The Deputy Prime Minister believes that the consolidation in the West Bank will take place within the year if there is no change on the Palestinian side. The Israeli goal: “to get rid of the occupation that is against everything we believe.”

Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited in Toronto this week (15 May 2006) and participated in a “forum of world leaders” to raise money and investors to develop the Middle East together with former President Bill Clinton. Two hundred and fifty persons of the cream of Canada’s crop participated in the event at the Windsor Arms Hotel. Each of them paid 3000 dollars per plate for the festive dinner.

In his speech before the audience of business people, Peres focused on the importance of advancing the diplomatic process in the Middle East, and continued his unyieldingly optimistic approach. He noted that Israel “wishes to rid itself of the occupation, because it conflicts with everything that we believe. We did not leave the house of slavery in Egypt to be masters in another place. Without moral justification, the Jewish people has no existence,” said Peres.

Peres noted that the Israeli government clarified that it is prepared to open negotiations and to respond favorably to most Palestinian demands, but the Palestinians are divided and there is no partner with which to negotiate an arrangement. According to Peres, Israel will wait for half a year to one year, and then if there is no change on the Palestinian side, Israel will act unilaterally in order to bring about the occupation’s end. Peres emphasized that the unilateral approach is not ideological, but is the last outlet in the absence of any other possibility. “Politics is constructed on schedules, but to organizations that are governed by religion, like Hamas, the schedule is always perpetual,” said Peres, adding that the withdrawal in Judea and Samaria will be broader than that of the Gaza Strip.

Later in his speech, Peres talked about the importance of the economy as a factor in advancing discussions between countries and peace, and said, “We want to privatize peace and allow companies and investors to create links that countries failed to make. This is how it was in Europe in 1944… when you sign an agreement, things can change.”

When he was asked in a newspaper interview for the source of his characteristic optimism, Peres answered that he prefers being an idealist to being a cynic, because pessimists and optimists die the same way, but live completely differently.