(Translated from Hebrew)
April 11, 1994
Negotiations with the Palestinians and Security Q: In two days it will be April 13, target date or not, but it seems to me that we are further away from the goal than ever. A closure has been imposed on the territories following a wave of terrorist attacks, and we do not seem to be coming any closer to a solution.
PM RABIN: I disagree. The government has decided to move towards a political solution on the basis of the Declaration of Principles signed in Washington. The Cairo Agreement, which provided answers for the major security issues within the framework of the agreement on Gaza and Jericho first, defined precisely the fact that the Jewish settlements in the Gaza area would remain as blocs; it defined the arrangements for the movement of Israelis on the roads there, bearing in mind that there are 5,000 Israelis living among three quarters of a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, as well as the matter of Israel’s responsibility for external security on land, sea and air.
At the same time, we must of course deal with those Palestinian organizations who are fighting the agreement through terrorism, directly first of all against Israelis. The cruel murder carried out in Afula in a suicide carbomb attack on a bus and bus stop, which caused us painful losses, was a hard blow. We shall continue our struggle against the terrorist organizations HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad, one of whose murderers carried out the attack at the Ashdod junction. We know this for a fact, and we shall fight them with everything in our power. I believe, too, that we will prevail over them. We have known terrorist attacks in the past, and I am afraid there is no hermetic solution to terrorism. We have not found one in the 46 years that the State of Israel has been in existence.
Our effort today is to achieve a combined political solution, and first of all to rid ourselves of Gaza. I await the moment when, within the framework of an agreement, not of withdrawal without agreement, Israeli soldiers will not have to patrol the greater Gaza area, and suffer such losses as we have know in the seven years of the intifada.
Q: You speak of the political effort, but the question is whether the closure imposed until further notice, as you announced yesterday at the Cabinet meeting, within the framework of the war on terrorism, is not in fact detrimental to the effort to achieve an agreement with the PLO? There were ministers yesterday who warned that the closure was liable to lead Arafat to refuse to accept responsibility over the area.
PM RABIN: I don’t agree. I think that there is an opportunity for Arafat and those with him to reach a political solution, to take over Gaza, except of course all that was agreed upon on the basis of the Cairo Agreement and the attached map. We have the right to ensure our security, especially when it is possible to reach agreement on a political solution. We did not suspend the talks in the wake of Palestinian terrorism against us, it was the PLO that suspended negotiations following the Hebron massacre, and we are therefore not to blame for the time lost.
It is the duty of the government to guarantee maximum security, and this is not an easy task. For example, the car used in the murderous attack in Afula was stolen in Israel, with Israeli plates. About ten thousand vehicles cross from Judea and Samaria into Israel proper daily. The soldiers and police make every effort to check them. But there are also dirt roads, and a terrorist who is prepared to place his life in danger and even to die may sometimes succeed. We shall do everything in our power to see that they do not succeed, but there have already been five carbombs exploded by terrorists.
We are dealing with organizations that are different from what we knew three years ago HAMAS and the Islamic Jihad. Their mode of operation, their readiness to commit suicide attacks, is reminiscent of Hizbullah in Lebanon, which in the past caused us considerable harm and cost many lives. But we shall deal with this and shall prevail over them, with a combination of a political solution and military action.
Q: So perhaps the solution vis-a-vis these organizations is not closure but to halt the political process, if the number of Israeli victims grows?
PM RABIN: In my opinion, the situation today cannot be compared to what existed in the past. Stopping the negotiations would be a victory for the enemies of peace, first and foremost on the Palestinian side, and also to those in Israel to oppose the peace process. We must not award a prize to a heinous murderer like the terrorist who carried out the attack in Afula, by halting the peace process.
Arafat’s Reaction to the Afula Attack Q: Aren’t we giving a prize to someone who was not prepared to condemn or at least to come out publicly against those who seek to kill the peace process?
PM RABIN: I believe that Arafat made a serious error in not condemning it. But his behavior is not a criterion for the behavior of the Israeli government, and I therefore do not think that the correct response is to stop the negotiations. Stopping negotiations would be to reward those who murder Israelis and who seek to kill peace.
Opposition to the Peace Process Q: We hear a lot about the need to make allowances for Yasser Arafat’s internal difficulties, but I would like to ask you about the erosion of support for the agreement among Israelis. Demonstrations are held almost every evening. Aren’t you concerned by this erosion?
PM RABIN: First of all, with regard to the Palestinian side. I proposed to the government that we impose a closure because we must first of all take every step to guarantee security, first to the 97 percent fo the Israelis living inside sovereign Israel, including united Jerusalem, and of course fulfilling also our responsibility to the 3 or 2.5 percent of the Israeli citizens living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
As for opposition within Israel, so long as the opposition is lawful, within reasonable bounds, this is legitimate in a democratic state. I believe that the radical right has crossed red lines. I do not recall that at the time of the terrorist attack which resulting in the largest number of Israelis killed since the establishment of the state namely the 1978 attack against a bus on the coastal road between Herzliah and Tel Aviv any of us said that ‘this is a government with blood on its hands’ or used the blood spilled there as a political tool. The time has come for the radical right to stop reveling in the bloodshed.
Negotiations with Syria Q: Is there any progress on the Syrian track? Those negotiations are expected to resume at the end of this month or the beginning of the next.
PM RABIN: The talks with Syria will resume, I believe along the lines that I discussed with President Clinton during my visit to the United States. Perhaps we shall find a way to move the negotiations onto more reasonable lines than what has taken place so far in Washington.
Q: Are there other channels for these talks?
PM RABIN: The problem at the moment is that there are no other channels. I take objection to the way in which the negotiations have been conducted in Washington, where the Syrians first demanded an Israeli commitment to full withdrawal in return for full peace which the Syrians did not define. I am not prepared to accept a demand for overall withdrawal as a condition for negotiations. The negotiations must address all aspects, both peace and withdrawal. Israel has agreed in principle to withdraw on the Golan Heights. But we must see the connection between peace and withdrawal, the security arrangements to be determined, timetables, what part of the normalization will take place where and at what stage, how long normalization will be tested before we withdraw to an agreed line and the Israeli position is not one of complete withdrawal.
Then, of course, there is the American contribution to the strengthening of Israel and the upholding of the arrangements that will be agreed upon with Syria in the framework of a peace
treaty. All this must be tested in a comprehensive structure, and not as the Syrians have been trying since the Madrid Conference, demanding that Israel first agree to full withdrawal before we sit down and talk. This will not be the basis for negotiations with Syria.