"Good Morning Israel", Galei Tzahal (Army Radio)
August 2, 2001, 07:08
Micha Friedman: Last night the cabinet decided to continue the policy of liquidating Palestinian terrorists.
FM Peres: I don’t know where the word "liquidate" came from. We don’t liquidate anyone and I don’t know why you stuck that in. There is no justification for doing it. There is no inclination to liquidate anyone. Anyway, liquidation is a term used by the gangsters.
Friedman: How do you define such actions?
FM Peres: Either prevention or interception. Look, unfortunately, have one major problem: We don’t explain ourselves well. You media people have to understand this, that ours is the only country in the world that is experiencing a type of terror that does not exist anywhere else in the world. This is "suicide terror". The Irish don’t blow themselves up, the Basques don’t do it, even the Chechens don’t kill themselves. Now, the question is: What do you do with a suicide bomber? If you send the police to confront him, what does he care? He is willing to die at any moment, so he’ll blow himself up next to the policemen. Send the army and he’ll blow himself up next to the soldiers. He leaves us no choice, but to stop him at the starting point, before he goes out on his mission. I have explained this all over the world and everyone understands this, including a lot of people whose names I don’t wish to say… They understand this matter. Instead of explaining this again, we paint ourselves in a negative fashion, unnecessarily and unjustifiably.
Friedman: Secretary of State Powell doesn’t understand this policy of ours so well.
FM Peres: Look, there was a mistake, and a mistake is very difficult. I very much appreciate the remarks made by Chief of Staff Mofaz, who said something that truly fits the IDF. He said that if he had known that two children would be harmed, he wouldn’t have ordered that action. That is the absolute truth. It is a painful matter. Look, war is rife with mistakes that people make unintentionally, but the biggest mistake of all is the war itself.
Friedman: Tell me, you understand the root of the American opposition in that children were killed in this operation and if it had been a surgical operation, like there was in the past….
FM Peres: I think that if the operation had killed only the two terrorists, for example – in other words, the masterminds, the ones who really organized the suicide bombers – I don’t think there would have been any reaction. Really, it is a terrible problem, and I believe that every Israeli was pained by it. Who wants to see a dead child? No one, nowhere, under no circumstances, but that is what happened.
Friedman: But you know from your own bitter experience as the Prime Minister who waged the Grapes of Wrath Operation, when the mishap occurred in Kfar Kana…
FM Peres: Do you know exactly what happened there? If you don’t, please allow me to explain, after all, here, too, stories are circulating without end. We dispatched an army unit in order to put an end to the firing of mortars and Katyusha rockets. There were approximately eighteen soldiers. They were attacked from all sides with a heavy barrage of gunfire. They requested artillery support. They did not need my authorization for that nor that of the Chief of Staff, and they didn’t request it, and didn’t receive it. Six shells went off course. Believe me, this is a painful subject, it really hurts. Who among us wanted it to happen? But the other side fired, from the same place where the civilians were who were then hit. They didn’t prevent the fire, and the soldiers justifiably acted to protect their own lives.
Friedman: And that’s how that operation, which had been very successful till then, actually failed to meet all of its objectives.
FM Peres: Right, and that’s what happens in wars. Do you think that we are the only ones it happens to?
Friedman: Maybe this policy is problematic.
FM Peres: Look at what happened to the British. Look at what happened to the French. War is a terrible thing. There is no war in which shells don’t go off course. But was it intentional? Did any one of us give such an order? Did any one of us imagine that such a thing would happen?
Friedman: Mr. Peres, has the cabinet set a "red line" at which you will stop implementing this "prevention/interception policy", as you call it?
FM Peres: Look, everything has to be discussed. We have no set policy. In any case, we have to discuss every matter on its own merits. We have no policy of "liquidations", and the whole story about the liquidation of commanders and political figures is groundless. There there were three people leading the war fought by suicide bombers. It’s a shocking thing. Since when do religious leaders – Muslims, Jews or Christians – sanction suicide? There is no such thing in the world. We have to make this clear to everyone. Regarding those three, one was in Bethlehem and I think two were in Nablus. They were responsible for the deaths of thirty-six people – if I’m not mistaken – by means of suicide bombings. In any case, in the last two months there have been thirty suicide bombings. Look, we can argue, and I’m not asking everyone to agree with me. But let’s state the facts as they are.
Friedman: Yesterday you reprimanded the Chief of Staff during the cabinet meeting…
FM Peres: First of all, I did not reprimand him.
Friedman: So what did you do?
FM Peres: Listen, I respect the chief of staff. That’s not the point. It is simply not possible for the government to have two different information policies. It has to be one or the other. If the PA is a terrorist authority, we have to reach certain conclusions. And I’m telling you that they can put us into a situation where there’s no military solution, and there could be a situation in which the lack of a solution might just be the desirable solution for some Arabs because, what would happen in the lack of a solution would be a bi-national state, without coexistence, with each side killing the other. That is what we have to make decisions about. Look, we are responsible not only for our own lives, but also for those of our children, and our generation must make difficult, real decisions. We can’t escape, we can’t hide or cover up anything. I’m the last person who would do such a thing. We have to decide or really make a partition and guarantee the character of Israel in the future. Then we let history run its course, and then, instead of geographical solutions there will be demographic results constituting a bad situation.
Friedman: You talk about decisions, Mr. Peres. I direct your attention to one decision that the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s office, Uri Shani, says has already been adopted, but still hasn’t been put into action: the liquidation of the Palestinian Authority.
FM Peres: That is totally baseless.
Friedman: You haven’t adopted…
FM Peres: I also don’t believe that Uri Shani said that. Look, I am used to hearing inaccurate quotes. I can’t even imagine that anything like that would come out of Uri Shani’s mouth.
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