EXCERPTS FROM APPEARANCE BY FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES ON ISRAEL TELEVISION ‘CONFERENCE CALL’

APRIL 26, 1994

– Agreement between HAMAS and the PLO:

This will be evaluated through their actions, not by declarations. If the PLO agrees to this, I believe it is endangering its existence. HAMAS wants first of all to rid itself of the PLO. Moreover, HAMAS is not one single organization. Arafat himself said in a conversation with me that there are three: HAMAS-Jordan, HAMAS-Syria and HAMAS-Palestinians. He said: HAMAS in Syria takes orders from Syria, HAMAS in Jordan takes orders from Jordan, the Palestinian HAMAS in Israel according to Arafat is divided from within. We shall judge them on the only basis possible: their actual behavior.

There are two differences between HAMAS and the PLO. HAMAS is against the agreement with Israel, and HAMAS is for the use of weapons. If HAMAS will be against the use of weapons and for the peace agreement, if HAMAS will accept the PLO position in favor of peace, it will no longer be HAMAS. We are not negotiating with names. But if, God forbid, the PLO will accept the HAMAS position, there will be no agreement, and the PLO knows this.

– The Evacuation of Settlements in the Territories:

Were relations between Israel and the Palestinians different, there would be no need to evacuate anyone. There are Arabs living for example in Haifa is anyone harming them? Two towns, Jewish and Arab, live side by side Ma’alot and Tarshiha. Is anyone there in danger? What we seek to change is the entire relationship between Jews and Arabs. People say: Gaza is right near Ashkelon. But Aqaba is near Eilat, and no shots are being fired from Aqaba to Eilat or from Eilat to Aqaba. We have to understand that aside from borders, the decisive issue is relations. We are not telling anyone to evacuate settlements. We are saying that we are responsible for the security of all the Israelis in the territories.

– Condemnation of Terrorist Attacks by Arafat:

I am not prepared to ask Arafat for a condemnation. I do not live by what Arafat says. I can only say that I heard with my own ears the PLO and Arafat condemn and take exception to these actions. Arafat appeared together with me in Bucharest before 2,000 people, 700 journalists, and he condemned it in the clearest and harshest terms.

– The Gaza-Jericho Agreement:

If you set a time, it speeds up the negotiations. I am not saying a week or two it could also be three weeks. Most of the issues that had to be settled through detailed negotiations have been resolved. Now it is time for political decisions. We must act as quickly as possible in order to create a new reality.

You can say that terrorism can be fought only with military means, only by closure. I do not believe this. I believe that aside from the closure and other measures, what is needed is a new relationship. A new relationship will not be created unless there is a change in the reality, not in words, and this change in reality is the establishment of Palestinian self-government in Gaza and Jericho.

– The MIAs and the Release of Palestinian Prisoners:

The problem is not one of force, or of posing conditions. The problem is first of all one of information. If we knew who was holding the MIAs and where, we could use either force, conditions or threats. We don’t have the necessary information. We could of course postpone the implementation of the agreement. What would the result be? Israeli soldiers would remain longer in the Gaza Strip, and there would be more casualties. Who would we be punishing? It is my impression that Arafat himself does not have as much information as we think. The subject is raised in every meeting and talk between us.

The problem is not the release of prisoners. The State of Israel is entering into an agreement with the PLO which contains an article on the release of prisoners and a PLO commitment to cease terrorism. We are not releasing anyone who has shed Jewish blood. We are talking about a comprehensive agreement, and I see no point in punishing ourselves by a delay. We shall do everything to obtain the information, but the information must be obtained from someone who has it. First of all we have to find out who is holding him. In my opinion, it is the Iranian government which is responsible for holding Ron Arad captive.

– Negotiations with Syria and Withdrawal on the Golan Heights:

Prime Minister Rabin did not say that he is prepared to withdraw comletely from the Golan Heights. He said: the depth of withdrawal will be in accordance with the depth of peace. But he did not speak of total withdrawal.

There are two questions here, one military which is directed to the IDF General Staff, and the other political directed to the government. When we ask the army: How can we win a war? – it says: Hold on to another mountain and yet another mountain. That’s its legitimate role. The question we ask the government is: How can we prevent war? What is more important to win a war or to prevent it? In order to prevent war you have to achieve peace.

Therefore, the question is not whether we should withdraw from the Golan Heights but how to achieve peace. Can we achieve peace with Syria when the Golan Heights is in our hands or not? If Israel has to live from war to war, if our sole consideration is how to win wars, what kind of security will that be? There is a security measure which is more important than any kind of deployment, and that is peace. Peace is a weapon for Israeli security.

I never said that I am in favor of concessions. Neither do I wish to state that I am in favor of conceding the entire Golan Heights. I am not in favor of making such statements. We say that in order to achieve peace with Syria, we are prepared to make concessions on the Golan Heights. It is clear to us that if you concede parts of the Golan, and I am not saying how much, settlements will not remain there. This goes together. We have to speak the truth. It’s time we stopped pretending.

In my opinion, in order to achieve a complete peace agreement with Syria, including the Golan Heights, there are several things which must be accomplished.

I would like this to be the last agreement with the Arab world, namely after an agreement is signed with Syria, there will no longer be an Arab world that imposes a boycott, that threatens Israel with war. Assad says that he is a leader of the Arab world. This is the last mountain that has to be negotiated. I want this to be the last war we discuss.

Peace with Syria must be accompanied by two types of agreement: a comprehensive agreement with respect to states, and a comprehensive agreement with respect to issues strategic, tactical and economic. This time we want a comprehensive peace, not an open sore. We want to achieve real, comprehensive peace. We know that there is a price, we know the price will be painful. But we need not announce it at the beginning of negotiations.