GUEST: BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER
SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 1997
MS. ROBERTS: Joining us now from Jerusalem is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and with us in the studio, as always, George Will.
Prime Minister, thank you very much for coming in. We appreciate you joining us this morning.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Good morning.
MS. ROBERTS: Let’s pick up from the end of what Bill Redeker just said there, that here on out the negotiations that you will be telling people what to do rather than negotiating on what to do. Is that the case?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I think Bill Redeker should study the agreements. In fact, there is a clear stipulation that Israel will determine in the course of an interm settlement three further redeployments, without specifying, of course, how much we should redeploy for or from, but the important thing is that we should do so in order to take into account of our security needs.
I think that understanding that Israel is to determine those specific, specified military locations for our redeployment was clearly stated by United States secretary of state, Mr. Christopher, in his letter to me and, I believe, in his letter to Arafat as well. So it is not my dictat that’s a terrible word. It is simply the agreement, and we believe in keeping agreements.
We have just shown in Hebron that we keep our agreements, and we expect the Palestinians to keep theirs, their commitments to annul the charter, calling for our destruction, to collect illegal firearms, to fight effectively, namely to dismantle terrorist organizations. We both keep our agreements. That’s the news about this new agreement and this new government.
MS. ROBERTS: When you were explaining the agreement, you said that there was a new and a different reality. There’s no different Likud, but a different reality that was forced upon us. Who forced it on you?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The previous government. It made agreements that I would have designed very differently. I would have negotiated them in a different way. I would have not had so many holes in the security area. We have to plug a lot of those holes today, but nevertheless, flawed as they are, these agreements were handed over to us as a new government.
I pleased in the course of the election campaign that I would honor the previous agreements reached by the previous government, providing that the Palestinian side conduct or, rather, carry out the commitments they gave to us. That is called reciprocity.
MS. ROBERTS: Do you think they have done that?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I expect them to do so, and one of the an important thing that has been done in the Hebron agreement is what is called the post-Hebron agreement, that spells out in very clear terms what are Israel’s commitments, what are the Palestinian commitments, and there’s a column C, too those items that have to be negotiated. I think that has been codified and formalized, attested to by the United States, and it’s a refreshing change. It means that peace is not a one-way street where Israel gives and the Palestinians receive, but that both sides have mutual undertakings to one another, and we both have to make concessions to one another. We both have to address each others needs, and I think that’s a better road to peace.
MR. WILL: Prime Minister, 99 percent of Palestinians, other than those who today live in East Jerusalem, are today living under Palestinian authority. So we’re talking about redeployments and occupations of largely uninhabited land, I gather, on the West Bank.
Now, it is your position to just reinforce what you’ve said to Cokie, that it is Israel’s unilateral decision how much withdrawal there shall be from the West Bank on the part of Israel.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Yes, that’s been our position all the time, George, but the important thing right now, that it’s your position I mean, the United States position in a formal letter to us; and I think that’s very important because we have two processes here. One is the redeployments in the form of an interim settlement, and simultaneously, we begin to negotiate a final settlement negotiation that will take place or will be consummated after these redeployments.
The important thing that has happened in the post-Hebron agreement is this. Israel will redeploy to those areas that it deems important for security and defense, but it will still have the option to negotiate from this position on a final settlement, and the way that Oslo was interpreted by many on the Palestinian side before that, Israel was supposed to hand over or summarily hand over just about in the entire area of Judea and Samaria of the West Bank, and then supposed to negotiate something that has already been predetermined. That has changed.
MR. WILL: Prime Minister, this is the third or fourth time that Mr. Arafat has sold changing the charter in negotiations with you. There are supposed to be 18,000 armed people under his command. There are at least twice that many. There are known terrorists who are supposed to be arrested wandering around, some of them, I guess, in uniform, and there are 27 people who are suspected killers of Israelis who have not been sent back. Those are four conditions they have not met. Are you going to proceed with any of your undertakings until those four are met?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I think that once you have the idea of reciprocity, and trying as it is now, that a measure of compliance on one side will determine the measure of compliance on the other side.
Now, there is not a specific linkage of an item from column A, our column, to an item on column B, their column, but obviously, if we we’re not going to go back to the situation that existed before under the previous government that merely carried out Israeli obligations without any regard to whether there is reciprocity on the other side and it has come to an end.
MR. DONALDSON: Prime Minister, I have two questions, one about peace and one about you. Do you have any new ideas in trying to get the process started with Syria again, and do you think you will?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I have a number of ideas, and I think yes, the process will resume because I think peace is also in Syria’s interest and not only our interest.
MR. DONALDSON: Do you have a new idea that you think could get things started?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Yes. It’s a wonderful idea that peace is important for both of us.
MR. DONALDSON: I meant specifically, sir.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, some specifics about that, too, but I definitely do not believe in preconditions. I don’t tell Syria, for example, that we have to resolve Lebanon in advance of any negotiations vis-a-vis the Golan Heights. Syria will be free to raise its position vis-a-vis the Golan Heights. We’ll be free to raise our positions. Usually, the negotiations come to a different end from the beginning that both parties have, but I certainly don’t have to start with the other side’s closing position.
MR. DONALDSON: Now the question about you. I mean, members of your own party, the Likud, are very angry at you. Mr. Begin, the former prime minister’s son, has resigned from your Cabinet in protest. The liberal party is angry saying you have defiled the memory of the late Yitzhak Rabin by saying you have gotten done what he couldn’t do. What is your political base now, and will your government survive?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The government is surviving very well, and my political base is very wide, probably got a little wider in the last few days.
Let me tell you what I think is the important thing. The people of Israel are united in the desire for peace. We were elected not obstruct the peace, but to do two things, one, to negotiate in a different way, that is, insisting on reciprocity and security, and we’ve done that, and second is negotiate towards at different end, one that keeps Jerusalem united, one that gives Israel the necessary areas and terrain to defend itself that maintains the right of Jews to settle in their ancestral homeland, and ultimately, to give the Palestinians or to offer the Palestinians self-government, but without those sovereign powers that could threaten Israel. That’s the mandate, and we’re going forward with it, and I think we have the majority of the people behind it.
MR. DONALDSON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you.