FM Peres: We are pleased to have with us the Foreign Minister of Canada, John Manley, who is touring the Middle East; and since Canada is both friendly and objective, it’s always worthwhile to have a fresh view and penetrating eye to see what’s happening. We received him here as a friend, representing a country that is trying to do its best in order to bring peace as soon as possible to our midst. I think our talks were useful, informative, and we shall continue in the future.
FM Manley: Likewise may I say how greatly I appreciate the reception that I received from my counterpart, the Foreign Minister of Israel, the frankness of the discussions that we were able to have together and have had in the past, and the openness with which he receives me and hears my views.
Let me say on behalf of Canada how much we appreciate your personal commitment to peace and the work that you continue to do in order to seek a peaceful resolution of issues that have been difficult and contentious for a long time.
Q: Minister Manley, the Israelis have been saying for some time, especially since the September 11 attacks, that there should be no distinction between one kind of terror and another. I’m wondering whether Canada believes the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Hizbullah are terrorist organizations?
FM Manley: We think that the use of violence in order to achieve political objectives, particularly against civilian populations, is unacceptable, and the victims of that violence are equally victimized no matter who is the perpetrator.
Q: Does that apply to the Israeli actions?
FM Manley: I’m not here to try to give definitions to a word. We have a situation here which is complex and difficult and where there’s plenty of blame to be shared. But the solution is not to try to apportion or allocate blame. The solution is to encourage a reduction of the violence, a cooling-off period, and a process of confidence building, which is what the Mitchell Committee recommended.
FM Peres: The problem is not only if it’s acceptable – I think it’s totally unneeded. We gave back all the land, all the water, all the oil to Egypt – without any terror and violence, without any Bin Laden. We gave back all the land and water to Jordan – without terror, without Bin Laden. We withdrew from Lebanon – without Bin Laden. We offered the Palestinians practically all of the land, maybe with a difference of 1 or 2 percent, and an arrangement in Jerusalem – without Bin Laden, without terror, without bullets. And even if there remains a difference of 1 or 2 percent, does this justify killing people in New York or in Washington? What for?
The Syrians were offered all of the land – why should they host ten terrorist headquarters? Who needs killers and terrorists and bombs? I can’t understand for a moment the Syrian argument about this distinction – on the contrary. Our country is outraged by the story of the three soldiers who were captured by the Hizbullah. For a year they were bluffing the country and lying to the families, just to bring them chagrin and sorrow. What for? These are not two equal parts. What we are doing is because of a moral position. In order to remain moral, we do not need any killing or any bluffing.
FM Peres: We don’t think it’s a lost situation. Actually, if the Palestinian Authority will implement what they have promised, we can move ahead.
We have retreated from the territories not because somebody forced us. We have created zone A out of our own free will. We are not there to stay – we are there temporarily. If the Palestinians will take the necessary steps, in a very short while we shall be out. It’s not our intention to be there. The only thing that the Palestinians can do is to really start the prevention of terror from those places. Wherever the Palestinians took the necessary steps, we left the place and normalized it. There are today already four cities which did it – Beit Jala, Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron – and we are ready to continue it.
Q: (regarding FM Manley’s visit to Syria)
FM Manley: They were not able to give me a satisfactory response on the missing in action. They did not take any responsibility for any groups that use violence in order to achieve political objectives, and from that point of view it was not a satisfactory meeting.
From the point of view of their expressions of desire to see peace in the region, their denunciation of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 and their willingness to be part of a campaign against terrorism globally – their responses were very satisfactory.