Host: Tony Snow
Sunday, August 5, 2001
MR. SNOW: Nw joining us to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East is the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. We’ve seen shootings today in Tel Aviv. There was a violent evening in the West Bank and Gaza. Friday you said that you no longer think peace is an immediate objective. Instead, you would aim for what you called non-belligerence. The question: Is the policy of either killing or abducting suspected terrorists an effective way of contributing to non-belligerence?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: No, it’s nothing to do with that. Israel is committed to peace. Myself, I am committed to peace. I am committed not to create any escalation. And I can assure you, there’s not going to be any war in the Middle East.
We declared — myself, I declared, when we accepted the Mitchell Report, a unilateral cease-fire. The Palestinian reaction was a massive terror acts and murder, and assassinations all over the country.
Since the Tenet report, we had already over 1,050 acts of terror. We lost many people. We have many injured. Mortar shells, shooting, suicide bombers, car bombs. All that happens since the Tenet plan was accepted.
No doubt that the strategy of the Palestinian Authority is a strategy of terror. They would like to bring us to conduct negotiation under terror. And though we are committed to peace, one thing I can assure you, we are not going to negotiate under threat of terror and fire.
Once it will be quiet — completely quiet, full cessation of terror, hostilities, violence and excitement — I can assure you, I’m not going to waste one day. I’ll start negotiating immediately.
MR. SNOW: Yasser Arafat, sir, says that he is committed to a cease-fire. Do you believe him?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Look, usually I think that one should look not at what one says, but at what one did, or does. Not the declarations, but deeds. Since Arafat’s statement three days ago in Rome, we had 88 acts of terror already since then.
So I think that we have to look not at words, but at deeds and acts. By now, we don’t see any change whatsoever. Myself, I asked Arafat, I sent him a message, I sent him a list of names of terrorist — those who were preparing acts of murder and terror and violence, those who are preparing suicide bombers, those are preparing the car bombs. I asked him to arrest them. No steps have been taken by him. And I made it very clear that we have to defend our citizens. We have to defend our lives. And that therefore, we had to take counterterrorist steps. That’s what we have been doing.
It’s not a cycle of terror here. On the one hand, we have murderers, killers, suicide bombers. On the other hand, we are taking defensive counterterrorist measures. That’s what we are doing.
MR. SNOW: Mr. Prime Minister, the State Department, at least according to an issue of Time magazine that has just been released, says that your tactics may be counterproductive. Let me read you just a sentence out of the Time magazine article.
It says: "U.S. officials have told aides to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinians it accuses of terrorism compromises American influence among Arab states, because Israel uses American-made weapons to make its hits." Has the State Department told you to back off?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Again, I would like to say that I think there’s an entirely different situation here. We have, on the one hand, we have terror mostly carried out by the Palestinian Authority – terror acts, murder, assassinations, suicide bombers.
On the other hand we are taking defensive means. We are intercepting suicide bombers on the way to commit their crimes. And of course, the question is, what the United States would have done if the United States would have known that a group of terrorists were on their way to commit a terrible crime in the center of civilian populations. Would they have sat waiting until that will happen? I don’t think so.
I think that what we are doing is exercising our right of self-defense. We are all-out against killing — I’m against killing. I would not like to kill anyone. Every casualty is a tragedy. But we have to avoid massive tragedies, and that’s the only way that we can do it.
But of course, one must understand Arafat could avoid it. That’s in his hand. He got the list of about 100 terrorists, who are preparing now all those car bombs and roadside bombs, and are mobilizing those suiciders, are preparing them, are sending them to commit their crimes. What he has to do is just to stop them.
Personally, I believe that the free world has to join in that warfare against terror. Terror is a danger to all of us. Israel is a democracy – the only democracy that exists in this region. From Iran, across the Middle East, across Africa to the Atlantic, there is one tiny, small country — a great democracy, but a tiny, small country. That’s Israel. And we have the right to defend ourself, like every other nation in the world. And that’s what we are going to do.
I made it clear many, many times that for true peace, I’m ready to make painful compromises. But I would like to say very, very clearly, I’m not going to make any compromise whatsoever — not now and not in the future — when it comes to the security of the State of Israel, and the security of its citizens. No compromise whatsoever.
MR. SNOW: Mr. Prime Minister, Chairman Arafat has suggested or asked a number of heads of state, including President Bush, to put an international observer team into the region. What is your reaction to that request?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: We will not be able to accept international forces or international observers. Just now we had this very, very hard experience in Lebanon. We saw what happened with the UNIFIL there, how they acted when our soldiers were kidnapped.
We have not heard by now any real step by the United Nations or the international community to put the real pressure upon the Lebanese and the Syrians in order just to get information what really happened to our kidnapped soldiers — what really happened to them? Nobody puts any pressure, any real pressure.
Therefore, I would like to make it very clear, Israel will not accept any international intervention here. Israel will not accept any international observers. That we’re not going to do. We believe, as a matter of fact, that the present system that exists of the teams — Israelis, Palestinians, with the presence of their representatives of the CIA — that is the right way how to deal with these complicated problems.
MR. SNOW: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, thank you for joining us today.
||Targeting Terrorists – Background|