EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW CONDUCTED WITH: SENIOR DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, MR. YOAV BIRAN

Israel Television, Channel 33
March 6, 1998

LEBANON

1. Israel has no territorial claims upon Lebanon, whatsoever, nor are there any outstanding issues between our two countries regarding borders and the like.

2. Israel is desirous of having good, peaceful and neighborly relations with Lebanon. The preferred method of achieving this goal is the conduct of negotiations toward the conclusion of a formal peace. In the absence of this possibility we wish, at least, to improve the present situation.

3. Security Council Resolution 425 does call for Israel to withdraw from Lebanon, and we are ready to do so, but Resolution 425 also specifically calls for Lebanon to exercise effective military control over all of its territory so as to safeguard international security.

4. We call upon Lebanon to cooperate with us in order to implement Resolution 425, in its totality, including the relevant security provisions, without any prior conditions. In spite of preliminary, and public, negative comments emanating from Lebanon we remain hopeful that a way will be found to accomplish this goal.

LEBANON – SYRIA

5. We are also aware that there are other factors at play in Lebanon, most notably Syria. The Lebanese government must decide for itself what is in its own best interests and act accordingly. We believe that Israel’s offer to implement Resolution 425, in its totality, is in Lebanon’s interests. If Syria acts to prevent Lebanon from seriously considering Israel’s offer regarding Resolution 425 then, in spite of all protestations to the contrary on their part, it becomes apparent that Syria’s desire for peace is lacking.

SYRIA

6. Syria states, on the one hand, that it is desirous of achieving peace with Israel and yet, on the other hand, it invokes preconditions regarding negotiations which make holding them difficult, to say the least. The Syrian paradigm seems to be as follows: "Israel must first decide to accept the desired results of the negotiations as we, Syria, see them. After Israeli acceptance of our position we can then commence negotiations". Why should there be any negotiations at all, if their results are to be predetermined by dictate?

IRAQ

7. It is to be hoped that the recent crisis in the Gulf can be put behind us. Two points must be noted:

a) Israel is not a party to the Iraqi crisis,

b) Israel, along with other peace loving countries the world over, views with grave concern Saddam Hussein’s attempts, in the past and at present, to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Israel, therefore, supports all of the international efforts underway aimed at preventing Saddam from achieving these dangerous ends.

8. It must also be remembered that Saddam Hussein presents a threat, first and foremost, to the Arab states in the area. He has used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq’s own citizens as well as those of a neighboring state. He invaded, and occupied, Kuwait – an Arab country. It was not only Israel which was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles in 1991, but Saudi Arabia as well.

9. Attempts to compare Israel with Iraq defy reality. Iraq is "sui generis" and cannot be compared to any other Arab state in the region, let alone Israel. The Iraqi regime is in fact unique and uniquely dangerous. Its use of chemical weapons, against its own citizens and others, its invasion and occupation of a neighboring Arab state, not to mention the nature of the Iraqi regime itself all are elements which are causes for concern as well as which differentiate Israel from Iraq.

Israel found itself in possession of the territories as the result of a defensive war which it was forced to fight in 1967. Israel accepts and seeks to implement Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which are the basis of the current peace process. Israel has also accepted Security Council Resolution 425, as was mentioned earlier.

PALESTINIANS

10. It is indeed unfortunate that greater progress has not been achieved in Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians. However, within the context of the interim agreement Israel did withdraw from Hebron, and did free Palestinian terrorists from prison. It must be made clear that reciprocity on the part of the Palestinians is necessary for progress to continue. A perusal of the list of outstanding Palestinian obligations after Israel’s withdrawal from Hebron will show that they have not been met. It should be clear that after discharging our obligations we will not take upon ourselves additional ones until the Palestinians live up to their responsibilities.

11. Israel is desirous of making progress on the Palestinian track. In order to do this it will be necessary for both sides to engage in honest, face to face dialogue. There will surely be differences of opinion, emphasis, and other difficulties but with a joint effort these matters are not insurmountable. Recently, the Palestinians have attempted to replace bilateral talks with a "diplomatic offensive" against Israel in various fora. It must be made clear that the mustering of resolutions and statements against Israel, unpleasant for us as it is, will not produce the results that the Palestinians desire. These efforts will not force Israel to make concessions on matters which are deemed to be of vital national interest; neither will they make Israel more amenable to non-compliance on the part of the Palestinians with their commitments.

The key to progress rests in serious bilateral negotiations. At present we are engaged in negotiations with the Palestinians through a number of channels, some utilizing the facilitation of the United States. It must be made clear that we are expending serious efforts to make progress and that with reciprocity progress will be made.