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Today, it is clear to everybody that the real division in the Middle East is not between Jews and Arabs, between Israel and the Arab states, but between moderates and radicals. There are no significant differences between Hamas and ISIS, or between Jihad and Al Qaeda.

Your Excellency, President of the State of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, honorable members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be here with you today on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a time of renewal and hope.

I am especially thankful for this opportunity to share with you my perspective and my understanding of Israel's current situation.

Just a month ago, we completed Operation Protective Edge and achieved a ceasefire, putting a halt to the bombardment of our towns by thousands of rockets and mortars.

This is an opportunity to thank you for your understanding of the great challenges that Israel faced during the 50 days of this operation.

Yet, it is our obligation today to assess the results of this operation and to contemplate whether and how it may be possible to prevent the next operation. It is particularly important to understand how it is that nine years after our complete withdrawal from Gaza, we are still fighting and looking for ways to avoid yet another future clash.

It is perhaps even more important to try and understand why 21 years since the Oslo Accords we are still in a deadlock in our negotiations with the Palestinians. Or why we haven't witnessed a strategic breakthrough in our relations with all of our neighbors, not only the Palestinians.

Why haven't we succeeded in reaching a comprehensive peace agreement? The answer, it seems to me, is simple. We have been like a doctor who makes a wrong diagnosis, gives a wrong medicine, and is then surprised that the patient doesn't recover.

The problem is that Israel has been contending for many years with two misunderstandings or fallacies and the world isn't ready to change its mind. First of all is the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the heart of all Middle East conflicts and problems.

In my opinion, it's not the biggest problem and not the central problem. It's actually a marginal problem and really not so important. It may be important for the public relations of Arab leaders, as a way of avoiding their own domestic problems. By inciting crowds and blaming Israel for everything, they try to explain away why they have failed.

Today, it is clear to everybody that the real division in the Middle East is not between Jews and Arabs, between Israel and the Arab states, but between moderates and radicals. There are no significant differences between Hamas and ISIS, or between Jihad and Al Qaeda. While they may differ in name, in their essence they are the same.

We were shocked at the execution of innocent Palestinians in Gaza at the hands of militants in front of crowds of innocent women and children, just as we were shocked by the brutal murders broadcast to the whole world by ISIS. And we were equally dismayed at the brazen disregard of Hamas leaders for the lives of their own citizens, whom they used cynically as human shields.

Nor do we forget what sparked the last confrontation: the brutal kidnapping and murder by Hamas of three Israeli teenagers in Gush Etzion.

It is important to remember that Israel made every effort to avoid harming innocent people in Gaza. Hamas, on the contrary, used its civilian infrastructure, its kindergartens, schools, mosques and homes as sites for launching rockets on peaceful Israeli towns and communities.

And even more importantly, it is crucial to remember that for years the main demand of the international community from Israel was to withdraw to the 1967 boundary.

Yet that is precisely what we did in the Gaza Strip. And despite this withdrawal, we suffered 18,000 missiles and shells on our territory.

Israel can also be part of the solution for the ultimate victory of the moderate forces in the Middle East in their struggle against the radicals and fanatics throughout our region. Both our intelligence services and air force can serve a key role in ensuring this victory.

We are ready to discuss all proposals concerning the rebuilding of the civilian infrastructure of Gaza. On the other hand, we need to consider the mechanism for preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities.

Moreover, we need to work out how to achieve demilitarization of Gaza because only demilitarization can guarantee a durable and sustainable ceasefire between us and the Palestinians.

Hamas is a threat not only to Israel but first of all to the Palestinian Authority and to Mahmoud Abbas. The Moslem Brotherhood is the main threat to Egypt. ISIS is the main threat to Iraq and Hezbollah is the biggest obstacle preventing Lebanon from becoming a really free and independent country.

And Iran of course is the biggest threat to the entire world, not only for the Middle East [...]

As you see, the next year will be very challenging, with a lot of threats and a lot of opportunities. I hope that at the end of the day, we will have enough reasons to be optimistic and to hope that the champions of peace, moderation and decency will defeat the forces of violence and hate.

Indeed, let us hope that all reasonable people will move forward together with greater international cooperation, understanding and tolerance.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

"You, children from southern Israel and the West Bank, symbolize the hope for peace after a very difficult summer"

Over 500 children from Israel and the West Bank will take part in the Soccer Peace Schools this year at over 24 schools

One week after the ceasefire came into effect, Israel's 9th president Shimon Peres, opened the annual Peres Center for Peace 'Soccer Peace Schools' program in southern Israel with 80 children from the Sderot, Sha'ar Hanegev and the Palestinian town of Yatta in the West Bank. The children play in joint soccer teams and take part in a special education program for peace. Shimon Peres was accompanied by the Head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, Alon Schuster, and the two presented soccer balls to the team captains to mark the opening of the program.

Former President Shimon Peres blew the opening whistle of the game and said, "Soccer isn't played one against the other but one alongside the other. You, children from southern Israel who play soccer with Palestinian children symbolize the hope for peace and the hope for all of us to overcome any challenges. You have all had a very difficult summer and today you are opening a new year which I hope will be a year of sport and dialogue. On this pitch there is a soccer school which is also a school for peace for all peoples."

Alon Schuster turned to the children and added, "You were children who were raised into this situation, and we can remind you that it's also possible to live differently, I am proud of you and wish you luck with your training."

Issa, the coach of the Palestinian children expressed his pride and excitement to be the coach of a joint team, "I'm excited to see you after months in which we were unable to meet. I hope that on this pitch we can begin something new, that we can go back to enjoying playing soccer together."

Through the Peres Center for Peace Twinned Peace Soccer Schools project children, aged 6-16, participate in a comprehensive 'peace education through sport' program that combines athletic training with unique peace education activities, allowing participants to get to know the "other," learn one another's languages, break down barriers, and develop friendships based on trust and mutual understanding.

The first practice took place today following a very difficult summer, during which the groups could not engage in such activities. Despite the political tensions, the Israeli and Palestinian children came together to play side-by-side. In addition to the soccer practice which took place today in Kibbutz Dorot, over 500 Israeli and Palestinian children from throughout Israel and the West Bank will come together for soccer and peace education activities in the framework of the Twinned Peace Soccer Schools program this year.

Photos – Efrat Sa'ar

 

 

 

  President Peres:

"The terrorists will be brought to justice"

"The families are a symbol of the strength of the Israeli spirit, they are a source of inspiration – we will pray with them for the safe return of their sons, our boys"

 

The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, delivered remarks this afternoon at a ceremony to mark outstanding military reserve units, along with the Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff. President Peres began by addressing the kidnapping of Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach and said, "Our soldiers are operating without respite in Hebron and in the villages to find the three boys. The terrorists will be brought to justice.

 

They are the envoys of death and destruction, they offer no hope. The kidnapping of the three boys shows once again the daily threats Israel faces but the strength of our society will overcome the terrorists. Today the whole nation is united. The families are a symbol of the strength of the Israeli spirit, they are a source of inspiration – we will pray with them for the safe return of their sons, our boys.

 

The fight against terror is a global one, it is the fight of all those who love life and wish to be free."

 

Photo Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis spoke to President Peres this morning and asked to deliver a message of coexistence, moderation and peace to all the citizens of the region in light of the current security situation

Pope Francis to President Peres:

"Actions on behalf of fanatics don't leave us anywhere; it's true that many innocents suffer and pay with their lives, but we have to move forward and insist on this path of prayer for peace"
"I ask God for a quick solution and a political solution"

President Peres to Pope Francis:
"A small group of fanatics are the cause of suffering in Gaza, Israel is doing everything to lower the flames and minimize civilian casualties"
"We shall continue to search for a road to peace in spite of the fire"

His Holiness Pope Francis spoke to President Peres earlier today and conveyed a messaged of coexistence, moderation and peace to the citizens of the region in light of the security situation. President Peres thanked Pope Francis who his involvement and concern and said, "Right now there is fire, we are trying to do as much as we can to lower the flames because we do not consider the people of Gaza as enemies. I know that the people of Gaza themselves didn't decide on this situation that they find themselves in. There is a small group of fanatics who are the cause of suffering in Gaza. Our operation is aimed to bring an end to two killing methods – the rockets from the sky and the tunnels from under the earth. We have discovered two tunnels which were supposed to enable them enter into the heart of civilian life and kill indiscriminately. Fortunately we discovered it on time and prevented the murder. Right now the main thing we are doing is to put an end to these tunnels and we are trying to see how to limit the confrontation, particularly with regard to the rockets which they fire at our civilians. I hope it will not be a long lasting operation and I can assure you that our people are careful and will continue to be very careful not to cause damage and death to innocent peoples. We shall continue to search for a road to peace in spite of the fire and in spite of the failure to have a ceasefire because finally the solution must be political and not just military."

His Holiness Pope Francis said to President Peres, "This is a painful moment; I am convinced that God brings us together in prayer for peace, and please allow me to say it's a prophetic gesture which in some ways will mark the future path. It's true that actions on behalf of fanatics don't leave us anywhere; it's true that many innocents suffer and pay with their lives. But we have to move forward and insist on this path of prayer for peace. I believe in prayer, in the power of prayer and I believe in the hearts of men who are working for peace. I ask God for a quick solution and a political solution. I'm close to you with my prayers and thoughts.

President Peres thanked Pope Francis for his efforts for peace and said, "I thank you for your efforts for peace. The three meetings that I have had the pleasure to participate in have left a lasting impression. I know that there is still a long way and I know there are difficult situations but like on many occasions, crises may give birth to peace and a better time. Your visit in Israel and our prayer in the Vatican had an unexpected impact on many people and I believe it planted a small tree of hope in the hearts of many, which we have to continue and develop.

Pope Francis thanked President Peres and said, "I thank you for everything that you do Mr. President and I ask Gold to bless you very much. That he accompany you on the path of peace and please feel my presence close to you as a brother and as a friend."

 

Photo Credit: Koby Gidon/GPO

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the entire month of May 2014, Romania commemorated 70 years since the expulsion of the last Jews of Northern Transylvania to Auschwitz. During this time, multiple events honoring the victims deported to Auschwitz were organized either by the Romanian-Jewish Communities or under the auspices of the Romanian Government.
To the same end, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for Studying the Holocaust in Romania in collaboration with the Romanian Ministry of Transport, held throughout entire May 2014, a series of events consisting of 11 commemorative plaque unveilings in memory of the 132,000 victims of the Holocaust. The plaques were placed in train-stations from where trains transported Jews to the extermination camp, such as: Baia Mare, Targu Mures, Reghin Sighet, Viseu de Sus, Dej, Cluj-Napoca, Satu Mare, Şimleu Silvaniei, Oradea, Bistrita.
These deportations took place in Northern Transylvania in 1944, at that time belonging to Horthy's Hungary and occupied by Nazi Germany. Out of the 132,000 Jews deported, almost all were exterminated.
Events for the unveiling of commemorative plaques were held as follows:
• Sunday, May 11, 2014 - train station in Baia Mare;
• Monday, May 12, 2014 – train stations in Tirgu Mures and Reghin;
• Sunday, May 18, 2014 - train stations in Sighet and Viseu de Sus;
• Monday, May 26, 2014 - train station in Dej;
• Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - train station in Cluj-Napoca;
• Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - train station in Satu Mare;
• Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Silvaniei Şimleu train station;
• Friday, May 30, 2014 - Oradea train station;
• Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - train station in Bistrita.
Present at the unveiling of the commemorative plaque in Cluj Napoca, on 27th May 2014, the Romanian Minister for infrastructure projects, Dan Șova, said:
"Today we commemorate a tragic consequence of hatred and anti-Semitism, for which we are required to have compassion and the duty of keeping alive the memory of Holocaust victims. Moreover, we have an obligation to build a society in which ethnic, cultural and religious values will be not only tolerated, but respected and appreciated [...]
Through effective educational programs and initiatives, focused on civic values ​​and democratic principles, we can understand the causes led to this tragedy. In the same time, I am convinced that we must pass-on to future generations the lessons of the Holocaust, so that, whenever anti-Semitism and racism will be taken to the streets, will receive a proper rebuff and such atrocities will not happen again. "