Address of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
to the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 23 January 2002

Yesterday morning, we left Jerusalem, a very sad city, where many families again face the horror of terror and loss of their beloved ones. Again, there are heavy clouds in the skies over Jerusalem and Israel. It is not our wish, nor are we ready, to accept that as a norm of our life or as the convention in our relations between the Palestinians and ourselves. Basically, we would like peaceful relations between the Palestinian people, the Arab countries and Israel. We are not in search of war; we are not in search of victories. We know deep in our hearts that good neighbours are better than good guns. Actually, we made peace with two countries. We left the territory of a third country and we offered agreement to a fourth country. Actually, we gave back to the Egyptians all the land, all the water and all the oil, without any bin Laden or the imposition of terror. We gave back to Jordan all the land and all the water – again without coercion by gun or by bomb. As a matter of fact, we did that after we won a war, not after we lost one.

When it comes to the Palestinians, I know that people say, "Bring an end to the occupation. Give them back the land and make peace." Actually, we tried to do that too. At Camp David, our former Prime Minister Barak and President Clinton offered the Palestinians the return not of all their land but of between 96% and 97% of it. They could have negotiated over the remaining 2% or 3%. It is hard for Israel and the Israelis to understand why the Palestinians rejected that offer. What went wrong? I am sure that terror was not necessary in the case of Jordan and Egypt, but in the case of the Palestinians it is terror that has prevented agreement and is preventing agreement to this very day.

I want to speak as objectively as I can. I ask myself why there is Arab terror. There is more than one answer. Some people say that Arafat will never be satisfied unless he has everything he wants. He was very close to having much that he wanted. Israel, too, has her own problems. It is not that we do or do not want to give things, but we also want security for our own people. We are two peoples living on a very small piece of land; we are integrated, living alongside and among each other. We have to establish relations that will meet that promise.

People say that Arafat is not interested in fighting a war, but if people think that Arafat is interested in making peace, why does he not make it? That is a problem for a person like me. My answer is that it is not because of his position, but because of his composition. There is no chance that Arafat can make peace or that we can make peace with him unless he does one basic thing that is necessary for all states and authorities: to place controls over all armed forces, over all arms and over all people who use those arms. I fear that as long as there are three, four or five groups – each with a different agenda and each holding their own guns and their own bombs – Arafat will have to make coalitions with them. They will not give up their arms; they will hold on to their arms and he will not be in charge – he will not be in control of his people.

Some Palestinians have told me – indeed Arafat himself has told me – "In your Cabinet you, too, have many views." That is right. We have many views, but only one gun. The Palestinians may have one view but they have many guns. There is nothing wrong in the Palestinians holding many views. We do not say that they have to take the view of Arafat or of anyone else, but as long as there are groups receiving orders from Syria and Iran – occasionally orders that have nothing to do with the Palestinian people, but relate to the search of some clergymen in the Islam world to control all Arab countries – there will be no peace.

That brings us to the main point. We are in a modern age where much is offered. We must ask ourselves why so many countries that could have entered into the promise of this new age and escaped the flaws and failures of the old age did not do so.

Ladies and gentlemen, the old excuse and explanation is that countries have not done that because imperial forces and colonial intentions remain and that means backwardness and poverty. But that has disappeared; it is no longer true. I know of no country in the world that has an appetite for colonialist intentions. I am sure that if Disraeli came to Queen Victoria and offered her countries such as Burma or Afghanistan she probably would not be attracted again. That is over.

The answer lies in basic values. You cannot have the potential for high technology unless you adopt real freedom and real decency. You cannot have a science-based economy where science exists alongside lies. Science cannot go alongside dictatorship. You cannot lie scientifically. Science and technology call for the pursuit of truth uninterruptedly, with no compromise. You cannot have investment unless there is transparency in your books. You cannot have free research unless you have a free society. You cannot have a modern economy unless your skies and gates are open for commerce and honest exchange.

Strangely enough, the events of 11 September showed that most of the world has already entered the new age. Today there is an unwritten coalition of a united Europe, the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Japan and many of the Latin American countries and many African countries. It is not that all of them have fallen in love with America, but all of them understand that there must be a basic situation in which a new generation will be permitted to enjoy what is offered by the new age.

On 11 September we saw again the other side of the moon – the dark side of the moon. Terror can exist only in countries where there is dictatorship, where murder and lies are permitted, where people can kill and cheat, cover and deny.

There is a second reason why the modern age with its modern economies cannot exist with high-tech terror. No one would agree that we should live in an age where to enter a plane would be a danger, where to build a skyscraper was a risky proposition and where the use of chemical and biological weapons meant danger to fresh air and fresh water.

There is a choice. Arafat has said that he is with the world that is fighting terror. To fight terror is not a promenade in a garden of roses; it is a tough job. When Israel was created, our late Prime Minister David Ben Gurion went to the point of giving the order to shoot at a ship that was bringing arms to our people, and killed twenty Israeli citizens. If Arafat does not stop the terror, the terror will stop him eventually.

We do not pretend to elect Palestinian leaders. They have to elect their leaders. We cannot elect their leaders. We cannot fire them. We have no intention of doing so, but we demand that their leader be a leader and that their words be words. You can run a government either by words or by guns. With guns there is a chaotic situation, but not with words. Every country has a non-democratic organisation – an army, which is not democratic – in order to defend democracy.

If Arafat will not do it and if the Palestinians will not do it, what can we do? We must stop the terrorists. Among the terrorists are suicide bombers, and when a suicide bomber is on his way we cannot stop him. The only way for us is to prevent his entry to the country. I know that it is extremely unpleasant, but the truth is that from time to time we must save the lives of tens of young people, women and other innocent people, including the elderly, or let him in. If we let him in, it will be too late.

We want to make peace with Palestinians. We recognize their rights. We recognize their right to live independently, in fairness and in prosperity. They are not our enemies. Our enemies are neither their religion nor their state. Our enemy is your enemy, and that is terror. The world has had enemies and armies, which were basically national. From a world that has had dangers that were basically global, we are now in an absurd situation where we have armies without enemies and dangers without armies. We do not have ways to defend our own land or one’s own people against either narcotics or terror. Technology can be used more and more, or pollution.

We became global for good or for bad. For good means having the advantages of new technologies and new sciences. For bad means having to face the dangers that are emerging from change.

We would like your distinguished chamber to work out, together with the United States and Russia, a policy that is not against the Palestinians. We did not come to ask the parliament of the European Council to be one sided and to be against the rights and the future of the Palestinians, but to save them from their own agony and their own mistakesand to bring an end to terror. I believe that a joint position by the United States, a united Europe, Russia and other countries will be extremely efficient in helping the Palestinians to escape a chaotic situation that involves divided forces. Let us say, "All right, let us negotiate." I can tell the Assembly on behalf of the State of Israel that at that minute terror will be stopped and terroristic groups will be outlawed. We shall go straight ahead to negotiations.

I can add that perhaps the territorial distances between the Palestinians and us are smaller than the emotional gap between our people. Today, the problem is that two peoples do not trust each other. We are very angry with the Palestinians because they rejected the Camp David proposals and went again to the use of terror. They are very angry with us because they live, I admit, in a very demanding economic situation, which we do not like to see. We do not want to punish any Palestinians. We do not want to see them suffer. However, the situation is imposed upon us. We would like to do immediately whatever we can to facilitate life and to make them a happier and freer people. We shall go to negotiate. It is not a negotiation without hope. We were very close to having peace.

Again, we would like the voice to go round the Arab countries – we made peace with some of them, and we gave back everything to make peace – that we would like them, too, to make a clear stand for peace. As there is a camp of peace in Israel, we would like to see camps of peace in the surrounding countries. That is not for the sake of Israel but for their own sakes.

Nobody can save countries from backwardness and poverty. That can be done only by the Palestinians. No one can prevent any country from entering the age of a modern economy, an open market and free relations. There is no justification for single-handed groups to keep countries in poverty and backwardness. What keeps them down is basically corrupted governments, occasionally with religious justification. There is sometimes a religious cloak that leads to suffering.

We learn that your parliament is proposing a law that will guarantee the rights of minorities. There is an important minority in Israel, and we would like to guarantee its rights and to try to take up your parliament’s proposal. Perhaps there should also be a right for majorities. In many countries, majorities do not have rights of representation.

I believe that the whole world has entered a struggle that is not like the former one between east and west ideologically, or between north and south economically. The struggle is between free countries and terrorised countries. Terror begins with people terrorising their own people. It is the discrimination of majorities, the discrimination of women and the discrimination of minorities. People are asking, "Can Arafat do it?" My judgment is that nobody can answer that question unless he will try. My estimate is that if he will try, he may succeed. If he will not do it, there is no future for a real peace process and, needless to say, for a prosperous Palestinian people.

I say again that we appreciate the Council’s interest and its attitude. We have marched through fifty-three years of independence, on many occasions alone. On many occasions we were facing great dangers. We were outnumbered and outgunned. Many people thought that we could not make it. Israel is basically a history of its people, and the Israeli people do not see why other countries cannot do likewise, including the Palestinians. They, too, can make their own road. They are intelligent people. I am sure that peace can win. It was not with an easy heart that I came here. I know that there are different views about it. Basically, we are in the same camp of freedom, peace, tolerance and hope. Members of the young generation who grew up as Jewish or Christian do not have to repeat all the mistakes and all the agonies that were previously made and experienced. We have a choice for a new future. We shall appreciate very much your willing contribution to introduce such a future in the Middle East.

Questions and Answers

Mr DAVIS (United Kingdom) – May I congratulate you, Mr Peres, on your statement today. We have listened to it with great interest. What proposals exist for a meeting between yourself and Mr Arafat, or someone representing him?

Mr PERES – We are constantly meeting with Palestinian leaders. We have meetings at two levels. The first concerns security. We meet Palestinian representatives to see what can be done to reduce violence and danger. Also, I personally meet Palestinian leaders concerning political matters.

Our position is that we cannot negotiate under fire, although I myself may feel that there is room to negotiate under fire. But when we start to negotiate, a terrorist comes to Jerusalem and starts shooting and the negotiation process falls immediately. Politically we are trying to achieve a ceasefire. There are political elements concerning how we facilitate conditions in the territories in order to try to make life easier. We are talking with the Palestinians on the political side and the military side to try achieve a ceasefire.

Mr VAN DER LINDEN (Netherlands) – Mr. Peres, I thank you for your impressive speech and for your peaceful efforts in your country. In your country, there are different opinions on how you tackle revenge by both sides. Why does not your country stop for a moment acting in revenge to show the world that only without revenge can you come to a peaceful solution?

Mr PERES – We declared a ceasefire that lasted for a week, but then fell. Many people criticise us, but our real problem is how we handle suicide bombers. This is the great problem that we are facing. If we have information that a suicide bomber is on his way, how do we stop him? The minute he enters the country, he will not be stopped by the police or the military and he will explode himself. Our only chance of saving lives is to intercept him before he enters the country. Israel would gladly act in a one-sided way, but if Arafat cannot control all the groups it would be in vain. That is why I wanted to emphasise the need for the Palestinian Authority to become an authority and control the guns and the shooting.

Mr EÖRSI (Hungary) – I join colleagues in wishing you the best of luck in achieving your goal of bringing peace to the Middle East. You spoke a lot about terrorism, but not about Israel’s response. Through the international media, we see the reaction of Prime Minister Sharon and you disagree with his actions. While you can give us a convincing speech here, do you have enough influence in the Israeli government to implement real and united policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians?

Mr PERES – I shall answer very honestly. I, as a member of Labor, represent a party that lost the elections. Mr. Sharon represents a party that won the elections. He represents the majority as Prime Minister now. Why did we lose the election? Basically, we lost because after the proposals introduced by a Labor Prime Minister were rejected, we lost our support in the eyes of many Israelis. They said, "You are very nice people and you want peace but you do not have a partner. Your partner rejected your proposals and started to shoot around." We became a minority; I do not pretend that I am in the majority. I asked myself whether to be in parliament in opposition or in a coalition government. One condition of our joining the coalition was that we would not divorce ourselves from our standings or silence our voices.

We made four conditions in order to build a coalition government. The first was not to build new settlements. The second was to try to find a permanent solution with the Palestinians and the Syrians based on Resolutions 224 and 338. Neither of these was ever the position of the rightist parties in Israel. The third was that we were ready to make painful compromises. The fourth was that we would respect all the signed agreements, including those signed by the Labor government and the Oslo agreement, provided that the Palestinians did likewise. It is a difficult choice and you can criticise me for it, but as someone who believes that this year or next year decisions will be taken, I thought it was right for us as a minority group – not in parliament but in terms of the Prime Ministerial elections – to try to insist on those four basic conditions that carry the hope for peace. That is what is happening.

Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom) – Mr. Peres, we very much appreciate your presence here today. Do you agree that for there to be any chance of a settlement in the middle east conflict – the principal cause of international terrorism today – it requires the Palestinians to accept that there can be no realistic right of return for most of the refugees and Israel to abandon its policy of settlements in the Territories it occupies?

Mr PERES – In the Middle East, there were 24 states; 22 were Muslim, one was Christian and one is Jewish. What is a Muslim, Christian or Jewish state? It is one where Muslims, Christians or Jews are in the majority. The Christian state, Lebanon, ceased to exist because the Christians lost the majority. Do not expect the Jewish people to lose our majority in our land and stop being a Jewish state. We have suffered enough throughout history, including in Europe, and we do not need to justify our independence.

Right or wrong, the right of return does not call for the suicide of the State of Israel. We have also absorbed one million Jewish people who came from Arab lands. The war has changed the demographic picture and we understand that in order to remain a Jewish state we are ready to recognize a Palestinian state. That is not an official position of the government but Sharon, myself and others have said that. We are for partition; we are ready to give up part of our land in order to keep the nature of our country. The right of return of the Palestinians would change the demography of the country. It would mean the end of the state, but I am telling you, and I tell also the Palestinian leaders, that there is one outstanding Palestinian, Sari Nusseibeh, who is the president of a university and who is supposed to be the representative of the Palestinians in Jerusalem. He stood up and said clearly to the Palestinians, "Stop it. It does not make sense." That was probably one of the failures in Camp David.

Our position is clear. We want to participate in solving the refugee problem by saving them from the status of refugees and to help, financially and in other ways, even in the reunion of families. We are ready to do that, but we are not ready to bring an end to Israel as a Jewish state.

Mr BEHRENDT (Germany) – Let me emphasise that I do understand that Israel must react strongly to each of the terrorist attacks against its population, but none the less I must ask you whether you think it is acting under the rule of law to commit preventive liquidations against Palestinian leaders? Do you think it is acceptable to destroy the infrastructure – such as the airfield and the Gaza strip, which was built with help from the EU – as a reaction to terrorism?

Mr PERES – The issue was checked by our judiciary and what you call ‘liquidation’ was prevention. If you have an enemy, whether in a uniform or not, who comes to kill your people, you have the right of self-defence. I have explained carefully that if we get information about someone who carries what we call a ticking bomb and who could enter the country at any time and bomb us – the usual targets are youth clubs and night clubs to kill young people – it is our full right to defend our lives. We are very careful, because we are a law-abiding people. We do not want to overdo it.

Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal) – Please accept my personal repudiation of the terrorist attacks against Israel and my solidarity on the holocaust, as well as my strong criticism of the retaliation that Israel is conducting. Do you still consider the Mitchell propositions for peace to be valid?

Mr PERES – The answer is yes. That is the official position of our government. We have accepted the Mitchell propositions. By the way, people say that we have to offer a political horizon to the Palestinians. There is a political horizon in the Mitchell report, as there is a political horizon in the government’s declaration and the present coalition’s agreement that they will implement all the previous agreements. There is much that Israel has to do and much that the Palestinians have to do, but we have accepted the Mitchell proposals fully. As you know, the Mitchell proposals set out a sequence. You have to have a cease-fire, then confidence-building measures and then negotiations for a political solution. What we are now trying is to take the first step, namely a cease-fire, that will permit the train to leave the first station and move towards the target of full negotiations.

Mr NEGUTA (Moldova) asked if the destruction of homes in Palestine was an approach that was more likely to lead to a permanent settlement or whether it would make the situation more serious.

Mr PERES – No, we did not start by limiting the actions of Arafat, but over the last month or so we have had the following events. An illegal ship was carrying illegal arms, some of them extremely dangerous, to the Palestinians and, apparently, the Palestinian Authority was in the know. That was against the law and against the agreement. Also, four Israeli soldiers were killed. Just a week ago, a terrorist entered the town of Hadera and started shooting around and another incident happened yesterday in Jerusalem.

It is not only us who have had an American observer. The American envoy, General Zinni, asked the Palestinians why they were destroying all their credibility. The United States, and even Europe, are posing the same question to Arafat today. Arafat must establish his credibility and that is the greatest problem. Obviously, Israel is trying to apply pressure on him to do so, because we said that we will not destroy the Palestinian authority or defeat Mr Arafat. However, we want him to behave in accordance with his commitments.

Mr YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain) commended Mr. Peres for speaking the truth but noted that it was only half the truth as Mr. Arafat had been prevented from coming. He asked Mr. Peres how he assessed European diplomatic efforts to bring about peace.

Mr PERES – First, I understand that you will hear tomorrow from Mr. Saeb Erekat, who will present the Palestinian case. Arafat receives delegations from all over the world, including Europe. There is no problem with that. Nobody prevents him from speaking or expressing his views, even if I do not share those views. However, the suspicion of his motivations is so deep. If you sat in our Cabinet, for example, you would be asked about handing over money to the Palestinians. There is an organisation called Tanzim that is now carrying out most of the acts of terror. It is on the payroll of the Palestinians and we tell the Palestinians, "Either take Tanzim off the payroll or tell it to stop killing and shooting." It is a unique situation. When it comes to the European role, we have never suggested that Europe should act against the Palestinians. We did not suggest that you should not act against terorism in Yugoslavia or Afghanistan. What we ask is the right to act against terror.

Acting against terror will permit the renewal of the peace process. There is considerable positive co-ordination between the European position and the American position. For Mr. Arafat, international legitimacy is of great importance, and it is better to use political pressure than to use arms. Arafat started to respond to American and European pressure. He started to act against terror but alas, he stopped at the wrong point – before dismantling all the organisations which, in my judgment, are his real enemies. It is not Israel which makes his position impossible; it is Hamas, Jihad and Hizbullah, which are now preparing attacks against Israel as I speak.

By the way, Hizbullah does not represent Lebanon. It receives orders from Iran and endangers Lebanon. Hamas and Jihad also get orders from abroad and are endangering Arafat. The enemy of the Palestinians are those armed minority groups.

We have told our European friends and the European Union that their economic aid to the Palestinians is welcome. We support everything that is positive and that creates employment. We do not consider ourselves enemies of the Palestinians. This policy must bear fruit not only for the sake of Israel, but for the sake of the Palestinians too. I hope that co-ordination will be maintained between the United States, Europe and Russia. A division between you will encourage a division in the Middle East. Each client will try to mobilise one side or the other.

There is worldwide acceptance of the need to get rid of terrorism, not of nations or religions. That must be continued in a responsible manner.

Mr GOULET (France) asked how Israel could justify its observer status in the Council of Europe and its claim to support human rights when Arafat, who had been democratically elected, was prevented from exercising his functions.

Mr PERES – Observers can be useful if there is an agreement, but if there is no agreement, what are they to observe? There is a group of European observers who can move freely, and I believe that you have heard their opinions, which are not far from my own. They tell you the same thing, but what can you do about it?

The problem of observers is that the confrontation is between a legal army which acts openly and which can be photographed or televised, and a clandestine organisation which one cannot see. What can the observers tell you that you do not know? They will never be permitted to visit the headquarters of Hamas or Jihad, or to accompany a terrorist, so it will be a one-sided observation. That is very much the case on television at present. As our friends from Spain, England and even France know, in a confrontation between a clandestine organisation and a legal and open army, observers can help very little.

Mr MARGELOV (Russian Federation) – Mr. Peres, how do you evaluate the possibility of a dialogue between the Palestinian National Assembly and the Israeli Knesset? Can such a dialogue become a new mechanism for discussion between the two nations?

Mr PERES – We have nothing against that. We do not prevent dialogue at any level. The President of our parliament was invited to address the Palestinian National Assembly, as I have done. Unfortunately, however, the problem is not in the hands of parliamentarians, but in the hands of the leaders. Leadership is not just about taking a position. I understand that leaders have to take risks. One cannot be a leader rhetorically. One must defend one’s people. The Palestinian leaders must defend their people from their own terrorists, who are undermining their position. Arafat tells them what to do and what not to do, but they do not listen. They compromise him more than we do.

Mr WEISS (Slovakia) – Does the Israeli government intend to fulfil United Nations Security Council Resolution 242? When will your government revise its policy and stop building settlements on Palestinian territory?

Mr PERES – Resolutions 242 and 338 have nothing to do with settlements. We ourselves decided not to build more settlements. To be fair, the rightist government headed by Mr. Begin and with the participation of Mr. Sharon totally fulfilled Resolutions 242 and 338 in respect of Egypt and even dismantled existing settlements, so experience shows that, as my own mentor said, all experts are experts in what has already happened. No one is an expert in what may happen. If terror stops, you may be surprised. Without complimenting either the right or the left , I can say that from time to time both right and left can produce exceptions, and even miracles.

Mr DALY (Ireland) – Ireland, as a member of the UN Security Council and of the European Union, and with experience from our own peace process, has constantly sought to play an active role in supporting efforts to bring about a comprehensive and lasting settlement in the Middle East. In particular, we would like to see action taken by both sides towards implementing the Mitchell recommendations and the Tenet plan. The first step would be to recommence security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. However, the seven-day period of absolute calm demanded by the government of Israel does not appear to be realistically obtainable and may indeed be an obstacle. I would welcome an assessment of the implementation of these initiatives, given the deterioration in the situation there.

Mr PERES – I would not be so quick to judge, and I would not abandon the proposals in the absence of a better alternative. For the time being, the Tenet recommendations and the Mitchell recommendations are the two documents accepted by both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and for that matter by the rest of the world. We should try hard to make them a reality.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland) – It is always a great pleasure to listen to you, Mr. Peres. You seem to be a realistic visionary, even a philosopher, rather than a typical politician. I want to raise the link between world terrorism and the situation in the Middle East. Do you think it is possible effectively to combat international terrorism without reaching a durable, peaceful solution to the dramatic conflict in the Middle East?

Mr PERES – I have said already that I think that it is easier to find a solution without terror. Terror is preventing a solution. Like everybody, I am listening to what bin Laden is saying. He wants to get rid of the crusaders, for example, who as you know are not necessarily Jewish people. That has nothing to do with the state of Israel. The terrorists’ idea is hegemony over the religion of other states. They are self-appointed leaders; nobody has elected them. They are responsible to nobody. They hang on their guns, not on their values. They are not accountable to a land, a state, a court or a cause, and they drive you crazy. They are terrorists for different reasons.

If I look at the Middle East, I see, for example, the civil war in Algeria. It has nothing to do with Israel. Sudan has nothing to do with Israel. Iraq has nothing to do with Israel. A crazy dictator takes over a country. I see the problems in Afghanistan and in Indonesia – that has nothing to do with us. I believe that the world has come to the conclusion that terrorism is a result of failure in the governmental system, not the result of a just cause. By the way and, again, to be fair, only the people themselves can correct things. Nobody can impose a solution.

Let us consider Iran. Iran is a country that has two governments. It has the Ayatollahs governing behind the scenes, taking all the decisions, controlling the army and holding the money. They give orders, they are not accountable to anybody. Then there is the formal government, headed by Khatami. Again, the most unusual story is that Khatami was elected sincerely. Those who voted for Khatami meant it earnestly and sincerely.

The greatest achievement in my judgment in the twentieth century was the liberation of women. Historically, women were discriminated against, and submitted to the whims of men, of rulers and of clergyman. Khatami was elected by women who wanted to be liberated and right, but the ayatollahs do not give a damn about them. As we saw with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the first to be liberated were – again – the women. So, the matter has nothing to do with Israel. There is a choice: either we have an elected and free government, and if you want a separation between church and state, or you are terrorised by crazy people who in the name of justice commit killings.

We politicians are accused all the time of being compromisers. Right, we have to compromise, because there are conflicts in life and if we do not compromise, a person will kill a person, from the family unit to the family of nations. We do so not because we like compromises but because we respect life. However, there are religious people who in the name of justice permit killing and shooting without any discrimination. They are the danger. I am not talking about all religions but about the ones who are fanatical and who call for killing and death.

Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation) commented that it was a shame that there was no representative present from the Palestinian parliament. He asked what problems might arise in the future in the discussions over a Palestinian state.

Mr PERES – The government of Israel did not take a decision about the creation of the Palestinian state for the simple reason that you have to take decisions in accordance with a certain calendar, a certain logic. I for one am clearly for a Palestinian state. I believe that most Israelis are of the same view.

Let me say in a very serious manner that the late Prime Minister Rabin and I went to Oslo because we did not want to dominate the Palestinian life. It is against our moral position as Jewish people. Never in our history did the Jewish people dominate another people. We think that it is wrong; it is a mistake. Our driving force was basically spiritual and moral more than strategic. That is an unchanging situation. We are not willing to dominate other people. We think that it may corrupt our very basic standing as a Jewish people. That is unchanged.

I believe that a solution is possible. Europe, for example, was for hundreds of years at war and saw bloodshed. I saw Mr. Solzhenitsyn, who told me that he thought that the leadership of Europe should have declared bankruptcy after two world wars, the killing of 50 million people and the holocaust. Yet, contrary to all its history, Europe found a solution – not by changing borders but by changing relations. Europe has shown that political conflicts can be solved in a more economic rather than political domain. Jean Monnet contributed more to the future of Europe than the many marshals and generals have contributed in helping us.

My hope is that the same will happen in the Middle East. There is an economic potential, not only a territorial one, for solving the problems. Today, if you have enough educated people, you can maintain an excellent economy. The advantage of Israel is that we have the largest population of scientists and engineers per kilometre – but we do not have many kilometres of land, so that is not such a big story.

However, everyone can do it. I have just come back from India. In India they are producing 300,000 engineers per annum. India will move ahead. It will be the same land with the same traditions but there is a switch in it. The Palestinians have nine universities with 60,000 students. I believe that is a good beginning. That is where peace may start.