BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER
WEDNESDAY, JULY 3, 1996
MR. KING: Good evening, and welcome to a special edition of "Larry King Live." Our guest for the full program is the new prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s always great to have him with us. He’s been a guest many times. And I thank you very much for making the first television appearance since the election on this program tonight. We’ll start off by saying Mr. Prime Minister so far I know it’s such a short time anything surprise you about this job?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The hours are long, the pay isn’t all that hot, but we’re making do.
MR. KING: No, but seriously, I mean, you know politics so well. There has to be something different about a job you’ve wanted and now have.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, there are two things, really, that took me a bit by surprise. The first is security. It keeps you really away from the people. You can’t just walk out and go to a restaurant or buy a newspaper. You really are ensconced in a very tight envelope. And, for me, at least, I’ve had security as head of the opposition, but this is a and the extent of these arrangements causes some adjustment. And I’m adjusting. The second I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise but the second thing that you expect, and it happened of course, is to come to grips with the weight of the responsibility. This isn’t a job. I’m not here to sit here, and have a title and an office. It is truly to have the responsibility for looking at the welfare and the future, and the safety of this country and its citizens. And that’s a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of any prime minister of Israel.
MR. KING: You’re coming to the United States next week. The purpose of that trip?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I’m coming at the invitation of President Clinton. It is customary that each new prime minister that is elected in Israel, goes to the United States. We are allies. We’re united, I think, as no two people are united. The United States is the strongest and biggest democracy in the world in terms of its resources, in terms of its tradition. Israel is a younger democracy, but we have a long tradition of freedom in the Jewish people. And I think this bond is only natural. It’s a bond between two peoples. Governments change on both sides of the ocean. And we should make contacts always, as soon as possible, to renew and reinvigorate that relationship.
MR. KING: Mr. Prime Minister, does Israel still want money from the United States, from Jews in the United States? Will we have this continuing drive and need for dollars?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I think there are, first of all, important institutions here that are philanthropic. They raise funds in the United States and around the world, and it’s natural that they’ll continue to do so. But, you know, as our economy grows, and I think it will grow a lot over the next four years with the dramatic plans that we have for economic reform and liberalization. Even so, I think that the network of supporters by the way, Jew and non-Jews who contribute to Israeli institutions
to the universities, to many other things I think creates a fabric of partnership that goes well beyond the formal partnership of the governments. And I think it’s very good. And I think it gives us so many ambassadors of goodwill in the United States and in other countries. I hope this will go on. It should go on.
MR. KING: And how about government monies?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, in the long term, I suppose that our goal, as you know, is financial independence. I’m looking right now at our budgets. We’ve just announced a very dramatic budget cut, to live within our means. So, long term is one thing. The immediate term, of course, is that we have to deal with a very large defense burden. You know, also, that we have the threats around us and, coincidentally, around you have not disappeared. We’re at the forefront of the battle against terrorism. So, our immediate needs are something that I’m looking into. And I’m sure I’ll have an interesting talk with the president about this.
MR. KING: So, when you say "around us," were you surprised at that occurrence in Saudi Arabia?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: No, I wasn’t surprised about the fact that Americans are targeted here. I couldn’t tell you the exact location of an attack, but that there are forces anti-American forces, anti-Western forces, anti-Israeli forces by the way, also anti-Arab forces because they target also moderate Arab regimes. That is a well-known fact here. And I think it’s time that we recognize that we are facing a terrorist front and that we cannot address it individually; that it attacks all of us, collectively. And we should form a united effort against it; against the terrorists, against the states that sponsor and shield and launch them. And I have no doubt in fact, I know that this is the policy of the United States, as well.
MR. KING: I know that President Clinton read your book on terrorism, and told me he read it. I know he told you he read it. And that was a nice opening to you, having almost tactically supported your opponent. Does that put any rift in these talks, the fact that the Clinton administration seemed to back Peres?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Look, I am not dealing with the past. And I’m not exactly one of these people who keeps scores, you know, and has these little books where you mark these. It’s not my style, and it’s not my thing. I am sure that President Clinton and I will work very well together. We’ve had excellent meetings in the past; by the way, before he was president, and later, after he got elected, when I was opposition leader. And now, we’re going to meet as leaders of our countries. And I have no doubt we’ll see eye to eye on a great, great many things.
MR. KING: There were press reports of a coolness between you and Secretary of State Christopher. Was that true?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: If I had to spend all my time denying and correcting the press reports, I’ll have time for little else.
MR. KING: Was that wrong?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: That is not the case. It was not only wrong dead wrong. We had a very good time. I don’t mean we didn’t go around to play golf. We sat in very serious meetings, including a long evening together, thinking about the common interests of Israel and the United States, and how we can advance them. And I thought these were very good meetings, and I have no doubt they served as an excellent prelude to my talks with the president in Washington.
Jerusalem – U.S. Embassy
MR. KING: This is the year of Jerusalem 3000. Do you think the United States might change and support Jerusalem as the capital city?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I hope it will move the embassy, and I hope that it will give concrete expression to what I think most Americans believe; the capital of Israel is a fact, it’s been Jerusalem not only since the founding of the state, it’s been our capital, Larry, for 3,000 years, 3,000 years exactly this year 3,000 years since King David established Jerusalem as his capital. Now, I respect the fact that Washington, DC is the capital of the United States, and if somebody said, well, I have an embassy in New York, I’d say, well, if the United States says that the embassy should be moved to Washington, I’d go by it. I know there’s a bill pending or placed before Congress, and I think this is the right move. Jerusalem is our capital. I know that the great majority of Americans believe this not only to be a fact, but a right that Israel has to place its capital where its heart is.
MR. KING: That will come up in your discussions, then, with President Clinton?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, we have many, many subjects to discuss. I think I’ve discussed this matter actually with him before. And I think that the important thing is right now that we address the ourselves to the issues before us; that is, how to restore security in the Middle East and how to move the quest for peace forward. Because there’s one thing that we all want; we want Israel to live in peace with its neighbors, with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, obviously to expand the circle of peace with Egypt and with Jordan, with Lebanon. All of these things are things that all Israelis want and that I want. And I think the United States can play an important role here. It always has at least for the last 25 years. The United States has been has played a pivotal role in helping us move our quest for peace forward, and I’m sure it will do so under my administration as well.
MR. KING: We’re back with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel the first duly- elected prime minister in a direct vote; not chosen by his party as the leader, but chosen by the people. A big story out of Israel today says that your foreign minister, David Levy, calls for a major cabinet post for Ariel Sharon, the former defense minister, or he will quit as foreign minister. And he wants a decision by before you come to the United States. And he did that in a public forum. What’s your response?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I don’t need any prodding because I’ve said more than once that I’d like Ariel Sharon in the cabinet. He’s done a superb job in a number of important posts that he’s held. We have a lot of things a lot of plans in rejuvenating the country, in modernizing the road system, modernizing our infrastructure, getting housing growth going. There are many, many areas that Mr. Sharon can bring to bear, in addition to his expertise in security. So it’s been my intention all along. I’ve been working about it fairly quietly, off the press. We have, apparently, differences of style on occasion but whether to do the negotiations in public before the cameras. But I can assure you that they’ve been going on away from the cameras and they’ll proceed. I think we’ll be able to.
MR. KING: Will you meet Mr. Levy’s deadline of Tuesday?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I’ll meet my deadline.
MR. KING: The concept of previous commitments and that’s what so many people in America are talking about with regard to your election. You’re a very well-known figure and you spend an awful lot of time in the United States and are popular in many circles here. But one of the worries is, is Benjamin Netanyahu going to keep the commitments made by prior administrations in the peace process?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, the answer is yes, because whether we like it or not, agreements are made to be kept. And certainly we’re an organized country with a duly-elected government, democratically elected, and governments keep the commitments, the international commitments of previous governments. But that also holds for the other side, our Arab partners. I expect them to maintain their commitments. And in fact, we’ve had manifold violations by the Palestinian Authority of solemn commitments that they took upon themselves commitments to dismantle the Hamas terrorists, commitments not to have any Palestinian Authority official activity in Jerusalem, commitments to fully abrogate the Palestinian Covenant. All these things have not yet been done, and I expect them to be done. And I will keep our commitments, and I expect the other side to keep their commitments.
Meeting with Arafat
MR. KING: You had once said publicly that you would never sit down or shake the hand of Arafat. Realistically, does that have to change, Mr. Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I have said that we’ll make contact with the Palestinian Authority. We have. I said we’ll begin discussions with them at many levels. We have. I’ve also said that if I deem it important and necessary, for the interest of peace and the interest of Israel, to meet Arafat, then I will not rule it out. And that is exactly what I’m my policy is today. That’s my response.
MR. KING: Isn’t it a plus, though, to meet I mean, meet rather than fight?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Meet rather than
MR. KING: Fight. I mean, isn’t it a plus always to sit down and talk with your adversaries, rather than fight adversaries?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The answer is yes, and we’ll have the contacts as I deem are necessary.
MR. KING: What about settlements and the question of expansion?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The idea that Jews should not be able to live in Judea or in parts of Jerusalem is astounding to me. The notion that people have created that somehow these the heart of the Jewish homeland should be Jew-free and if I said that Passaic, New Jersey, should be Jew-free, I think you’d conduct five programs, not one, to say, "What an outrage!" Or the idea that we should move the Arabs out, which a fringe, a very small fringe, on the Israeli right suggested, is outrageous to me. So Jews and Arabs are going to live in this land, and we have to find an accommodation. Now what is the precise disposition of the Jewish towns and villages, where exactly we’ll put them that depends, obviously, on our policy. We’re working that out.
But on the basic right of Jews to live in throughout the land of Israel is something that I wouldn’t discuss seriously, because I think, very frankly, it is simply misplaced, probably due to ignorance, by most people. The only way we’re going to have peace is to recognize that we’re going to live side by side here in this land. We’re not going to have an apartheid peace.
MR. KING: So in other words, you’re saying this is a given.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: It’s a given, of course, but the precise pattern of settlement is something that the extent of the resources we’ll put into it and so on is something that I’ll decide in the future.
Mandate for Peace
MR. KING: The election was so close. Do you feel you have a mandate to carry through the (Netanyahu ?) philosophy? Do you need some more compromise? Should Peres play a part in your administration? What’s your overall view of that, since it was so close?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, it was indeed a close and, I must say, a dramatic election. People around the world were watching it as it unfolded. But I thought that if Mr. Peres had won by one vote, he would have the mandate. And if I won by one vote, I would have the mandate. That’s the whole meaning of democracy. Let me tell you what I think is legitimate about democracies and what is illegitimate. What is legitimate is to win an election based on the platform that you went for, the basic policies, and then conduct that policy as you see fit and within the ability of changing circumstances. They always change, obviously. What is illegitimate is to win the election based on certain basic promises to the electorate and then turn around and say, well, I didn’t really mean that, I’m going to do the exact opposite. You wouldn’t tolerate that in America, on most things, and of course the Israeli people are the same.
I got a mandate to continue the quest for peace, not to dump peace but to get a real peace going, a real peace where people aren’t blown up in buses in the streets or mothers are afraid to send their children to school; a real peace, peace with security. And I’m committed, deeply committed to get this moving, get it moving with all our neighbors, and I’m going to do it. That’s my mandate and that’s what I’m going to do. And that is legitimate, and that is, I think, also necessary.
Peace and Security
MR. KING: Okay, you’ve got a mandate for peace. And as you said, if you’re elected by one vote, that’s a democracy. Why, then, are so many people apparently worried that your views are hawkish views for peace, peace by pounding the table rather than accommodation?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: How about a slight rewording of that, Larry, to be fair? It’s called peace through strength. And that is an American concept, enunciated by successive presidents, including, I believe, the current administration. Israel lives in a very tough neighborhood. You’ve just seen what kind of neighborhood we live in with the tragic bombing of the American servicemen in Dhahran. We’ve had that happen here. We’ve had that happen again and again. We’ve had it it’s the equivalent of having the bombings happen in succession in Chicago and Los Angeles and Tampa and Cleveland and New York and Washington and San Francisco, and I haven’t even exhausted the analogy to get the number of cities right.
Now, what do you think the American people would say if somebody told you, "Well, this is part of peace." People would say, "Wait a minute. We want something else. We want a peace where people don’t get bombed. We want peace with security." And I think that most people understand that a weak country, a weak Israel, would not be able to get peace, would, in fact, make a shambles out of peace, which is what has happened. So we’re committed, in fact, to negotiate firmly from a position of strength, but to negotiate and not to dictate terms to the other side. We expect the other side not to try to dictate peace to us.
Maybe people already have been habituated to the idea that this is not going to be a give and take, this will be a give and give; Israel gives and the Arabs the Arab side takes. That’s not going to happen here. And it wouldn’t happen if America were negotiating the things most critical to the future and security and survival of America. I behave no differently from the way that most Americans would expect their government to behave.
MR. KING: Including President Clinton.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Democrats or Republicans. I’m not even broaching that one.
Israel and the Arab World
MR. KING: Where in the process are we on a scale of 10 are we at four in the Mideast process?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I don’t think so. You know, I talked to President Mubarak and King Hussein as soon as I was elected. I opened up channels with Arafat. Since then, I must say, I have had many, many channels and communications to many other figures in the Arab world, leaders of Arab countries. And I think what I’m seeing is that, below the public rhetoric, the Arab world is, most of it, is adjusting fairly quickly to the fact that the people of Israel have made a choice. It’s a choice for a strong peace. And by the number of contacts that we’re having daily, in fact a growing number of contacts, I understand that the Arab world has adjusted very rapidly to this, and I’m quite hopeful that we’ll have productive contacts not only with our existing Arab partners but with new ones.
MR. KING: So you’re saying not only is the door open but that your Arab neighbors need not worry as long as they’re as committed as you are to the peace process.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Absolutely. And I believe that anyone who really wants peace for its own benefit and of course, through negotiations. I don’t expect on any front the Arab partner to accept our positions. But if they come to it with an open mind and they sit down and negotiate with us, we’re ready to negotiate, and we are going to negotiate.
MR. KING: When you say widen the circle you mentioned that earlier does that include Syria? That includes the whole picture in the Middle East? You’re ready to sit down with all of them?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I’m ready to sit down with just about all of them. I’m not sure that I would go and run to a meeting with Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhafi, but since there are over 20 Arab countries, there is a considerable margin left there for productive negotiations and for expanding not only peace but I think also trade and other mutual exchanges that I think could benefit Israel and the Arab countries with whom it’s negotiating. In general, by the way, I believe we can do a lot more to improve the economic conditions, including of the Palestinians, and I’m a great believer in economic openness and free markets and the ability of unleashed economic forces to raise the level of lives of people, Arabs and Israelis alike.
MR. KING: How will Prime Minister Netanyahu handle Hebron?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Wisely, I hope, and certainly very carefully. You know, Hebron is the oldest point of Jewish settlement in the world. I read a book by the noted English author Paul Johnson called "History of the Jews." And he says, I think I’m paraphrasing but in the first paragraph he says, if you want to understand the Jewish people go to Hebron. Hebron is the bedrock of Jewish history. It’s the oldest Jewish community in history. It goes back 3,500 years, to Abraham. And in fact, it has had continuous Jewish presence there for those three millennia, three and a half millennia, with minor interruptions. The most dramatic interruption occurred in 1929 when all the Jews were massacred and banished from Hebron. The way we’ve come back and obviously there’s a Jewish community there at one of our holier sites, the tomb of our forefathers. But equally there are Arabs. And you know we’ve had a tragedy with the murder that took place there a couple of years ago by the Jews. So we’ve had violence, terrible violence on both sides.
And if we’re not careful and if we act precipitously here, not arranging something that in fact will hold, will hold security, will guarantee co-existence, peaceful co-existence between the Arabs, the Palestinian Arabs and their Jewish neighbors, then I think this could in fact be something that could scuttle the entire peace process. I think that is why Mr. Peres, maybe wisely on his part too, basically passed on the problem to me and refused to act on it. Well, I’m looking at it, I’m examining it and I’m handling it very, very carefully and I believe very, very responsibly. And when I have finished and completed the examination of the situation and our options, then I’ll make a decision as I always do.
MR. KING: Preconditions with regard to talks. You know, when you’re running for office it’s one thing, and now you hold the office. And as you know, this program is seen around the world, so leaders in various countries could be watching, it’s a little diplomacy here. But basically, are you ready to sit down unconditionally?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Sure. I’ve said it, in fact more than once.
MR. KING: With any well, almost anyone.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, with those who accept our existence, of course. And in fact we are doing just that right now with the Palestinians. But the important question for me is not whether we place preconditions but whether others try to place conditions, prior conditions on us, and that is something that has to be reciprocal, there has to be reciprocity here. We don’t expect the other side to conform to our vision of a final settlement and they shouldn’t ask us to be coerced to accept theirs. That’s what the whole negotiation is for. You know, I went to Madrid, we had open rules. Now, I won’t hide from you that the Syrians before Madrid said: Unless you say right now that you’ll get off the Golan Heights we’re not coming to Madrid or we won’t follow up Madrid and so on, and we said, Well, it’s not in the cards, that’s what we’re going to negotiate about. And of course they came to Madrid and it was important that they came. And I intend to continue along these lines. We’ll negotiate. We’re not going to dictate to one another final terms of the negotiation.
Negotiations with Syria
MR. KING: What’s your feeling on peace with Assad and meeting with Assad?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, are you suggesting a meeting right now?
MR. KING: Yeah. I’m doing a Cronkite. He proposed a meeting between Sadat and Begin.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Cronkite or Barbara Walters, I don’t remember.
MR. KING: Anyway, one of them. So it’s my turn. Would you sit down with Assad?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Yes, the answer is yes.
MR. KING: You will. So if Mr. Assad were to say this afternoon he will sit down with you this could be arranged.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: From my point of view? Of course.
MR. KING: In Damascus or in Jerusalem.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We can go anywhere. That is not the problem. I have a lot to discuss, to talk to him about.
MR. KING: Now, you’ve long been a foe of his and long been critical. Do you think things change?
Syrian Support for Terrorism
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I hope they will, because one of the things that I’m going to talk to the Syrians about is to have them cease and desist the proxy war of terrorism that they’re launching against us through Hezbollah and through Palestinian groups. I think that is something that has to end. You know, terrorism can’t be used as a tool, or even violent attacks, military attacks. Suppose two countries are talking in peace negotiations and one uses military attacks or terrorist attacks against the other concurrent with the peace talks. Well something is wrong; it doesn’t work that way.
You really have to make a decision on which side of the line you’re on. And I had hoped that Syria had crossed the line, and I still hope that Syria would cross the line into a peaceful resolution of the many problems that divide us. I’d like to resolve them peacefully without terrorism, and that would be if I can reveal a secret to you, since you’re trying to implement this meeting this would be my first order on the agenda.
MR. KING: Your first order?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The first order is to achieve tranquility, to pacify the borders, to pacify or stop the inflammation of terrorism and terrorist attacks from the Syrian- controlled areas against us in Lebanon and elsewhere. And this is something that I think would be conducive to peace and to a building of trust between Israel and Syria. I think one of the things that we need to do is create trust where no trust exists. And the way you do that is by a gradual in fact a quick, a rapid cessation of hostilities. That usually precedes all successful negotiations.
MR. KING: So Sadat went into Israel. Netanyahu would go into Syria?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: To visit Syria?
MR. KING: Yeah, to go to Damascus to visit Assad.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, Larry, if you arrange for me an
MR. KING: A very, very encouraging sign. What do you make about the situation in Turkey? You have a new agreement with Turkey, do you not?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Yes, we do.
MR. KING: And they have an Islamic president.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, there is a coalition government there, democratically-elected and democratically-formed. And, of course, we respect the choice of the people of Turkey, and we’ll cooperate with whatever government is in Ankara.
Former PM Peres
MR. KING: Does Shimon Peres have any place in your thinking? How does what does Israel do with its former prime ministers?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, he has a place in my personal thinking because I’ve known Shimon Peres for 20 years. He was exceptionally kind to my family in our hour of bereavement after my brother fell in Antebbe. He was defense minister at the time. And I’ve had a personal relationship with him that was always correct, and more than correct, I would say; sympathetic, if I could use a word, and it’s still the same. Now, what does Israel do with its former prime ministers? First of all, in Israel there is no such thing as a former prime minister. They always try to come back.
I’m going to break the mold.
MR. KING: You wouldn’t stay?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, two terms and I’m out. Now, you may not believe this, but I actually put into the direct elections law, which is the new law by which I was elected, since I was one of the drafters of this bill, I advocated a limit of two terms for the prime minister, two successive terms and then you’re out. And I would be delighted to serve my two terms and then go and write a book and appear on the "Larry King Show" to talk about it.
MR. KING: This is from your stay in the United States? Did you get this concept that we do that, it’s a good idea for you to do it?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I may have been corrupted by this American influence.
But politics is not something that politicians should stay in again and again. But I think that Peres, to his credit, I think has shown, I think, actually a very impressive career of over 50 years of contributing enormously in many fields to the state of Israel, and I value it. I can disagree with him on a number of important political aspects of how to advance the peace, but I certainly value the contributions he’s made over the years.
MR. KING: Do you also expect to make a kind of peace with Mrs. Rabin, who remains very critical of you?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I’m not in conflict with Mrs. Rabin. And from my point of view, I think including on your show, I’ve always treated her with the greatest respect, and I intend to continue doing so.
MR. KING: Some other bases, Mr. Prime Minister; back to Hebron. The previous administration was going to move the troops, right? What’s the Netanyahu administration going to do with regard to Israeli troops?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I’m examining the whole question of security. And it’s very complicated because you have, in Hebron itself and right in its immediate environs about 5,000 Jews amid a population of over 100,000 Arabs; actually, the number is greater. They live in not only in close proximity, they’re actually intertwined in most areas in the heart of the city. And so, how to protect the Jewish population there is something that concerns me a great deal. I don’t want to do something that will, in any way, create instability or worse. How to do that is something I’m discussing with our military experts. And, believe me, they’re poring over this problem, too. It is not a simple one.
MR. KING: One of the American newspapers, and I forget which one, said that you ought to automatically say that you support the Oslo peace agreements directly say it.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I’ve said that I didn’t like them and I thought they were bad agreements, and I thought they had created a lot of serious security problems; and heightened terrorism, which they did. But that doesn’t mean I don’t keep the accords. Oslo I and Oslo II have created certain facts. I respect those facts. They’ve created certain commitments on both sides. And I’m telling you that I’m going to abide by our commitments, and expect the other side to abide by theirs. It’s a package deal, obviously. Once that takes place, then we’ll proceed to negotiate a final settlement, which Oslo stipulates. Oslo says that when you get to the question of the final settlement where are the borders going to be? what is going to happen with the status of settlement, the question of refugees that we’re raising? and so on. All of these things can be settled by open and new negotiations, according to the Oslo treaty itself.
MR. KING: You wrote a book on terrorism. You’ve studied it a long time, discussed it on this program. President Clinton said we will find the perpetrators of the recent terrorism, and get them and convict them. Frankly, isn’t it very, very tough to fight terrorism, since they’re planning something we don’t know about; they’re going to execute it, and in some cases, they don’t care about dying?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Yeah, sure, it’s difficult if you look and you should look for the individual perpetrators. But when the individual perpetrators are some shadowy group that is unconnected to anyone, obviously it’s difficult. But, most of the time, that is not the case. Most of the time you’re dealing here with groups that are operating at the behest of governments, and as extensions of governments; indirect, obviously. The whole purpose of terrorism is to create deniability. A government can sponsor terrorists or launch terrorists, sometimes from the territory of another state. And it can then plead deniability: "It is not us. It is these shadowy groups."
When you have intelligence and you can only have that if you cooperate with other countries then you can uncover who’s standing behind the terrorists. And then, it’s a far simpler job to exact the price from the sponsoring country. And you can do that through political means and economic means, and not necessarily through military means. They can be quite potent, these sanctions that are applied against offending states. And my experience has been in the 1980s, when I said exactly the same thing about countries that were supporting hijackings and you couldn’t board a plane in the ’80s and people said there’s nothing you can do about terrorism because you don’t where the individual hijacker comes from. And I said, "I think you can."
If you apply the pressures against the sponsoring state, you can stop terrorism. It is a fact we stopped the spate of hijackings in the ’80s. And now, you have a new spate, from some of the old suspects and some new ones. And I think it’s possible to apply that same approach, productively and successfully, to roll back this tide of terrorism.
PM Visit to U.S.
MR. KING: We have about three minutes left, Mr. Prime Minister. We look forward to seeing you next week when you arrive here. I know you’ll be making many appearances, speaking at the National Press Club, and for you, it’s kind of like coming home, isn’t it? You’ve spent a lot of time in the United States.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I’m very familiar with the United States. My home and my country’s obviously Israel, but I’ve spent some very productive years in the United States. I went to school in the United States. I also served in the U.N. I’m going to visit the U.N. It is not going back to the scene of the crime, I assure you. But it will be an interesting meeting. I don’t know if it’ll have nostalgic overtones. But I have many, many friends in the United States. And more importantly, I view the United States as a great, great friend of Israel. I think we’ve been very fortunate to have the United States as an ally and as a fellow democracy. And I think that this is something that cuts across the political divide in Israel. There are two or three things that all Israelis are united on. We all want peace, I think we all want security, and I think we all want to maintain and strengthen the friendship with the United States. That is something that there are no differences about.
MR. KING: Are you, Mr. Prime Minister, about the peace process, optimistic?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I think I am, for one reason: I think that we’re putting the country back on track to a real peace, and not just words, and not just ceremonies. And I’m personally committed to it, because there’s no Israeli who’s not felt the pain of war or lost loved ones. And it is something that I feel right now as being one of the great tasks ahead of me how to move the country, Israel, and its neighbors towards a genuine and lasting peace. And I will do my utmost to achieve this goal.
MR. KING: And for those visiting a very popular tourist spot is Israel would you say it’s safe to go?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I would say that you should come and see a wonderful country and that we’ll accept you with open arms. And you will see, I think, the cradle of a great civilization and the three great faiths of the world, and some wonderful tourist spots. Come and find out yourself.
Elections in Russia
MR. KING: As we’re on, we don’t know the final results in Russia. Are you hoping for a Yeltsin victory?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, one of the things I’ve learned, Larry, is not to get into other people’s elections. But I would hope that Russia maintains and I’m sure it will its democratic tradition. And I would hope that Russia maintains the open-door policy that has enabled us to bring in Russian immigrants, Jews from the former Soviet Union, including one who serves in my Cabinet, Natan Sharansky. One of the most moving moments for me in the formation of the government was when Natan Sharansky, who was a prisoner of Zion in Russia just 10 years ago, became a minister in the independent government of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. I walked up and I embraced him. I was very moved.
MR. KING: Thank you very much for spending this time with us. Look forward to seeing you here in the States next week. And again, we really appreciate your giving us your first interview.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you, Larry. I appreciate it.