OTR Interviews

Israeli President Peres 'On the Record' on Iran's nuke threat, Egypt and the Facebook revolution

Israeli president discusses the ongoing conflict with Iran, the threat of nuclear weapons, Egypt and the Facebook revolution


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 31, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Mr. President, nice to see you, Sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. President, I want to talk to you about Middle East politics but first I want to ask you, you have a Facebook page.

PERES: Right.


PERES: Well, I'm admiring the younger generation and that's the way to converse with them. It used to be the people of the book but I discovered that they're -- right now, we're the people of the Facebook.

I mean everybody's facing each other and it's a pleasure because you get (inaudible) in contact with many people that otherwise you wouldn't have known about them I think and it's very lovely, very lively.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you looked up old friends on Facebook?

PERES: Not necessarily. Some yes, some no. I don't have so much time, but I'm trying to keep it up. I'll tell you something which is really, in my judgment, the serious thing I have now. I looked at Mr. Zuckerberg, a 27-year-old man, I thought that his revolution is greater than the revolution introduced by Lenin and Stalin.

Lenin and Stalin killed millions of people. They took away the liberty from the Russians. And they built communism that went bankrupt. The price was high, the result was nil.

Now here we have a young man that doesn't have neither a nation nor an army nor a police nor a courtroom, an idea. And the revolution that he has introduced is by far greater and more successful and more meaningful.

So look what one man can do with a great idea and what many people with ideologies, people without are unable. So that is the most fascinating thing. And it changed the face of our time, the face of our way of life.

The reason is that they opened up. You know, I think today the young generation, young people are telling their parents, thank you so much that you brought us to life, but please stop imposing upon us your experience and your heritage. What you left us is not so great, a world spoiled by wars, full of insult, of hatred. We don't want it. We want to go straight forward one by one, one with many. We want to build a different world. It's a great message.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting how the Facebook, social media has had an impact even on revolutions. Look what happened in Egypt.

PERES: Right. They created a revolution without firing a single cartridge, without killing a single man. It's great. It's a new age. And we have to understand that we are living in a new age, maybe with old feelings, and maybe with an old administration.

So we have to change the world because the world is already changed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you about Iran. Is that ever going to resolve? And when you have a situation where this country, Israel, is so small, threatened Ahmadinejad, and everyone wonders whether they have nuclear weapons or are close to it. Where do you see this going?

PERES: Don't judge Israel by our size, judge Iran by how dangerous. It is not endangering just Israel. She is endangering the rest of the world. Why?

The age of communism, of dominance is over. Iran is the single country on earth that wants to dominate the Middle East against the will of the local people here. And it's out of -- it's out of the present state of the world.

Then they're a center of terror, they kill people, they hang people, they finance terror other places. Then they're trying to build a nuclear bomb. They're spending a lot of money on missiles that can hit every place on earth.

So Iran should be judged by the size of the danger that it creates, not Israel, by the size of the target we are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how long can Israel wait? How long should Israel wait? How long can the rest of the world wait?

PERES: Not very much. The rest of the world, headed by the United States, would like to convince Iran to stop it. Stop becoming the greatest menace to humanity. Rightly, the United States would like to try and achieve it without using -- without war.

And for that reason, sanctions were introduced. A coalition was built -- around the world that agrees with the Iranian prospects and the Iranian intentions, including Putin, including the Chinese.

If it will work, it would be the best thing. If not, there is no other way but to stop it by other means.

VAN SUSTEREN: But how long is that? I mean, we have no sort of sense, is it a week that they'll have a nuclear bomb, a month, a year, two years? I mean, do you have any sort of sense of what this timetable is?

PERES: I don't think anybody can give you an exact timetable. But many of the people are speaking about say it's a matter of months, not of years.

And also we are waiting for two things, actually. There are two ways to judge the situation. One is the effectiveness of the sanctions. If they will do the job, you don't have to wait a long time. The progress in building the nuclear bomb by the Iranians.

The two are being watched very carefully. If the sanctions will be more effective, it may take a short time. If they will continue to build a bomb, again, there is not much time to wait for.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any sense of optimism that the sanctions are working?

PERES: There are many difficulties, and there are places where sanctions have worked and places they didn't work. And then I'm not sure that we know exactly what's taking place in Iran. We know we have general impressions. But our people, the Iranians have a culture. They have business, they have to make a living, they have to educate children. And there is no doubt that the sanctions already began have an impact upon them. How long can they take it? I don't know how to judge. It may be shorter than we think, maybe longer than we would like.

VAN SUSTEREN: When the United States went into Iraq, we thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair thought it in the UK. Many heads of states, countries around the world thought it, and it turned out it was wrong. Could we - could the world be wrong about Iran and a nuclear - that they are building a nuclear weapon?

PERES: I don't think so. Plus, well, they don't deny it. They are speaking about it with pride.

VAN SUSTEREN: Neither did Saddam Hussein.

PERES: But Saddam Hussein did something else, don't forget. I don't think the war started just because of the suspicion. Iraq under Saddam Hussein invited - invented - invaded in the Kuwait. He went to conquer a peaceful country. And if he wouldn't be stopped, he would continue to go to Saudi Arabia. So the danger was clear and immediate. And he has had to be stopped. If he wouldn't be stopped at Kuwait, you would find him somewhere else even more dangerous. So the story of the mass destroying -- destruction arms, are secondary in that case. If this would be the reason, I'm not sure he would be attacked.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any element of concern or even alarm over what's happening in Egypt? Egypt has been a sort of stabilizing force for Israel in terms of the - in the Arab world. With the new president, are you worried about what's going to happen in Egypt vs Israel?

PERES: Well, it depends upon the policy. Given the present government who would like to keep the peace agreement with Israel, and Israel clearly would like to keep the peace agreement with Egypt. And deserve respect the results of the elections. But the results of the elections are not the only story. The problem is, will the Egyptian government be able to escape Egypt from its economic problems, which are -- the problem of Egypt is poverty more than anything else.

Look, Egypt grew five times, population-wise, in the last 50 years. In the 1952, when young officers revolted, there were 18 million Egyptians. That's it. Today, there are 87 million Egyptians. Nothing grew in Egypt five times. Clearly not the river, which is the main supplier of the Egyptian economy. Furthermore, the other countries alongside the Nile River have also grown in population. There are 186 million people. And the problem is, how to escape poverty? But they can say it cannot be done, in my judgment, just by foreign aid. If they want to escape the poverty, it must be an Egyptian decision, an Egyptian choice, and Egyptian implementation.

You know, until now, all the time the Arabs looked to the world. Now, many Arabs understand that they have to look at their homes. Their wealth cannot do the job because of them. I will give you just one example. Israel is recycling water. We make from every drop of water four or five drops. Maybe you can take the Nile and make from one Nile two or three or four Niles if you recycle the water. For that, they have to introduce high tech, and they can decide about it. Nobody else. As far as we are concerned, clearly we'll do whatever we can to help. We are interested to see a different Middle East, a prosperous Middle East. Doesn't give us any pleasure to see somebody poor or suffering or unemployed.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last question. How closely are you watching the American presidential election?

PERES: Very closely, and it's very close.


VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed it is. And we are watching it closely too.

PERES: I'm sure, I'm sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you.

PERES: You know, I went through many elections, and my impression usually from the elections I went through is only on the last two weeks that floating vote is landing, and then you know the result.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. President, thank you, sir.

PERES: Thank you very much.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice talking to you.

PERES: Nice talking to you too.