President Shimon Peres had planned to lambaste the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr-Store over Norway's contacts with Hamas and Hizbullah when the two men met in Jerusalem on Monday.
But he was stopped in his tracks when Gahr-Store told him that Norway had now severed the contacts it had opened with Hamas during the period of the Palestinian unity government.
Nonetheless, Peres did make the point that it was important to clarify to Hamas that no nation (in the free world) would finance terror or the firing of rockets into Sderot and the other residential areas close to Gaza.
It was essential to emphasize that the international community would not condone terror or the violation of democracy through the use of violence as practiced by Hamas, said Peres, who also noted the Hamas connection with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hizbullah in Lebanon. There are also indications, he added, that Hamas is affiliated with al-Qaida.
Peres specified that this message needed to be stressed by Socialist International - which encompasses 190 parties from around the world, and where Gahr-Store is co-chairman of the Middle East Committee. Also visiting was Gahr-Store's fellow co-chairman, Piero Fasimo, of Italy's Democrats of the Left party. Peres is himself a former vice president and former honorary chairman of Socialist International, and was an active member for 30 years.
In contrast to his comments on Islamic extremist groups, Peres took an extremely positive stance with regard to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who he said desire true peace and have developed sound social, political and economic policies.
The real threat to world peace, said Peres, is nuclear terror, and therefore everything possible must be done to stop the Iranian nuclear program. The most effective tool, in his view, would be a worldwide application of economic sanctions. If the free world took a strong united stance, he said, "We can achieve the goal of safeguarding world peace."
At the outset of the meeting, Gahr-Store said that Socialist International was strongly committed to supporting the peace process and contributing to Middle East peace.
His colleagues were interested in meeting with Peres, he said, "because you always give us an enlightened perspective."
Peres responded that, as president, he was no longer a member of any party or any organization. "But that does not mean that we cannot continue the dialogue."