JERUSALEM (JWN)—President Shimon Peres told the leading representatives of Israel’s Christian clergy Thursday that he still believes it is possible to achieve peace with the Palestinian people and that negotiations should resume with the start of the New Year.
“I don’t accept all the doubts,” the president told the clergymen from various denominations attending his annual reception in honor of Christmas and New Year. “It is possible to find solutions and to begin negotiations, because the alternative to not finding a solution is war and the loss of life.”
Peres told the clerics he is proud of the friendly relations between the Christian Church and the State of Israel. “It is our responsibility and obligation that every religion has freedom of worship in Israel and to ensure that every religious person can pray to his God, have access to holy places, and enjoy equal rights,” he said.
Greek Patriarch Theophilus III used the occasion to address the so-called “price tag” attacks by Jewish extremists in recent months and condemned the arson attacks on mosques and any attack on a place of worship. He lauded Peres “for standing up against the desecration of holy places that took place recently and whose purpose is to harm freedom of worship and religion.”
“Your strong condemnation of all types of attacks on holy places—among them Jewish, Christian, or Muslim—should serve as an example of leadership to all of us,” he added.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai also spoke at the Beit Hanassi reception, calling the New Year “a time for spiritual leadership to call for peace and unity.” Spiritual leaders, he added, “have the power to pass along that message and the meaning of peace and coexistence in the world.”