Challenging meeting with President Peres

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Thursday, 27 August, 2009

Fernando Henrique Cardoso describes the Elders' meeting with President Shimon Peres.

I have known Shimon Peres for a long time and I've always admired him – he's very clear and can be very convincing. He conveyed to us that Israel is ready to negotiate, and there were a number of positive things about this – for example, when he said that Israelis know how important it is to get to a two state solution. He said that the time is ripe for a solution – that if we don't do it now, there will be terrible consequences.

President Peres pointed frequently to the progress in the West Bank. He noted the removal of checkpoints and the economic improvement there – in fact, he was very enthusiastic about it, as proof that the same is feasible in Gaza too. And he was positive about Prime Minister Fayyad's proposals.

Further, he conveyed Israel's full support for Abu Mazen, and noted that Israel already has an agreement with the PLO – and therefore with Fatah as well.

But he pointed out negative aspects too, and on some of them, we challenged him. He was very skeptical about Hamas. When we asked to understand why Israel will not talk to Hamas, he recalled the shooting of Fatah figures, and stated that Gaza is run by a dictatorship.

He pointed to the obstacles to peace created by the split between Gaza and the West Bank, and noted that the sensitivities surrounding Jerusalem make it difficult to reach a solution.

We also talked about Gaza; we worried that he minimised all the difficulties there, caused by the blockade.

What we learned today emphasises to us the complexities of this situation, but we all agree that the people of Gaza are suffering. We raised with the President that some international aid has not been allowed in, so we were pleased that Mr Peres invited the UN to approach him about resolving this issue.

It was therefore an emotional and intense conversation, which we hope was mutually informative. Ultimately, for us the most positive point was the President's statement that the time for peace is now, and that Prime Minister Netanyahu too, supports a solution now.

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