JERUSALEM (EJP) ---Israeli President Shimon Peres heralded Europe’s achievements in helping to prevent "Iran from its own catastrophe" on meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Jerusalem Wednesday.
His statements offered the strongest hint yet that Israel might be ready to get on board with Europe and America’s preference for sanctions over military action to address the Iranian nuclear threat.
Admitting that the latest statistics from the Islamic Republic “show that (sanctions) are beginning to show some effect”, he added that “if we can bring Iran to peace and responsibility it will be a great human achievement, it is far preferable that we do it economically rather than militarily”.
Seemingly attempting to repair Israel’s somewhat damaged relationship with the EU, following Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s earlier insistence that “the EU should focus on the problems that are surfacing between different nations on European soil. After these issues are successfully resolved, we will gladly hear any suggestions regarding a solution to the problems with the Palestinians”, he concluded: “I think Europe can contribute with its military weight and political influence."
Ashton responded for thanking him for his greetings on the recent award of the nobel peace prize to the EU, as she said that “Europe has through its history learnt that cooperation and collaboration is the best way forward, even when times are tough”.
Refuting Lieberman’s accusation that the EU had demonstrated “a lack of a basic understanding of the reality in the region” by criticising the Israeli’s governments plans for settlement expansions, she added: “I hope we have something to offer to the world and I believe this point is being recognized. We know about tragedy, we know about finding a way through. We know that collaboration, cooperation, negotiation, finding alternative ways of achieving objectives is the best way.”
Moving on to the Iran issue, she paid tribute to the president's support for Europe’s so-called twin track approach, combining escalating economic sanctions with simultaneous diplomacy, which she said was designed to “keep up the pressure in order to persuade Iran to come and talk with us and to determine the path to the future in a way that will bring greater security to the region, greater security to the world”.
She reiterated Europe’s hope for a two state solution to be achieved in the Middle East, stressing that “the changes across the Arab world make the need for progress on the Middle East peace process all the more urgent”.
“Heeding the aspirations of the people in the region, including those of Palestinians for statehood and those of Israelis for security is a crucial element for lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the region,” she concluded.
The foreign policy chief made no mention of the recent barrage of rocket fire apparently undertaken by the militant ruling Gazan Hamas party, which had seen in excess of 70 rockets being fired in a 24-hour period, despite Peres’ insistence earlier in the day that the Palestinians cannot receive international aid to fund its ailing economy, whilst engaging in rocket attacks on Israel.
“They need to decide what they want,” Peres said. “We won’t have a situation in which they shoot and we remain passive.”