Ever-optimistic Shimon Peres still positive about future

tel aviv | Shimon Peres says Israel and the world are entering a new era that is equal parts dangerously uncertain and rich in possibility.

“Our problems today are the problems of the world,” Peres said. “Who is going to win, terror or peace? Who is going to win, Iran or [the] nations?”

Peres, who began his political career as an aide to David Ben-Gurion and at age 84 is capping it as Israel’s president, says his country’s current challenges are dwarfed by those of earlier eras.

“In 60 years we overcame more difficult periods,” he says.

Of the confrontation between sponsors of terrorism and pursuers of peace, Peres says, “I think we shall win it.”

Peres says the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has moved beyond a territorial dispute between two peoples and become part of a broader paradigm that pits backward-looking fundamentalists, including the regime in Tehran, against moderates in the Middle East.

Perhaps Israel’s most famous optimist, Peres says he does see the silver lining through the gloom, and he dismisses the notion that a window for peacemaking is closing due to rejectionist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

“I don’t think we can close a window because we don’t live in a closed house,” he says. “The fanatics are also losing to growing strength of freedom and modernity.”

Peres recently assembled a star-studded guest list for a conference called the Face of Tomorrow, which discussed the future of Israel, the Jewish world and the globe as part of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

Peres says diaspora and Israeli Jews have to find ways to be more creative together to become what he called a “contributing people.” In the past, he notes, Israel’s needs were more material. Today they are more intellectual.

“I think we live in a new age, and we need to adapt ourselves to the new age, which is basically scientific, intellectual and artistic, and less material and less financial,” he says. “I think we are blessed with a great deal of talents and opportunities to make use of it and to be a contributing nation to the world.”