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Monday, January 22, 2007

Peres says 'Israel will not fall, Ahmadinejad will fall'

Peres says 'Israel will not fall, Ahmadinejad will fall'

Vice Premier Shimon Peres declared on Monday that Israel would pull through its current crises with Iran and the Palestinians, just as it had in past conflicts.

"I have been through 60 years of Israeli history, and I'm telling you - there have been harder days," Peres told an audience at the Herzliya Conference. "Israel will not fall - Ahmadinejad will fall."

  • Live video feed from the Herzliya conference

    Peres also criticized comments by opposition leader Binaymin Netanyahu, in which the Likud chairman compared the current situation to the eve of World War II.

    "This is not 1938," the vice premier declared. "It's not the way it was then. We will not sit on the sidelines, but we also do not need to jump."

    Addressing the issue of a Palestinian state, Peres emphasized that there was already an agreement to transfer 90 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians, and that Israel was ready for an exchange of territory.

    Earlier, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said at the conference that negotiations with the Palestinians were not at a dead-end, and that even Hamas could be seen as a partner.

    "Every Palestinian contact that recognizes Israel, I see as a partner in negotiations - even if we're speaking of Hamas," Peretz said.

    Speaking about the war in Lebanon last summer between Israel and Hizbullah, Peretz defended the role of the security establishment.

    "In spite of the mistakes, there were important achievements during the war," he said. "In the end, we changed the reality in southern Lebanon. We proved that the threats of rockets, the kidnappings, and the terror are not capable of leaving us paralyzed and helpless - and furthermore, we exposed the plans of Iran and Syria."

    Moving back to the topic of the Palestinians, Peretz called for the State to refocus on the matter.

    "We need to place an emphasis on the Palestinian sphere," Peretz said. "We must not stagnate while Hamas grows more powerful."

    In addition, Peretz announced his intention to promote a plan of action for future negotiations.

    "The convergence plan is no more, and we must form a new political plan," Peretz said. "The Labor party will submit a new plan to the government merging the road map with the Saudi plan. It is important that Arab states be partners in realizing this plan."

    Earlier, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon voiced skepticism over the chances of a Palestinian State being formed.

    "A two-state, two-nation solution is irrelevant as long as the Palestinians lack a responsible and effective leadership," Ya'alon said, adding that "the continuation of Kassams [being fired at] Israel proves that the Palestinians are not interested in a state, but rather in destroying Israel."

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