Peres: I Have No Problem Meeting with Rouhani
President Shimon Peres expressed willingness to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Sunday, at the opening session of the Globes 2013 Israel Business Conference.
"I don't have enemies; it's not a matter of a person but of a policy," Peres stated, in response to a question about the issue by CNN's Richard Quest. "The purpose is to convert enemies into friends."
"If it was only him I'd take it with greater assurance but there are other structures, other people," the President continued. "The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, half army and half organization, spreads terror all over the world and I'm not so sure they support the president. We have to see the balance of the situation."
AFP relates that Peres compared the situation to other times in Israel's history, e.g. its relationship with the Palestinian Authority. "There was a time that we did not meet, for example, with (Palestinian Authority leader) Yasser Arafat," the President stated, hinting that the future of Iran-Israel relations is not set in stone.
Peres also addressed differences between Israel and the US over the Iran deal, and over diplomatic relations with Iran in general. While the US has been open to opening more trade avenues and contact with the Islamic Republic, Israel has been staunchly opposed to the move.
"The problem is what will happen in the coming six months; it's a trial period," Peres commented. "President Obama said that for him also this is a trial and gave an estimate of 50/50 as to whether it will succeed. We have to concentrate all our efforts to make sure Iran doesn't become a nuclear danger to the rest of the world."
Peres's statements contrasted with the views of most Israelis, who disagree strongly with the interim deal and are suspicious of the move to lift economic sanctions. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared the agreement "a historic mistake" when the news broke earlier this month and has noted that the Islamic Republic seeks to bring Israel back to the dark ages.
Regarding the US-Israel relationship, which has shown strain in recent months, Peres stated, "I definitely believe that relations are intact. I agree that the best thing is to keep the arguments between us, and I believe that President Obama is a true friend of Israel," he opined.
On Saturday, President Barack Obama told the Saban Center for Middle Eastern Policy that "the US military cooperations with Israel have never been stronger. Our intelligence cooperation has never been stronger. Our support of Israel's security has never been stronger" and reassured the audience that "Israel's security is sacrosanct" in future dealings with Tehran.
While some officials - like Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid - have declared that the US-Israel relationship is a matter of a disagreement, not outright discord, a recent poll revealed that most Israelis feel that Israel needs to reduce its dependency on the US.
Peres also believed that Israel may not be alone against a nuclear Iran. "Today, everyone knows that the Ayatollahs' regime with a nuclear weapon is a threat to the whole world. Russia and China don’t want Iran to have a nuclear bomb either."
The President made those comments despite the fact that Russia has been supplying Iran with at least some of the money used for building its nuclear centrifuges, including support for the second nuclear plant in Bushehr.