President Shimon Peres
President Shimon Peres speaking to the 11th annual Herzliya Conference on February 6, 2011. Photo by Uri Porat
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President Shimon Peres called on the West to push leading software and internet companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook to help Middle Eastern countries reform, and said the recent events in the region were an opportunity for peace.

Peres was speaking before the Spanish Parliament yesterday, the first day of a four-day trip to Spain.

As opposed to many other Israeli leaders, who have voiced apprehension over the unrest in the Middle East, Peres described the revolutions that toppled the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes as “opportunities for peace.”

“We believe the biggest guarantee of peace is having democratic neighbors.

We are happy to witness this democratic revolution taking place in the Arab world,” said Peres, observing, “Now is the time to resume the talks with the Palestinians.”

Analysts discussing how the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings could affect Palestinian politics have said they could inspire people to try to topple the Fatah-led government in the West Bank.

Earlier this month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for general parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority no later than September. Hamas has said it will boycott the polls.

In his wide-ranging remarks, Peres said Israel aspired to a lasting peace with its neighbors, including Syria and Lebanon.

“I turn to Syria and ask that it not become hostage to Iran. Iran is not seeking peace,” Peres said. He accused Iran of “creating terrorist cells in other nations, in the Middle East and even in Latin America.”

Regarding the role of internet and software giants, Peres said that these companies have more available cash than many states, which are going through a financial crisis, and are therefore in a better position to assist.

“These companies have the means and they can help,” he said. “Aid is currently directed mainly at sick people in poorer countries. It’s better to cure the state and let it treat its own ills.”

Joining Peres in Spain is a delegation of Israeli businessmen.

Large international companies need to be called on to join the mission, he said.

“They can set up modern economic networks based on information and technology nearly anywhere in the world,” he said. “They can establish high-tech outlets and provide jobs for the young and unemployed, and provide hope for an entire people.”