Press Conference by Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Jerusalem, November 28, 2002
We’ve had a terrorist attack against Israelis in Africa, in Kenya. We know at the moment of two dead children, others that are hurt. We are taking emergency action to provide medical assistance to the wounded and to bring back the rest of the Israelis to Israel.
There was in addition to this terrorist attack another attempted downing of an Israeli civilian aircraft in Kenya by shoulder-fired missiles. This is a very serious escalation of international terrorism.
I want to remind you that, in the 1970s, in the late ’60s, the rash of hijackings that came from Arafat’s PLO was first directed against Israel and then spread as a worldwide epidemic. The fact that the forces of terror – terror organizations and the regimes that back them – have shoulder-fired missiles that can down civilian aircraft is known. The fact is that they are using them, and the weapons that they are using against us are growing in their ferocity and their ability to murder us.
This could have resulted today in the death of 150 Israelis. Today this is directed against Israeli planes in Mombasa, tomorrow they could be directed at Israeli planes from a Palestinian state, from Tel Aviv, and may I say that if the forces of terror and the terrorist states are not dismantled, they will be directed at the planes of states and countries and nationalities worldwide. This has to be brought down today. The terror network has to be stripped, the terror regimes have to be dismantled, the terror organizations destroyed. If we don’t destroy them, they’ll destroy us.
Q: Mr. Netanyahu, who do you believe is behind this? Do you have any information?
A: We have our suspicions. We don’t yet have concrete information. There are several possibilities, but I don’t want to make a definitive statement, because we don’t know yet. We will know. I’m being told right now that the number of dead has gone up to three.
Q: Is the assumption that the Palestinians are involved in this?
A: No, I don’t know who specifically is involved in this, but yes, Palestinian organizations have been trying to get shoulder-fired missiles to direct at Israeli aircraft for quite some time. Hizbullah has been very active in this effort. When you have regimes like Iran and Syria and others, and Iraq, that are supporting these terrorists, they have shoulder-fired missiles. So as long as this network is around, it’s just a question of time before they’ll get these weapons. It’s just a question of time before they’ll down civilian aircraft. And may I say it always begins with Israel; it never ends with Israel. So this is not just our battle: it’s a common battle against this global terror network, that President Bush set out to unite the civilized forces against. We’re merely at the cutting edge. We have to bring down this terror network before it brings us down, brings our planes down.
Q: What measures should be adopted by the Israeli government in response to this morning’s attack and by the international community?
A: There are defensive measures that can be taken to protect our aircraft. There are obviously warnings that we can give to the terrorists. But I have to say that whatever defensive measures we can have, we cannot put an armed guard next to every tourist. We cannot protect every plane that takes off or lands in every airfield in the world. It’s simply impossible. There are defensive measures that are and will be intensified, but at the end of the day to win this battle you have to defeat the forces of terror. And defeating them means that you have to take on not only the organizations, but the regimes that make the organizations’ work possible. This is the most important part of defeating international terror.
Q: Have you been in contact with the Americans, and what did they say?
A: We’ve been in contact first with the Kenyan government and we’ve been in close consultation with them about medical assistance and logistics. We’re in contact with other governments as well. Of course we’re talking with the American government and many other friendly governments, but at the moment our efforts are primary launched at getting immediate medical assistance to the wounded, because there are different degrees of injury there, and we’re trying to save lives. This is the most important thing.
… We’re talking about the future of Israel and we’re talking also about the future of our battle against international terrorism, and I think this is what is at stake right now. Because you have to understand that unless we defeat terror, it will defeat us. These are people who have no limitation, no inhibitions, no moral compunctions. They will use any weapons they have. If we give them the political and military power to be independent, to be not under our control, they will use those powers to kill as many of our citizens as they can. Not only the citizens of Israel, but the citizens of many many lands. There is no compromise; no possibility of compromise with the forces of terror. They either destroy us, or we destroy them. It’s about time that we woke up to this simple reality.
Thank you very much.