Peres to AIPAC: 'We Have a Friend in the White House'
Israeli President Shimon Peres gave the benefit of the doubt on Iran to the Obama administration in his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference today while focusing much of his speech on pressing for a two-state solution in the Mideast.
Peres, speaking before President Obama, opened his speech with a nod to the commander in chief: "Thank you, President Obama, for being such a good friend."
Later in his address, Peres seemed to be trying to smooth the path for Obama with a skeptical crowd. He said that when he first met Obama, a senator from Illinois at the time, "I saw before me a born leader."
"Mr. President, I know your commitment to Israel is deep and profound," the Israeli president said, thanking Obama and Congress for "unwavering support."
"We have a friend in the White House," Peres said.
Peres dedicated part of the middle of his speech to Iran, but the address did not focus on the pressing threat facing his country.
"Iran is an evil cruel morally corrupt regime," he said sharply. "Iran is a danger to the entire world. It threatens Berlin as well as Madrid, Dublin as well as Bangkok.
"It must be stopped and it will be stopped," he added. "Peace is always our first option, but if we are forced to fight trust me we will prevail."
Peres called Obama's policy for confronting Iran "complex and decisive."
"President Obama made it clear that the use will never permit Iran to become nuclear," Peres said. "He made it clear that containment is not a viable policy and, as the president stated, all options are on the table."
He said the U.S. and Israel "share the same goal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."
"There is no space between us," Peres said. "Our message is clear."
He dedicated much of his address to the Mideast peace process, saying he believes Palestinian leaders "need and they want peace; I believe that peace with them is possible."
"The Palestinians are our neighbors for life," Peres said. "Peace can and must be achieved with them."
The Israeli president spoke after a long video tribute detailing the 88-year-old's 65 years of political service, capped off by a children's choir.
"The restoration of a Jewish state after 2,000 years in exile is a historic miracle," Peres said. "We had to fight six wars in six decades. We did not lose one. We never will. We cannot afford it. We had to defend ourselves. Self-defense is our right and obligation."