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Shimon Peres and the Europeans

28 July 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was interviewed by the German weekly magazine where he was quoted as saying the Schadeh removal was a “100% mistake” and that he was doubtful Prime Minister Sharon was capable of making peace.  As usual back in Israel all sorts of questions were asked.  Peres claims he was misquoted and misunderstood. 

Peres made no claims against killing Schadeh, but says it was a serious mistake to use the one ton bomb employed because of civilian casualties.  Sounds like a contradiction when discussing 100% anything.  As for Sharon, he told Voice of Israel Radio that Sharon’s capacity to make peace with Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat is in doubt.  A long list can be added to Sharon including former prime minister Ehud Barak and possibly Peres himself.  Even left wing Meretz opposition leader Yossi Sarid publicly announced his inability to trust Arafat.

So why make the statements and then have to explain yourself to the Israeli public?  Because Peres is Israel’s foreign minister, it is his job to stay on good terms with everyone, especially the European Union, with whom Israel has numerous economic, political and even military connections.  Western Europe has a large Moslem minority with many uncritically worshipping ‘balance’ and ‘humanism’. 

Peres needs to play to that audience and he does his job not badly.  Missions to America and even England Sharon handles on his own.  But the prime minister is unwelcome in many European capitals.  Peres is among the few in the Israeli government who can step foot in such places without major protests and demonstrations.  So he continues to keep the door open to Europe through ambiguities, partial contradictions and less than full answers when interviewed by the Europeans.  Peres really is Israel’s Special Envoy to Europe.

Being a Francofile from the time of his early diplomatic jaunts in Paris (where he obtained weapons and atomic know how) in the 1950’s and 60’s one can rest assured that Peres is familiar with the famous post Napoleonic quip by then French foreign minister Talleyrand, “Language was devised to conceal thought.”

As for Sharon, even before any clarifications were given, the PM’s office announced that Peres had not crossed any red lines nor would anyone like to see him leave his office.  Only Arafat would gain from a Peres resignation, it was stated.

Although not someone who is particularly enthralled with the French lately, one would suspect Sharon has heard of Talleyrand.