Statement by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at Meeting with a Delegation from the Japanese Parliament

Jerusalem, 13 January 2002

FM Peres: I would like to welcome very warmly the very important Japanese delegation, representing the Japanese parliament. I think we have had a very good exchange of views.

I would like to express our appreciate to Japan for her growing interest in the Middle East. Japan has invested more in constructive domains that in political maneuvers, from building bridges to trying to keep the air clean, and I hope that Japan will continue to play a constructive role in the Middle East. Much of the help was given to the Palestinians, but every investment in the Palestinian infrastructure is appreciated by us. We are not against the Palestinians – we are against terror. We, on our part, appreciate the role that Japan has played to enhance the chances for peace in the Middle East, and I hope Japan will continue to do so in the future.

Again, we welcome you. Japan means very much to us and your delegation representing the Japanese democracy is very important in our eyes. It is in that spirit that we welcome you.

FM Peres replied to questions from journalists:

Q: Given the events of the past week, both the revealed association between the Palestinian Authority and Iran and the house demolitions that took place over the weekend, do you think it is possible to get back to the peace table?

FM Peres: I think basically it depends upon the Palestinians. If they will take determined action against terror and against the dissident armed groups among them and disconnect themselves from Iran, then it’s a possibility. Otherwise we shall be in trouble.

Q: Do you think the Prime Minister has done all he can to promote the cause of peace?

FM Peres: The Prime Minister basically says that if we shall achieve a cease-fire, then we can continue the road to peace.

Q: Everybody is talking about Iran now, and the danger to Israel.

FM Peres: It’s not new, the story of Iran. In the 1996 elections, the Iranian government gave orders to the Islamic Jihad the Hamas to do whatever they can in the way of terror in order to affect the elections in Israel. We knew it then, and it was published. But since then, we know that Iran has trained, financed and armed the Hizbullah in Lebanon, is trying to establish branches of its own in Israel and among the Palestinians, is urging all the time all those organizations to act against Israel while covering the truth.

Mr. Rafsanjani unguardedly said something that apparently later on he regretted – he said that Iran needs a nuclear bomb in order to destroy Israel. This is unprecedented. In all of the demonstrations in Iran, they are speaking about the "Great Satan" and the "Small Satan" – the "Small Satan" is Israel, the "Great Satan" is the United States. But there were also calls of "death to Israel", calls to destroy Israel – something which is totally against the Charter of the United Nations.

Since we know for sure that Iran is behind many of the acts of terror and we know for sure that Iran is trying to establish a threat in terms of nuclear weapons, we shall not stop calling the attention of the world in order to prevent another tragedy and a continuation of terror.

Q: The Russian President has been invited to Israel. Would the Iranian question and the Russian assistance to Iran be raised at the meeting with the Russian President?

FM Peres: Yes.

Q: What kind of involvement do you expect from the Japanese side in the peace process in the future?

FM Peres: Usually the Japanese prefer to participate on the constructive side of the relations between the Palestinians and us, encouraging peace. Among other things, the Japanese played a major role in trying to build a center for ecology in the Middle East, because weather and ecology do not have borders. Either the whole region is clear, or the whole region is polluted. Japan played an extremely important role in it. Japan has built bridges and tried to help build other infrastructure, and we appreciate it very much. We are not against the Palestinians, the Palestinians are not our enemy. We are against terror. We are fighting terror. We are not fighting a people, we are not fighting a religion.