Israeli president Shimon Peres, 90, says he expects peace with Palestinians within his lifetime

Elder statesman throws his weight behind John Kerry's Middle East peace initiative
  • @AlistairDawber

Weeks away from his 90th birthday, Israel’s president Shimon Peres, has said that he expects to see peace with the Palestinians within his lifetime.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the Jewish state’s elder statesman who has a played a leading role in most of the significant events in Israel’s 65-year history, again threw his weight behind the American led peace initiative that is currently being led by John Kerry.

Asked if he believed peace was possible his lifetime, the former prime minister replied, “Oh, yes.”

Mr Peres has been a forefront of previous peace plans. He was Israel’s foreign minister during the Oslo process in 1993, and took over from Yitzhak Rabin as premier when Mr Rabin was assassinated by a right wing fanatic opposed to the Oslo Accords.

Many in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories fear that Mr Kerry’s process is getting increasingly stuck and blame for the initiative collapsing has already started from both sides. Yesterday, Israel’s Trade Minister, Naftali Bennett said that a two state solution was “not possible” and that Israel ought to annex Area C – the portion of the West Bank under direct Israeli control.

Speaking before Mr Bennett’s comments, Mr Peres said of Israel’s coalition, which includes a number of right wingers opposed to the peace process: “Everybody is dealing with the policy of the government and naturally they look at the combination of the different parties [in] the coalition,” said Mr Peres. “In my experience in life, I found that more than leaders change realities, realities affected leaders - and the realities of the present situation in the Middle East [don’t] leave much time for any other alternative but to conclude a peace agreement between us and the Palestinians.”

Mr Kerry is expected to return to the region in the coming weeks, after postponing a planned trip last week. Diplomats and senior officials from a number of countries have urged both sides to show bold leadership, and have warned that the consequences of the US’s latest peace push could be devastating.

“[Where] you can say there is a change maybe [is] in the amount of scepticism. There are always sceptics in life. And you know, for people it’s hard to agree with optimists,” Mr Peres told the Telegraph.

“To be an optimist, you have to work very hard and have a lot of patience. It’s more natural to be sceptic, be on the safe side – something wrong will arrive, you are not surprised. You are more surprised when something nice arrives.  But in my experience in life I feel that being optimistic is wiser and more realistic than being pessimistic. My life is a sum-up of the victories of optimism, not of pessimism.”