Israel Hopes Egyptians Receive the Freedom They Seek, Peres Says

Speaking at farewell of outgoing IDF chief Ashkenazi, President says only history will be the judge of leaders toppled in the wake of recent Mideast revolutions.

Israel hopes the Egyptian people will be granted the freedom and hope they desire, President Shimon Peres said on Sunday, adding that only history could judge the Mideast regimes which were toppled in the wake of recent popular unrest.

Peres' comments came after earlier Sunday Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he did not feel the recent events in Egypt, which culminated in the ouster of its long-time President Hosni Mubarak over the weekend, risked Israel's ties with its neighbor to the south.

Shimon Peres - IDF - 13.2.2011
IDF Spokesman's Office

Commenting on Israel's ties with Egypt following the military's announcement, Barak told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he didnt "think the relationship between Israel and Egypt is under any risk or that there is any kind of operational risk awaiting us."

Speaking at the farewell of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Sunday, Peres hailed the outgoing army chief, saying that the stability he worked so hard to achieve had "shattered" in the wake of recent regional turmoil.

"We bless the Egyptian people in anticipation that its desires for freedom and hope be met," the president said, adding that "a regime went away, and a new generation arrived."

In a clear reference to Mubarak's ouster, Peres was not quick to criticize Egypt's long-time leader, saying he would leave it for "history to judge those going, while we hopefully welcome those entering."

The president also praised Ashkenazi's performance as IDF chief at the event attended by U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, saying that under his command the military "was trained, weapons were revamped, the emergency warehouses were filled, the [Palestinian] territories were opened, and terror had to take time off."

Peres said the IDF under Ashkenazi was empowered, a "force that will prove itself in deterrence," adding that the army was set to serve "as a bridge for peace, that indeed will come."

Last week, the president, referring to mounting worldwide pressure on Egypt's beleaguered president to resign, delivered an impassioned defense of Mubarak, crediting him with saving both Arab and Israeli lives by preventing war in the Middle East.

"His contribution to peace, as far as I'm concerned, will never be forgotten," Peres said in an address to hundreds of visiting members of the European Parliament.

During the three decades Mubarak has been in power, he has consistently enforced the peace treaty signed by his predecessor, and he has mediated between Israel and the Palestinians.

Peres warned against the possibility that Mubarak's ouster would bring the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organized opposition movement, to power, saying the fundamentalist group won't bring peace.

"We're very worried about having a change in government or a change in the system of elections without introducing a change in the reasons that brought this explosion, this bitterness," Peres said.

The president implored foreign investors to bring technology, development and openness to Egypt to assist its quest for democracy.