President Peres: "Europe Must Stop Speaking in Two Voices – Iran Represents a Clear and Existential Danger to Italy and to World Peace"

(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)

This morning (Tuesday, 25 November 2008), President Shimon Peres held an official reception for the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. During the course of the ceremony the two Presidents reviewed an Honor Guard of soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and made statements together. They discussed a number of issues, including the strengthening of economic, cultural, and scientific cooperation, as well as the strengthening of the political ties between the states, in the context of which they discussed the Iranian issue and the role of the international community in the matter of advancing the peace process between Israel and its neighbors.

President Peres raised the Iranian question, and said that Italy and Europe must understand that Iran represents a tangible and clear threat to them and not just to the existence of Israel and Middle Eastern states, and that therefore the European states must take clear, unified economic steps against Iran and stop speaking in two voices – with one voice maintaining economic relations with Iran while the other voice denounces their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

President Napolitano noted in connection to this that he sees in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "A leader who denies the Holocaust and who is not hiding his intention to destroy Israel," and that Italy understands well the extent of the Iranian threat and stands on the side of Israel. As such, President Napolitano noted that Italy recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security and sees in the axis of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, an Axis of Evil that is sabotaging the chances of arriving at peace in the Middle East.

It should be noted that during the course of their meeting, President Napolitano asked President Peres for an update on the details of the advancement of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and he expressed concern about the developing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. On this point, President Peres said that, "Israel does not want to see suffering on the Palestinian side, but there is one party solely responsible for the situation and that is Hamas. It is inconceivable that Israel should evacuate settlements and receive in response more rocket fire. Israel will not neglect the security of its citizens, and all of the activities of Hamas harm first and foremost the citizens of the Palestinian Authority, who are paying the price for Hamas’s extremism."

At the end of their meeting, President Napolitano remarked that, "Italy welcomes the progress that has been made in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and is aware of the internal divisions in Palestinian society and of the obstacles presented by the period of terror against the Israeli population."

It should be noted that immediately following their meeting, the two Presidents left for a visit to Yad Vashem. In the Guest Book of the President’s Residence, President Napolitano wrote: "There is no doubt that if one were to rank horrors, then the extermination of Jewish children in the Holocaust would be the worst horror of all. The Germans wanted to pull out the root, the future of the Jewish people, and they failed completely."