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Peres Tells Congress 'Arabs Are Not Enemies of Israel'

Peres receives Congressional Gold Medal; praises 'peace partner' Abbas, tells skeptics: 'believe me.'
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 6/26/2014, 7:55 PM

Shimon Peres receives Congressional Gold Medal
Shimon Peres receives Congressional Gold Medal
Reuters

Outgoing President Shimon Peres received the Congressional Gold Medal on Thursday at the US Congress, in his farewell appearance as he steps down from his post next month.

The gold medal, which features a portrait of Peres, has engraved on it a quote by the president reading: "you are as great as the cause you serve."

"Many people call me a dreamer. I suppose that's why I have always felt at home in the United States of America - America that was given the privilege to carry the dreams of humanity," said the 90-year-old Peres while receiving the medal.

Peres related how Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent him to the US to learn English. "Study the American dream,' he told me. 'That's what you have to do.' So I did," said Peres, according to AFP.

The US and Israel share an "unbelievable and unbreakable friendship," according to Peres, who added "whether through military assistance and security cooperation, or through diplomatic and moral support, you sent us a clear message: that we are not alone."

Three Israeli teens were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists two weeks ago. "I met with their parents," said Peres, "and they have one request - they asked me to speak here for them. To cause their voice to be heard around the world and to help bring their sons home."

"We expect to hear a voice around the world against the terror. Israel has done and will do everything it can to return the kidnapped youths," added the outgoing president.

It is worth noting that despite the call, US President Barack Obama has been notably silent over the abduction. Meeting with Peres, Obama said Wednesday "our hearts are with the families." Meanwhile the US State Department has called for Israeli restraint in searching for the teens.

"Arabs are not the enemy"

Peres in his speech also discussed Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, saying he is "definitely" a peace partner. Peres noted that he had "condemned" the kidnapping, in reference to Abbas's saying the kidnappers were "trying to destroy" the PA.

Abbas "spoke against terror and for peace. Hamas, which fires rockets on citizens, is not a partner for peace, and that's clear," said Peres.

It should be noted that Abbas's Fatah faction includes a terrorist wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, and that a senior Fatah official close to Abbas justified the kidnapping, saying Israel "only understands kidnappings."

"The Arabs are not the enemy of Israel. The terrorists are the enemies of all of us. The terrorists spread danger throughout the region; the Middle East has to unify to stop the terror. The time has come to do that," commented Peres.

Peres's statements come as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that Israel is offering to help "moderate" Arab states confront the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which is conquering Iraq.

"To the skeptics: believe me"

"It's hard to find the path forward on the peace process, but we can not lose hope. There's no better solution than two states for two peoples," claimed Peres.

The outgoing president repeated the tried and true leftist tropes, promoting "a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians can bring wide regional peace."

Peres concluded by saying "to the skeptics I can say: believe me. Peace is the most possible impossibility. In another month I will end my role as the ninth president of the state of Israel. But I will never raise my hands (in defeat) in the struggle for achieving peace."

Republican House Speaker John Boehner praised Peres as a "great prototype of the Israeli statesman," adding that it was the first time the Congressional Gold Medal was being given to an Israeli head of state.

"This medal says to our young people and yours - never get cynical, never give in to expediency, and know that America will always stand by Israel, and with all men and women of peace," Boehner said.

US Vice President Joe Biden added to Peres "you are a legendary friend."

The medal is one of the highest civilian honors in the US, and is given to those who had an "impact on American history and culture." The first recipient of the medal was the first US president, George Washington.

Peres will be succeeded by Likud MK Reuven Rivlin.