Transcript of "Encounter", with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Faisal Husseini Israel Television, 29 July 1993, 7:00 P.M.

Moderator: Gentlemen, for the past five days Mr. Peres has been claiming that Israel is operating against targets of Hizbullah and Palestinian organizations in Lebanon. The question is, what are the new rules of the game that Israel wants to impose on the northern border?

Peres: Israel wants this to be over quickly. Israel’s goal is definitely modest, namely that Hizbullah stop firing Katyushas at settlements in Israel.

Moderator: Can this be achieved, Mr. Peres?

Peres: In my opinion, yes. I anticipate that life in Lebanon will return to more normal within a short time. In fact, the moment there is a halt to the firing of Katyushas, in my opinion, it will be possible to come home peacefully, and those people who took to the roads, the refugees it pains all of us will also be able to return to their homes.

Moderator: And the residents of Kiryat Shemona will be able to return to their homes without any fear that Katyushas will fall?

Peres: That is the condition, that there be a promise that Katyushas won’t fall on Kiryat Shemona or any other place in the Galilee.

Moderator: Who will guarantee that?

Peres: Whoever guaranteed it till now. This agreement will be the result of the conflict that has developed. We didn’t start the conflict. It’s not an Israeli initiative at all. If it was up to Israel, we would done without the whole thing from beginning to end. What happened is that one fine day Hizbullah attacked two outposts in southern Lebanon without any provocation. That night they fired Katyushas at the Galilee without any provocation, with no reason. I hope they will return to the old rules of the game, which weren’t so wonderful either, but permitted normal life both in the villages in Lebanon and for the residents of Israel.

Moderator: Mr. Husseini, can the Palestinian leadership impose its will on the various Palestinian factions to commit themselves to observe the ceasefire and not fire Katyushas at the Israeli settlements?

Husseini: I would like to demonstrate that in 1981 an Israeli- Palestinian ceasefire agreement was signed, and the Palestinian leadership was able to enforce the ceasefire for a year until Begin and Sharon’s assault that blew away this agreement and created a new situation from which we are still suffering today. But I want to say something else: security is not won by military actions, but by building a genuine peace. Peace can lead to security, but security does not necessarily lead to peace.

Moderator: But there are factions, such as that of Ahmed Jibril and the Islamic Jihad, which are not bound by PLO decisions. Can you impose the ceasefire agreement on these two factions?

Husseini: First let’s say that there is a peace process that must be advanced. As the peace process moves forward, as those who believe in a political settlement acquire greater credibility, they will be more able to control the situation. You know very well that since 1982 and as a result of the 1982 war, the Palestinian leadership has lost the control it had previously. But I am confident that if the peace process moves forward, the positions of the Palestinians, in cooperation with Lebanon, can guarantee the ceasefire.

Moderator: Can the Palestinian leadership influence Hizbullah and persuade it of the need to move forward in the peace process?

Husseini: I think we need something tangible to prove that this process will produce something for us to be able to persuade the others.

Moderator: Hizbullah is opposed to the peace process.

Husseini: Perhaps it is opposed to this perception of the peace process. But in the final analysis, the public’s reaction depends on how far the peace process moves forward.

Moderator: Mr. Peres, has Operation Accountability, our operation in Lebanon, dealt a death blow to the peace process, as the PLO asserts?

Peres: Absolutely not. In general, we have had excellent relations with Lebanon. Lebanon was our good neighbor. We were Lebanon’s good neighbor. We have no ambitions in Lebanon neither territorial nor political. Lebanon was destroyed and continues to be destroyed by organizations that serve no Lebanese interest. First it was a few terrorist organizations, now it is simply the involvement of Hizbullah, which is dominated by Iran. They should let Lebanon live its own life. Israel will be its best neighbor. Not a single Lebanese will be harmed, not an inch of Lebanese soil will be taken, not a drop of water. Our desire, when all is said and done, is that Mr. Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, whose focus is the economy, will be able to unify Lebanon, to bring tranquility to Lebanon, to move Lebanon forward; and that the foreigners, including Iran and Hizbullah, stop endangering Lebanon’s life. This is Israel’s true interest.

Moderator: If so, you don’t accept the PLO’s claim that this is the end of the process?

Peres: No, absolutely not. Because what does it mean, the end of the process? Is life over? We have to keep on living tomorrow. How will we live? At war? Who wants to return to war? Who wants to return to terrorism? The affair will be concluded only if we attain normal life for Arabs, for Jews, and for everyone.

Moderator: Mr. Husseini, does the Palestinian side still adhere to its decision to continue the peace process, despite the Israeli action in Lebanon?

Husseini: I think the military operation in Lebanon is a result of the stalemate in the peace process, and not the other way around. So we think that moving the peace process forward is very important in order to put an end to these dangers. But for the moment, on account of this unilateral Israeli action, which does not take events in the region into account, in my opinion the peace process is facing a serious danger.

Moderator: Will you raise this issue at your meeting with Yasser Arafat in Cairo?

Husseini: There will be no meeting with President Arafat in Cairo; he’s still in Asia. But we will meet with other Palestinian leaders and discuss this matter as well.

Moderator: Mr. Husseini, what is the Palestinian attitude towards Syria, given that Syria can prevent Hizbullah from firing Katyushas?

Husseini: That doesn’t depend on us and on Syria.

Moderator: Is Syria a partner?

Husseini: Yes, but it depends on Lebanon. The big question in Lebanon is: Where to? Two years of negotiations, without reaching anything not with Lebanon, not with Syria, and not with Palestine. The Syrians still have not received Israel’s response as to whether it is willing to implement Resolution 242 in full and withdraw from all the occupied lands. The situation is not clear, and this creates tension and new situations and legitimizes actions that do not serve the peace process.

Moderator: Mr. Peres, will Israel condition continuation of the peace process on a more serious Syrian guarantee with regard to the firing of Katyushas on the northern border?

Peres: We will not make the peace process conditional on anything. The peace process is conditional on the peace process. With regard to Hizbullah and Lebanon, I only want to say two things. The first question: what does Hizbullah want? The answer is: to destroy the peace process. The second question: who controls Hizbullah? The Lebanese government? The PLO? Who controls them?

Moderator: Iran?

Peres: Does Iran want peace? Iran doesn’t want peace either. Hence it is Israel’s role, almost by itself, to silence the Katyushas and the guns that want to murder the peace process. The campaign against Hizbullah is also an action on behalf of peace.

Now I want to say something to Mr. Faisal Husseini: With all due respect and friendship, Israel now has a government that does not want to rule over the Palestinians, that is willing to return territory to the Palestinians, that has deep anxieties about Israel’s security, about the climate that has been created. The Palestinians must understand this too. Just as we don’t want to rule over the Palestinians, we don’t want terrorism to take control of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Hence, in my opinion, since there is already a substantial measure of agreement between us, let’s decide what’s better: to take what has already been agreed upon and implement it, or to wait until we agree about everything and in the meantime not do anything. I say: Let’s divide the situation into two chapters. The agreement chapter is already here; about the other chapters we can keep on negotiating.

I am confident that for you, too, as for me, the element of time is a painful one. We too have no interest that the residents of the territories Judea, Samaria, and Gaza should suffer, neither economically nor in any other way. We believe that you can manage your own lives. We have no interest in running life in Nablus, nor in Hebron nor in Gaza. What is more, we are interested in your living in the very best conditions possible, because to live as neighbors is the very best guarantee of peace.

Moderator: Mr. Husseini, what is your response?

Husseini: There is a Palestinian leadership that decided to take part in the peace process and it wants to attain the goals you spoke of. We accepted the interim stage so that we can implement the agreed-on topics, but for this there are two basic conditions. If there are other points of agreement, we have to leave them as they are without changing them. The continuing Israeli activity to expand and thicken the settlements on the West Bank, the continuation of activities that change the face of east Jerusalem by intensifying Jewish settlement in the heart of Jerusalem all these things make Jerusalem an issue that cannot be left for the last stage. The issue of the settlements can’t be left to the last stage either. If we leave this issues to the end, at least there shouldn’t be any unilateral changes affecting them.

Moderator: Mr. Peres?

Peres: We put a halt to the whole matter of settlements of our own free will, because we ourselves don’t want to add settlements in areas that are heavily populated by Arab communities. It wasn’t an ultimatum, a precondition, or pressure. This is a sign that we ourselves are both creating a map and tearing up a map. What is more, we also changed the subsidies that used to go to the settlements. We know, Mr. Husseini, that we are at odds on the issue of Jerusalem. Leave the entire subject to a stage when the permanent solution is being discussed.

Today you have to take into account that not only is the map extremely complicated, but people’s hearts are full of pain. Both yours and ours. We have to make a trek from the very severe climate that exists between the Palestinians and the Israelis to another climate, where we may perhaps treat one another with greater respect, have more faith in the other. I say, let the ship get under way. You know that on the subject of Jerusalem there is no chance of our reaching a compromise on the contrary, the longer we dally about Jerusalem, the larger the gap and disagreement become. You’ve got your own lines, we’ve got ours. You have to know your public, I have to know my public. And instead of negotiating with each other, in the interim we’re deepening the differences.

We halted the settlements, unlike all the previous governments. I want to tell you that the Madrid Conference took place when their were settlements in the territories, and neither the Palestinians nor anyone else said, "first halt the settlements, then we’ll come to Madrid". I think they acted wisely. Today there is a long list of issues on which implementation can begin immediately.

Moderator: Such as?

Peres: For example, I see the question of Gaza as totally open and ready for a decision. It could be Gaza plus something. I don’t rule that out.

Moderator: What is that "plus something," Mr. Peres, something in Judea-Samaria?

Peres: It could be. Under certain conditions that, too, is possible.

Moderator: Jericho, as the PLO demands?

Peres: It could be. We have to study this question. Because we aren’t saying ‘Gaza only’, we’re saying ‘Gaza first’. But we’re not saying ‘Gaza only’. We’re saying, ‘Gaza first and after that what follows.’

We announced in Washington that all the territories constitute a single unit. What we are doing is drawing maps of authorities, not maps of places. That is, every place has to have a different authority, because if there’s a Jewish settlement, if there’s a security zone there, if there’s a road there, there things will be different. After that we say, on a long list of topics, the Palestinians can take them at once and start running them. We say even subjects like taxes, education, health, industry, and many other things.

I also want to tell you, Mr. Husseini, and I know that you think as I do on this matter, and I’m glad of it at the end of this century, it’s not enough to give the Palestinians, or the entire Middle East, only a political settlement. We must have an economic solution. That is, it’s not enough that people regain their dignity; they have to live in dignity. Both the Arabs and us. That is why I think we have to introduce an economic element into the picture. It’s in our interest for the standard of living in Judea-Samaria and Gaza to rise. Today its 1,500- 2,000 dollars, for us it’s 12,000 dollars. There’s no reason for that. The Palestinians are certainly an intelligent people. They can have a higher standard of living.

Moderator: Mr. Husseini, what is your response to Mr. Peres’s offer of ‘Gaza first’ plus something else on the West Bank, as proposed by Israel’s foreign minister?

Husseini: The PLO has stated explicitly that it will consider the idea of ‘Gaza first’ along with Jericho and other areas in the West Bank, on condition that there be agreement on the issue, when the interim stage is applied in the other areas. Something like the separation of forces that was worked out in the past on the Syrian and Egyptian fronts.

Moderator: It’s an idea worth discussing, but there is the sensitive matter of Jerusalem.

Husseini: I agree that the issue of Jerusalem is a sensitive one, if raising the subject of Jerusalem would undermine the peace process. You will agree with me that the intensified construction in Jerusalem and the changes in it undermine the peace process. We say that if Jerusalem has a special status, then all parties must take it into account. But if Israel continues to focus on Jerusalem and say that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, without taking into account the Palestinian position and the possibilities of a future solution in Jerusalem, it could undermine the entire peace process.

Peres: I want to say two things about Jerusalem: We don’t want to put a halt to construction, neither Jewish nor Arab. Jerusalem is a living city, with hundreds of thousands of residents, and one has to build schools and hospitals, and houses, for both Jews and Arabs. In Jerusalem it’s quite impossible to speak about settlements. It’s one united city.

Now, there are two aspects to Jerusalem: that relating to autonomy in the interim solution and whether residents of Jerusalem who hold Jordanian passports can vote that is the practical question. Are you going to come and say that construction has to stop? That’s just another ultimatum that won’t be accepted, and for which there is no need; it would only delay matters and waste time. If you come and say that you want to develop schools, more hospitals, for both Jews and Arabs that’s reasonable. We won’t put Jerusalem on hold. Neither on the Arab side nor on the Jerusalem side. In Jerusalem, come what may and I am confident that Jerusalem will remain a united city as well as the capital of Israel we have no intention of partitioning it; for that matter, you too no longer propose that Jerusalem be partitioned.

The whole question of partitions, it seems to me, is no longer on the agenda. So I say, wait a moment: there are in Jerusalem some 140,000 to 150,000 Palestinians who hold Jordanian passports and are not Israeli citizens. They will want to vote for the autonomy. We have to come up with a solution for this now, as part of the interim settlement. And I tell you, Mr. Husseini, don’t put forward conditions that have no chance of being accepted. That can have only one outcome: delay, delay, delay. Let’s not waste time.

Husseini: I can say the same thing don’t make decisions that we can’t accept and will cause the same undesirable result. We are not asking for an end to construction in Jerusalem, but we do demand an end to the Israeli actions to change the face of the city and turn eastern Jerusalem from Palestinian land with a Palestinian majority into an area with a Jewish majority. This change, which Israel is instituting, is what has to stop. I don’t say that life in Jerusalem has to stop, only that this matter has to stop, and the Palestinians have to have a say regarding everything that happens in Jerusalem.

Moderator: In light of the disagreements between the two sides concerning Jerusalem, when the Secretary of State visits next week will you place Jerusalem at the top of the agenda?

Peres: For us it is not on the agenda at all. For Israel, Jerusalem is an unalterable fact. We did not raise the question of Jerusalem. We recognize that there is a problem in Jerusalem regarding the vote of the Palestinian residents.

Jerusalem must be an open city for all religions. For members of every religion: Muslim, Christian, and of course Jew. There has to be a situation in which all can reach their holy places, pray to their god using whatever prayerbook they see fit to use, in their own language, with absolute freedom. So the religious uniqueness of Jerusalem will be maintained, and the unity of the city must always be preserved, even in the context of the informal relations between Arabs and Jews.

Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem for a century there’s no problem of creating a Jewish majority, we’ve been the majority for a hundred years now. We have to relate, with understanding and respect, to the Arabs who live in Jerusalem as well. We have no interest in seeing the Arab citizens or residents of Jerusalem as inferior in any way whatsoever.

Moderator: But with regard to Christopher’s visit, Mr. Peres, isn’t the visit really meant to resolve the problem in Lebanon, and this issue of Jerusalem and the other problems in the negotiations with the Palestinians won’t even be dealt with?

Peres: There is no solution of a problem in Lebanon on the agenda. In Lebanon there is a problem of an end to the firing of Katyushas. That is a very limited issue.

Moderator: But perhaps Christopher will deal only with that question?

Peres: I hope that by then there will be no need for that. Perhaps it will stop before then. We have no interest in dragging it out until Christopher arrives. We prefer that Mr. Christopher come and deal with the issue of peace between Syria and ourselves, between the Palestinians and ourselves. Neither Mr. Christopher, nor Mr. Husseini, nor anyone in Israel should be interested in having Hizbullah dictate the peace process, or, more accurately, the end-of-peace process. The peace process is taking place without Hizbullah, contrary to Hizbullah, despite Hizbullah. I very much hope that Mr. Christopher will be in a situation where he can devote most of his interest to the continuation of the peace process.

Husseini: The issue of Jerusalem is a fundamental one, and for us it is the main issue. Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state. It is our religious, national, and political capital, and this situation must be part of the framework of any solution. I am not speaking about the partition of Jerusalem. Jerusalem can be united. But now the city is divided. If you visit the eastern part of the city, you find that it is a city under occupation, while the situation in the west of the city is totally different. We want an undivided Jerusalem, but a city that includes an Israeli capital and a Palestinian capital. All that can be realized in the future. But now, if we don’t close the file on Jerusalem and Israel doesn’t stop its actions aimed at changing east Jerusalem, then these negotiations can’t move ahead a single step. If the Israelis think that this question is closed, that’s the main error that could blow up the entire process of negotiations.

Moderator: That means that you will bring up the question of Jerusalem in your meeting with Mr. Christopher next week ,and you’ll tell him that without a solution to the problem of Jerusalem there won’t be any progress?

Husseini: Without an end to the Israeli actions, there won’t be any progress.

Moderator: And the Israeli agreement to give you control of Gaza and maybe Jericho doesn’t represent a breakthrough to put an end to the stalemate in the peace process?

Husseini: Two things are needed to put an end to the stalemate. First, finding a new way; second, a symmetrical attitude to these questions. If Israel says that from now on that Jerusalem is its eternal capital, we totally reject that. We are prepared to put off the discussion of the fate of Jerusalem to a later stage and I’m talking about all of Jerusalem. But for now the way has to be left open in a manner that in the future will permit a discussion of the future of Jerusalem.

Moderator: Do we have a dead end here, Mr. Peres?

Peres: Look, I’m not so quick to give grades, not to dead ends and not to open paths. I listened closely to what Mr. Faisal Husseini said. He said that perhaps, as with Egypt, here too we have to have an interim accord, an initial accord that will not include everything. For an initial accord we really are speaking about the idea of ‘Gaza first’.

Husseini: Plus.

Peres: Plus. After there is a declaration of principles. So let’s remain there.

Now, Mr. Faisal Husseini said that he also understands that from the Palestinian perspective, at least, there is a need to raise the issue of Jerusalem in the context of the permanent solution. At this time, in the framework of autonomy, which is not a Palestinian state and not a state at all autonomy is not a state, it has its own good points and its own deficiencies in this framework of autonomy, in my opinion, with regard to Jerusalem, there is an extremely grave problem. But it is the main problem relevant to the question of autonomy, namely, the matter of voting by residents of Jerusalem. That we have to resolve.

Moderator: But there is the question of the closure and the new neighborhoods being built in Jerusalem, and that’s what bothers the Palestinians.

Husseini: Yes, particularly that.

Moderator: Can’t something be done?

Peres: I understand that. I understand the matter of the closure. But what led to the closure? The closure is not a goal. The closure, too, is a response to knifings and murder. If we reach an agreement, there won’t be knives and there won’t be a closure. The moment there are no knives, there won’t be a closure either, and there never was a closure. In my opinion, it’s in our interest for the people to be able to move about freely. Mr. Husseini, I want to promise you: we have no interest in causing suffering to the people or disturbances to the people. Students should be able to get to school, sick people to the hospital, and everyone to public institutions, jobs, and the like. I hope that if we truly reach an understanding between us, the entire problem will resolve itself.

Moderator: That means that lifting the closure depends on an agreement with the Palestinians, and not before then?

Peres: Lifting the closure depends on there being no need for it. What led to the closure? Already today there are easings of the closure. The military authorities are looking for ways to make it easier, as far as possible, for worshippers, students, patients, lawyers wherever possible and necessary. But of course we are also taking security measures to see to it that the former situation does not return that the residents of Jerusalem are deprived of their personal security, that people are not stabbed in broad daylight, in the middle of the street, No government would tolerate that.

Husseini: Mr. Peres, this closure is not a security-related closure. There is a difference between a security closure and a political closure. There can be a security closure at any time. This closure doesn’t prevent someone who wants to perpetrate a stabbing from getting through. The knife-wielder won’t go through the roadblocks; he’ll go around them. For me, the difference between a political closure and a security closure is that a security closure prevents the entry of certain groups for various reasons and does not determine who can be admitted. When you say that certain people can enter, that’s a political closure, which requires that people get a permit to enter Jerusalem. In the past, too, when there was a security problem, certain people or groups were forbidden entry, for various reasons. The current closure is a political closure based on a particular political concept and is destroying the economy of east Jerusalem, which is totally based on the area around it. If you want security, that’s your right; but this security cannot be at the expense of the Palestinian socio-economic infrastructure.

Peres: I would not want suspicion to be stronger than the reality. I tell you quite seriously, there was no planning about the closure. What led to the closure was 15 incidents, one after the other, of knives being plunged into people’s backs or chests. It’s a fact that since the closure, this has come to an end. It’s not a political matter. It really is an undeniable security matter. Since the closure, too, the government, the Defense Minister, and the military administration have been looking for ways to make it easier. It’s a fact that 50,000 entry permits have been granted to come work in Israel, out of the 120,000 there were before. We also know that in Jerusalem there is passage without permits. We know that too. We’re not making it that difficult, once there is no such danger.

We waited 25 years without a closure. Why? What, did we wake up one fine morning and decide to alter the policy? I’m not saying that there are no political results of the closure, only that the intention was not political. And the result is absolutely a matter security. In my opinion, under other political conditions there would be no need for the closure.

Moderator: Regarding the question of security, Mr. Husseini, can the PLO guarantee control and security in the Gaza Strip in the event of an Israeli withdrawal from it, in accordance with Mr. Peres’s proposal?

Husseini: The PLO can guarantee control and security as long as there are clear political agreements; then it’s possible to guarantee security. We had that in the past. For example, in southern Lebanon. But all that has to be part of a clear political conception. For example, it has to be clear that this is part of a continuing process. That’s why we say Gaza and Jericho, so it’s a question not only of Gaza but a step that will include all the territories in order to make progress on this issue. It has to be clear to all that leaving a particular area does not mean disqualifying another area and removing it from the context of the peace process.

Peres: I’m glad to hear what Mr. Faisal Husseini says, since even from a conversation like this you could think we will never reach an agreement. I want to state what, in my opinion, is agreed upon and self-evident.

It is agreed that the declaration of principles must cover all the territories, not only Judea-Samaria and Gaza, and certainly not each of them separately. It must be a comprehensive declaration with regard to the territory, which for this purpose is a single territory about this there is no disagreement.

Second, when it comes to implementing the declarations, after they have been worked out, we can start in Gaza. I know that the Palestinians demand Gaza plus Jericho. We haven’t decided about this, but we are aware of the demand. This means an interim agreement within an interim agreement, in order to give the process a push forward. This too we agree to.

Third, we have to distinguish between security measures and political measures for these five years of autonomy, although it could be less. We certainly agree that the security of the Palestinians will be in the hands of the Palestinians, while the security of Israel and the Israelis will remain in the hands of Israel. On this matter, too, there is substantial agreement between us.

In my opinion, we have to get out of those tight spots where we can’t reach agreement so that we can truly move forward and reach what we do agree on. There is no choice. We have to move forward in stages because of the problems that have been created by history, by wars, and also by the extremely complicated geography it’s not at all simple, there isn’t much room to maneuver here. We’re not the Soviet Union. We’re not America. This is a very small country. There are two peoples in it, and they’re not exactly concentrated in a single place; they’re spread out and dispersed. That makes it very difficult, and I don’t want to make light of it. I’m also certain that Mr. Husseini doesn’t make light of it. So I say, let us move step by step out of the mess we’re in.

Moderator: What is the next step in building mutual trust between the two sides?

Peres: I would put it this way, I’ll list the stages: To attain a declaration of principles, out of skim milk rather than cream, because not everything has to be included in the declaration of principles. The main points have to be there. In essence, we have to take pen and calendar in hand. What we agree on, we should sign on the dotted line; what we don’t agree on, we should mark another date on the calendar. That’s the first thing.

Second, to proceed on the idea of ‘Gaza first’ it could be plus something else.

Third, to transfer to the Palestinians those spheres of responsibility that they are willing to assume, in all the territories.

Fourth, to start dealing with the economic side of Judea-Samaria and Gaza, in order to help them attain economic control, not just political control, to set up the institutions and infrastructure.

I do not believe it possible to solve the economic problems of the Arabs or the Jews by means of a national solution. There has to be a regional solution. All the talk of an Israeli takeover, of imperialism it’s nonsense. Today, in the realm of economics, there is no domination; there is competition. Japan has a massive armory, not because it dominates, but because it competes effectively. Everyone has to compete across open borders. We have to solve the water problem. We have to develop tourism. We have to set up an infrastructure so that people can move about.

If Mr. Faisal Husseini will permit me, there is one place in the world that is very similar to the Gaza Strip Singapore. Singapore is a tiny country with a very dense population, where there were hovels and poverty like in Gaza. A proper government came and turned Singapore into a jewel, not because its territory got larger or its population got smaller, but because they introduced the appropriate regime. Today Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world. I say, for example, about Gaza, that it should take Singapore as its model. The same can be done there. Some say, those are Chinese and these are Arabs. There’s no difference. Every people can make economic progress when it has to, if it adopts the correct economic doctrine.

Moderator: Mr. Husseini, Mr. Peres has proposed certain stages to build mutual trust between the Israelis and the Palestinians. What is your reaction?

Husseini: There are points of agreement between us, but there is no overall agreement on all the points he mentioned. The declaration of principles has to include all the territory, because it’s a single territory, and here I cannot exclude Jerusalem from this context. A section must be devoted to Jerusalem, but they’re not dealing with the issue of Jerusalem at this stage. The second point is related to the question of security. In everything related to Palestinian security, we have Palestinian security. The security attitude to military outposts and the like must be different. But the law applying to this area must be a single law, and not Israeli laws and Palestinian laws. The territory under Palestinian administration must be fully under Palestinian jurisdiction and subject to a single law.

Moderator: Gentlemen, this is the first nondiscreet meeting between the two of you. The question is whether today, and in the wake of this program, will we start to see meetings at a more senior level between Israelis and Palestinians, Mr. Peres?

Peres: There is a Palestinian delegation headed by Mr. Faisal Husseini. We know exactly whom they meet with, whom they consult with, in what planes they fly, and with whom they reach decisions. We don’t say anything. The delegation is acceptable to the Palestinians as it is, so we talk with them. We don’t present them with conditions, nor do we engage in any pretense at home. In this we’re different from the other political parties. We know the truth. I find that it is possible to sit with Mr. Faisal Husseini and continue talking.

We have met in the past and we’ll meet in the future. There’s no shame in that. I don’t want to give rise to any confusion. We met with Mr. Faisal Husseini even before he became head of the delegation to Washington. I believe that with the right kind of dialogue, first of all I would want one thing to disappear between us: plain suspicion. He may have his opinions and I mine, and we may not agree, but what I don’t want is for disagreement to be created because I am suspicious of him and he of me. That isn’t necessary. We have enough problems.

Moderator: How does Mr. Husseini differ, for example, from the PLO leadership?

Peres: If he isn’t different, why make him different? If he is good, why change him? For me he’s good. Good for negotiations. So why do you want to change him? I don’t want to get into all the other disputes today. If you start with the PLO, there’s the problem of the Covenant, there’s the problem of terrorism, there’s the problem of the diaspora. Do you want to start up all the debates again?

I say there’s enough disagreement, and there’s enough agreement. There’s agreement about a channel, and we’re sitting and talking. Did we tell Mr. Husseini whom not to consult with? Did we tell Mr. Husseini where he shouldn’t travel? He is a representative, acceptable to the Palestinian side and acceptable to us as well.

Moderator: Did you meet with Abu Mazen in Cairo, Mr. Peres?

Peres: Do you have any more questions like that? I met with Mr. Husseini, and I did not meet with Mr. Abu Mazen.

Husseini: Let’s call a spade a spade. In practice you are negotiating with the PLO. So why won’t you negotiate with it officially?

Peres: Just a minute. If that’s the situation, you’ve given us a compliment. So what more do you want? You have no more demands. If that’s the situation, then there’s a delegation and we’re talking to them. So let’s put everything else aside. Let’s not have a dispute about the delegation. Do you agree?

Husseini: The time will come when you will speak officially with the side that in practice you’re speaking with today.

Moderator: In conclusion, each of you certainly wants to address the other’s public. We’ll start with you, Mr. Husseini. What would you like to say to the Israeli viewer?

Husseini: I would like to tell the Israeli viewer that he must understand that the null equation is past. Not everything that is good for us is necessarily bad for Israel, and not everything that is bad for us is good for Israel. There are many things we can win together and lose together. Now we must think about the way of peace, and not the way of war. We are working for peace. We must come up with a scenario for peace. There are many extremely sensitive issues. If we think about them with this logic, the result will be different.

Another point you have to understand is that just as you have sensitive issues in certain areas, these issues are sensitive to us to the same degree. It is wrong for Israelis to assume that these issues are sensitive only for them and that the Palestinians must accept this. They must relate to us as equals and know that there are common issues that can be solved only together from Jerusalem to borders.

Peres: I want to say some very clear things to the Palestinian side. First, we do relate to you as equals, as one people to another, as one human being to another. Second, I want to tell you, unequivocally, that we have no intention of ruling the Palestinian people now or subduing them in the future. This contradicts the spirit of Judaism as well as the political interest of Israel. Third, since we don’t want to rule the Palestinians now or subdue them in the future, we are prepared to return to Palestinian rule, self-rule in this stage, those areas that are populated by the Palestinians themselves. We are interested in their political and economic success, and we believe that the end of war and the beginning of cooperation will serve them, and will also serve us.

We believe that, in our times, there is no place for colonialism, imperialism, or war. The era of wars is over. Moreover, we believe that the Palestinian public, which is so intelligent and advanced, can also be the first to introduce the democratic system in the Arab world. Nothing will help the Arab side more than a democratic regime built on freedom, that rejects war.

Moderator: Gentlemen, thank you for this meeting, which may perhaps be the beginning of a positive and productive dialogue in the future. Good evening and thank you very much.