On Sunday, an official ceremony will be held commemorating Zionist visionary Theodor (Binyamin Zev) Herzl. Israelis living in Samaria (Shomron) have issued an appeal to President Shimon Peres in advance of the event, requesting that he stick to honoring Herzl, and leave his own politics out of his planned speech.
Peres gave a controversial speech last year in which he argued that Jewish settlement in majority-Arab areas risks Israel’s Jewish majority.
The Samaria Residents’ Council noted that Peres has often used state events as an opportunity to share his political views. On the eve of becoming President, Peres told the Associated Press, “We have to get rid of the territories,” referring to Judea and Samaria.
Peres has also repeatedly told media outlets that Israel must encourage the creation of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria with “territorial continuity.”
“We are asking President Peres to stop serving as the Palestinians’ most effective lobbyist for establishing a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria, and to remember his status as the representative of the Jewish community in the land of Israel,” the Samaria Residents’ Council said in a statement.
Following Peres’ statements last year, Israeli leaders in Judea and Samaria noted that Herzl day in particular was an odd choice for airing his controversial views. Then-Yesha Council head Danny Dayan said, “It’s bizarre that the president chose to bring up his prophecies of despair at the memorial for Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl – the symbol of commitment to a vision in the face of all those who despaired.”
In Israel, the role of President is a purely ceremonial one and not a political one, but Peres has been Israel’s most political president to date, and has been accused of seeing himself as a de-facto foreign minister once again, as he was during the late Yitzchak Rabin's term of office when he engineered the disastrous Oslo Accords.
Peres has reportedly met in secret with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the hopes of advancing his personal agenda of restarting peace negotiations.