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Face Time with Shimon Peres

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  • Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks about his aspirations for peace
  • Advocates a "valley of peace" from the Red Sea up to the Syrian border
  • Says funding for peace projects lies with companies, not governments
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(CNN) -- There's renewed hope this week that peace may finally become a reality in the Middle East.


Israeli President Shimon Peres tells MME he believes economics can help overcome conflict in the Middle East

After meeting on Tuesday at a high-profile peace summit in Annapolis, Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed on a framework for talks.

Both sides say a peace deal is possible by 2009.

Before the summit, CNN's Jerusalem Correspondent Ben Wedeman spoke with Israeli President Shimon Peres about his aspirations for the region.

Ben Wedeman (BW): Mr. President, thank you for meeting with us today. Tony Blair, the quartet representative, is working on a variety of things, one of them is to make a Palestinian State economically viable. Is he working on things that would help create things like a hundred thousand jobs in the West Bank?

Shimon Peres (SP): In the West Bank you have two and a half million people. We want to build three industrial parks, one in the south which is Jericho, one in the north which is Jenin, and the third is nearby Hebron where we have the heavy part of the Palestinian population. What I believe we have to do is a valley of peace from the Red Sea up to the Syrian border, make it an ongoing zone open free for the three of us. This will carry peace more than any other effort that I can think of.

BW: Now one of the topics that was being discussed, one of the industrial zones that was being discussed by the Turks was Eres, Eres industrial zone which I've seen recently is utterly destroyed.

SP: Hamas destroys everything. They don't want peace. They want the destruction of the peace process. They are bombing all the passages and for that reason the situation in Gaza is so poor. They can not just put the bombs and kill people, but if those gentlemen want to destroy, what can we do?

BW: Turkey and Israel in the Middle East are the largest exporters of non-petroleum products. How can these two economic power houses help to develop the economies of the Middle East that have lagged behind the rest of the world?

SP: Look, economy today is not national, let's face it. It's more global than national. We have governments that are located in an age that doesn't exist any more. Governments have armies and police and laws but they don't have strength. They don't control the flow of investment in our time. On the other side there are non-governmental forces they don't have power, they have strength. Bill Gates doesn't have a police force and Google doesn't have an army. They are based on goodwill all the time. To build this valley of peace you need maybe ten or twelve billion dollars. The money is available, not in the hands of the governments but in the hands of global corporations that are anxious to do so.

BW: And so you think economics can overcome all the bitterness, hatred, resentment of a hundred year conflict between Israel and the Palestinians?


SP: Basically yes. If I would come to you 1944, a year before the end of the world war and tell you in three years the relations in Europe will change would you believe me? No. It took two or three years after a thousand years of skirmishes, of wars, of revolutions, of Napoleons and it happened. And it can happen here as well. Basically economy is about relations, politics is about borders. When you have sour relations you can not have sweet borders. So why wouldn't you start to sweet the relations? And create a environment for peace. You have to show people the people that peace brings bread and butter to their home.

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