President Shimon Peres addressed the Polish parliament in Warsaw Thursday and said his country was prepared to compromise on territorial issues in the search for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.
"We are ready to forgo land in order to reach a genuine peace with the Palestinians and grant them the possibility to found their own state," Peres told the parliament at the end of his four-day visit to the central European country in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during World War II.
This neighboring Palestinian state should "flourish economically, strive for peace and live in freedom," he said.
Israel returned to Egypt "all territories, all the water and oil" in exchange for peace, the president told Poland's parliament, referring to Israel's return in 1982 of the Sinai peninsula, which Israel conquered in battle during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Peres pointed to Europe as an example of how "thousands of years of war" could be successfully ended and said that Israelis, like Europe, had to seek to overcome the conflicts of the past.
Peres also praised the positive changes in Polish attitudes toward Israel, recognizing in this regard former Polish president Lech Walesa as well as the current President Lech Kaczynski.
In his address, Peres lamented the fate of Polish Jews during the second world war, saying in Hebrew "I have come to you in the name of the living and the dead and in the name of those who will be born tomorrow."
"The entire rich fabric of life that Polish Jews conducted was completely destroyed during World War II. After the war, the communist party secretary tragically pressured the 70,000 surviving Jews to leave their land," he continued.
Peres said this was not his first visit to Poland, but "the appearance here as president of Israel is especially moving for me."
Peres also mentioned the blossoming of Zionism in the European country. He said that most Israeli political parties were founded in Poland. "In our first Knesset, 61 out of the 120 members originated from Poland," said Peres. "And in the country's temporary government, led by David Ben-Gurion, six out of 13 ministers were of Polish origin."
Peres weaved into his address the shared history of the two nations. "Jews lived and died here. We won't forget that, just as we won't forget the great tragedy that occurred after the Nazis took control of Poland."
Leading up to Peres' speech, the Polish parliament passed a special decision marking the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Peres marked the occasion by saying "We are lowering our flags in memory of the uprising, a singular example of the struggle of a few against the well-oiled machine of the devil. The few paid with their lives, but the devil resolved to serve as a mortal danger to all of humanity."
The president, himself Polish-born, focused his address on World War II and the Jews' fate in Poland, and mentioned his family members who perished in the Holocaust.
Peres also attacked the anti-Semitism that is running rampant in the world.
At the end of his address, Peres said that Israel and the "new Poland" can realize good and positive relations. "In light of the good memories and in the shadow of the bad ones, we can strive together toward a future of peace, fraternity and justice," he said. "The new Poland is one of Israel's best friends in the European Union."
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