WASHINGTON, D.C. - Against the backdrop of tensions between the U.S. and Israel over the Iranian nuclear issue, President Shimon Peres on Sunday expressed complete faith in ties between the two countries.
Speaking at the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC's policy conference in Washington, Peres said that "there is no space" between the U.S. and Israel on Iran policy.
"The United States and Israel share the same goal, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," Peres said.
Peres, who received a lifetime achievement award from AIPAC, spoke shortly before U.S. President Barack Obama was due to address the conference.
Peres praised Obama for his policies that have included the imposition of economic and political sanctions on Iran.
"President Obama made it clear that the U.S. will not permit Iran to become nuclear," Peres said, adding that Obama has also made it clear that "all options are on the table".
Peres talked about his meetings with U.S. presidents over the years, both Democrats and Republicans. He said that U.S. support for Israel has been bipartisan and that Israel is grateful for that support.
Peres said that Obama's care and devotion to Israel's security have been evident.
"Mr. President, I know your commitment to Israel is deep and profound," Peres said. "Under your leadership, security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel has reached its highest level. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a friend in the White House. He reflects the values that make American great and make Israel secure. Thank you President Obama on behalf of my people."
Peres said that Israel started as a "doubt" but today is a "certainty".
"We had to fight six wars in six decades," Peres said. "We did not lose one. We never will. We cannot afford it. Self-defense is our right and obligation."
Turning to the Iranian regime, Peres said: "Iran is an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime. It is based on destruction and is an affront to human dignity. Iran is the center, the sponsor, the financer of world terror. Iran is a danger to the entire world. It threatens Berlin as well as Madrid, Delhi as well as Bangkok. Not just Israel."
"Iran’s ambition is to control the Middle East, so it can control a major part of the world’s economy. It must be stopped. And it will be stopped."
"Israel experienced the horrors of war. It does not seek it. Peace is always our first option, but, if we are forced to fight, trust me…we shall prevail."
On the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Peres said that the current Palestinian leadership, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is a partner for peace.
"The Palestinians are our neighbors for life," Peres said. "Peace can and must be achieved. A peace based on a two-state solution, a Jewish state - Israel, and an Arab state - Palestine."
"We want to preserve an Israel that is Jewish, democratic and attractive. I meet from time to time with President Abbas and PM [Salam] Fayyad. They need and want peace. I believe that peace is possible. They are our partners for peace. Not Hamas."
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