Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom
on Israel Radio (Reshet Beit)
August 10, 2003
The Lebanese Border
Q: The Israeli ambassador to the UN wrote to the UN secretary-general, stating that Israel would have no alternative but to adopt the appropriate measures, in order to defend its citizens. Does the word "measures" mean that Israel will be renewing its air attacks on Hizbullah installations?
FM Shalom: The Hizbullah attack is particularly grave, and the Syrians and Iranians are responsible for it. Syria and Lebanon are supposed to prevent Hizbullah from firing these missiles on IDF positions, and on the towns and villages in the North. Thus, the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador is very clear. We instructed him to deliver a very firm and unequivocal protest which clearly places responsibility on Syria and Lebanon [for these attacks]. Syria and Lebanon will be held responsible if these incidents continue.
Q: What does "the appropriate measures" mean? The renewal of attacks on Hizbullah installations?
FM Shalom: We do not seek an escalation. Our aim is to restore the status quo ante, but it was Hizbullah that launched the attack. Over the last three years, since our withdrawal from Lebanon, Hizbullah has vastly increased the quantity of missiles in its possession, and in the long-term this is a problem. However, in the short-term, this situation, in which they fire these missiles unchecked, is for us intolerable. Consequently, the Syrians must clearly understand that we will not accept this new situation.
Q: In other words, if Syria is in control in Lebanon, and the theater commander has said that Syria and Lebanon should beware of an escalation in the situation, is it possible that Israel will respond with attacks on Syrian targets?
FM Shalom: I do not wish to elaborate on the means at our disposal. We do not wish to issue threats. I think that these statements should find receptive ears, and I sincerely hope that this assault does not mark the beginning of a new wave of attacks by Hizbullah. If this occurs, we will conduct a reassessment, and we will do our utmost to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.
Q: In the meantime, however, the policy of restraint has been maintained.
FM Shalom: No. I think that we responded in the correct and appropriate manner, and I would like to think that this situation will not continue. In the event that it does, we can respond with all the means and options at our disposal, in the manner and at the time that we see fit.
The Peace Process with the Palestinians
Q: Palestinian Authority Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo has already requested US intervention, in order to prevent the collapse of the hudna [cease-fire], so that Israel will be held responsible if the truce collapses.
FM Shalom: This cease-fire is not an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The cease-fire is an agreement among the Palestinians themselves. We have a security agreement with the Palestinians, which states very clearly that they must dismantle the terrorist infrastructures.
Q: Why does Israel not call on the Palestinians to prevent terrorist attacks, when there are concrete terrorism alerts?
FM Shalom: The Palestinians know perfectly well that they have to stop the terrorism. However, during the period in question, while there has been quiet, the extremist groups have exploited this time to dig tunnels, smuggle weapons, train their forces, try to increase the range of their Kassam [rockets], move the Kassams to the West Bank – and of course, all of these things are unacceptable from our point of view.
Q: Will the IDF operations continue in the Palestinian towns?
FM Shalom: I do not wish to be in a situation where we’ll have to resume operations there.
Q: This is what happened on Friday.
FM Shalom: Our aim is to withdraw from these towns and areas. Of course, the Palestinians made a commitment that no terrorism would be carried out from these particular towns. Therefore, we request and demand that they fulfill their obligations. And I also appealed to the United States and the Europeans, as did the prime minister. We told them that they should ask both sides to fulfill their obligations not just Israel.
Q: With regard to the security fence, will the construction or the approval process for the problematic route be halted?
FM Shalom: The issue of the fence is an issue which recently took on a new turn. We’re talking about a fence that has been under construction for some time already.
Q: At present, the reference is to the problematic route, in the central area, near Ariel.
FM Shalom: I am aware of the matter, and I have also heard the words of President Bush. He stated that the fence was suitable for a period of terrorism. We do not wish to return to the period in which there was terrorism. In order to prevent its recurrence, this fence is particularly effective in preventing extremist organizations from carrying out those acts of terrorism.
Q: So will the construction along the problematic route continue?
FM Shalom: The Palestinian Authority itself is opposed to fence, since, on the one hand, they views it as a political fence. On the other hand, they know that they will lose the effective weapon that they believed they had – meaning the possibility of employing terrorism when the negotiations do not progress to their satisfaction.
Q: So will the construction continue?
FM Shalom: We wish to build a fence that will provide a suitable response to the security of Israel’s citizens. Indeed, the Americans do not see eye to eye with us on the issue of the fence’s route. The Americans would like a different route for the fence, but they say that as long as the matter affects our security and does not harm the lives of Palestinians, it can continue.
Q: The president wants Israel to take a broader look of the fence issue, keeping in mind the permanent-status agreement, not just the immediate goals – meaning that he does not want the construction to continue?
FM Shalom: We said that the fence is not a political fence. It is a security fence, a fence that is designed to assist the peace process, and not to destroy it as the Palestinians claim. It is designed to prevent the possibility of extremists dismantling the peace process and putting an end to it. Therefore, the building of the fence will continue, and the fence will indeed be built. Of course, we wish to do all this in coordination with the Americans, but friends can also disagree among themselves. The situation at present is such that there is no understanding or agreement with the Americans regarding the route over which we would like to build the fence. This [coordination] will continue, and we will find the correct solution, which, on the one hand, will facilitate the construction of a fence that will provide maximum security to Israeli citizens and the residents of Judea and Samaria communities, and on the other, will preserve the understandings that we maintain with the United States – understandings which for us are very important.