CNN’S "EVANS & NOVAK" HOSTS:
INTERVIEW WITH ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 1995
MR. EVANS: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, can you tell us straight out right now that in the permanent settlement, you will definitely remove those 450 Jewish settlers in the Arab city, the Palestinian city of Hebron?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I believe that the peace process, the reconciliation, which is the essence of peace, between the Arab countries, especially the Palestinians and Israel, is a process that has to be carried out by phases. At this stage, we focus on the implementation of the declaration of principles with the purpose to create interim agreement. The permanent solution is a matter for discussion after the first phase will prove successful.
MR. EVANS: But sir, when you were prime minister, in your first round as prime minister in ’74 to ’76, you personally prevented a settlement from being placed in Hebron. So you know how important this is to the Palestinians. Why don’t tell us now, because this is such a big deal for the Palestinians, those Jewish settlers will come out in the permanent settlement?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: It’s true, when I was prime minister between ’74 to ’77, I prevented settlements not only in Hebron but also in the densely populated areas in the West Bank. But there is a clear distinction between preventing it and uprooting them. I am committed I reached agreement, we reached agreement, with the Palestinians. It included in the DOP that no settlement will be uprooted during the interim period. I made this commitment to our legislative body, the Knesset, and I intend to maintain my commitments to the people.
MR. EVANS: Now, Prime Minister, that big Jewish settlement called Kiriat Arba it’s almost a city sitting over Hebron, the Palestinian town, Mayor Katzover says he will send his settlers, militant settlers, armed to take over the jobs of the troops, the Israeli troops, the Israeli defense force troops, that you are going to pull out of Hebron. What are you going to do when he sends militant settlers into Hebron?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: Well, as you know, included in the agreements that we have with the Palestinians and our commitment to the Knesset, the Israeli defense forces, the Israeli army, the border police, the police, they have a great responsibility to protect the Israelis who live in the territories. We are a lawful country, and only the forces authorized to maintain the law, to protect the Israelis, will be in operation. All the talk that you hear, I don’t believe that they will be implemented.
MR. NOVAK: Prime Minister, there are reports that in your conversation this week with President Clinton, you asked the United States government to release Jonathan Pollard, the American who was convicted of spying for Israel, in return for your release of Arab prisoners. Is that accurate?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: First, we are committed to release Palestinian prisoners and detainees as part of our agreement with the PLO. There is no relationship between the two. I brought up the issue with the president and I mentioned that we on our side released prisoners that were involved in terror, but not those who either killed Israelis or seriously injured them.
MR. NOVAK: You say you brought up the issue. You brought up the issue of Mr. Pollard?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: Yes, because he is reaching 10 years in prison in November. He is subject to a parole. And I hope that his case will be taken with the hope of releasing him, letting him to go to Israel.
MR. NOVAK: Did President Clinton make any response to your request?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: No, he made no comment on what I told him.
MR. EVANS: Prime Minister, this interim agreement, prevents the Palestinian police from arresting, incarcerating or taking to jail any Israeli citizen. How can Arafat and his police force carry out their responsibilities if you have a Jewish terrorist and there are some; I mean, we remember Baruch Goldstein in Hebron from arresting any Israelis? Is that fair to the Palestinians, sir?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I believe it’s essential for the security of the Israelis, essential for the implementation of the DOP, the declaration of principles, that Israelis will not come under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. In a case if an Israeli carried out something illegal in area which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, or in the future the Palestinian Council, they have to hand him over to us and we will bring him to an Israeli court to be judged.
MR. EVANS: Do you have any exchange of information, intelligence and other information, between your police and the Palestinian police?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: There is a need for cooperation between the Palestinian police and the Israeli army, the Israeli police. And our contacts if you look at what happens in Gaza, we have liaison offices in Jericho, in Gaza. And there will be 14 more in the West Bank once the agreement that we signed here in Washington will be implemented, in which officers of Palestinian police, Israelis, sit together and organize. We have joint patrols in Gaza. There will be joint mobile units of Israelis and Palestinian police that will work together on issues that call for the two sides being involved in imposition of law.
MR. NOVAK: Prime Minister, in Friday’s New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal writes, quote, "It is a matter of time before a Palestinian state is recognized," unquote. Do you agree with that?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I believe for many years and I made it prior to the elections in Israel in ’92, and as a result of them, I am prime minister of Israel that my goal is not the whole land of Israel. I believe that dreams of Jews for 2,000 years to return to Zion were to build a Jewish state and not a binational state. Therefore, I don’t want to annex the 2.2 million Palestinians who are different entity than us politically, religiously, nationally, against their will to become Israelis. And therefore, I seek peaceful coexistence between Israel as a Jewish state, not all over the land of Israel, or most of it; its capital, the united Jerusalem; its security border with Jordan rebuilt; next to it, a Palestinian entity, less than a state, that runs the life of Palestinians. It is not ruled by Israel. It is ruled by the Palestinians. This is my goal, not to return to the pre-Six Day War lines but to create two entities, a separations between Israel and the Palestinians who reside in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And they will be different entity that rules itself.
MR. NOVAK: So you would say that you would agree with your colleague, Foreign Minister Peres, who on American television on Friday said a full statehood for the Palestinians is a dream
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: For them, it’s a political goal. We didn’t make the agreements with the PLO, but based on moving by phases. We know that we declare in our position what should be the permanent solution. But we have from May ’96 till May ’99, by agreement between us, three years to negotiate the permanent solution.
MR. EVANS: Prime Minister, in view of this settlement with the PLO, the Palestinians, do you think this will promote progress of any kind with Syria right now?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I believe the negotiation with Syria is a different story.
MR. EVANS: But do you think this will have an impact?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: It’s not related. Allow me to say, first, the mode of the negotiations with Syria is entirely different than the kind we had with Egypt prior to the peace treaty in 1979. It is different than with the Palestinians, with whom we met secretly, only them and us, or the Jordanians. The Syrians don’t want to meet us except under the auspices of the United States. We appreciate very much the readiness of the United States to give its offices to make it possible for the negotiation. We appreciate the efforts by the president, by the secretary of state, by the peace team. But the gaps are still wide between them and us. For example, their commitment after the meeting of the chiefs of staff of the two armed forces, after the visit of the peace team in the area, to have continuation in Washington of military experts. They said no.
Therefore, I have to speak to them via the United States. I believe they made a mistake. They believe that the United States will deliver Israel. They don’t understand that the United States’ basic position is that the parties to the conflict must be the parties to peace. We don’t need guarantees. We need mutual commitments between Israel and every partner for peace with us to be responsible to that by ourselves.
MR. NOVAK: Do you believe that essential to any Syrian agreement, Prime Minister, are American troops sent to the Golan Heights?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: By no means, no. Allow me to remind you, Israel has never asked any American soldier to shed one drop of his blood for the defense of Israel, and we are proud of it. The only exception was when you sent a battery of Patriots during the crisis in the Gulf against the Scuds. Otherwise, never we asked for any one American to defend Israel. At the same time, by now for 16 years, 1,000 Americans came to Sinai as part of the multinational force organization, but their responsibility is to monitor the military annex for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. These thousand Americans at least include one infantry battalion. Did you hear that something happened to them while they were in the Sinai in the last 16 years? We have a U.N. force on the Golan Heights without Americans. They are there for 21 years. Their role is just to monitor the disengagement agreement that was signed between Syria and Israel. Did you hear something happened there? I clearly distinguish between the role that American soldiers play now in the Sinai to monitor the peace treaty, their military annex of the peace treaty. If there will be fighting, they go back home.
MR. NOVAK: Prime Minister, your opponent for the prime ministership in the upcoming elections, Benjamin Netanyahu, said this week that the agreement that was signed here was a gift package for the PLO which provides, quote, "six more terrorist safe havens," unquote. Are you vulnerable for the retention of your office because of the whole terrorism question and what it can lead to?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: No doubt there’s question of terror, but the Palestinians have never presented a threat to the very existence of Israel. They presented a threat to the personal security of Israelis. Therefore, the Likud has forgotten the whole land of Israel. They are not claiming that settlements are security asset. The Likud is using not the ideology, not the justification of settlements. They play on the real sense of the people of Israel for security against terrorism.
In the long run, what is their alternative? Today, the PLO has stopped terrorism. The problem with the PLO, with Arafat, is not that he’s continuing terror there is no terror by the PLO. The question is how effective they cope with the extreme Islamic terrorist groups like the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. They are the terror threat on the part of the Palestinians. The alternative that he proposes, that all of them will join in terror in the absence of hope for peace.
MR. EVANS: All right, now, Prime Minister, this is a disputed issue, the settlements you’ve got, in Israel. Number one, how many what percentage of the people in Israel support you right now on this settlement? And number two, will this affect your re-election chances, and how? Up or down?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I would say that I believe that more than half of the Israelis support the agreement. But allow me to say, I believe that I reached the position of the prime minister in a unique historic period as a result of the change on the international scene in the Middle East, in the Jewish life. They opened up the gates of what used to be the Soviet Union to Jews to come to Israel. I believe that what I have to do is to continue the goals of the state the way that I believe. If it’s popular now or not, I go on a trek of peace that the fruits of peace will be seen later than the ties of peace.
MR. NOVAK: The big question for Prime Minister Rabin. Sir, who do you trust more, Benjamin Netanyahu or Yasser Arafat?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I don’t believe that this is a fair question. Benjamin Netanyahu is an Israeli. He was never my enemy. He doesn’t belong to another people. It’s like in the United States. You have elections between candidate of the Republicans, the Democrats. And we belong to the same people. Arafat was an enemy. Now he’s a partner for peace. And therefore, he belongs to a different people, a different citizenship.
MR. EVANS: Do you trust him now, Mr. Arafat?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: He is the partner with whom I have to work.
MR. EVANS: Now, quickly on Jerusalem. The Palestinians talk about a united Jerusalem where they can have a capital with you; where you have your capital, they can have something in Jerusalem that they can call a capital. Is that possible?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: No. Jerusalem must remain united under Israel’s sovereignty, the capital of Israel and the heart of the Jewish people. They have to find another place for, say, not their capital, but the offices of the Palestinian Council. We are not talking now about a permanent solution. In the permanent solution, the Palestinian entity will have to decide where there will be the center of their activity.
MR. EVANS: East Jerusalem?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: Not in the united Jerusalem.
EVANS: Prime Minister, we’ve come to the end, unfortunately. Thanks very much for being with us, sir.