The president of Israel has delivered a message of peace to the Iranian people, while denouncing the Tehran government.
The gesture by Shimon Peres comes as relations between Iran and the West and Israel are at an all-time low amidst sanctions and threats of attack in retaliation for Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
Peres expressed his words of reconciliation while addressing the Israeli Parliament on Wednesday, on the 63rd anniversary of the Knesset’s founding.
We were not born enemies and there is no need for us to live as enemies, Peres said, referring to Iranians.
Do not allow the flags of hostility to cast a dark shadow on your historic heritage. Your people are a sensitive people who aspire for friendship and peace, and not for conflict and wars.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate drew a sharp distinction between the Iranian people and the regime that rules them.
Iran is not only a threat for Israel, it constitutes a real danger to humanity as a whole, Peres said, referring to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The present Iranian regime is Imperialism-hungry, aspiring to be the region's supreme ruler.”
Israeli government officials (though not Peres) have been issuing threats of a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities -- as they have in the past in Iraq and Syria -- as early as this spring.
In late January, Peres expressed his grave worries about Iran gaining a nuclear bomb.
Nuclear weapons mustn't be allowed to fall into the hands of Iran's ayatollah regime, Peres said during an address to the Herzliya Conference.
It is the duty of the international community to prevent evil and nuclear [weapons] from coming together. That is the obligation of most of the leaders of the free world, one which they must meet. This is a way of operation that must be condemned by everyone everywhere… Eventually, the current Iranian leadership offers the future only destruction. It threatens human rights and the peace of nations.
Late last week, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denounced Israel as a cancerous tumor that must be cut out, and God willing it will be.
Khamenei added: We will support any group that will fight the Zionist regime.”
Peres, who is 88 years old, can recall a time when Israel and Iran had warm relations during the reign of the former Shah Reza Pahlavi. The Islamic revolution of 1979 that brought a theocracy to Iran ended that period.
Peres spokeswoman Ayelet Frisch told the Associated Press: Peres is one of the few people in Israel who remember the warm ties between the two countries. He visited a few times before the revolution, he walked the streets of Tehran, ate at restaurants there and had many Iranian friends.”