November 02, 2005
Shimon Peres

Mr. Shimon Peres, vice prime minister of Israel on this edition of the bridge. As one of the most influential political leaders in the Middle East and the leader of Israel's Labour Party he is also a prominent force in the peace process.

Ipek Cem: We are very pleased to welcome Mr.Peres, vice prime minister of Israel on this edition of the bridge. As one of the most influential political leaders in the Middle East and the leader of Israel's Labour Party he is also a prominent force in the peace process. Mr. Vice Prime minister thank you for being with us.


Shimon Peres: Thank you.


Ipek Cem: You have been active in the public service for the past six decades what keeps you going and so active in politics?


Shimon Peres: If you don't go you disappear. You know life is a permanent movement. If you don't move you are dead. So I don't have to have any reason. I think that people should move ahead, should serve their country, their people nothing better than that.


Ipek Cem: You are involved with the state of Israel since its foundations and at a very young age you assumed a lot of responsibility. At age 29 you were the director general of the defence ministry and you were considered the war time hero. Yet your legacy seems to be one of a peacemaker in 1994 you stood side by side with Isaak Rabin and Yaser Arafat and accepted Nobel Peace Prize. How is the peace process different now than what it was during those times in 1994?


Shimon Peres: Well one can divide the history of Israel into two different epochs. One, the first half part of our existence, was a belligerent one. The up stride, to finishism, to overpower it there wasn't a single chance for peace. All the Arab countries allied to destroy us. We were attacked five times in the first part during the first part of our existence. So our main concern was security. Once there was the first opening for peace, we preferred peace upon war. War was imposed upon us. Peace is our choice. So Israel is and has two histories. The first a lack of a choice but to defend the country. The second, having a choice making this.


Ipek Cem: And right now you seem to have that choice, which is wonderful, and it seems that Israeli politics are as exciting as ever with elections looming in the fall of 2006 and at the same time with the implementation of the peace plan and the pull-out from some of the territories recently . It is talked that the elections are going to be held a little bit earlier than anticipated. What is your view on that? 


Shimon Peres: It may be the case it's not been decided it's not certain. Normally the elections should take place in November 2006. So the difference is no longer so great. I mean it can be in my judgement either the first part of 2006 or the second part of 2006 doesn't matter very much, and much depends on what will take place in the Likud party. Which is today, a split party.


Ipek Cem: Yes and recently Mr. Nehtenyahou said that he is going to be challenging the prime minister Sharon for the leadership of the party and he is actually recently I think his opinion polls were a little bit down but still this is a big challenge. In the labor party, you seem to be the one who's going to be leading the party into elections though. There's going to be a primaries.  Am I correct?


Shimon Peres: Yes we are going to have primaries on November the 7th. There are five candidates. One already said he's out of the game, so we have the remaining four. According to the polls both the people and the members of the party are favoring my candidacy. Yes. But polls is always dangerous. Polls is like perfume. Nice to smell but dangerous to swallow. So I got a smell but I didn't swallow it.


Ipek Cem: So, as a veteran politician you are just keeping put and waiting for the developments to occur.


Shimon Peres: Yes. Well the polls are always favorable as I'm concerned. I'm maybe the polls for showing the most popular or one of the two most popular of candidates in the country.


Ipek Cem: Yes. I would like to move on to the recent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and some settlements in the West Bank. Some consider it as too much to give, others feel it is not enough. I mean I'm talking about, within Israel and also outside of Israel, you were quoted a saying "History will justify our choice". Of course it is too early to look at the developments after the pullouts but what is your opinion as of now as to the success as of this part of the execution?


Shimon Peres: Maybe the Palestinians will be able to establish themselves as a responsible and serious government in Gaza. This will pave the road of the continuation of the peace process. If it will fail, it will make the continuation of the peace very complicated. You see our elections are very much effected by what's taking place among the Palestinians. Because a man like myself says we have to talk to the Palestinians. The Palestinians are a partner, but if they fail it makes our chances very complicated. I lost the elections last time with one third of a percent not because the other candidate but because the Palestinians have introduced a chain of attacks, catastrophic ones and that effected the elections. Now we would like to see a Palestinian partner, in reality, that's a most important contribution to peace. On the other hand I think our ideology the ideology of labour are one, because labour was all the time for a two state solution. Mainly for a Palestinian state on the side of the Israeli state. And I think a majority of the people are supporting it. Including members of the Likud including Mr. Sharon, too. But to move ahead, we need certain conditions which I hope we should be able to attain. 


Ipek Cem: You were also recently quoted as saying "If it weren't for Hammas we would have moved out of or left Gazza about ten years ago." And , has there been any progress on this front? Do you feel that Mr. Mahmud Abbas and Palestinian authority are taking the necessary steps to fulfill those expectations or is it more on the "wish" state at this point?


Shimon Peres: I think they are serious. They would like to do it. But they didn't mobilize until now their strengths or the willpower to do it. You see when it comes to politics declarations are nice but they don't change the situation we have to do, to act and you judge politics by the results not by the intentions. So I hope that Mr. Abbas will mobilize all the strengths he can command to take control of the situation in Gaza. To establish a single headquarter for peace and not have so many groups. You know its interesting when I look at Turkey for many good years. The Turkish army was in charge of democracy. Here the Hammas is in charge for not having democracy. They destroy, they spoil it. Because in every country you have one undemocratic organization, in Israel, in Turkey. Which is the army to defend democracy. An army is not made of trade unions or political parties but they take their order from the government and that is what is wished will happen with the Palestinians, too.  As Abbas himself says, "One rifle" but if you have many rifles, you don't have a state and a problem is if Mr Abbas will be able to collect the other rifles and have just one Palestinian rifle. What happened just a short while ago killing Arafat it weakens the whole structure and the whole image of the Palestinians.


Ipek Cem: Yes. do you feel that – I don't know if it is a fair comparison but - Mr. Abbas is a better or more workable partner for peace than Mr. Arafat or do you miss Mr. Arafat as an adversary?


Shimon Peres: Well, without Arafat maybe the peace process would not begin. But with Arafat we couldn't continue. As he was so instrumental in the beginning he was so controversial because he wanted to keep all the forces. The Hammas and the Jihad and finally he didn't control them, and finally he lost trust of the people. I do believe that Mr. Abbas is serious in intentions that he declares what he feels or thinks. That intends to implement what he says. But the problem is that he did not collect yet enough force to do it.


Ipek Cem: After 9/11, the world almost feel as a more unsecure place. And there is increased suicide bombing all over the world. We have suffered from it as Turkey, many other countries in Europe and elsewhere have suffered from it. As, as a statesman who has fought terrorism and who has been faced with terrorism, what is your opinion about the kind of measures or cooperation that can be taken to tackle this very complex and difficult problem?


Shimon Peres: Let me start by saying that terror doesn't have a future. They don't have a future because they don't have a message. What is their problem? What is their hope or promise they provide to the people? Kill and kill and kill. And also their motive is against the development of modern age.


They are afraid of modernity they want to stop it. Number one, you cannot stop history even with rifles. History is unstoppable. Secondly, they want to fight modernity. Modernity doesn't depend upon them. Even if it cost a high price the terror. The terrorist cannot go back all the time to the past and to the tradition. So there are a protest they don't have a message and if they don't have a message finally people are, will get tired of them. They kill and what for?


For example, if Hammas would win here, say in Gazza, the world will immediately stop all the help to the Palestinians and without foreign aid who is going to pay for terror? Today the world is no longer divided between west and east or north and south. It's terror and anti-terror. Now the anti-terror. The terrorist started as a global phenomena. Mobilizing money, mobilizing people, mobilizing communication. So the fight against them must also be total and global. And it will take a little bit of time. But you will see in your generation of arms to fight terror. Modern armies are to fight other armies. But there is no more classical war. On the other hand, the army was not trained or equipped to find an individual suicidical bomber. But you will see in a very short while, I mean, two or three years, a new generation of arms to fight terror.


Ipek Cem: You mean intelligent and more technologically advanced?


Shimon Peres: Intelligence and new weapons. For example, the terrorist has an advantage because he comes and kills an innocent man or women or child. And it can shoot in cold blood a policeman or soldier. Now, for example, they build a new uniform for the soldiers and the policemen. Which are immune against bullets, against gas, against biological. Its a dress made of technology which is sensational. It's not actually a, a simple dress as we use, its a electronic dress. It can warm and cool the soldier. It elevates his strengths, a soldier will be able to elevate a 120 kilos with one hand. So immediately when a soldier and a terrorist meet. It will be impossible for the terrorist to kill the soldier because the soldier has an advantage.

Or, for example, there is something which is being called 'smart dust'. Dust made of small computers, invisible. and small sensors which are also invisible. And it appears like a dust which you can cover a whole area and you will know everything which happens in the area.


Or, for example, that is quite advanced already to identify who is a terrorist and who is not. So you can see a terrorist in a crowd, and you can know what he hides behind his dress. You can identify his face, you can photo his behavior, all these are totally new technologies. Some of them will come very soon. Some of them will come later. But this is the assault of advantages the others will not have.

Then they need the money, and then we will have to mobilize the people, because the real victims of terror is not just the one they kill but the nation they live within. They make the Palestinian life miserable, they make it poor, they make it isolated, and you know the whole Muslim world feels today that the world is a bit anti-Muslim. We just had a discussion with some Muslims and Arabs "You accuse all the Muslim world." Says "No, the ones that accuse the Muslim world is Ben Ladin." he says "We Muslims have to kill!" It's El Kaida not us. And then the terrorists are claiming that if you don't fight modernity, modernity will kill Islam.


Turkey is the best example that you can remain Muslim and become modern. There is no contradiction. I mean you don't have to be like Iran you can be like Turkey. They are to us, out of age. What can they bring to the Turkish women, to the Turkish children. So to the Iranian children the Iranian women? Nothing, but terror and fear and hatred and insult. Mohammed was never against the progress of history, and He was peaceful. So who are they to decide? Are they higher or stronger or better than Mohammed? And higher and stronger than Allah himself?


Ipek Cem: Yes. After the pullout actually there was talk to get Turkey involved in Gaza, especially in terms of both investments in tourism, perhaps developing the Gaza strip along with the Palestinian authority and also there is talk of building an industrial park in cooperation with both Turkish businessmen and Israeli businessmen. These are very exciting projects. At what stage are they? Are they in the kind of idea stage where you are discussing them with the Turkish government, with Mr. Erdogan or are they I think they are a little bit further along maybe?


Shimon Peres: Yes. I mean there was already a meeting between Turkish businessmen and Israeli businessmen. They have a plan they are trying to plan now an industrial complex in Eres. Which is the northern tip of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians are all for it. We are all for it. And I think that they are now preparing a detailed plan.

When I met your Prime Minister, three days ago, four days ago. We discussed this issue. He said that  “We should be even happy if we will also if Turkey will build an industrial park in the West Bank.” because Turkey is a good example of developing business on a high level, it's a Muslim country. They are being classed by their ups. They have excellent relations with Israel and then also I was speaking with the Prime Minister about Turkey helping the Palestinians to build a tourist organization.

Gaza is 43 kilometer of a beautiful beach on the Mediterranean. Now they say, “where from will the tourists come?” We have in Israel a million two hundred thousand Israeli citizens who are Arabs. Two hundred thousand of them go annually to Jordan. They will be delighted to go to Gaza. Why not? Well first of all they can double. There is no reason they can afford it and on top of it I think the Palestinians themselves are from the West Bank would also like to go and have their vacations in Gaza. Because of the beach because the Gazian people are very hospitable. they can produce good food. So it has an attraction. And I believe the Prime Minister is ready to have a look at it, too.


Ipek Cem: This will really help with the socioeconomic status of the Palestinians which I think in turn eliminates or reduces the need for terrorist ideology so it's a win win for all parties involved. Turkey and Israel are long time strategic allies and since the inception of Israel, Turkey has been a friend to Israel and vice versa. There is political relations, military cooperations, and business relations. in fact in 2004, I recently read that the trade volume reached two billion dollars which is very good amount. Why do you think there is such a good chemistry between the two countries or the two governments?


Shimon Peres: Turkey wasn't eaten up by hate. Like many other countries. Now let me again refer to the philosophy of the situation. Maybe the greatest challenge to tranquility in the world is really the Muslim block. A billion two hundred million people. Now there are two schools of thought. The future in my judgement belongs to Turkey, not to Iran.


And Turkey says "I'm a Muslim", yes. "I belong to the Muslim world", yes. "A Muslim party won", yes. But we are against terror, we are against hate. We are against polluting the whole atmosphere by irresponsible extremists. And then we are geographically close. We don't have a common enemy, but we have a common danger. Which is not against a nation but against terror. Against shaking the development of the Middle East and we feel very strong we are appreciative about it, by the way we were part of the Ottoman Empire, too. Don't forget my mentor David Bingoan was studying in a Turkish University. He was the president and prime minister were students of law. Bengogan actually hoped at the time to become a deputy in the Turkish parliament, the ottoman, and they didn't leave any hatred, any hard feelings and then also I think eventually, all of us will be members of the European Union in the future.


When they build the European Union it was basically a Christian declaration the three persons who created Europe. de Gasperi, Adenauer and Schuman, all were catholics. And they wanted to isolate Europe from communism, and the other religions. So they wanted to have a Christian or catholic  declaration. It didn't work. Because the world is stable, the people are moving. It's no longer a world of geography like in the time of Napoleon. It's a world of demography where all the time all the people are on the move. Because Europe became rich so they stopped producing children. They stopped producing children, they need foreign workers. So they bring in foreign workers and they already have twenty, twenty five Muslims in Europe. Without anyone planning it and its crazy to say we should not have Muslims.


Why? They want the Turkish workers they should also send work to Turkey. Much more logical and Turkey should be a member of the European Union and we say it to the Europeans. We cannot just have Turkish workers and refuse Turkey as a member. And Turkey can be an extremly important player in the European Union by linking the between Christian world, the Muslim world, the Jewish world. Why not? We are living today in a democracy which means not only that all of us are equal, but each of us has the equal right to be different. It's a world of differences, not a world of exclusion, not a world of discrimination.


So in my eyes, Turkey is not only geographically close to us, and we are close to them. But in the future we are the same view. And Turkey that has had a very important military past, was wise enough to enter the modern economy, because what we see today is not a clash of civilizations but a clash of ages. A new age arrived. the terrorists don't want to try anything. Who will pay for their mistakes? Who will pay for their existence? You cannot live on the land as in the past. The culture of the day is one or two percent of the world economy. Fifty years ago it was forty percent, fifty percent. Who is going to pay for them? Nobody. And Turkey went in modern economy. Turkey did something which is so important for the stability of any country, has developed a middle class. And when you have only rich and poor, you have a conflict in your society. When you have a middle class you can build a bridge and Turkey went to work abroad. Turkey's also trying to look for a peaceful solution over the issue of Cyprus. So this is important changes.


Ipek Cem: I hope that the European leaders are listening to you right now so that on October 3rd we will see the decision that we are waiting for which is the open negotiations with Turkey.


Shimon Peres: I don't make any secret from my views. I'm giving it to the Europeans . We met at a conference a European conference the Prime Minister and myself, and I delivered those views in Italy, in Villa Deste.


Ipek Cem: You know Turkey recently played a different role in Istanbul. Recently the Israeli foreign minister and the Pakistani foreign minister met. And the talks were successful as the press and perhaps this paves the road for  relations between Pakistan and Israel the normalizing of relations. Do you feel that with this new European outlook, Turkey could play more roles like this in the Middle East? More of a bridge role in the Middle East?


Shimon Peres: I believe that the Middle East cannot remain backward. Cannot remain blind. It doesn't have any reason and Turkey can help open the eyes. I learned just recently that even Mr. Kaddafi started to act against the fundamentalists. Well, it is a welcome change.


Ipek Cem: I wanted to ask you a little bit about Israel has always had difficult neighbors and perhaps they think the same of Israel. About Israel's relations with her neighbors at this point because for example with Egypt, there is improved relations and I wanted to ask you about Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and just to touch upon the relationship between Israel and those countries?


Shimon Peres: I know that there are Arabs that would like to wake up one morning and see instead of the Jewish people, Swedish people for example. Many Israelis would like to wake up one morning and like to see instead of Arab people, Danish people for example.


It's not going to happen.


There are two things in life that we cannot change: parents and neighbors. What you can change is your relations with them. But they will remain as they are, and you will remain as you are. And what we have is not to change the people but to change the relations among the people.


With Jordan we have almost a friendly relationship though there are still islands of opposition. With Jordan as you have said... With Egypt it is advancing, I think by the way have already played in bringing Pakistan and the Israelis to meet. Now, we have to solve the policy and problem, as they are. And they have to understand that we shall also remain as we are. And I think the solution is already on the map. Namely to have two states, and independent, liable, democratic, demilitarized Palestinian state. And then we can go further because it was quite difficult to make peace with Egypt and Jordan. Now there is the Palestinians. We cannot do all of that in one jump.


You know in politics, if you have to jump, you better jump at lengths not height. If you jump at lengths, say you land after ten meters, and you can continue. If you jump at height, and you jump a hundred meters say, and you fall down. You break your leg. So we are doing jump after jump and we are not going to jump in the air like crazy people. 


Ipek Cem: The situation in Iraq is another destabilizing influence on the region. What do you think about the prospects of Iraq in terms of staying together as one country and also as a country which can find its identity and at some point normalize?


Shimon Peres: Well, the Iraqis are intelligent people. They have a blessed land, but they have a demographic problem. They are three different ethnic groups that unless they can find a federal relations among them they will live in conflict. I think nobody is interested to disintegrate Iraq, because then you will immediately have a Kurdish problem.  And a Sunni problem and a Shi'ite problem. And the other problem Iraq is facing not only internal but the influx of Iranian Shi'ites to Iraq. They are changing the demography and there was nobody to guard the border. It's actually open. So the problem of Iraq more than it is the American presence. Is their own division on one hand and the Iranian intervention on the other hand. So if you want to keep themselves together they have to overcome the problems. And the American bayonet's cannot solve them. the American can give them the time, the occasion, but not the therapy.


Ipek Cem: in 1996 you founded the Perez Center for Peace. And the aim for the center is to realize a new vision of the Middle East and especially it focuses on people relations and socioeconomic development. How involved are you with the center and what would you say are the works of the center that you would like to see further?


Shimon Peres: Well I would give several examples for the center did and I like them very much. We discovered eleven hundred Palestinian children, babies actually, that were held by the intifada. They don't have health insurance, they don't have hospitals. So we decided to cure them, and the minute we started to cure more children came. That weren't held by the intifada, that they have a weak heart or have a tumor in their head or things like it. And we bring them, the children with their mothers to Jerusalem, for complete cure. Cost us on average five thousand dollars a child. We cured already over a thousand children. They went back home that's the best thing you can do. They are really will be ambassadors of goodwill. Don't ask for anything. We don't publicise it too much because we don't want people will think we do it for publicity. But that's not the only thing we do in the domain of medicine.


We check eyes, by tele-electronics, we can check eyes of people in Tunisia or Algeria and we do it. We train doctors because we wanted not only to cure Palestinian children from heart problems to health problems to other problems. But also from cancer . But to cure a child of cancer costs seventy thousand dollars and that's a lot of money. So we are training the Palistinan doctors to do it at home. So the whole the main of medicine is people to people.


Then we do it in the domain of improving the Arabic culture. We send experts we introduce new systems. We do it in 14 countries. Arab countries and it works very nice.


Then we are engaged in sport. We have ten schools of football for Palestinian and Israeli children together. Sport is a world without killing. Sports is a competition without any races. If you have a good football player no matter is black or white or yellow. The children like him, they like sports. I think sports can play an important role.


Then we have in the domain of theatre and movies. We have a joint theatre, Palestinian-Israelis and they appear before the children the schools and where else it is. So there is a lot of things that we are doing and can do.


Ipek Cem: Yes. Linking with that theme, do you see more willingness on the part of both Palestinians and Israelis for people to people, organization to organization, NGO to NGO contact?


Shimon Peres: Yes very much so. You know even at the height of the Intifada. There was a Jewish settlement that was bombed by missiles where there was a school of football. The children didn't stop coming and playing with Arab children we can't answer all their demands because we are an angel. We don't get any money from any official, from any government . It's private donations. So there is a limit to what we can do but the reception is fantastic and I think there's a complete trust in what we are doing, because we don't ask for anything. We don't put money on publicity and for that there is nothing against being received very nicely.


Ipek Cem: Mr. Vice Prime minister, I would like to thank you very much for this candid interview. Thank you.


Shimon Peres: Thank you, thank you very much.


This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.