JERUSALEM (JWN)—President Shimon Peres called Iran’s leaders “evil” and said the world cannot allow them to produce nuclear weapons. Giving the keynote opening address at the 12th annual Herzliya Conference, Peres said the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear arms is the world’s most important issue.
Addressing the stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, the president urged the talks to resume, saying they are the only way to reach a solution to the conflict.
Peres accused Iran of using its nuclear program to back an attempt to achieve regional domination and “even global hegemony.”
“Nuclear weapons mustn’t be allowed to fall into the hands of Iran’s ayatollah regime,” Peres said. He referred to Iran’s Islamist leadership as the “most morally corrupt regime in the world.”
The president made an oblique reference to the possibility of an Israeli strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, noting that “no option should be ruled out in our dealing with the Iranian danger. This is an existential threat.”
But the president laid the primary responsibility for dealing with the Iranian threat on the nations of the world. “It is the duty of the international community to prevent evil and nuclear [weapons] from coming together. That is the obligations of most of the leaders of the free world, one which they must meet,” Peres said.
Expanding on his characterization of the Iranian regime as immoral, he noted that it “executes people for their views. It funds, trains, and guides terrorists to spread terror and murder across the globe.”
“This is a way of operation that must be condemned by everyone everywhere,” Peres said, adding that, “eventually, the current Iranian leadership offers the future only destruction. It threatens human rights and the peace of nations.”
The Iranian regime is “the most morally corrupt in the world,” Peres asserted, saying it “has no future, it has only destruction to offer.” Iran, he added, “threatens human rights and world peace.”
Commenting on the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Peres stressed the necessity to pursue them, saying that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only way to ensure Israel isn’t made into the scapegoat of a rapidly changing Middle East. If not, he warned, extremism threatens to take over the region; “an extremism which Iran attempts to lead using its two proxies: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, as well as other extensions throughout the region.”
“The terror organizations are trying to drag Israel into an Arab internal struggle so they can direct the masses’ rage against us. They have no rehabilitation plans, only incitement habits,” Peres added.
The only way to prevent this takeover of extremism, then, is “to put an end to the conflict between us and the Palestinians, similar to the agreements with Egypt and Jordan.”
“When I say we must, I say so because I believe ending the conflict is possible. I’ve known the people heading the Palestinian Authority for decades,” Peres said, adding that he believes “[Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are worthy partners who do not wish to see the conflict go further.”
The president praised the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in economic development and security, and warned that Israel must prevent Hamas from gaining power in the West Bank. “Preventing a Hamas victory in the Palestinian arena is an Israeli security interest,” he said.
“Relations (with the Palestinians) and borders are both part of the security sphere,” The president said that good relations with the Palestinians cannot be separated from secure borders. “There is no security without the diplomatic arena and there cannot be a meaningful diplomatic process without retaining the ability to defend one’s self,” he said.
Peres added, “The borders must be set as to determine the security arrangements, and must be set soon. This kind of negotiations must take place outside the box, and away from the headlines. Through it both sides will achieve something which cannot be achieved without talks—an end to the conflict.”