Briefing by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to the Foreign Press Association Jerusalem

Jerusalem, May 16, 2001

I feel that the time has come either to make a decision or to become a victim because of a loss of control. The decision we have to make, all of us, can be between the firing line or the bridge of peace, while we have the international ground ready and prepared to handle the two of them.

I am afraid that with the exchange of fire, as things are happening today, and the escalation which occasionally appears as unavoidable, all of us may loose control and engage in an ongoing battle, which will never be a win-win situation, but will always remain a highly expensive exercise in terms of human life, casualties, damages and regrets. The catastrophe of the past can repeat itself again in a terrible mistake in the future. It cannot go on like this; it cannot remain as it is. The bitterness, the hatred, the number of people who are being hit, victimized, is creating an impossible situation for all sides.

We can return to the bridge of peace, as I have said. We started it in Oslo eight years ago. I think the real problem of Oslo was not the agreement but the fact that the agreement wasn’t implemented. The greatest mistake was in the lack of implementation, not in the written document. My own impression is that maybe all those years we invested too many efforts and energies in writing documents and not enough in translating them into new realities. Maybe this time we have to pay more attention to the implementation than to the definitions. I do believe we have enough documents to start or revive the peace process anew. Actually all whatever side has to say is contained in the documents, awaiting a choice and awaiting a realization.

I want to turn to the international ground and say that none of us is a complete master of the situation. I wouldn’t be impressed just by the speeches and declarations that each side is making, because we live in an age where the international voice is carrying great importance.

I shall start by saying that the Mitchell Report invites us to an international ground from which we can embark again into the peace process. The Mitchell Report is a highly balanced analysis and proposes how to go ahead. Even if one of us or the two of us have remarks to make, we can bridge over the remaining differences. There is enough of a heavy base and a wide space to go ahead and renew the peace process.

I am not so very impressed by all the declarations and speeches because I cannot see how can the Palestinians always turn their backs to the international voice and interdependence. The Palestinian part cannot permit itself to cut off her relations with the United States of America or Europe – including some Asian countries as well – that helped so much politically and financially to enable the construction of a Palestinian Authority for the first time in history. If the firing line will be continued and the Palestinian camp will be perceived as a camp of terror, the damage is untold. So Israel cannot turn her back, and Israel is unwilling to turn her back, to the international voice and opinion. Clearly there is no need and justification to make one or another policies, including the policy of settlements, as a justification for terror and ambushes and killings. There is no need for it.

May I say the Israeli position on the settlements contains several points. Willingly, the present government has decided not to establish any more new settlements. Nobody forced us to do it. That was the condition upon which the present coalition was built and when some people remind us that Mr. Begin had agreed to a freeze of three months not to build new settlements, we have a freeze unlimited in time. Then again, we do not intend to confiscate land in order to enlarge or build new settlements. Then again, I know there is a worry that the natural growth will serve as an excuse of territorial expansion – nothing whatsoever in this direction, we do not intend.

Then when it comes to the future of the settlements it is agreed in the Oslo Agreement and in other agreements that the future of the settlements will be dealt with in the political negotiations. So there is a real answer to all of the problems and if we have to find the right expressions of this policy, we shall work tirelessly not to let them break down the Mitchell Report. On the other hand the Mitchell Report, wisely in my judgment, suggests a way how to negotiate in the following sequence:
A) To stop fire, cease-fire.
B) To employ some confidence-building measures.
C) To have a cooling-off period.
D) To return to the negotiations.

I know there are differences also about the nature of the negotiation, rather the purpose of them, where should it lead, between interim or full-fledged solution? I think we have to start to move, and clearly in all the declarations it is said that the purpose of the movement is to achieve a permanent solution based on 242 and 338. By the way 242 and 338, not 194 – 194 was never accepted as a basis for the negotiation. 194 is the refugee item. Then we have also a very good starting point. The starting point should be the implementation of the written agreements. There are three of them at least, they contain references to most of the issues and problems and we can move ahead.

I think it is a very serious occasion now. We cannot sidetrack the need to make a responsible choice for our people, all the people, us, the Palestinians and the Arabs. I know how important the issue is in the eyes of the world and they respect it. We intend to move ahead. I am sure that the present government would like to bring an end to the firing line, to enable the bridge building of peace in full respect to world public opinion. Thank you.

Questions and answers:

Q: Foreign Minister, you have outlined a plan for dealing with settlements and a plan for taking steps, which is the Mitchell Report plan for resuming peace talks. What indication have you had from either the Palestinians, the Egyptians or the Jordanians that the Palestinians are willing to accept these limits on settlements to start the peace talks again?

FM Peres: I don’t expect that they will accept it ahead of time and they will accept just for the sake of acceptance. The present situation is that according to the agreement previous to Mitchell group’s establishment, the report of the Mitchell group should have been sent to the President of the United States, a copy of it to the Secretary General. The President of the United States should send it to the two sides for comments. There is a week’s time to make comments. The week started yesterday and I wouldn’t be surprised is they will make comments because in a way the present status of the document is the status of a draft. Until they will have all the comments by their sides and they will make the final judgment, only then I believe the real negotiation will start. But right now it is really more an attempt by the two sides to improve their positions, which is understandable.

Q: Mr. Minister, as you may know one of our colleagues yesterday, Vitron Adieu, a French television journalist was shot in the chest by an IDF soldier. His life was probably saved by the flak jacket that he was wearing at the time. Just a couple of weeks ago another one our colleagues was shot in the leg, also a television journalist whilst she was working in Gaza. At that time the FPA Board, of which I am a member along with Howard and other people in this room sent a most recent letter to the Defense Ministry asking for a serious investigation into these and other previous incidents. We attached a letter that we had also sent in November detailing seven other such incidents where it was clear that journalists had been shot by IDF soldiers and the circumstances should have been apparent to the soldiers that these are working journalists performing their jobs in a clearly identifiable fashion.

My question for you is this: As Deputy Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister, could you work to ensure that the government does investigate these incidents, that it does report back to us the results of these investigations, and that clear orders are given to soldiers in the field that working journalists have a right, indeed an obligation to be in these dangerous areas.

FM Peres: I feel it is my obligation to do everything I can to assure that your work will go on uninterrupted and I regret very much that the journalist was shot at and wounded. It is a terrible shock for all of us. I can assure you that I shall do whatever I can to find out what happened, and even more so to do whatever I can to prevent it from happening again. It is our duty to enable you to exercise your responsibilities in an air of freedom and security and I shall do whatever I can to make sure.

Q: Mr. Peres first, how do you feel the Labor Party and you especially, personally are influencing, affecting a certain influence in the work of the government regarding, of course, the situation with the Palestinians? Second, are you disappointed by Arafat and generally the Palestinian leadership? Do you feel disappointed?

FM Peres: Usually in Israel we are satisfied with ourselves, so the second question is a little bit irrelevant. But the first question, I think Labor encountered a real problem. The Labor Prime Minister, Mr. Barak went a very long way in offering solutions to the conflict, to a point where I am not sure that he would have a majority for it. It was rejected by the Palestinians, unfortunately for them I think, not only for us. Furthermore, not only was it rejected, but the Intifada started then without an explanation. As a result we had a terrible defeat in the elections, which I cannot deny.

In order to make peace you need two things: you need a partner and you need the support of your people. You cannot act without a majority because we are a democratic country. What happened is that the partner disappeared and the support didn’t come. So I think we didn’t have a choice but really to try and join forces to make a national unity government, which in my eyes there are two major purposes for this government. One is really to return security to the people, to all the people and secondly to renew the peace process. This is evident, not only by what we are currently doing, but by the basis – and I think people ignore it – of the national unity government.

There are four items that Labor has insisted that be the guiding lines of the present government:

1. Not to establish new settlements.

2. To implement all the written agreements, provided that they will be done by the two sides. I know that some people were against, for example, the Oslo Agreement. The Oslo Agreement is a written agreement of a binding nature.

3. To negotiate a peace solution based on 242 and 338 concerning the Palestinians, not only the others.

4. A declaration that this government will be ready to make painful compromises, including redeployments in the territories.

So, it is not a government without an ideology or a plan. But I must say that since the establishment of this government, some important developments took place. I think one of them was the change of the electoral system, which was a crazy system, because the people used to vote twice – once for a Prime Minister, the second time against

him. So the Prime Minister was elected to discover that he doesn’t have a majority in the Parliament. It was absurd.

The second was not to reject the Jordanian/Egyptian non-paper, which is not typical, shall I say, for a rightist government.

The third is to adopt the Mitchell Report in general with comments, which we were actually invited.

And fourth, and I must say to give the credit to the person to whom the credit is due, Mr. Sharon himself. There is a decision led by Mr. Sharon to improve immediately, unconditionally, one-sidedly, a change in the policies of the territories. It is unconditional, we don’t ask for any return. It started already and the characters of those changes, they started already:

Firstly, to increase the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel with all the risks, but without this, there is another risk and the risk is that poverty will continue to infiltrate the lives of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. At the beginning the number of permits was increased from 5,000 to 20,000, but now it is actually without limitations, because we have 20,000 who are working in Israel without permission. So you have already 40,000, maybe even more.

Then to reduce wherever we can the closure – unconditionally, unilaterally. To open up traffic for goods and people within the territories. To lift the restrictions of exports and imports. To enable people who are engaged in trade to stay in Israel, the number went up from 1,000 to 5,000. To enable goods that were held in the ports to arrive at their targets.

Then we offered the Palestinians five projects:

1. One is to bring water to Hebron. Hebron is becoming dry. We said we are ready to build a pipe at our expense, water coming from our sources.

2. To handle the waste water on the hills between Nablus and Tulkarem that may pollute the fresh water on the rough side.

3. It was suggested to the Palestinians to build a power station on their land under their jurisdiction while Israel will commit itself to buy electricity.

4. To build the desalinization plant and recommit ourselves to buy water. I want to make it sure, when we commit ourselves, it means there is a guarantee for the investment. It makes it easy to mobilize capital, of course, in hundreds of millions of dollars.

5. To connect Gaza and the West Bank by a railroad, which existed a long time ago, but in the meantime some of the rails were stolen and we have to restore it and improve it. It is the railroad that was planned by the Germans, built by the Turks, used by the British, ignored by the Israelis. Now we are going to rebuild it and put it again to use. This will be the first test and maybe the cheapest way to enable the Palestinians to move from Gaza to the West Bank uninterrupted.

Q: What about Arafat, Mr. Peres?

FM Peres: You know I don’t want to be personal. I am not a journalist, and I can call Arafat to return to the peace table. I don’t feel like I have to offer compliments or condemn him because I cannot change the past. What I see in Arafat is a man that carries a responsibility to stop terror, in accordance with the Oslo Agreement where the two sides have sworn actually that all our differences we shall air out by negotiation and dialogue and not by shooting at each other. A man that has to lead his people to peace and peace cannot be a dictate, neither by him upon us nor by us upon him. But we really have to sit down and look for common ground, which occasionally calls for painful compromises.

Q (inaudible): I have two points for Mr. Peres. First I want to pick up on, since you said we have to start to move. Why don’t we see the first step from the Israeli side in the light of the fact that you are the stronger part, I would say. Maybe you are the one who knows Chairman Arafat the best, maybe you have to provide him with something that he can go to his people and say it is worthwhile to stop. Secondly, I would like you to comment on the shooting of the five Palestinian policemen. When I think what the IDF commented on

it, for me it was, I have to say really cynical. First they behave suspiciously and then Mofaz said, "We didn’t intend this outcome." So I would like to hear what you have to say about it.

FM Peres: Well, I must say I was surprised by Arafat’s objection of the Clinton ideas. I admit I didn’t expect it to happen. So the first step was rejected and this was a very long step, a very daring step, one must say. Now again after the rejection and the beginning of the Intifada we are making again a new step and that is to change the policies in the territories unconditionally, as I have said, unilaterally and we are offering to accept the proposals, the orbit which is being suggested by the Mitchell Report.

About the killing of the five Palestinian policemen, I regret it very much. If it was a mistake, I am sure it wasn’t done by intention. Unfortunately war has its own terrible costs and mistakes but the whole story is now being checked by the army and I would wait and see what are their own conclusions.

Q: You said we are ready to accept, but you are not ready on the point of the freezing of the settlements.

FM Peres: I said, the first reaction is the reaction of comments suggested by the Mitchell Report. So it is natural that we make our comments. But we have accepted in principle the report. We were offered to make comments, we made comments and I am sure that we shall find ways and means how to overcome, if there will be any breakdown.

Q: A lot of people are concerned about the possibility of the situation escalating into a regional conflict. Can you address your concerns about that and what your diplomatic efforts are to prevent that?

FM Peres: Yes, I think there is a danger of a regional conflict but not to repeat the previous conflict when they do not expect a full fledged war. I may expect a spread of terror, which I wouldn’t undermine the danger of it. I don’t believe there will be a full-fledged war for the following reasons:

All the wars that were known here were at the time when there was a Cold War, when there were two superpowers, and maybe one of them, maybe both of them would support one side with political backing, with arms supplies, with financial assistance. I do not see this being repeated again. It is the end of the Cold War; I do not see, for example, the Soviet Union of present day Russia coming back with billions of dollars. We estimate that the Soviet Union has invested in the war machine of the Middle East over 100 billion dollars. I do not see present Russian leadership repeating it, sending arms generation after generation. Clearly I don’t think the United States will do it. The United States was engaged in a peace effort, not in a war effort. So the local conflicts were the brainchild or the war-child of the Cold War.

Then again, I think the parties have learned that wars did not solve any real problems. They have had five wars; Israel won them militarily but not politically. The Arabs lost them both militarily and politically. The sixth war may be a repetition of the other five wars. But I see a real danger, by the way this is a world danger in my judgment because the world is going over from a world of enemies to a world of dangers. Enemies are national, dangers are in there plotting, flying over borders and definitions and uniforms and identification.

That is the reason why in my judgment and in the eyes of the United States today terrorism is a danger like communism used to be twenty years ago. It is an un-American phenomena and in the eyes of the United States I think it is not just a crime, it is a sin. It goes from Bin Ladin to Saddam Hussein to Hamas to Hizbullah and whoever else will be engaged in terror. I do believe that even most of the Arab countries wouldn’t like to see it because they too can become a victim of their own making. Let us face it, there is terror in other places not connected with Israel.

When I read the terrible stories in Nigeria, for example, it is starving. Overnight there are tens of people who are being massacred in their farms, in their villages for no reason. It is terrible. I know there was an attempt by the Moslem Brothers in Egypt too, and President Mubarak luckily intervened. It may happen in any other countries. But in countries who are terroristic already like Iraq, partly Syria, Libya and Iran, so this is the great danger and it spreads all over the place, because terrorists are jumping, not only walking.

Q: Mr. Peres, with all due respect, a few days ago your colleague, the Prime Minister, told us that he means what he says and he says what he means and that remark along with another one, by the way, which was quoted in the New York Times among other newspapers among with his comments about pregnancy, abortion and what have you. Anyway, but he said, "I mean what I say and I say what I mean." Why is that you cannot give Mr. Arafat the same credit that he means what he says and says what he means? I don’t want to draw a parallel to another international leader who said what he meant and meant what he said, and the whole world is still suffering the consequences. Let me ask you this question. After hearing Mr. Arafat’s speech on the occasion of the Day of Disaster or the Day of Catastrophe which he considers the State of Israel to be a catastrophe, can you sincerely go on with this peace process, which he himself has virtually shut down in front of the whole world and in front of the entire Arab world?

FM Peres: Sharon said before the elections: "Only Sharon will bring peace." Maybe he will, I don’t have any problems in believing that is what he means. Now, Arafat makes another speech, I don’t think he is a free agent. I think that while he made a speech, his number two man, Abu Mazen, went to the United States not to convince America that what Arafat said is that what he meant, because if this is the mission, it is a waste of a ticket. I don’t think he is a free agent now.

May I say that in our case we look upon speeches as a commitment. I am not sure that everybody does it. There is flamboyance in some of the expressions, which in my judgment is dangerous and I call it incitement, but it doesn’t change the facts of life. It is a speech not a reality. I don’t believe that Arafat can mobilize the world to support the policy that he spoke about.

Then again I want to say we do not consider the Palestinians as our enemies. We consider the Palestinians as our neighbors today, our partners tomorrow. What we are fighting it is not against the Palestinians, we are fighting against terror. I wouldn’t like to engage myself in personalities or even peoples because I look upon the Palestinians as a potential neighbor and partner.

Q: Mr. Peres, sorry to come back to two points but I cannot understand very well how you can say, how Israel can say that it accepts the Mitchell Report when it rejects one of its main clause which is the freeze of settlements. I cannot understand. You said you don’t want to freeze the natural growth of settlements. This is what everyone asked for.

FM Peres: You must understand the precise language otherwise you will not understand it. The principle of freezing settlements is an accepted policy by this government. The problem is if natural growth will become territorial expansion. Now, I said that at this stage we made our comments on the draft. I also said we shall not the report fall.

Q: The second point is, what do you have to offer to Arafat that he can offer to his people to stop violence? What can you offer him?

FM Peres: For example, peace.

Q: You said peace means nothing anymore.

FM Peres: Why does it mean nothing? Killing is better?

Q: No, but you are talking of peace.

FM Peres: They are now mentioning the catastrophe, is catastrophe better than peace? I don’t understand. We are not in a bazaar. We offered the Palestinians a future of their own, an independence, of their destinies. By the way you want to be fair, and I am sure you want to, the West Bank and Gaza they were under Arab rule. They never offered it to the Palestinians, we did. There wasn’t a Palestinian personality recognized before Oslo, we did. By the way our record is not so bad you know that I have to apologize. We said land for peace, we gave the land. I am talking about Egypt, Jordan. we gave all the land, all the water, all the oil. We have implemented completely the 425 resolution of the United Nations concerning Lebanon. We started to enable the Palestinians to build their own life, why should I apologize, I don’t understand?

Q: I don’t say you have to apologize. But I am wondering what you can offer today to Arafat.

FM Peres: A future of peace, of neighborhood, prosperity.

Q: It is a concept, what do you have to offer?

FM Peres: I can hardly understand your question because Mr. Clinton, with the agreement of Mr. Barak offered them a complete land. Read it. It was rejected and for that reason it doesn’t exist anymore. But we went an extremely long way and we say, "Okay, let us start again, you have rejected the plan, let us start another one." What do you expect us to do? We say, "Let us implement the agreements that you have written."

By the way, the Oslo Agreement was not implemented because of intervention of Arab terror. I mean in 1996 I lost the elections with one third of a percent and everybody, I believe will agree, that we lost because of four terrible acts of terror, paving a way to another government headed then by Mr. Netanyahu that has negated those agreements. So I mean, you cannot put all the blame upon us. We took the most risky steps. Israel they say is strong, yes; we didn’t use our strength in a negative sense, on the contrary.

I want you to know time and again that the late Mr. Rabin and myself went to Oslo basically because of choice, not because of strategic imposition and not because of political pressure. We went there because we, the Jewish people, do not want to be occupiers. It stands against everything that we stand for, historically and morally.

Q: I would like to shift the attention to Europe for a second with two questions. There has been a lot of discussion about the overwhelming election of Mr. Berlusconi. What they say is that the shift of Europe toward right-wing attitude is very strong and there has also been a lot of criticism. Are you ready to share this criticism or do you put some hope on the Berlusconi government? This is the first question, what is your attitude to that.

Second question, Mr. Sini, as you know who is the President of ex-fascist party, the young leader who by the way did not get so many votes in this elections – they say that he will be the prime minister in the next government, it is quite likely. He has asked already several times to visit Israel saying that the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism has been the wildest and most horrible disaster ever happened to humankind. Now if he will last again as the Deputy Prime Minister in Italy, what will you say?

FM Peres: I must say with your knowledge about Italy, the right thing would be for me to ask you the question. You know exactly the intricacies and complications of it. By the way, I don’t see that the left is losing grounds. I see now the polls in England are not so bad. I have just been at the conference of the open leaders, most of the governments in Europe are still Labor governments.

Mr. Berlusconi himself was in Israel, I met him. I didn’t find any trace of anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish prejudice, on the contrary. This is very difficult for the Italian people and it is not for us to judge them. We shall see the character of the government, but a priori I wouldn’t come to conclusions.

Look, we are not a super power, let us face it. Our sensitivity is really as far as anti-Semitism or fascism is concerned, and if we shall see any trace of it, which I don’t see for the time being, then we shall voice our position.

Q: We see that a lot of members of the parliament, of the government, of the Israeli press and of the Jewish communities abroad are very angry with the foreign press here. What is your reaction?

FM Peres: I don’t like all the name-calling. I am for civilized relations – I think manners are not less important than laws. I am afraid that all of us put too much emphasis on the laws and not enough on manners. So for me it is totally unacceptable. I am trying myself not to become a victim of it.

Now, we have a problem with the foreign press, but we don’t attribute it to you. It is an objective problem. Let me say what is the problem and I know it is not your fault. I cannot complain about it. That is the difference between a television, a paper and a book. Television shows a story, a paper tells it. When it comes between showing and telling, you cannot explain really what is happening in between.

Now, let us have a look what is happening from our standpoint. You cannot photograph terrorists. They come quietly, they don’t announce anything, they carry their bombs with a ride to the bus, they kill the people and they escape or they are being killed with it. What can you show? The reaction. So all the time you show our reaction and people say it is an excessive reaction. There is no excessive reaction; there are only excessive initiatives. We don’t wake up in the morning to react and you rarely have the action of terror photographed.

Furthermore, some of the terrorists wait until the television will arrive for their show. So I don’t have any complaints, but I want you to understand how it has been perceived from our side. Until we caught yesterday the first mortar, you wouldn’t show a mortar. You only showed our reaction. So let us face it, we have a problem and going over from the age of letters to the age of lenses, it creates a problem, what can I do? So you have to understand what is the nature of the uneasy feeling. But in spite of it I think it is our duty to enable you to fulfill your responsibilities in the most objective and uninterrupted way you can and we shall try to do our best.

Q: We were talking earlier about the Mitchell Report, but I wondered what role you see the Bush Administration playing at this particularly tough time in getting peace talks going?

FM Peres: I have been to the States and that was a topical discussion. As I understood it, and it goes with me well, is that this administration will help to bring an end to the hostilities, to bring a cease fire, to invest all their efforts, contributions and ingenuity to stop the fire. And I think they are tying to do it honestly and fairly.

Q: Are they doing enough?

FM Peres: Enough is for a classroom. In the school of politics there is never enough. I mean it can do more and more. I think they do a reasonably good job. Then they say, "We want to encourage negotiations but we don’t want to become a negotiator." The word which is probably most accepted is a facilitator, and it goes with us. We don’t suggest that the United States will become a negotiator instead of us or the Palestinians or anybody. We tried both systems: to negotiate face-to-face, and also to have a negotiator in between the two faces, and I think the lesson is that we have achieved more by negotiating face-to-face than by having a negotiator coming in between the parties. So these two principles are accepted by us.

I believe that they are trying really to be fair. They don’t want to lose either the Israeli understanding nor the Arab world support, but on the other hand they are not going to bend to terror and pressure. This will be the shortest possible way that I can describe it.

Q: I would like to bring you back once again to the question of settlements. Given two things that widely reported and accurately reported, first of all there are hundreds if not thousands of empty apartments in the settlements. Secondly, if I read the gallop poll in Ma’ariv correctly on Friday, there is a clear majority of Israeli public opinion prepared to freeze settlements in exchange for a ceasefire – 55 percent to 30 something percent, if I remember it accurately. Given that, do you exclude the possibility that somewhere along the way in the next few weeks when the Mitchell Committee Report is being discussed between the parties, do you exclude the possibility that there might be some kind of freeze, even on natural growth for a limited period, given for instance the Begin precedent?

FM Peres: What you are suggesting is compromise first and negotiate later.

Q: I asked if you exclude the possibility?

FM Peres: I answered in a way, but I want to tell you on the first issue about the empty houses, it is true, there are places that people don’t want to live and there you have empty houses and there are places where people want to live and there you have a shortage of houses. The government cannot arrange it, we cannot order people to go one place and not to go to another place. So for that reason you see a contradictory picture. Most of the Israelis are for a leftist policy and a rightist government and that is more or less what is happening now. What can we do? Mean most can support the contradiction, they don’t have to make a choice.

On the third question, I am telling you we are now in the midst of the negotiations. So do you want me to tell you at which point I am ready to go up and down? It is too early. You know in every negotiation, it is an open secret. You have the opening position and the fallback position. You never start by saying, "This is my fallback position, so you will know why I have an opening position." You don’t do it.

Q: I have one more question about settlements. When you say that the Israeli government would permit construction for natural growth within the boundaries of the settlements, there has been a question raised and wasn’t answered terribly clearly. When you say within the present boundaries of the settlements, are you talking about the places where they are built now or the master plan, which are five or six times the size of some of them?

FM Peres: You didn’t use the words I used. I didn’t say only the construction, we said we shall not prohibit to answer the natural growth. We didn’t go into details. I don’t think that I can go further than that. I would be satisfied with this general comment and then we shall see, we have time to negotiate, to explain.

Q: But you understand, for example, the Efrat master plan goes half way to Hebron and most of Jerusalem.

FM Peres: Yes I understand it, and I know that if we shall go into the negotiations we shall try to clarify it. What are the exact assumptions of this policy. But the time did not come yet.