Peres: Social media helps with peace process
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday visited Facebook's Northern California headquarters, where he blasted the Iranian government and said the social networking site is a way for people to bypass failed efforts of governments to seek peace.
The 88-year-old leader met with the company's chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, and launched his official personal page on the site aimed at creating a dialogue with Arabs who live in countries that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel.
In an interview with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg streamed live on the company's website, Peres repeatedly praised Facebook as a tool for positive social change by enabling citizens of different countries to connect.
"The matter of peace is no longer the business of governments but the business of people," Peres said. "Today the people are governing the governments. And when they begin to talk to each other, they are surprised: We should be friends."
In response to a question from Sandberg about Iran's nuclear program, Peres said he had nothing against the Iranian people. At the same time, he condemned the Iranian government as a seat of "moral corruption."
"They want to have nuclear weapon. The combination of viciousness and nuclear weapons is a real catastrophe, a real danger," he said.
Iran denies it is seeking a weapon and insists its nuclear program is for energy production and other peaceful purposes.
Peres' comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama this week. The two remain at odds over the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran. Obama called for more time to let diplomacy work, while Netanyahu refused to rule out an attack in the near future.
In Israel, the presidency is an elected office but serves a mostly ceremonial role. The prime minister acts as the country's primary leader. Peres served as prime minister twice, once in the 1980s and once in the 1990s.
Peres' visit to Facebook's home base in Menlo Park was part of a four-day swing through Silicon Valley to promote Israel's tech industry. Touring the region's marquee tech companies has become a rite of passage for politicians and celebrities passing through Northern California.
His California itinerary includes meetings with leading venture capitalists and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
Obama became the first sitting head of state to visit Facebook's headquarters when he came last year for a town hall meeting and interview led by Zuckerberg.
In September, Sandberg moderated a discussion at Facebook with leading Republicans. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan talked about taxes and jobs and took questions from the audience and online members.
California Gov. Jerry Brown was scheduled to introduce Peres later Tuesday, when he is scheduled to appear before the congregation of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco. Anti-war activists have said they will target the appearance to protest Israeli policy toward Palestinians, Iran and other issues.
Shimon Peres at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FBLive
Marcus Wohlsen can be reached on Twitter: http://twitter.com/marcuswohlsen