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Interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres

Interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres

By The Situation Room - July 31, 2012

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: In a word or two how is the state of U.S./Israeli relations as you and I meet right now?

PRES. SHIMON PERES, ISRAEL: Basically profound and right. (INAUDIBLE) time of elections usually is enjoyed by partisan support. I think we were lucky by having it and enjoying it. It shall remain the same way.

BLITZER: Would you say the relationship today is as good as it's ever been, not as good, strained, how would you describe it?

PERES: I think generally as good as it could have been, as it should have been. You know, I learn from my boss (INAUDIBLE) that you have to judge a (INAUDIBLE) person in the right way, which is on his record. Not what he says, not what he -- (INAUDIBLE) right, but what did do. When I look at the record of President Obama concerning the major issue security I think it's a highly satisfactory record from Israeli point of view.

BLITZER: Because his supporters back in Washington say U.S./Israeli military-to-military, intelligence-to-intelligence cooperation is stronger now than it's ever been. Are they right?

PERES: Yes. And because (INAUDIBLE) else is becoming our major concern with the new weapons in the Middle East, the new (INAUDIBLE) in the Middle East, we are surrounded by many dangers and many menaces. And security is really the top issue in our existence. And here the president is true to his words. What he pledged, he did.

BLITZER: Is there any issue that is a source of real problem now between the U.S. and Israel?

PERES: The -- in the press they emphasize very much the Iranian story. But on that too there is a basic agreement which says let's try and stop the development of the nuclear weapon first of all by nonmilitary means, namely economic sanctions, political pressure. But telling the Iranians, look, if it won't fly, there are other options on the table. Maybe difference in timing or appreciation, well, it may happen, but basically there's an agreement (ph).

BLITZER: When you say on timing, that's a sensitive issue --

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: -- because you, the government of Israel, you don't think there's a whole lot of time left.

PERES: Yes, but the difference is what, a month? How can you measure it? The sanctions are functioning, are beginning (INAUDIBLE) they have impacted Iran. We have to wait a bit more and see if this impact is sufficient enough to convince the Iranians to stop it. This will be the best way. None of us would like to see blood shed.

BLITZER: When you say months, how much time really is there given what's going on right now?

PERES: Look, if the Iranians (INAUDIBLE) right away, it can be tomorrow. But it doesn't look like for the time being (INAUDIBLE). So right now there is a parallel effort, one by negotiating with them, that didn't bear our fruits and other by increasing the sanctions, so we have to wait. I think it's a matter of months.

BLITZER: A few months? Six months? Ten months?

PERES: I can't tell it. I can't tell it --

BLITZER: But it's not years.

PERES: I don't think so. I don't think that anybody can hold it for such a long time. It's such a hot potato that your hand begin to burn.

BLITZER: I interviewed Mitt Romney here in Jerusalem, the Republican presidential candidate. Not only did he say that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, but he also said that if he were elected president, he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem following consultations with the government of Israel depending on what the government of Israel said. The question to you, Mr. President, would you want the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

PERES: I don't think there is any Israeli that would say no to such a proposal. But we have some other problems and that is what will happen about (INAUDIBLE) Jerusalem and there are other claims, but basically would say yes.

BLITZER: So if he was elected and said to you, the president of Israel should the U.S. move the embassy, you would say yes?

PERES: I don't want to introduce any doubt, but it's not the first time that presidents in the past have promised it the same thing and they found it difficult to fulfill it. (INAUDIBLE) to answer you with a little bit of reserve.

BLITZER: Because other U.S. candidates have made that commitment --

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: Only when they took office they didn't live up to it.

PERES: When they took over they saw that it's a little bit more complicated. But basically I believe it is possible and I am for it. BLITZER: Is there any hope that the Israeli/Palestinian peace process can be revived?

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: Because I don't see anything happening right now that would give me that kind of hope, so tell us what you're seeing.

PERES: (INAUDIBLE) I know it's a long time and it remains a long way the fact is there is a Palestinian Authority that exists. For the first time the Palestinians have a legal (INAUDIBLE). Secondly, they made the many -- they built many parts of governments. They (INAUDIBLE) government. They revived a little bit of their economy. They introduced laws.

They have a voice (ph) to guarantee law and order. All this never existed. And the daily life is a little bit better than it's being described in the papers. When you come to Jerusalem, you don't feel (INAUDIBLE) and every morning the Jewish people praying in their way and the Muslims in their way and so the Christians -- in fact, there is a pragmatic co-existence.

BLITZER: You met with Mitt Romney. This was not the first time you met with Mitt Romney, right?

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: You've met with him over a few times. So here's the question, what do you think of this man?

PERES: Well, look, it's election time. I have the highest respect for all candidates without making too many engagements (INAUDIBLE) on it. He is the candidate of the Republican Party. There are two parties, two candidates. I respect him very much.

BLITZER: Because you obviously respect President Obama as well. Earlier you described the U.S./Israeli relationship under his administration as being very strong.

PERES: Yes. He's the actual (ph) president and I have the highest regard for what he did as president.

BLITZER: President Obama?

PERES: President Obama, right.

BLITZER: Would you want to compare him? Because you've worked -- and you go back to 1948 when Harry Truman recognized Israel's independence.

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: You've worked with every American president over the years.

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: How would you -- where would you put President Obama because you've worked with all of them.

PERES: On a high mark. Look, I worked with American Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, all of them, and each of them has shown a deep and profound friendship to Israel, you know? I can't remember anybody who was in that sense negative as far as Israel is concerned. 

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