JUNE 28, 1993
This week we shall wind up the tenth round of the bilateral negotiations. In the multilateral negotiations, once we have concluded the third round, there is still intersessional activity going on and the different parties are meeting in between the sessions so to continue the work.
– Multilateral Negotiations:
Basically, we consider the multilateral round as a rather successful one, and successful in the following senses: a. There was a full participation of twelve Arab countries and a Palestinian delegation, and 30 non-Mediterranean countries. b. We went over from the seminar-type meetings to a more down-to-earth approach. c. We started to develop a list of feasibility studies on the five different issues that the multilateral negotiations are concerned with: economy, refugees, arms control, environment, and water. Not only did we go into the feasibility studies, but also the first financing for the feasibility studies was made available a total amount of 45 million dollars: 20 million dollars came from the World Bank, 40 million dollars from the United States, 6 million dollars from the European Community, 3 million dollars from Japan for a feasibility study on the issue of the development tourism, and 2.5 million dollars from Italy who had a feasibility study on cutting a canal between the Red and the Dead Seas. d. Then, again, while we were touching on still sensitive issues, we have made progress in all the five domains, and I’m going to particularize two very sensitive domains, namely refugees and arms control. I think that on the arms control issue, there was quite an impressive move. On the refugees, too, while we are still far away, we were able to meet, to negotiate and to point out some possibilities for the future.
– Bilateral Negotiations:
On the bilateral negotiations, I don’t know if until the end of this round, which will come to its conclusion on Friday Thursday will be the last meeting it will be able to produce a joint document. But I’m very far from being pessimistic. I think the negotiations will go on, nobody has a real choice. I think that while you are still working on definitions, there are also more pragmatic proposals appearing on the ground, including the proposal of ‘Gaza first’, and to meet the Gaza first opportunity with a joint political and economic solution, early empowerment and other bridge-making pragmatic proposals. I feel that, as much as we encounter difficulties in the written definitions, the more we may also discover opportunities in the realistic occurrences.
– The New Global Climate:
I remain hopeful. I think that nobody has a choice. What is encouraging in this process is the new world framework, which I shall mention briefly, and the fact that the peace process is gaining ground. Over the last few weeks we have had a great deal of favorable expressions on the Arab side and Palestinian side, not only in the bilateral negotiations but also in the multilateral negotiations, which is in relations to hope.
The basic change, as I see it in the world, is the end of the double split of our globe. One split was between west and east, which became an ideological, political and military confrontation the Cold War. As a result of this confrontation, there are countries that got arms and got support for their regional policies. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, this split is over. No longer is there an affluence of military means available, nor the generosity in providing those means to the different conflicting parties in the Middle East. This is over. You want to buy arms? You have to pay with hard currency, which is not always available.
The other split, which was between north and south, namely dividing the world into two groups: a northern group developed, advanced, white, scientific and technological; and a very large mass of nations in the south non-white, underdeveloped, poor, lagging behind in technology and science, which created a ‘third world’, or a non-alignment camp. This division is over. No longer does it exist. This division provided the Arab countries with votes. If the west-east division provided them with arms, and this division provided them with votes.
It is over, because today, in my judgment, the center of activity is in Asia, more than in Europe. Asia is running full speed ahead scientifically and technologically and for that reason economically. One must be in China to see the tremendous awakening which is taking place there. The same goes for India, Japan, the ‘seven tigers’ as they call them, the ‘seven baby dragons’. I don’t know why they are babies. These are nations of 100-150 million people each. And the non-alignment stopped to exist, in fact. I think Latin America, too, is going through a very impressive phase of political and economic democracy.
Actually, there is no longer a ‘third world’, but a highly demanding situation in the African continent. The African continent is really the continent that contains most of the catastrophes of our time right now. The desert is eating up the land, AIDS is eating up the people, and violence and corruption are eating up the politics.
These are facts that nobody can run away from, and they are knocking on the doors of all of us and calling for a change. Then I can see that there is more and more accommodation and efforts to produce peace to the Middle East, side by side with the the augmentation also of fundamentalism. But fundamentalism is a protest, not an alternative. And peace is an alternative, not a protest. That is the difference.
So I remain as optimistic as ever, and even more so. I am expecting some important developments in the weeks to come. I wouldn’t say that, well, the tenth round didn’t produce everything we wanted to. So, it will produce in the eleventh round, or the continuation of the negotiations. And we are determined to go steadily ahead and achieve the major goal, which is the accomplishment of peace.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
– The Peace Process:
Q: Could you elaborate a little on the last point, on the developments you expect soon?
A: On the multilateral negotations there are intersessional activities going on, namely informal meetings among experts and members, to continue and translate the ideas of the multilateral meetings into realities. I think that everybody is now waiting to see what will be the next American proposal, but whatever it may be, it won’t be the end of the story but, in my judgment, another beginning of another round of negotiations, and meetings and exchanging views, formally and informally, on all levels.
– ‘Gaza First’:
Q: Don’t you have to have something sort of concrete to point to out of the bilateral talks before we’re really going to get anywhere on the multilateral talks?
A: Yes, it may be in writing, it may be in doing. In doing, I mean proposals like ‘Gaza first’, for example.
Q: Did ‘Gaza first’ come up for discussion in this latest round?
A: Formally, no. It’s in there, not on the table.
Q: Can you tell us what you mean by ‘Gaza first’? It’s been used to describe many different kinds of things. Some ministers in the government said tomorrow we should unilaterally pull out. Others are saying something different. Could you define it for us please?
A: We shall not create a chaotic situation, under no circumstances. Unilateral may have danger of creating a chaotic situation, which we are not interested in. We are interested really to hand over the responsibilities for running life in Gaza to a responsible address, which will be basically made of Gazan people. Surely we can see the idea of ‘Gaza first’ is because in Gaza we do not have all the difficulties which exist on the West Bank For example, surely you don’t have the very serious issue of Jerusalem. On the other hand, Gaza is a typical place where you need to apply not just a policy, but also an economy. You must have a political-economic approach, because Gaza is really a concentration of people, more than a very large piece of territory. We feel that on one hand it may be more difficult, and on the other hand it may be more promising.
Q: You’ve said before, I think, that it’s important that when you’re handing over power that you do it in an orderly fashion. Are you discussing transfering this kind of early empowerment in Gaza prior to an overall regime? In other words, who will you give it to, in ‘Gaza first’? Or do you really need to have the overall political solution first?
A: No, we have to have an overall agreement. But, as you know, the delegation with whom we negotiate on the Palestinian side was composed in a pragmatic manner. We may have a similar composition in Gaza.
Q: Could you elaborate a little bit on what sort of economic package you think you could put together should an agreement in principle be reached, and what specifically are you interested in offering?
A: Basically, I think, what Gaza needs, to use just an image, is a ‘Marshall Plan’, but that’s an image. What I mean is, there are basic installations that Gaza is in need of, and I shall specify them: Gaza needs a very urgent solution for the shortage of water, namely a desalinization plant of quite a sizable dimension. We are talking about something like the production of 50 million cubic meters of water a year, with a cost of maybe 300 or 400 million dollars. Gaza needs a power station, Gaza needs industry, Gaza may need a port, either for fishing or even more so. Gaza needs real projects of housing and vocational training. Gaza needs a police force. We hope that we shall be helped in introducing the right economic approach to Gaza by the European Community and other countries that are partaking in the multilateral negotiations. We are now prepared, realistically, for a combination of a desalinization plant and power plant. I mentioned more or less the cost of it. This may be the first step. It will also produce work. And then we need also to contemplate a plan for a free trade zone, for exportation. Gaza, for example, has developed a very intensive agriculture, similar to that in Israel. They are coming an important exporter, for example, of strawberries, flowers. And tourism.
Q: So when you speak about your developing a tender now for a combination desalinization plant and power plant, is that in the context of the multilateral talks or in the context of the civil administration?
A: We prefer that this will be done by the Gazan people themselves, without our intervention. We think it should be a plant built in Gaza, built by the Gazan people, operated by them, without any intervention on our part. There are quite a few companies in different parts of the world who are interested in it, that have shown interest in it.
– The Arab Partners:
Q: You remain optimistic, you said, about the peace process, but on the street, the Palestinians are apparently increasingly seeing the peace talks as irrelevant. It takes two to come to some sort of peace agreement. How do you expect to reconcile that?
A: Leadership, in my judgment, means to be elected by the constituencies of yesterday and to represent the constituencies of tomorrow. We have to answer to a constituency that doesn’t exist, and I am sure that once we shall reach an understanding, we shall have the support as well. I’m not too worried about it.
Q: Mr. Rabin yesterday placed the blame for the failure of the peace talks to progress more solely at the feet of the Arab parties. Do you share that, or do you think Israel could have done more?
A: I wouldn’t go too much in putting the blame. I am interested to see where we can put the opening. I’m not in a mood to argue or to practice any polemics, since I believe that we have to move ahead in an improved atmosphere. I agree that the Palestinians could have done more. I do not see much use in going into an exchange of accusations.
– Interim and Permanent Solutions:
Q: Could you tell us where you and the Prime Minister think this is heading? I heard the remarks you made the other day discussing again the notion of confederation. As you know, Madrid discussed autonomy. There are some reports today that the distinction is between autonomy for people and for land. Can you give us some sense, in terms of the Palestinians, where is this thing heading? Is this government really committed to autonomy, or in the end, would you rather see a confederation?
A: The government is committed to an interim solution, because, let’s face it: if we shall decide today to cut a permanent solution, we shall have to turn to the maps. And under the present climate, I do not see a possible agreement on a map. So we have suggested, instead of having a permanent map, we have a transitional voyage from the present planet to a new planet, and that the voyage has a calendar and it shouldn’t last more than five years. It has a station on its route, namely after the second year we have to start to negotiate the permanent solution. Now, when it comes to the permanent solution, some people say: Why don’t you say right away what is your vision for a permanent solution, so we shall know what we are talking about? Some of us, including myself, did announce what is the nature of the permanent solution. I shall support a confederation between Jordan and the Palestininians, politically, and a sort of a Benelux among the Jordanians, Palestinians and Israel, economically speaking. Namely, let’s live separately from a political standpoint, and let’s cooperate economically otherwise. I do believe that while it’s quite general, it gives an idea to many people what sort of a peace can be foreseen. I do believe it has enough support among the different three parties to become a reality in the future.
– Human Rights and Security During Self-Rule:
Q: Tomorrow there will be yet another press conference that deals with human rights, that of the Middle East Watch, on what they consider the standards of human rights. How do you think this affects the reputation of Israel?
A: I will say a simple thing: Why should we deal with the human rights issue between the Palestinians and us, when we are ready to hand over to the Palestinians the way how to handle violence and crime? It would be a different story if Israel would insist and say: Well, we are going to remain the police or the supervisor of the safety of different people in the West Bank and Gaza. We are not. We say it is a temporary situation. We say that Israel is not at all interested to remain the punisher. They need to use police force, and we look upon it as really very short in term. We don’t have the slightest interest or inclination to police the lives of the Palestinians. And we wish them security and self-government, and their own way of handling their own.
Q: There have been criticisms based on the actions of Israeli security forces.
A: The Israelis don’t have any actions, but only reactions. It’s not that we woke up in the morning and we want to do this and do that. Israel is forced, really, to take the necessary measures, in response to violence. We do not initiate.
Q: You say this will be a short period. That envisions withdrawal of all the security forces from the territories, and that’s not going to happen soon.
A: It means that the Palestinians will be responsible for their internal security. Israel will be responsible for the overall security and for the security of the Israelis residing in those places.
Q: The question of Jerusalem, which has always been described more or less as the most difficult between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians seem to be trying to push East Jerusalem up on the agenda, to begin to discuss it in the interim phase rather than later on. Is the Jerusalem item a serious impediment to further progress in the talks?
A: It is, but in vain. There is no [Israeli] government that can enter into negotiations about the fate of Jerusalem, because the Israeli people are united on that issue, that Jerusalem should remain united, the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, and I do not foresee a government that would risk its majority by trying to do otherwise.
Q: Is there a possible answer, at least, to the Palestinian desire to have at least the total of East Jerusalem as a capital?
A: No. The only issue which remains open and we have to look for a solution is the right of the Palestinians who hold Jordanian passports and who reside in Jerusalem to partake in the elections to the autonomy council, or whatever it will be. To that question, we have to find a reasonable answer, and I hope it is possible.
Q: But I don’t think the Palestinians would agree that’s the only issue. I think that some sort of jurisdiction over the Arab section of Jerusalem is a very important to them.
A: Yes, but our position is very clear on this.
Q: How does the government of Israel view of the Palestinian claim that East Jerusalem is in fact the heartbeat of their economic, religious and political activity just in the same way as for the Jewish settlers of Jerusalem?
A: Religiously, Jerusalem is open to all believers, including those who are coming from Libya, for example. Economically, every economic initiative which is positive is supported by us. Politically, Jerusalem will remain united, as it is.
Q: Is there any room for a solution that might envisage Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem but Jerusalem nonetheless also being a capital of the Palestinian entity?
A: I cannot see two sovereignties residing in the same city, and calling it a united city.
– North Korea:
Q: Do you plan to go to North Korea? Have you discussed it with the Americans, and what would you accomplish?
A: No, I didn’t intend to go to North Korea. My traveling book is already full, and I hope to remain at home as much as I can. We have explained that we were approached on the North Korean issue. Our basic interest is really to prevent a situation which will make North Korea the major supplier of missiles and maybe other stuff to irresponsible hands Iran, or Iraq, or elsewhere. We know that they have supplied already missiles to Iran, and this surely is a new problem in the arms balance of the Middle East, and we would like to prevent it if we can.
Q: If the world really is trying to isolate North Korea and is applying a fair amount of pressure, isn’t it possible that North Korea is essentially trying to escape some of that isolation by coming to Israel, and your contacts with them would be counterproductive?
A: No, it’s hard to escape the world pressure just through Jerusalem, but I would say that we are part and parcel of the United Nations and we have informed those we should about our intentions and what we have in mind to do.
– American Jewry and the Peace Process:
Q: Some of the American Jewish leaders have recently expressed concern that the American Jewish community still subscribes to the Likud view of Eretz Israel, what can be given up and what should not be given up. There have been exchanges back and forth. Are you worried about the differences among American Jews on this question? Are you trying to explain to the American Jewish community that this government now represents the Israeli consensus?
A: I have respect for the different groups which exist among the Jewish American community and what they have to say. But I believe that our position is logical and that we should be able to convince everybody. Nobody in American, for example, would suggest to continue the Cold War, once you can have arms control with the Soviet Union, or to maintain the Cold War without the Cold War warriors. I think most Americans would prefer to get rid of the Cold War and get rid of the consequences that the Cold War imposes upon the United States. The same is true here. And one of the reasons, for example, in my judgment, why the Cold War was replaced by rapprochement, by a different policy, is simply because nobody has the good answer to modern military equipment. You don’t have a good answer for missiles, and missiles are not impressed by maps of sovereignty or borders, or natural obstacles. They overfly them. You don’t have a good answer for nonconventional weapons, because the damage they introduce is of such scope that it is irreparable. So when you don’t have military answers, you look for political answers, or a combination of military strength and political agreements. The same is true in the Middle East. It doesn’t depend upon any public opinion. Yet, to find answers, not only against the danger of an invasion of tanks and guns and planes, but also to the danger of buying missiles and even nuclear. And like in the world at large, so in the Middle East, you need a combination of military balances and political agreements. Now, about the territories. It is a basic mistake to look at the land as though it was an empty land. The country is actually partitioned. It’s not geographically, but demographically. And you cannot put a blind eye on the demographic set-up. If you look at what’s taking place in Yugloslavia, it is a geographic memory. We start by a demographic dynamism. The names of the land remains traditionally, but the make-up of the people has changed completely to the point that they had a civil war. We don’t want to overlook it. I said already on several occasions, I can only repeat it: In politics, it starts in your kitchen. You can break eggs into omelettes, but you cannot make from omelettes eggs again. And we don’t want to omelette the land.
– The Closure of the Territories:
Q: How long is the closure going to exist?
A: It is a rather controlled closure, because 50,000 workers got permission to return to work in Israel, and the other week the Minister of Defense announced that on top of it, every worker above the age of 50 can come back again. So 50,000 got back their permits, and I think something like 20,000-30,000 jobs were created in the West Bank and Gaza. So we are trying to close the gap and we will create enough jobs for the people.
Q: Do you think the closure once again establishes the border at the Green Line?
A: Not necessarily, and I don’t think this was the purpose of the closure. It really resulted from an ongoing attempt to stop terrorist activity, and it was necessary in order to restore personal security, and this goal was achieved.
Q: Because of that, do you think it’s going to be possible for the government to reopen the borders, as it was before March?
A: Eventually yes, when we shall have an agreement, because then the motivation may fade away the motivation for using terror.
Q: But you don’t see an end to the closure before then?
A: We shall not return to the situation which existed, but we are looking very carefully to the different opportunities we can have in order to really provide the people of the West Bank and Gaza with jobs and work. We do not want them to suffer because of it.
– Israel’s Foreign Relations:
Q: Israel’s isolation in the past has sometimes led it to deal with states with various parties that were not considered very savory in large parts of the world. With North Korea the case comes up again. Now that Israel has relations with some 40 countries that it didn’t have before and that clearly its isolation is over, with China and India underscoring that, is it possible for Israel to end some of these dealings with countries like North Korea and work in a broader, multilateral framework to isolate it or place things that it specifically wants, such as its sale of missiles in a more global setting, now that it’s not itself as isolated? It’s another way of also saying that human rights questions are coming into Israeli foreign policy in a way that perhaps it didn’t have the luxury to before?
A: Undoubtedly, almost the end of the isolation permits Israel to adopt a new list of priorities. We are not forced really into corners and we do not want to cut any deal that will be contrary to the world policy concerning countries like North Korea, not at all. We are very attentive to human rights. We really would like for people to be convinced that we respect them, are going to respect them, and we feel very strongly that the best way for us to get out of this sort of accusation is by getting out of the territories. Instead of looking just at the measures which are needed to take, we want to have a good look at the roots. And we are interested in changing the roots, not just the reputation, not just the forms.
– US-Israel Relations:
Q: How seriously do you take the prospect that the United States, given pressing other demands such as Russia, will begin, say next year, to cut 3 billion dollars in aid to Israel, and should Israel be prepared for that? What do you think of Stanley Fischer’s suggestion that Israel should voluntarily turn some of it back?
A: The United States is spending something like 115 billion dollars in foreign aid, in the military sense, and an additional 15 or 17 billion dollars in what is being called foreign aid. The 115 billion dollars is being spent by holding American troops in places like Europe and the Far East. We have never asked for American troops. The way Israel was helped was not by stationing American troops in Israel but rather by selling us arms. I think you have to look at the overall picture and say, well, if the United States is going to reduce its participation in the security of the different parts of the world, why just look at the weapons? Because out of 3 billion dollars, 1.8 is for arms, for security, and 1.2 is economic. Now the economic aid is devoted solely to repay the debts that we owe the United States. Most of these debts, if not all of them, are again the result of our security needs. For example, if we owe something like 8 or 10 billion dollars, 4 billion dollars were used for the building of military airbases in the Negev instead of the two we gave back to the Egyptians in the Sinai. May I say generally, if we should really reach peace, then I do not see that Israel will need any foreign aid whatsoever. Until we shall reach peace, I think that it is important to maintain a balance of strength, which is again supportive policy on the road to peace. In addition, let’s face it, that the military aid is being cut every year by 3 or 4 percent, which is the cost of inflation. Since say 1985, eight years, it was cut already by a quarter in the purchasing power. dollars. And so it goes on. Anyway, I do hope very much that in the year to come we shall enjoy at least one peace agreement.
– Gaza First, Talks with the Palestinians:
Q: You say you are optimistic that some progress will be made. Can you spell out for us what exactly happens in the next stage, and what happens next? Gaza first?
A: Yes, we said Gaza first.
Q: Could you be more specific? Will there be a military pullback from Gaza first? Is there empowerment?
A: Yes, the military will pull back from most of Gaza, and the life will be managed by a local authority.
Q: And the West Bank?
A: On the West Bank, part of it, there may be early empowerment, in very important domains like education, like health, like taxation, like tourism. Once you shall have the principles, then the implementation of it in realistic terms does not have to come simultaneously. Wherever we can move further ahead, we shall do so in agreement. The whole art cannot be based on imposition. We cannot impose anything upon the Palestinians, they cannot impose anything upon us. And the United States cannot impose upon any of us, because the United States cannot replace the Palestinians, the United States cannot replace the Israelis, the United States can only come in between the two of us. So this is an attempt to reach agreement and not to twist the hand of anybody. In a way, I believe there are many Palestinians who understand perfectly well that the shortest way to reach an agreement is to have a good look at the list of the Israeli availabilities and possibilities, and the same goes for us. We have to have a good look at what we have to expect from the Palestinians, what can they provide and what are their limitations.
Q: When you speak about ‘Gaza first’ as the next step after a statement of principles, when you speak about the economic development of Gaza, what do you envision in terms of trade when Gaza is isolated physically and it is essential in order to stimulate the economy, to open up its borders to create access to either the Arab world or Europe or Israel do you envision a special link such as a road between Gaza and West Bank to give Gaza access to the Arab world and to the West Bank?
A: All roads and all ports should be open. We shall have a solution. We don’t need any special road, because the roads will be open. Yes, I envisage open borders, open roads, open ports. As I have said, the separation is political, and the opening is economic. And they must go together.
Q: If you did reach agreement in principle to go with Gaza first, how would it be before Gaza…?
A: I doubt if politicians should be bothered with dates. You have your own imagination and you can take your own examples. I can say only that we would be interested to do is as soon as possible. We are seriously interested to stop our intervention in the lives of the Palestinians. We don’t want it.