JERUSALEM (JTA) – Henry Kissinger, upon receiving Israel’s presidential award from Israeli President Shimon Peres, said the moment of truth on the Iran question will be in the months ahead.
"The question is at what point one concludes that negotiations have reached their limit? It is not a question that should be answered unilaterally," the former U.S. secretary of state said Tuesday night in a speech at the opening gala of the 2012 President’s Conference in Jerusalem.
"The fact is that the members of the Security Council have stated for 10 years that a military nuclear program in Iran is unacceptable. They owe themselves the need for diplomacy, but also a point will be reached at which they will have to define what they mean by unacceptable and how that should be implemented. And that is a moment that will be approached in the months ahead, and it is something that we should all do together."
Kissinger had come to Jerusalem to receive Israel’s presidential medal from Peres, who was fresh from receiving his own U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom several days ago from President Obama. Peres said it was clear from his recent meeting with Obama that the U.S. leader indeed considers "all options are on the table" with regard to Iran.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Peres called Kissinger a "brother," hailing "the tremendous effort you made to help us on every occasion as a great statesman and as a great Jew."
The award comes less than two years after declassified Nixon tapes revealed that Kissinger had told President Nixon in 1973 that it would not be a U.S. concern if the Soviets were to consign Jews to death camps.
"It is unusual for an 89-year-old man to say that I wish my parents could be here," Kissinger said upon receiving the medal. "They would be more proud of this distinction than any of the other honors that have come my way."
In his speech, Kissinger also said the Arabs need to offer some concessions when it comes to peace with Israel.
"Everybody knows the sacrifices that Israel has made and is prepared to make for peace, but the other side has to give some content toward what a peaceful world would look like," he said. "There has to be a quid pro quo on the other side. It is a peculiarity of the Arab-Israeli negotiations that one side considers recognition of the other state as sufficient for recognition of peace. But recognition of a state is the beginning of peace, it is not the end of peace."
More than 4,000 people have turned out for this year’s President’s Conference, now in its fourth year, including leading politicians, businesspeople, entrepreneurs and civil society activists from Israel and throughout the world. Among the speakers on the first day of the conference, called "Facing Tomorrow," were Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and current envoy of the Quartet grouping of Middle East peacemakers.