thursday that peace could exist between Israel and the Palestinian Authority "within months," the Associated Press reports.

Ignoring the slow-burn of criticism in Israel's Hebrew-language press that an Israeli president is supposed to avoid politics, especially matters of potential controversy, and serve in a purely ceremonial capacity, Peres said an Israeli-PA peace accord could be reached before September.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has said he plans to ask the United Nations to unilaterally recognize a PA state based on the 1949 Armistice lines (often misleadingly referred to as the 1967 lines), an act which Peres warned would be only "an illusion."

"A Palestinian state born of a unilateral declaration in the UN would remain [on] paper and will raise false hopes," Peres said.

Israel would, according to Peres, respond to such a declaration by the UN with a series of strong, rhetorical questions.

"Can you stop terror, United Nations? Can you stop the politics of Iran that finances Hizbullah and finances Hamas? Can you stop the smuggling of arms? And if the United Nations cannot answer it, so what is the value of their resolution," Peres asked.

But such a PA bid may not come to fruition at all as officials close to Mahmoud Abbas say he's found himself on a political precipice vis-a-vis the United Nations. The United States has openly said it would oppose such a move, with the European Union hinting it is likely to do the same.

Peres nonetheless expressed optimism that a deal with the PA can be reached within months.

"I don't exclude that in spite of the short time we can conclude an agreement with the Palestinians before September," Peres told the AP without explaining how fundamental differences lasting decades could be so easily set aside in less than three months when talks are, mutually, a non-starter at this point.

Peres also downplayed the issues that have held up the peace process for so many years, saying, "In a strange way, the differences are psychological rather than material."

"I know a little bit about negotiations," Peres said, "The opening position is extremely loud and very maximalist ... but they you have to go down quietly."

Peres has reportedly met in secret with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas in more than once in recent months in the hopes of advancing his personal agenda of restarting negotiations despite the position of the Netanyahu government – and the vast majority of Israelis – that negotiations are not possible at this time.

It was secret negotiations between then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres and PLO chairman Yassir Arafat behind Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's back that resulted in the disastrous Oslo Accords and creation of the Palestinian Authority.

Some 1,500 Israelis have been murdered in terror attacks and intifadas staged by PA arabs under the Oslo paradigm.