President Shimon Peres on Wednesday invited Saudi King Abdullah to come to Jerusalem, or meet him in Riyadh, to initiate discussions that would enable the implementation of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all the Arab states.
Peres spoke at an interfaith conference in Kazakhstan, addressing some 150 religious leaders from around the world, including a large delegation of imams, calling on King Abdullah to meet with him in Jerusalem, in Riyadh or in any other place “in order to fulfill his prayer for peace between all people, without differences of religion.”
He praised a 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel full normalization in return for a withdrawal from territory conquered in the 1967 Six Day War, a Palestinian state and an equitable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Peres quoted Jordanian King Abdullah II as calling the plan “a readiness for peace between the State of Israel and 57 Arab and Muslim states.”
The president also spoke about Islamist terrorism. “Thousands, if not millions of Muslims, have lost their lives at the hands of extremists that call the name of Allah,” Peres said. “In the Twin Towers of New-York, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and atheists, all lost their lives as one.”
Meanwhile, Iranian delegates stormed out of the opening session of the interfaith conference as Peres began to deliver his address to the forum. The delegates returned to the conference hall after Peres finished speaking. One said the president was a repulsive Zionist figure whose “place was not here in a religious meeting.”
“[Peres] plunders land and occupies, and we are not willing to hear him,” an Iranian delegate added.
The move recalled a similar scene at a United Nations-sponsored conference in Geneva in April, when dozens of Western representatives walked out in protest against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the forum. The diplomats rose from their chairs and quit the hall as Ahmadinejad launched a tirade against Israel, which he called a racist entity.
About 80 delegations participated in the summit, representing different faiths and sects from 35 countries.
Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, also attended the conference, during which he urged Hamas to let a cleric visit abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “I’m holding in my hands a picture of my brother, a son of my country who was kidnapped. We don’t know anything about him; his father and mother aren’t receiving any information on him,” Metzger said.
He urged the religious leaders present “to call for a representative of the abductee’s faith to be able to visit him and give him sustenance.”
This story "Israel's President Invites Saudi King to Jerusalem" was written by Hila Raz (Haaretz) and Haaretz Service.