Israeli president calls for UK support against Iran

Mr Peres described his perception of Israeli-British relations
Mr Peres described his perception of Israeli-British relations

Israel's president Shimon Peres has called on the UK to work with Israel against Iran, in a speech to parliament.

Addressing both houses, Mr Peres promised his country would work with moderates win the Middle East, but not groups like Hamas and Hizbullah or the Iranian regime.

"Hamas violently rejects compromise," he said. "Hizbullah is stubbornly belligerent. And the Iranian leadership is obsessed with its quest for regional religious domination.

"Great Britain can play a leading role" in the region, Mr Peres continued.

"It possesses an experience and intimate knowledge of the dividing and unifying factors in the region."

The speech was marked by attempts to show the relationship between the UK and Israel as one of historical solidarity and friendship, glossing over some of the more problematic moments in the countries' history.

President Peres did not mention British attempts to control Jewish immigration to the Middle East in the 1940s, nor Zionist terrorist attacks on British troops in 1944 by the Stern Gang and Irgun.

Instead he concentrated on moments of friendship and cooperation, citing speeches by Winston Churchill and the story of a Briton who hid from the Nazis with his own father.

"He [Mr Peres' father] was saved [from the gas chamber] at the last moment by an Australian chaplain who jumped in between the German firing squad and my father, warning them not to shoot due to the absence of trial," the president told MPs and peers.

"Thankfully, he escaped again. This time with a most unusual partner, Charles Coward - a brave British soldier, nicknamed 'The Count of Auschwitz'.

"We later learned that he and my father found a way to save Jewish victims from the Auschwitz gas chambers."

He continued: "When discussing Israeli-British relations, we must always look to history. It affected our past, it may guide our future.

"Israel would not have a vibrant democracy if it hadn't been for the British legacy."

The speech marks the end of Mr Peres' visit to the UK.

There was some tension earlier in the week when foreign secretary David Miliband made his trip to Syria while the president was still in the UK


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