Remarks by Foreign Minister Peres at a Press Conference following his Meeting with Foreign Minister Manley of Canada

Sunday, 13 May 2001

Q: Mr. Peres. What can we expect in Israel’s official response this week to the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission and do you see the recommendations as a basis for the beginning of the end of the current cycle of violence.

FM Peres: I think it is an important document. Basically, our attitude towards it is positive. We may have one or two remarks which we shall do in accordance with procedure. The procedure is that the Mitchell Committee is supposed to hand over its report to the President of the United States and a copy of it to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and then the two parties have time and an occasion to make their remarks. We shall do it, but basically our attitude is positive.

Q. Specifically, what is Israel’s position on the territories?

FM Peres: The position of Israel on the settlements is the following:

– There won’t be anymore new settlements. We shall not establish new settlements.

– There won’t be any confiscation of land.

– The further issue of settlements should be negotiated in the framework of the negotiations between us and the Palestinians.

Q: Minister Peres. If it would help to get back to the negotiating table, why can’t you stop the actual construction now in the settlements as a goodwill gesture?

FM Peres: Which construction? If a couple is being married, if a child is born, if you have to build a kindergarten, it is very difficult to stop it. We have said that the problem of the current situation in the settlements should be negotiated in the overall negotiations, because actually at Camp David an agreement was reached and the Palestinians rejected it. So we were left without an agreement that was agreed, but we can return to negotiate it in the future.

Q: Mr. Peres. Is not the issue of natural expansion spurious, in the sense that one third of the units that have already been constructed are empty so the notion of natural expansion — you have units to fill already. And Mr. Manley, what is Canada’s attitude towards negotiating now before there is an end to the shooting?

FM Peres: There are empty houses in places that people don’t want to go, and there is a demand for houses in other places. We cannot force people to go to one place or not to go to another place. So while the average picture is as you have described, in fact, people are making their own choice. I wish that people that want to settle would go to empty houses, but they don’t want to go. So the empty houses remain empty. And the needs in the other settlements should be answered.

Q: Mr. Peres, why is Israel continuing this kind of activity ["extra judicial killings of Palestinian leaders"], when it has received such international criticism?

FM Peres: Well, we don’t have such a policy. I’m not aware that international law permits acts of terror and killing. We have to defend ourselves, but we don’t have any policy of killing people. But when there is concrete information that someone is carrying a bomb, and is on his way to Israel, then we try to prevent it. That is not against international law. Let’s not get mixed up. Terrorism and violence, the killing of women, the killing of children — that is against international law. Israel does not take any initiative to that effect. We are forced to react, and we are not pleased at all with it. But we have to defend our lives.