December 1, 2002
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As officials continue to investigate the terrorist attacks against Israeli targets in Kenya this week, United States security agencies are warning airlines and airports here at home to be on alert for more threats from shoulder-fired missiles. With the latest from Israel, we’re now joined by Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Good morning, Mr. Netanyahu. Was this attack from al-Qaeda?
MR. NETANYAHU: We’re not absolutely sure, but there are increasing signs that it might have been from al-Qaeda, yes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What would that mean? Al-Qaeda has never before directly attacked Israeli citizens, as far as we know.
MR. NETANYAHU: No, Israel is not on the top of the list. We’re the "little Satan." Remember, you are the "Great Satan." We’re just an extension of the corrupt Western civilization, that is, democracy, in the heart of the Middle East. So we’re merely a front position for you.
So it’s true, they have cooperated with Hizbullah in Lebanon, but this is certainly the first overt massive attack, a double attack, may I say — I’ve just come from the burial of two little boys, two little brothers, twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. Their father couldn’t even say the prayer for the dead. It had to be said by the grandfather. So they killed Israeli civilians, murdered them, and simultaneously fired shoulder-fired missiles at an Israeli aircraft. This is a very, very dangerous threshold for terror in the world. Very dangerous.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So, if this is, indeed, al-Qaeda, how will Israel respond?
MR. NETANYAHU: I think we’re going to decide exactly have we will respond. But I think the response is part of the overall battle against terror that President Bush is leading. This is not al-Qaeda alone. I’m not sure it’s al-Qaeda, but all this network requires the facility of regimes and organizations which collude with one another, and of course it requires also, I would say, the negligence and the passivity of other countries that do not take forceful action against this terror network.
Now, remember, what happens here is a tremendous escalation, because all our protection against civil aviation comes from the spate of hijackings and bombings of civilian aircraft in the late sixties. It was actually begun by Arafat’s PLO, against an Israeli target in the late sixties, against an El Al aircraft. And soon, we had a hijacking epidemic spread to the entire world.
Equally, here we have the first direct evidence of a shoulder-fired missile against an Israeli aircraft. And if we don’t stop this epidemic, it could rapidly spread and threaten civil aviation throughout the world. So this is very dangerous. And remember that all our protective devices, all the means that we have, are meant to protect against an invasion of the aircraft itself, either by bombs or by hijackers, or armed people. It is not so far geared to the protection of the outer envelope where missiles are fired at an aircraft that is taking off or landing. So we’ve got to make serious adjustments both in technology and in international cooperation to stop this.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I was speaking with the pilot of the Israeli aircraft yesterday and he said, basically, if those terrorists had had better aim, the plane would have been blown up before anybody knew what happened, that no defenses could have worked. Is there any effective defense against a shoulder- fired missile?
MR. NETANYAHU: I think there are things we could develop. And I think that I’d rather not go into that. But I think there are technological means that could be developed and added to aircraft. But I think, at the end of the day, we have to knock down this terror network. I think this is the second wake-up call. It’s not as ferocious as September 11th. But the image, the horrible image of 250 people or 500 people dropping from the sky in a great explosion is something that doesn’t require that much imagination. And this could be replicated time and time again.
So we have to really take a concerted effort to strip down this network, to go at the regimes that offer them succor and logistical support. And, of course, to prevent the passage of weapons like shoulder-fired missiles. The Mujahadeen had them in Afghanistan. And some regimes have them today, as you know. And it is important that we focus our efforts not only against the organizations, but against the regimes that make the organizations’ work possible.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Netanyahu, thank you very much.