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Lally Weymouth interviews Israeli President Shimon Peres

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Interview by Lally Weymouth
Sunday, October 25, 2009

In Israel, the office of the president is meant to be ceremonial. But at 86, President Shimon Peres, the last founder of the Jewish state to remain active in Israeli politics and a frequent counselor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, hardly stays on the sidelines. Although Israelis are feeling pressured by a recent U.N. report, led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, accusing the army of war crimes during the recent operation against Hamas -- as well as by Iran's nuclear ambitions and by the perception that the Obama administration is hostile to them -- Peres reached out last week, holding a conference in Jerusalem with international leaders in which he called on Netanyahu to move the peace process forward. Peres sat down at his home to speak with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth. Edited excerpts:

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Everyone here is talking about the Goldstone report. Now it has gone to the Security Council. Do you think it puts Israel in a corner that it's impossible to get out of?

I think it's a great victory for terror. Never before did any terrorist organization gain such recognition, in the most unfair way.

Hamas?

Yes. First of all, we have a problem in the United Nations: There is a built-in majority against Israel. Israel doesn't stand a chance to win any single issue because the Muslim and the Arab nations and the ones who follow them are a majority. I think Mr. Goldstone made a mistake by agreeing to preside over a committee which has an anti-Israeli majority -- it cannot be objective if the judges are not objective. And the terms of reference were one-sided: to investigate the war crimes of Israel. And the conclusions -- they're one sided. There are 26 recommendations. Not one deals with terror. The terrorists are flying free and high. It's unbelievable.

Israel does not occupy Gaza. We left Gaza completely. We are the only country that forced our own settlers and army [out] without any foreign pressure to leave Gaza. And for eight years we restrained [while they fired missiles]. No reference to it.

You refer to the missiles coming into Israel from Gaza during those eight years and the Israeli towns that had to be evacuated.

Yes, there were about 12,000 missiles. No country would stand it. And all this -- it doesn't exist in the report. When you read the report, you think Israel woke up in a poor mood and went to attack Gaza.


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