Interview with PM Benjamin Netanyahu
The Fox Report, Fox Cable News
March 8, 1999

PAULA ZAHN: Washington is fighting a multi-track battle for peace in the Middle East. Right now Iraq poses the biggest threat to stability in the region. It is no secret our government would like to see Saddam Hussein thrown out of power. American fighters dropped more bombs on Iraq anti-aircraft sites today. It was part of a campaign to punish Saddam’s violations of the no-fly zones. Today I spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and asked him whether our strategy for toppling Saddam will work.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I don’t want to second-guess the United States. I think the goal of all those who value peace and want to see stability is to see the possibility of Iraq returning to a climate of a more peaceful and more stable country. And I think that if Iraq moves in the other direction and acquires weapons of mass destruction, then I think this will destabilize our entire region. It will put at risk the peace treaties that Israel has already made with its neighbors, those that we intend to make in the coming months and years with our Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese neighbors. I think that it’ll be a different Middle East, a very dangerous Middle East.

ZAHN: You just mentioned agreements you intend to make. Let’s start with Syria. You have talked about wanting to make peace with Syria. Have you had any recent contacts with President Assad?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, we’ve been trying to reestablish the Israeli-Syrian talks that were cut off before the previous elections when we had trouble in Lebanon. And they’ve not been formally resumed since. And part of the problem is that Syria’s position basically says "Give us everything we want in advance of the negotiations. Give us all of the Golan Heights, up to the Sea of Galilee." That would make Israel very vulnerable. "And then we’ll talk about the Golan Heights. We’ll talk about your security." So that’s not a way to enter negotiations.

ZAHN: You say you would like to reach that peace by the year 2000? Is that realistic given his current timetable?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, look, it’s not a fixed deadline. I mean we’re not going to look at the watch and say "My God, we haven’t reached it by December 31st of the year 2000. So let’s give away everything we have." But it is a goal that I think is reachable with at least one of our Arab neighbors. You know we’re still have to negotiate a permanent peace settlement with our Palestinian neighbors.

ZAHN: You say you desire peace and yet you were being criticized for not fully implementing the Wye Peace Accord? Why haven’t you?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, the Wye Peace Accords were structured in a sequential, not a parallel implementation. There are three stages. Stage one, the Palestinians do their part; we do our part. That happened. Stage two, the Palestinians are supposed to do their part, and then we’re supposed to our part. But they didn’t do their part, so we couldn’t fulfill ours. What we want to see is the collection of illegal weapons, the reduction of the Palestinian armed forces, the jailing of killers and terrorists who are roaming about free, stopping incitement in the Palestinian official press, and so on. If the Palestinians do all of that, I assure you that I would act and withdraw from additional territory as promised.

ZAHN: As you know, you have high-ranking U.S. officials out there defending the Palestinian record of compliance and at the same time talking about pulling $1.2 billion of aid to Israel, of new aid, if you don’t fully implement this agreement. What is your reaction to that threat?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, the American officials, the American government knows fully well that the Palestinians have yet to comply with many of the obligations. They’ve complied with some, but they haven’t complied with all. And what they have to do is finish their part, and then we will do our part.