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Shimon Peres: a dovish voice in Obama's ear

Israeli President Shimon Peres meets with President Obama today. Mr. Peres opposes an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, adding a dovish voice to deliberations between the US and Israel.

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Israeli President Shimon Peres addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference's opening plenary session in Washington, Sunday. Shimon Peres will meet with President Obama as well, Sunday.

Cliff Owen/AP

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On the eve of a summit between President Barak Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to close gaps on confronting Iran, Mr. Obama meets today with an Israeli elder statesman who has staked out a more dovish position than the government.

Israeli President Shimon Peres’ position is supposed to be ceremonial, but octogenarian Nobel Peace laureate has served as an envoy on behalf of Mr. Netanyahu. That hasn’t stopped him letting his personal views be known: A report in the Haaretz newspaper last week said he opposes an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran right now, even though many Israeli leaders have been hinting at the possibility. Opposing an attack now puts Mr. Peres closer to the US president than some Israeli cabinet members. 

The warm up presidential meeting on Sunday underscores the diversity of opinion in Israel on how to handle Iran, and shows that Israel's most famous diplomat is still a player on the international stage, even though he has no policy-making powers back at home.

"It's definitely a bully pulpit," says Mitchell Barak, a former aide to Peres. "President Peres has credibility but lacks the authority. And the prime minister has the authority but often lacks the credibility. So they are a good combination."

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