Peres: Netanyahu wants 'peace for nothing'
September 26, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT)
(CNN) -- With tensions escalating in the Middle East, former
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres urged Israelis Thursday
to put down their guns and take up peace before it's too
"It's a very sad day and a very serious situation. And the
first and most urgent task is to return from shooting to
talking," Peres told CNN during an interview.
Dozens of Palestinians and Israelis have been killed and
hundreds wounded in two days of fighting, the most dramatic
sign yet of the collapse of Israel's fragile peace.
Peres said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should
immediately pursue the peace terms established by the Oslo
agreement and continue negotiations to arrive at permanent
Middle East peace. "Rifles don't make policies," he said.
Peres added that he and his slain predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin,
worked too hard for the peace process to unravel now. (10 sec./128K AIFF or WAV sound)
The Palestinian government had shown
it was committed to peace over past few years and it gave no
indications of not doing so in the future, Peres said.
The current Israeli government, under Netanyahu's guidance,
has sought "peace for nothing" policies and it's not
working, he said.
Peres, an architect of peace agreements with the
Palestinians, was defeated by Netanyahu in May's election for
"When it becomes a bloody reality, we have to come together
and look at what can be done to return to the order of
peace," Peres said. "There is no alternative to it."
"Peace is like glass. You have to handle it with care. You
have to cultivate it." (10 sec./224K AIFF or WAV sound)
'Don't sacrifice our boys'
The current violence stems from the opening Tuesday of a new
entrance to an
Israel-constructed tourist tunnel that runs near sites
considered holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Peres criticized the tunnel opening. He said he and Rabin
refused to open it because they realized it would raise a
"real problem" in relations with Palestinians.
He added, "We don't sacrifice our boys for any economic or
commercial purpose, as important as it may be."
One caller to CNN accused Peres of establishing the tunnel's
opening during his administration. The former prime minister
flatly denied the allegation.
"The tunnel was prepared, but neither Mr. Rabin before me nor
myself agreed to open it," he said.
"Nothing was urgent. I mean it waited for 2,000 years (to
open). It could have waited for another year or so."
Palestinians claim the tunnel undermines their control over
Jerusalem holy sites and violates Israeli assurances that no
changes will be made in the disputed city until its future
has been determined in future peace negotiations. Both Israel
and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
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