Interview with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on CNN Larry King Weekend

October 7, 2001

LARRY KING: Shortly after the start of today’s military activity, I spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and asked about his reaction to the strikes.

ISRAEL FM SHIMON PERES: I don’t have the slightest doubt that the decision that was taken by the President of the United States is the right one, the just one. And they – we – are going to win it, for the simple reason: not just because we have the technological supremacy, you have the moral supremacy.

Bin Laden does not offer any solution and any hope to any person in the world who is not a Muslim. And to the Muslims who are not fanatics, they, too, don’t have a chance. And the fanatics who don’t kill are not included in his agenda. He offers nothing but killing and hate and murder. He cannot win.

On the other hand, the United States and all the free world must win. There is no room for compromise. There is no way to let one or two or three or four crazy people to kill hundreds and thousands of innocent men and women and children. So I believe that in that case it was one of the right and courageous decisions.

You also spoke about prayer. All of us are praying today for the armed forces, for America and its President and its leadership. We’re in the same camp. We should do whatever we can and whatever we should be asked to in order to help to win this battle.

KING: Years ago you were asked to show restraint and not respond to Scud attacks. Israel might well be a victim again here. Will you do whatever the United States ask you to do?

FM PERES: We think the United States is the leader of this campaign, and we shall not do anything that may frustrate or endanger the campaign itself.

KING: Did Israel know this was going to take place? Before it took place, were you informed?

FM PERES: The President of the United States called the Prime Minister of Israel an hour before the campaign started and has informed us that, within an hour time, the campaign will start.

KING: The other day, your Prime Minister Mr. Sharon attacked Mr. Bush and the United States. He later, three days later, apologized. What did you make of all of that?

FM PERES: I am wholeheartedly with the apology. I don’t think he meant to attack the President, whom we hold in high esteem, and we consider him a real and true friend of our country. And we look forward to a joint effort to really bring a settlement to the Middle East and peace to the rest of the world.

KING: There has been some heavy fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians in the last few days. Why?

FM PERES: I think the story is now revealing itself. There are three or four armed groups among the Palestinians. It is for Mr. Arafat to decide, either he’s going to control all of them or he’ll become a prisoner of them and become a victim of them.

Most of the killing and shooting were done by the Jihad and by the Hamas. It’s an assault of private organizations and private arms. Arafat has to decide, either he will control them or be controlled by them.

And leadership is not just making declarations but making choices. Some of them are very difficult. And I hope that Mr. Arafat will do the right thing in deeds, not just in declaration.

KING: You met with Mr. Arafat last week. Did that go well?

FM PERES: It started well, but the implementation of our agreement was not quick to arrive. It didn’t arrive even today in full. There is a start in the beginning, and we are watching if there will be a continuation and they will fully comply with this commitment. If this will happen, we should continue our talks, because we, too, would like to see a decline in the tension and the beginning of a real peace negotiation.

KING: Back to the current situation, a few more things. If Israel were asked to commit weaponry or to commit troops, would it go that far?

FM PERES: We would go the farthest possible way to make the world safe. May I say that the first Prime Minister of Israel, Ben Gurion, offered to the United States even to send Israeli units to Korea. We feel part and parcel of this campaign, and if it should be asked, everything will be considered seriously and positively.

KING: Do you expect it to be successful over the long haul?

FM PERES: Hundred percent it will be successful. We are fighting terror and terrorists. I myself confronted them on many, many occasions. Let me tell you, they are not as courageous or brave as you think. They are cowards, and if they will see strength, they will retreat. Their strength is usually our weakness. The minute you appear determined and strong, you will win.

Twenty years ago we did something which was very daring in Entebbe. It looked like it’s impossible to overcome the kidnapping of the people, the hijacking of the plane. We did it 4,000 miles from home, successfully basically because this was a combination of courage and surprise. I do believe the United States possesses those two things as much as is it needed.