ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 1997
MR. JONES: With us live from Jerusalem is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Joining in the questioning, Robert Greenberger of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Prime Minister, thanks so much for coming in today. And I’d like to start by asking you a Palestinian student has been killed so far, and there are clashes going on frequently. At this point you’re in Jerusalem how would you assess the mood there?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Well, we obviously regret any loss of life. We had hoped that there would be a clear call to stop all violent demonstrations. We didn’t see it on the Palestinian side. But I think overall the level of violence is smaller than many expected. I hope to see a day when we can solve our difficulties by talking with one another, rather than trying to blow up cafes in Tel Aviv, or send demonstrators with arms and clubs or bombs against one another. And that is what I think we should go back to.
MR. GREENBERGER: Prime minister, if I can ask you to clarify one thing please. Why is it your troops were using live ammunition yesterday as opposed to rubber bullets? Were they in imminent danger?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: First of all, I’m not sure exactly what they were using. We are clarifying that right now. But the instructions I gave were very clear that except in cases where the soldiers are actually threatened with their very lives, they would use tear gas or rubber bullets. In some cases rubber bullets themselves can be lethal, at close range and we are not sure exactly if it was a rubber bullet or live ammunition. In any case, what we have sought to do, what we have asked the Palestinian Authority to do, is to curb these demonstrations. We did experience a week ago a situation where they were the Palestinian police were actually pushing the demonstrators in front of our troops, and then coming at the very end to act to quell it, to receive a double whammy if you will, on the one hand to show that there is so-called "spontaneous violence," and at the same time to be credited with curbing it at the nick of time so to speak. I hope that’s not what’s going today I will receive information as we go along.
MR. JONES: Mr. Prime Minister, are you satisfied with what you see the Palestinians doing now to keep this under control?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: It’s too early to tell. I think we have still a situation where the green light for terrorism, which was given between the 10th and 13th of the month in four different meetings with the Palestinian terrorist groups that green light unleashed several terror groups, notably Islamic Jihad and Hamas. One of them bombed this cafe in Tel Aviv, obliterating three young women and causing injury to many other civilians. We are not sure at this point that all the terrorists have been curbed. We have asked the Palestinian Authority we have said that they must act immediately against these terror operatives. They should jail them bring them back into incarceration make sure that they cannot act. I cannot tell you at this point if such action has been taken or completed.
MR. GREENBERGER: Prime Minister, there are some reports here in Washington that Secretary of State Albright is at least considering at this point a trip to the Middle East relatively soon. This of course would follow a pattern set by Secretaries Baker and Christopher, and of course Dennis Ross. I am curious about one thing: Why is it that United States diplomats have to micromanage the peace process so closely. Does it suggest that the Americans want this more than the people in the region do?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: No, I don’t think so. First of all, I think that there has always been an American involvement in critical times in the peace process. I don’t see that we could have resolved Camp David without the United States, or for that matter any other agreement that we’ve had or are likely to have. And I welcome that American involvement.
I don’t think nmicromanagement is necessary. I think we’ve had here a virtual collapse of the peace process, because we reached in the course of negotiations, in the course of the process, we reach periodic points of impasse of conflict or disagreement. That is inevitable. It happens in any negotiation. What we have found though in this case is that the Palestinian side unleashed terrorism as a weapon of negotiations; and that is something we cannot accept. I think the United States cannot accept this idea either. And we have asked and demanded that this weapon not merely be sheathed you can take this sword out, kill some people innocent people in a cafe in Tel Aviv then sheath it back and then wait for the next impasse. What we are what we are asking is not merely a control of terrorism for the next few days or weeks; we want to see the peace process continue when terrorism is simply put out of the picture, because it has no place in the pursuit of peace.
MR. JONES: Mr. Prime Minister, you seem to suggest that it is all the Palestinians’ fault. Do you not take any responsibility by starting this new neighborhood?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: I think that we have the obvious right to build in Jerusalem, to build neighborhoods.
MR. JONES: I understand that, but it’s the timing sir, it’s the timing that people are questioning, the timing of this new neighborhood.
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Well, let me ask you a question: When is the right time to build? Jerusalem neighborhoods have been built on lands that the Arabs have contested since 1967. If we had agreed the timing was not possible, Jerusalem would have been stifled, and by now a dying city. It’s been growing. I think that we need to build for Arabs as for Jews. And, by the way, this particular neighborhood that is contested is 75 percent private Jewish land. Every time I hear on television I am not crediting CBS with this "Arab-occupied land" it’s Jewish land, private Jewish land 75 percent. And at the same time we are building in other neighborhoods for Arabs. It’s a living city. We should build. But this is not the argument that I think is important.
MR. GREENBERGER: Prime Minister, we seem to be on the edge of what appears to be a new intifada, and it raises some perplexing questions. On the one hand, in your view is Chairman Arafat orchestrating this? Is he in control of it, in which case he would not be a very valid peace partner? On the other hand, is it passing him by and is it beyond his control, in which case he also wouldn’t be a very valid peace partner? So how do you get from here to where you need to get?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: By showing that he is in control and stopping the violence.
MR. GREENBERGER: Do you believe he is in control?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: I think he is perfectly able. Yes, I do, and I think he’s able to control and quell all violence, and that’s what we expect of him.
MR. JONES: Mr. Prime Minister, would you welcome a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Albright?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: She will always be a welcome visitor.
MR. JONES: Do you think she’s needed?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: I think that when the time comes I’m sure that she will make that visit. I don’t want to say in advance when the right time will be, and I am sure that when she decides to come believe me, we’ll accept her with all the hospitality and respect that we have for her.
MR. JONES: Part of that decision might be based on whether or not you invite her. Would you invite her now?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Well, we’ve just had a visit with Dennis Ross, the emissary of President Clinton and Secretary Albright, and I’m sure he’ll report back what he’s finding. I think both of us expect at this point certainly I expect the Palestinian side to show that terrorism and violence are not going to be pursued in the next days, months, weeks and months, in order for us to be able to move on with the peace process.
I have made a proposal on how to move on with the peace process. There can be other ideas, and they can be entertained. And I am sure some of them will be raised by the United States. And when the United States thinks that it’s an appropriate time to present those ideas, I will be the first to welcome this.
MR. JONES: No indication today?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: There is always an open invitation. An open invitation always. You are not going to get a headline out of me on that one.
MR. GREENBERGER: Prime Minister, very quickly, the foreign ministers of the Arab League are meeting in Cairo today, and they are talking about suspending relations with Israel, and sort of going back to where things were several years ago. What is your comment on that? And do you think that your actions, the actions of your government, are in part responsible for this action?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: No, look, we are always accused. We had the entire Arab world and most of the world gang up on us in a fictitious charge on the tunnel, opening of a tunnel that had been there for 2,000 years. We were told that we were burrowing under Al Aqsa Mosque preposterous but people believed it. We were castigated by the entire world when we knocked out the Osirak atomic reactor in Iraq, when we brought the world 15 years of nuclear peace. We’re used to be bashed for a while. But I think peace is in the interest of all the Arab countries around us certainly in most of them. I think it’s in the interest of Egypt and Jordan, with whom we have peace, and many others with whom we’d make peace. And I would urge the Arab countries to think of their larger interests, their longer interests, as I urged the Palestinians, to consider the necessity of peace for them, for their children, as for our children, and I hope that common sense will win the day here.
MR. JONES: What is the impact on Israel if they do vote to cut off ties?
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: I don’t think they would do it. And if they did, it would cost them as much as it would cost us. I think we have to get back to the idea that we can have disagreements in the negotiating process.
I think one of the things that I found in the time that I’ve been in office in these last nine months is this: Most of our Arab partners think that peace means a predetermined result. That is, we go back to the ’67 boundaries on the Golan Heights Front we go back to the ’67 boundaries in Judea and Samaria on the West Bank front. And if we dare to say: "Well, we have a different idea we have to negotiate an outcome" then the other side threatens us with war in the case of the north or with terrorism here in the case of our dealings with the Palestinians. We reject both ideas as being conducive to peace. The Arab side has to accept that we have a different view, we’ll negotiate it. And when we disagree there cannot be terror. We must pursue peace peacefully not with terror and violence.