Interview with Deputy FM Danny Ayalon on BBC World News Today


MS. HOCKINGS: Welcome back to World News Today. I’m Lucy Hockings. There have been reports from Israel that say the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has ordered a review of the internal military inquiries which cleared Israeli troops of serious wrongdoing during their offensive in Gaza last winter. A recent UN investigation concluded that both Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement had committed war crimes during the conflict. Well, joining me here in the studio is Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon. Thank you very much for joining us.

DFM AYALON: I’m pleased to be here.

MS. HOCKINGS: Can you confirm these reports about the inquiry?

DFM AYALON: Well, there is ongoing debate in Israel because we also want to know for ourselves what happened, although the IDF started already on day one of the operation and we launched an independent report. And here, I think, it is important to say that in our military system, the military advocate general is a completely independent entity.

MS. HOCKINGS: Mr. Goldstone, though, states it’s insufficient for the military to investigate itself. It is calling, in the Goldstone report, for an independent review to be set up in the next six months. Is that going to happen?

DFM AYALON: It may very well. After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, we decided of our own accord to do it because it seemed very important to us. But, you know, things like that take a long time. Just here in Britain it took almost eight years to conduct such an investigation.

MS. HOCKINGS: But to not do it looks like you’ve got something to hide.

DFM AYALON: And we do not. So this is one of the main reasons why we may go for it.

MS. HOCKINGS: If you don’t do it, are you willing to then face these consequences which may be a war crimes proceedings at the International Criminal Court? That’s what the UN Security Council may refer as well for you.

DFM AYALON: No, I don’t think this is the case because I think the decent countries in the world, you know, Britain, France, the United States and many others who actually share with us the same values of democracy, free press and everything else, will not let it happen. If we conduct any investigation, Lucy, it’s not because of the Goldstone report. We don’t approve of the Goldstone report. 

MS. HOCKINGS: Are there any elements of the Goldstone report you accept?

DFM AYALON: Not quite; I’ll tell you why: because it was a prejudgment before it even started. And the Goldstone report is also very politicized. Who decided on the Goldstone report? It wasn’t even in the U.S. It was countries like Cuba and Libya and Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have nothing to do with human rights. So it was very, very political.

MS. HOCKINGS: Can we take a look at the situation at the moment? We had these clashes yesterday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The Palestinian Authority says that Israel is looking for an escape clause to avoid meaningful negotiations. How do you respond to that?

DFM AYALON: Not at all. If you look really objectively, Israel has wanted peace and has done a lot in terms of giving away territories, in essence, for peace. We made peace with Egypt. We returned to Egypt the entire Sinai; the same with Jordan. We evacuated Gaza completely back in 2005 before this terrorism.

MS. HOCKINGS: But that’s interesting you say that, because your boss recently, Mr. Lieberman, the Foreign Minister, said that there is no prospect of a peace agreement with the Palestinians any time soon.

DFM AYALON: He said it in a very, very sad tone, and he said he was just looking objectively and benefiting from the experience of the last 16 years, from the Oslo Accords in 1993 until now, where we tried everything – incremental, all the way – to no avail. But that does not mean that he is not saying: I will be the first one to be happy to be proven wrong. So we will try anyway. But the Palestinians have to come to the table clean-handed as well and without preconditions. This is what we are calling for. Let’s sit and talk.

MS. HOCKINGS: Danny Ayalon, thank you very much for your time.

DFM AYALON: Thank you.