INTERVIEW ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER EHUD BARAK ON THE BOMBINGS IN ISRAEL

ABC NEWS NIGHTLINE, MARCH 4, 1996

FM BARAK: Unfortunately, the terrorists are directed from areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. As long as they will operate against them, and if they will crush them, we won’t need to do it, but we allowed our defense and security forces to take whatever steps that will be needed in order to defeat them.

Q: Aren’t you basically saying that you don’t trust Yasser Arafat to maintain law and order? And ir that’s the case, how can you go forward with the peace process?

FM BARAK: We are still expecting him to do exactly this, to outlaw these organizations, to arrest and detain their leaders, and to disarm all of them. The opportunity is there. He can seize it. But if he fails to do that, we cannot see how to continue in the peace process and the implementation fo the interim agreement and entering into the permanent state of negotiations if he cannot live up to his commitments in the agreement that has already been signed, and he signed it.

Q: The government announced tonight that they will take the fight against the bombers anywhere. Does that include into other countries that may be providing support for the terrorists?

FM BARAK: Anywhere means anywhere, period.

Q: Including other countries?

FM BARAK: Anywhere means anywhere, period.

Q: Mr. Foreign Minister, I know that the last thing you’re thinking about tonight is politics, but a member of the inner circle of the Labor government was quoted today in a newspaper here in the United States as saying that this bombing campaign has just made Benjamin Netanyahu Israel’s next prime minister. Isn’t it going to be awfully hard to be seen as the party of peace during this terrorist campaign?

FM BARAK: The emotions of the people are now at the point that will not allow any kind of rational discussion. But my judgment is that much before the election, the people will realize once again that our struggle with terror is a continued struggle. We have never stopped it. It has nothing to do with any party. I spent most of my life, some 39 years, in uniform, fighting against terrorism, and I never noticed that the terrorists had ever gave a damn about the question who is sitting in the chair of the prime minister, whether it’s Likud or Labor.

Q: Given the situation now, the great anger and, obviously, the great insecurity, would the Labor government consider postponing the elections from May until a later date, to allow this anti-terrorism campaign to proceed and not to be dominated, the political campaign, to be dominated by this bombing campaign?

FM BARAK: I don’t think that we should discuss this right now, this evening, or even tomorrow, any kind of political aspect of this campaign. The struggle against terror or the fighting against terrorism is something that should unite the whole people of Israel, and, in a way, the whole world.

Q: You know, there has been talk about Hamas being behind this, but there are now some analysts saying that, in fact, Hamas has splintered, that there may be various factions, some groups that are for this bombing campaign, others against it. Just how much of a unified enemy are you fighting, and how difficult is it going to be to root that enemy out?

FM BARAK: It’s going to be very tough, and we might face other events of terrorism, and might pay the price, but we are determined to go ahead as long as it will be needed, until we defeat terrorism. They have nothing to do with the orphan schools or with medical welfare services that are given by the Hamas. Hamas as a political entity does interest us, but the Hamas as a kind of terrorist organization strongly interests us.

Q: I want to finish by asking you a question that I also asked Mr. Netanyahu. When you see the peace process, as you say, facing a great challenge, being put on hold, at least for now, with the political situation in Israel being thrown into some turmoil, anger again on the streets, aren’t the terrorists winning, at least at this point?

FM BARAK: I don’t think so. They want to defeat the Israelis, they want to shake both our willpower and our self-confidence They want to take over their own society, and until now they have failed in all of these except of killing innocent people. I’m quite confident that we can carry on with it under this government and that we can unite our people toward the end of fighting effectively terrorism.

Q: Mr. Foreign Minister, I want to thank you very much for joining us this evening.

FM BARAK: Thank you all.