PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Prime Minister Netanyahu, first of all thank you very for inviting me to your residence.
I want to start with the appalling events in Japan and get your take on what’s happened there. And your view of what this means for nuclear energy. Of course, you have two reactors in Israel. What do you think?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: First I think it is a terrible tragedy because I look at the pictures in Japan and I think what every Israeli thinks, and I think what every person in the world thinks, this could be us. Thousands, tens of thousands of people lost their lives. Hundreds of thousand, perhaps millions, perhaps tens of millions living under a cloud.
And I think, first of all, I think about the fortitude of the people of Japan and their suffering, their stoicism. And I admire that. And yet at the same time I think of their great agony and their anxiety. You know there is a difference between natural disasters and what we see today. Because you have an earthquake, it passes. It could be a terrible tragedy, but it passes. You have a flood, it passes. A fire, we just had a great fire. We lost 45 people, horrible, but it passed. We put it out in 72 hours.
But this is different. This is a confluence of a natural disaster and a man-made disaster and the cloud of radioactivity. The uncertainty of what will happen is the cloud that hangs over the people of Japan, and I think right now, hangs over the world. It certainly caused me to reconsider the projects of building civil nuclear power plants. I have to tell you I was a lot more enthusiastic about it than I am now. In fact, you’d have to give me a very good argument to do it. And fortunately we found natural gas.
MORGAN: Are you saying that-
NETANYAHU: We could make up the difference.
MORGAN: Are you saying that you might actually stop any kind of nuclear program in Israel?
NETANYAHU: We didn’t have any civilian nuclear energy. We have some research plants, but not anything on a significant scale. And I don’t think we’re going to pursue civil nuclear energy in the coming years.
I think, you know, we always blame Moses, that he was our greatest leader and one of the most gifted people in the world. He brought us the moral code and so on, belief in one God, but then he was a bad navigator. He brought us to the only part of the Middle East without any gas, without any oil. Turns out he wasn’t such a bad navigator, because we found some gas offshore. So, I think we’ll go for the gas. I think we’ll skip the nuclear.
MORGAN: Do you think that a lot of other countries may follow suit? Do you think the whole idea of nuclear energy as being the future, because of what happened in Japan may now be-what? To put it mildly, in chaos?
NETANYAHU: Well, you have to give it some thought. I mean, how could you not take pause and think about this? I mean, civil nuclear energy is tremendously efficient, tremendously productive. It was seen as environmentally friendly, but when you have this kind of shock and the inability to even get there with, you know, the kind of firefighting planes that we just used to put out the great forest in the Carmel.
You know, I brought in squadrons of people from 10 countries.
Everybody pitched in. I was very grateful for that. You can’t get to the fire. You can’t get to the radio activity because you can’t fly over. And if you try to squirt water from a greater distance, it just disperses. So this is a real issue. Unless we find solutions to this challenge, then I think that leaders should reconsider the expansion of civilian nuclear energy.
MORGAN: Let’s turn to the reason I’m here; the winds of change in the Middle East. You have not given a major TV interview since all this began in December in Tunisia. Let me take you back to December and the events of Tunisia. Did they take you by surprise? What was your immediate reaction? And did you ever imagine that it would create the kind of domino effect that we have been seeing?
NETANYAHU: First, it didn’t begin in Tunisia. It began in Tehran a year and a half ago. Millions went to the streets and called for freedom, for democracy, from this repressive regime and they were put down brutally. And then it, you know, it came back in Tunis. And then from Tunis it went to Cairo, and then from Cairo it is going everywhere.
Did I expect it at this time? No. Did I expect it at one time, at sometime? Yes. Because the spread of information technology creates an inevitable conflict; that is, in many ways, the 20th century passed by a lot of the Arab world and the M uslim world. And in comes the information technology of the 21st century and it is telling all these people what they missed out on. And this creates the turbulence. Will it end quickly? I doubt it. I think each country is different but they are all-they all suffer the same gap between people’s expectations and the performance of their societies up to now.
MORGAN: I mean, the big question that everyone has been asking, repeatedly, in the last two months is, what does this mean for Israel?
If you are the Israeli prime minister and you have been watching what has been going on in the region. Are you fearful of what this means for your country? Are you partly excited by the spread of democratic freedom? What is the reality of being Benjamin Netanyahu, watching this?
NETANYAHU: Well, you know we all have our hopes and we all have our fears. You are looking at this and two places cheered what was happening in Cairo. One was Washington, and its allies. The other one was Tehran, and its allies. You know they weren’t seeking the same outcome. You know there is a fundamentally different outcome that each was seeking. We had all hoped, and we still hope, that you will have a democratic transformation. That the, you know, the Google kids, the Facebook kids, you will create a Google heaven and a Facebook paradise, and all these people will come to power. That is obviously what people in the West, and people in free societies would like to see. It is not clear that that would happen.
MORGAN: What is the nightmare scenario for you?
NETANYAHU: That you get another Iran. That you get-you had a revolution. Five years ago in Lebanon a million Lebanese, that is the equivalent to 20 million Egyptians, walked in the streets of Beirut, chanting for freedom, chanting for secular reformist, a liberal Lebanese state. Five years later Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, which is controlled by Iran. That is what we don’t want to see. We don’t want to see this stark nedievalism that represses women, that crushes the rights of people, that holds us back a millennia. That fosters violence. That does everything that we abhor. That it would take over.
And I think that these are the two poles. One is real democratic change and the other is a descent to militant Islamism that squashes all
freedoms and threatens the peace of everyone.
MORGAN: I remember watching the scenes from Tahir Square, in Cairo, when they were jubilant at the thought of Mubarak going. And then we cut to scenes from Gaza, where there were equally wild celebrations.
And as you say, they were not celebrating the expansion of democratic freedom in Egypt. They were celebrating the overthrowing of Mubarak and the possibility, perhaps, for them to do a similar thing potentially in Israel.
NETANYAHU: Well, look, Mubarak kept the peace. Egypt kept the peace for over 30 years and it should be remember and appreciated. The people in Gaza, and those who are affiliated with Hamas, want to see the collapse of the peace and the eradication of Israel. They are supported by Iran, that has given them tens of thousands of mortar shells, rockets. They fired already 6,000 rockets and missiles on Israel. So clearly that is not a force for peace or for progress.
There are other people in Gaza, but they are in fact subjugated by Hamas. They are not given any choice, any more than the people in Iran were given a choice. They are not given a real choice for freedom.
They are knocked down. You know, if you can give me a deal. If God came down from heaven and said, here, I’ll give you a choice. OK, this revolution from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar, that is shaking everything in place, except us, because we are an open, democratic, prosperous society. But everybody else is suffering this groundswell, this earthquake, this sandstorm, volcanic eruptions, OK?
But it also includes the place where it started, Tehran. And Tehran is transformed into a democratic society. I would say it is worth it. Because the Middle East would have a brilliant future.
MORGAN: How unnerving-
NETANYAHU: But there is something that I think-if you want to know the worst outcome?
NETANYAHU: The worst outcome is Iran, where this all started, stays immune to it. Continues its repressive, brutal regime, develops nuclear weapons, exports terrorism everywhere. And muddles in-meddles, rather-in the other places and transforms them into so-called Islamist republics. And I would say that is the worst nightmare.
MORGAN: I mean there could be no doubt that Ahmadinejad and the Iranians will be looking at the situation, looking for opportunity. There can be no doubt about that. They have made their intentions re Israel very clear. You must have been pretty disconcerted by loosing Hosni Mubarak. I mean, to other people he may be a dictator. To Israel, he’s been a pretty good friend, hasn’t he?
NETANYAHU: Egypt under Sadat, and then under Mubarak, kept the peace and I think that is something extraordinary valuable. And I think the first order of the day is to make sure that any future government in Egypt maintains the peace. The fact that we had these 30 years with Egypt, 20 years with Jordan, of a real peace, is something that I can appreciate. Because-
MORGAN: Were you sad to see him go?
NETANYAHU: Well, I was concerned that we might have the opposite of what people want and what we all want. We want to see a democratic reformed-
MORGAN: You spoke to him?
NETANYAHU: I called him once. He didn’t return my call. He was otherwise engaged. But I can appreciate that fact that Egypt was at peace. We want our main concern is to make sure that it continues in peace. If it gets to an open reformist democratic society we’ll be the first to cheer, because a genuine democracy is a friend of peace. A genuine democracy, with all the institutions, and the checks of balances of a democracy, and a free press and a magistrate.
MORGAN: How fearful are you-
NETANYAHU: That is peace.
MORGAN: How fearful are you about the Muslim Brotherhood? There are two schools of thought. One is that they are not contaminated with too much fundamentalism. Others think they may well be.
NETANYAHU: That is what people said about Hamas. That is what people said about Hezbollah. That is what people said about Khomeini. I remember, you know-I give you an example of the Cedar Revolution, the secular, liberal, open, pro-Western Cedar Revolution in Lebanon? There was a revolution in Iran in 1979. And it began with Shapur Bahktiar. Remember him?
NETANYAHU: He was a Western-oriented, open governance and so on. And he was disposed after three months. So, the question is, what do you get. You get 1979 in Iran, and you get 1989 in Western Europe-Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe they turned towards democracy, in Iran they turned towards a backward theocracy. And I have not seen a single case in which the Muslim Brotherhood, of its various shapes and hues, turns toward the European liberal model. They invariably turn to more closer, or identical to the Iranian model.
MORGAN: We’re going to take a short break. When we come back I want to talk to you about Libya, Gadhafi, and the peace process.
MORGAN: Back with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Let’s turn to Libya where it is a pretty disconcerting picture now emerging. Where Gadhafi appeared to be on his way out, but has now forced his way back and appears to be winning the battle against the protestors. No one has intervened on the behalf of those protestors.
What do you make of what is happening there?
NETANYAHU: Well, Gadhafi is no friend of Israel. He’s not friend of the Jewish people. And I think his people can see now, he’s no friend of the Libyan people. This is a man who helped explode civilian airlines in the skies. He’s fostered terrorism. He’s done a lot of terrible things. So I don’t think anybody would be sorry to see him go. I wouldn’t.
MORGAN: What if he doesn’t go?
NETANYAHU: I think the case of Libya is an interesting place where values and interests cohere. You know, as a leader you often have a situation where you want to advance a set of values, free democratic societies, and at the same time you may have overriding interests that force you to think otherwise. I don’t see that conflict in the case of Libya. I think he could be done away with and I think everybody would benefit.
MORGAN: Would you bring in a no-fly zone? No?
NETANYAHU: Well, I wouldn’t second guess President Obama and people who have to make that decision. I’m sure he wants what I’ve just said. How to achieve is something I leave to him, but I think that the cost of firm action in Libya is relatively small. And the onsequences, I think, would be quite-I think quite beneficial.
MORGAN: I mean, there is-
NETANYAHU: Certainly beneficial to the people of Libya.
MORGAN: I mean, everyone seems to be in agreement that he’s got to go.
My point is that he’s not going. And he’s made it clear he wont’ go.
And he appears to be winning his battle by mercilessly killing any protestors. We are seeing something that bordering on genocide here.
Is there not a moral compunction for America, for the West, generally, to get in there and sort this out?
NETANYAHU: I think it is one of those cases where the moral compunction, as you say it, and the interests cohere. I don’t think it is a problem. So I wouldn’t rule out very firm action against Libya. I think that is something that should be considered seriously.
MORGAN: If America-
NETANYAHU: I’m sure it is being considered.
MORGAN: If America decided to take military action, would you support that?
NETANYAHU: Certainly wouldn’t be against it.
MORGAN: Moving to Saudi Arabia, some fascinating developments in Bahrain. It would appear that Saudi forces have been in there and that is a pretty surprising development, isn’t it? What do you make of that?
NETANYAHU: I don’t think it is surprising at all. I mean, I think they are concerned with a possible Iranian take over of Bahrain, which would put Iran, effectively within spitting distance of the Arabian Peninsula.
Now, Saudi Arabia is working to protect its own interests. But there is a very large global interest in making sure the world’s oil wells, that the largest reserves of the world’s oil supply do not fall into Iranian or pro-Iranian hands. So here is an issue-here is a place, where, you know, theoretically values and interests could contradict.
If the possibility is that Saudi Arabia is governed by the current regime, or Saudi Arabia is governed by Iran, I don’t think there is much of a problem in people making up their minds what they want, of these two alternatives.
MORGAN: You refer regularly to Iran. Everybody knows your view about Iran. That they believe in the extermination of all things Israel.
NETANYAHU: It is not only that they believe it. It is look at what they are doing, now.
MORGAN: But what about flipping it on its head and saying, what are you doing about that? Given that you know that is their position?
NETANYAHU: I mean, rather than wait for other countries to intervene on your behalf. What is Israel actually doing right now to combat this incredibly serious threat?
NETANYAHU: Well, the first thing I have been trying to do-for a long time-for about 15 years, I was elected the first time about 15 years ago. And I went to speak at the-before the joint session of the U.S. Congress. And I said that the single greatest threat facing the world, and my own country, was the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons. And since then what I have been trying to do is alert the world and the leaders of the world that it is not merely our problem, that it is their problem. Because Iran today is in Afghanistan, it is in Iraq, it has gotten control of Lebanon. It has gotten control of half the Palestinian-
MORGAN: Does it have nuclear weapons, do you think?
NETANYAHU: It is working to get them.
MORGAN: How close do you think they are?
NETANYAHU: I think they are getting a lot closer.
MORGAN: Should they be transparent about their nuclear program?
NETANYAHU: Even to the extent that they are transparent it is very clear what they are doing? They are-they have enriched enough material now almost for three nuclear bombs. They still have to re-enrich it again, but that is what they are doing. They are building long-range ICBMs, not only to reach us, ICBMs, they don’t need that.
MORGAN: When we last saw this threat from a leader in the Middle East it was Saddam Hussein.
MORGAN: It turned out that the weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist, but there was a perceived threat that he had them. We’re in a similar position with Iran, aren’t we? I mean what does the world-
MORGAN: But what does the world do about Iran?
NETANYAHU: No, we are not. We’re not. First of all, Saddam Hussein did build a nuclear weapons plant. It was called Osiraq, and we took it out, in 1981; probably one of the greatest acts of nuclear non-proliferation in modern times. But now, afterwards, it wasn’t clear if he recovered that or not, and as it turned out he didn’t. This is very different in the case of Iran. Ahmadinejad is taking people on guided tours of these centrifuge halls.
MORGAN: Why is nobody doing anything about it?
NETANYAHU: They are trying, with sanctions, tough sanctions. I don’t think-
MORGAN: He doesn’t care about sanctions, does he?
NETANYAHU: It is not only him. It is his boss. He’s not the boss. The boss is Khamenei, who has a passion against the West, a passion against our society.
MORGAN: What is the answer, Prime Minister? What do you do about this country which is apparently arming itself to the teeth, possibly getting nuclear weapons? And you are its number one target. What are you doing about it?
NETANYAHU: Well, one of the things that we are telling people is that sanctions by themselves are not going to be enough. That the only thing that will work is if Iran knew that if sanctions fair there will be a credible military option. This is not just our problem, this is the problem of Europe, and the United States-
MORGAN: Are you talking United Nations?
NETANYAHU: I’m talking about a credible military action-
MORGAN: Lead by who?
NETANYAHU: Lead by preferably by the United States. It is not that complicated. It could be done. It is not easy, but it is not impossible. And here is the paradox. The paradox is that if you had a credible military option you probably wouldn’t have to use it. Because the one time that the Iranians backed off-in the 15 years that I’ve been talking about this-that they backed off and actually stopped their nuclear program, was in 2003 when they thought that the United States, following its actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, would take action against them. So they stopped and you know…
MORGAN: It’s a parallel perhaps that’s most (inaudible) here, the one involving Gaddafi where he is perceived of giving up his nuclear program precisely because of what happened in Iraq.
NETANYAHU: Well he stopped – he stopped too and he actually offered to dismantle the program and the west had to choose whether to bring him into the fold, I know, this very unappetizing person but they decided to do that because they, again, they weighed their values against their interest and he was a supreme interest to get Gaddafi away from nuclear weapons. They did the right thing.
Can you imagine what would happen now if Gaddafi had atomic bombs?
MORGAN: Well that’s my point. But what is credible military action against Iran? What does that constitute?
NETANYAHU: It means action that will knock out their nuclear facility and (inaudible)…
MORGAN: (Inaudible) could you contemplate some kind of land invasion?
NETANYAHU: Well, I think the United States has proven great effectiveness and I’m going to divulge a secret to you about their capabilities. They’re actually greater than ours. I mean, the American Air Force and the American Army is bigger than…
MORGAN: If – if – for (inaudible).
NETANYAHU: …the Israeli Army and they’re absolutely….
MORGAN: But if for whatever reason the Americans choose not to do this, the threat still remains and you’re still the number one target, would you act unilaterally militarily?
NETANYAHU: No. We always reserve the right to defend ourselves.
That’s been one of the tragedies of Jewish history that the Jewish people were thrust into a sta te of defenselessness we were attacked again and again and again with viciousness and never had the capacity to defend ourselves. We now have that capacity.
MORGAN: Do you have nuclear weapons?
NETANYAHU: Well, we have a long-standing policy that we won’t be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East and that hasn’t changed.
MORGAN: You don’t have any?
NETANYAHU: That’s our policy. Not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.
MORGAN: But if you take an assumption that other countries have them then that may mean you have them.
NETANYAHU: Well, it may mean that we don’t pose a threat to anyone. We don’t call for anyone’s annihilation. We don’t foster terrorism. We don’t threaten to obliterate countries with nuclear weapons but we are threatened with all these threats. We have not fired thousands of rockets into our neighbors (inaudible)…
MORGAN: Is it right to expect countries like Iran to be transparent about their own nuclear programs if you’re not transparent yourself?
NETANYAHU: Well, Iran is a signatory to the NPT. I mean this is the absurd thing. Everybody says take the Nonproliferation Treaty and expand it and bring Israel into it. No, the problem in the Middle East is not that other countries don’t join it, it’s that those countries who join the Nonproliferation Treaty have violated left and right beginning with the Iraq under Saddam Hussein going on to Libya, Syria recently – they’re all signatories of the NPT. They all developed nuclear weapons programs. Syria just did that and was exposed and Iran is doing it every day. So they’re all…
MORGAN: Do you think it’s a bit of a sham?
NETANYAHU: I think – I think it’s ridiculous. I think the problem of the Middle East is one that the signatories of the NPT violated and secondly that they’re focusing their attention on Israel when the problem in the Middle East is this tyrannical medieval regime, terrorist regime of Iran in which the moulas and the ayatollahs want nuclear weapons with which they openly threaten to wipe out – to make another Holocaust, to wipe out the Jewish state.
But that’s just for starters. They say that we’re the small Satan, that the United States is a great Satan and I suppose Europe, I don’t want you to be offended, Europe’s sort of a middle – middle sized Satan. All of these have to be dominated, obliterated, terrorized, and they’re actually true to their word.
And I think this fanatic ideology armed with nuclear weapons is the single greatest threat to the peace of the world, to the peace not only of Jerusalem but of London, Berlin, Paris.
MORGAN: Given the gravity of the threat…
NETANYAHU: And New York.
MORGAN: Given the gravity of the threat from Iran, if America has not taken military action within say, the next five years, is it conceivable that Israel will not have done anything?
NETANYAHU: Well, we always reserve the right to defend ourselves.
MORGAN: When we come back, I want to talk to you about the Middle East process here in relation to the Palestinians.
MORGAN: Prime Minister, there was a horrific murder of the Fogel family last week. The details of which are chilling to read. What was your reaction to that, and where are you with the investigation into the perpetrators?
NETANYAHU: This was horrific. It was savagery. I mean, several Palestinian terrorists came into the home of this Jewish family in the West Bank. They stabbed a three-month old baby girl in the heart, cut her throat. They stabbed her four-year old brother in the heart, cut him in the throat. They stabbed the father with another child and stabbed the mother and left them dying in their blood.
And then I visited the family and I saw the 12 year-old girl, a sister who came home and saw this unbelievable massacre. So obviously the first response is sheer horror. And my second response was to send a message to the settlers to contain their rage and not respond because we’d have a cycle of reprisals so I asked them to – not to take the law in their own hands, not to have vigilante actions because this would – could generate a blood bath. I thought that was important to stop that.
But we’re now looking for the killers. We’ll find them.
MORGAN: Are you making progress?
NETANYAHU: Some. Some. I think we’ll find them.
MORGAN: There was – to put it mildly – a raised eyebrow collectively around the world. First, of the horrifying nature of this attack, but secondly at your response. The premise of, they murder, we build. You ordered the building of 500 more building settlements. It’s a strange moral equivalence, Prime Minister.
I mean, part of the problem that you face now in Israel is perception around the world. Your PR is not good, as you know. When people heard about what happened, I think the international community completely on your side and the people of Israel. When they see you immediately ordering more settlements, I’m sure you did it to calm down the people as you say, a lot of that sympathy erode. People think, come on, there’s got to be a better way of responding to this kind of thing than doing that.
NETANYAHU: Well I wanted to send three messages. The first one I told you about, that is a message of restraint to the settlers. The second is a message to the terrorists. I was telling them, I know you think you’re going to uproot us with this savagery, with the violence, with terror. You’re not going to uproot us. So you kill us, you want to drive us into the sea, that’s not going to happen. You only way we’ll have a settlement is through peaceful negotiations. So you kill, we’ll build. But coincidentally I chose to build in the large populated areas that are going to stay in Israel anyway. And not 500 new settlements but 500 apartments, which is very different.
And third, I wanted to send a message to the international community. I said to the international community that rushes to condemn Israel for every building that is build. You know, a Jew builds an apartment in the Jewish homeland. What a terrible crime. But they seldom go and condemn this kind of savagery without any ands, ifs and buts and I wanted that condemnation. I was glad to see –
MORGAN: But is that true?
NETANYAHU: – I was glad to see –
MORGAN: But is that true? I mean, does the international community really not just condemn that kind of outrage out of hand? Because I read that they did. And the point about the settlements is surely that you are trying to get a peace process to work. You’re trying to get to some settlement.
The Middle East quartet only yesterday said they’ve almost given up hope that peace is achievable at the moment. You were the first prime minister of Israel to be born after ’48. You can a key position is history here. You’ve been prime minister before. You didn’t get the peace process through then. You’ve got another chance now.
Doesn’t part of you, Benjamin Netanyahu, look at yourself and think, I want to be the guy that makes this happen, not the guy that didn’t make it happen?
NETANYAHU: Seven prime ministers have tried to get peace with the Palestinians since the eace process began in Oslo in 1993. Some of
them made extraordinarily generous concessions and it didn’t work because the Palestinians first under Arafat and now under Abu Mazen (ph) have not picked it up. They refuse to go the distance and actually recognize the Jewish state and make the compromises that are required from both sides.
The entire world is focusing on the compromises that are necessary from Israel’s side. And I’m prepared to make a lot of those compromises for peace. But they’re not focusing on the fact that the Palestinians refuse to make the necessary compromises that are required on their side for peace. And the simplest thing to do – here you’re talking about moving the peace process forward – how do think – what do you think is the best way to arrive at a negotiated settlement?
MORGAN: Honestly? What do I think?
MORGAN: When Sadat came to Jerusalem bearing concessions it worked. Why don’t you go to Ramallah and be the big guy here? Why don’t you go and take concessions, which are perhaps more than you’re prepared to give right now and say, I’m calling the bluff here, not just as the Palestinians but as the international community.
Because I’ll tell you what would happen. The international community is desperate for this to work. They would come with you. And yes, there would be, of course, problems. Yes, there would be more outrages. Everybody knows that. But in the end somebody has to be the big guy here and that could be you, couldn’t it?
NETANYAHU: I’m pretty big.
MORGAN: Yes, you are. You are.
NETANYAHU: But, to get –
MORGAN: But doesn’t history need people to be courageous?
NETANYAHU: Yes. Yes, it does. But peace requires two to tango. And what I’m – what I said – suggested the simplest thing is exactly what you’re said. I said to Abu Mazen who was flying around in the world – the Palestinian president – I said, don’t fly around the world. You want to make peace? Ramallah, where you said, is 10 minutes away from Jerusalem where we’re sitting right now. I’m willing to come to you.
You can come here. Let’s sit down, shut the room, you know, basically sit down until smoke comes out.
That’s the way you make peace. That’s how we made peace with Egypt. That’s how we made peace with Jordan.
MORGAN: Why isn’t it happening?
NETANYAHU: Because I think the Palestinian society is split into two –
those who are openly calling for Israel’s destruction like Hamas, and those who are not calling openly for Israel’s destruction but refuse to confront those who do. And that’s the Palestinian authority. I think they’re timid, I think they’re afraid to actually stand up to these killers. And I think that they’re afraid, maybe for their own sake, for their own political hides, sometimes for their own physical safety.
And they don’t take that necessary plunge.
I think it’s possible to achieve that peace. I’ll tell you what, I’ve always wanted it because I went through war. I went through war in Egypt, I nearly drowned in the Suez Canal in the fire fight during the War of Attrition –
MORGAN: You were shot, yourself.
NETANYAHU: Yes, I was shot rescuing a hijacked –
MORGAN: You know the reality of war.
NETANYAHU: I’ve lost –
MORGAN: They will say military people that have been through that kind of thing, they’ve seen friends, colleagues get killed, they understand better than most and need to bring peace.
NETANYAHU: Not only understand but cherish it. I mean, I’ve nearly died several times in fire fights. I had a brother lost in a battle. I had many friends lost. I mean, one of – the experience that I remember was as an 18-year old soldier, just a few short weeks after entering the army, holding a friend who died in my arms. You don’t want war.
Amid all the pundits who explain to us that Israel doesn’t want peace, where are they living? We’re an embattled country. They’re trying to destroy us. They threaten our –
MORGAN: What parallels do you see?
NETANYAHU: We want peace more than any other people. We pray for peace, yearn for peace, dream about peace. I want to make sure that the
peace holds. One of the things that I’ve said in this part of the world, the only peace that would hold is a peace that you can defend.
So I’m willing to make that kind of peace, a peace with security.
People say to me, hey listen, just sign on the dotted line and relinquish those things, those security assets that allow you to protect the peace. Then I’ll say we’ll end up without security and without peace. But I’m willing for a defensible peace to make the tough choices and I call on Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, to – I don’t fault him for traveling around the world. If he likes it, he can do it. But I’m saying, listen, come back here. I’ll go to Ramallah and you can go here –
MORGAN: What is the big concession? What’s the concession you’re prepared to make to make this happen? Because you know if you don’t make one, if you don’t do something dramatic here, nothing’s going to happen. You’ll go down as a guy who was prime minister twice and it never happened. And I don’t think that’s a legacy you really want, is it?
Why would you want that legacy?
NETANYAHU: Well the legacy I want is that I hope secure the life the Jewish state and its future. We did have – we did act precipitously. We walked out of Gaza. We uprooted. Talk about concessions. We uprooted 10,000 Israelis out of Gaza, just eliminated the settlements that were supposed to be the obstacle to peace. We walked out, Iran walked in. We didn’t get peace.
We walked out of Lebanon, every last inch. We walked out, Iran walked in. From Lebanon they fired 6,000 rockets at us. This is a country the size of New Jersey. From Gaza, after we walked out, they fired 6,000 rockets at us. Now, they say, "Just walk out of the West Bank. Make the concession. Come on, do it again, a third time."
We could be in a position where we can’t live. So my concern is, I want peace for Israel but I want a peace that we can defend and I want a peace that will hold. And I know that that’s peace with security. I know that’s what we have to insist – and I insist – unabashedly so – on peace with strong security arrangements.
One of the leading European statesmen told me the other day – I was sitting where you are – well in that couch. He said, you know, three months ago when you said in the context of a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians that you would need to stay along the Jordan River because you never know what would happen on the other side.
The Jordan River, mind you, is all of the distance of the Washington beltway, greater Paris from here. Nearby. So we’d have to have some line on the Jordan River to prevent Iran from penetrating into Israel and placing another 100,000 rockets aimed at our cities. He said, people didn’t understand what you’re talking about. He said, now after the convulsions, this earthquake people understand your insistence of security a lot better.
So I would say the first condition of peace, we’ll make concessions, obviously. We’ll have to make territorial concessions and that’s hard. This is our ancestral homeland. This is the land of the bible.
MORGAN: Would you give up Jerusalem? Everyone tells me you would if I came to it.
NETANYAHU: I don’t know what everybody is saying. I’ll tell you what we say. We say that Jerusalem has to remain united under Israel. That’s our position going into the negotiations. I know it’s a very emotional issue for the Palestinians. So we’ve agreed – I’ve agreed – to have this issue brought up in the negotiations –
MORGAN: Could you imagine –
NETANYAHU: We’ll have to look for very creative solution here.
MORGAN: I understand. I understand. But that’s what you need to do. I mean, I’ve just read Tony Blair’s book, for example, who’s the Middle East envoy now. I know you know him well. His account of –
NETANYAHU: And appreciate his – appreciate his efforts.
MORGAN: Right. His account of how he finally won peace in northern Ireland is a riveting account. Two completely intransigent parties living side by side. The parallels are pretty obvious. Different circumstances. But you have two people who don’t trust each other, they’ve been killing each other for decades but eventually they brought peace. And it can be done. But it needs big people of big times to take big decisions.
NETANYAHU: It needs one other thing that you overlooked.
MORGAN: Which is?
NETANYAHU: Look at northern – everything you said about north Ireland is right except one thing. The IRA never wanted London. They never wanted to destroy Britain and take over it.
MORGAN: They wanted to give everyone in the British government and tried.
NETANYAHU: Maybe. But they had no –
MORGAN: But a maybe? They did.
NETANYAHU: But they had no territorial claim over the British isle. They wanted what they wanted in northern Ireland. In the case of the Palestinian society, Hamas openly declares that it wants to wipe out not the heads of the Israeli government, but every Israeli. Wipe away the Jewish state. They openly say so. Their constitution –
MORGAN: But if you made the big move –
NETANYAHU: And –
MORGAN: Let me just say this. If you made the big move, you know that the international community and crucially America, would be absolutely side by side with you. They want this to happen. And you also know if you don’t make this happen, then the opposite may happen. You may lose the support, not just of large parts of Europe, which is already beginning to (INAUDIBLE), you can feel it, but America may start going cold because they’ll say, come on, this has to be done. It’s too important now.
And also it’s no longer just about Israel and the Palestinians. It’s about the whole region. The whole region is unstable. You have many battles to right now.
NETANYAHU: The instability in the region is not a result of Israel and the Palestinians. That was never the cause of this instability. Instead, the disfunctionality of many of these societies that have failed to modernize –
MORGAN: Well, that wasn’t the point I was making. The point I was making, though, is that it’s no longer the only story in town, is it?
NETANYAHU: No, it’s not.
MORGAN: But isn’t this a good – ironically we’re sitting here now with this part of the region being one of the calmer places. Isn’t that the perfect time to make this happen?
NETANYAHU: If you can be sure of who your partner will be tomorrow.
You’re not even sure of that. You want to make sure that you have solid (INAUDIBLE) of security and you also want mutual reconciliation.
We recognize the rights of the Palestinians for a state of their own. Even though they’re sitting in part of our ancestral homeland, it’s very painful to do that. But I’ve been doing it. I’ve been saying it. But they refuse to say that they recognize a Jewish state, a nation state for the Jewish people.
I’m talking about – I’m not talking about the Hamas, I’m talking about the Palestinian authority that should confront Hamas and confront their own people and say, hey, it’s over. We give up the ghost of dismantling Israel or dissolving Israel or flooding it with refugees. It’s over.
No more war, no more bloodshed. Just as Sadat said. I want to hear that clear statement but I’m willing, I’ve already made those statements.
And so the problem you have in the international community is that the Palestinians do not want to put a finality to the conflict, do not want to say that a Palestinian state will be an end to a conflict and not a stage in the dissolution of Israel. Now, they speak peace to the outside but not to their own people.
To their own people – on the day that these people – this family was savagely brutalized – brutally murdered – babies were stabbed – on that day, the Palestinian authority had a square called al-Bireh, which is a suburb of Ramallah, in name of a terrorist who murdered 37 Israelis on a bus, including 12 children. To the outside world they speak peace. Internally they foster a culture of hate.
And I tell them, enough. We don’t have that. We’re a totally transparent society. I’m ready as the prime minister of Israel to deliver peace. I have – I give you an opportunity. I’m willing to do this and I can deliver a peace. Because if I sign a peace –
MORGAN: Will you do what it takes –
NETANYAHU: If I sign a peace –
MORGAN: Will you do what it takes to make it happen?
NETANYAHU: If I sign a peace, people of Israel will follow me. But you’ve got to give us the two elements of peace that are required to have a real peace, not a fake peace. The real peace requires security and the real peace requires that you actually reconcile yourself to a Jewish state here, permanently. This is what we want.
Look, it’s very easy to sign a fake peace and then have it collapse. Most wars started from a conditional peace –
MORGAN: But it also (INAUDIBLE) very easy, cannot go after a proper deal at all. I mean, there is an argument, why should you bother? Israel’s doing very well economically. You’ve been growing at five percent a year for a while. There’s a real boom going on. Meanwhile in the Palestinian refugee camps the conditions are appalling. So you have a real "them and us" situation.
There’s no real urgency and you could easily hide if you wanted to. I’m not saying you are doing this, but you could hide behind all the turmoil in the Middle East and say, you know what, we don’t need to do this right now.
NETANYAHU: Not at all. First of all, Palestinian economy has been growing at 10 percent.
MORGAN: But there’s no equivalence between what’s happening in Israel and the state of the refugees in Gaza.
NETANYAHU: It’s true.
MORGAN: They can’t be. Come on.
NETANYAHU: No. Gaza is growing now at 17 percent because we lifted all the restrictions –
MORGAN: Yes, but you wouldn’t want your family living there, would you?
NETANYAHU: No, of course not. But certainly I think the people of Gaza would like to be relieved of this Hamas tyranny and this medievalism. But as far as the West Bank, I changed the policy. In fact, (INAUDIBLE) what you say. I thought that it’s important to add, in addition to security and recognition, to have prosperity as a third pillar of peace.
So I’ve been – I removed hundreds of road blocks, check points and so on and the result is that the Palestinian economy and the West Bank has grown at 10 percent, which is – which for me is very hopeful because I like to see apartment towers sprout out of the soil of the West Bank of Ramallah and not missiles. And I think this is an important component of peace. But the economic peace is not a substitute for political negotiations.
And on day one of forming my government, I called on President Abbas and Abu Mazen to come here and talk people. The second step that I took, it’s a tough decision, I froze construction in the settlement. I know this is not the issue, I know construction in the settlements are not a real issue, they’re an artificial issue. The settlements cover only one or two percent of the territory of the West Bank and a few hundred apartments in this one percent is meaningless. But it’s become an issue. I said, all right. You know, if it makes it easier for you, I’ll freeze construction for 10 months. They didn’t come. And when they finally came, they bolted after two weeks.
I recognize the principle of two states for two people. I agreed to another extension, three months. I did all these things. And what do I find? That the Palestinians can walk away from the negotiations, make pre-conditions, call public square in honor of terrorists and now they’re talking about a national unity with Hamas that calls for our destruction. How can you be for peace with Israel and peace with Hamas that calls for our destruction?
MORGAN: I’m going to –
NETANYAHU: It’s one or the other. Not both.
MORGAN: I’m going to take another short break. When we come back I want to talk to you about Israel’s position in the world now and the international community in view of Israel.
MORGAN: Prime Minister, picking up on a point that you made just before the break. The Palestinians have said they are prepared to bring Hamas into government. What is your position? Could you ever imagine having any kind of workable administration that involved Hamas?
NETANYAHU: Can you imagine a peace deal with Al Qaeda? Of course not.
MORGAN: But there was, crucially, a peace deal in Northern Ireland that involved Sinn Fein. And you had the bizarre situation of somebody like Martin McGuiness, who had been a former IRA chief of staff, becoming education minister. But sometimes to make things happen you have to think the unthinkable, don’t you?
NETANYAHU: You can make peace with an enemy, if the enemy abandons the idea of destroying you. That is the critical test. Democracies fail to understand what I just said. In the 1930s, with Hitler, they failed to recognize that. He said, well, I’m willing to sign this, or that, document. But in reality they could ascertain easily that he was dead set on conquest and annihilation.
I think we face, in the Middle East, an ideology that is absolutely-absolutely opposed to peace and coexistence, and that is Hamas.
MORGAN: You could never come-
NETANYAHU: Well, if Hamas has a onstitution, if it tore it up, and it if the constitution calls for the annihilation of Israel, not only that but the expansion of radical Islam throughout the region and the world.
If they got rid of that, yes, I could contemplate that. If they stopped firing rockets, or importing now, rockets to launch on our cities. They just intercepted some Iranian rockets yesterday that were intended for Hamas. If they stopped terrorism, if they stopped calling for oureradication, yes, of course, we would be happy to talk with them. But the fact is that Hamas has not stopped being Hamas. Hamas continues to call for our liquidation. So what am I going to negotiate with them? The method of our decapitation? The method of their exterminating us? Of course not. Any country would take a stand against somebody that is completely committed to its obliteration. And that was not the case in Northern Ireland, because the IRA never wanted to exterminate Britain.
MORGAN: Can I ask you about the suggestion, in parts of the media, that there is a growing tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. Do you believe that there is? And if so, why?
NETANYAHU: I think there is-first of all, I think there is a structural difference between the way that Europe views Israel, and America views Israel. The European view is informed by the importance of colonialism in Europe’s past. So for Europeans we are, I don’t know, we’re like Belgiums in the Congo, or the French in Algier, or the British in India.
You know, strange interlopers in somebody else’s land. But in fact, we have been here for 4,000 years. This is our ancestral homeland.
My name, Benjamin, my name sake, Benjamin the Son of Jacob, roamed these hills four millennia ago. There is a signet ring, in my office, found next to where the Western Wall is now, from the time of the Jewish kings, not that distant from King David. And there is a name written on it in Hebrew. The name is Netanyahu. That is my last name. So we have been around here. We’re not foreigners. We’re not the Belgiums in the Congo. And the Americans understand that instinctively because for America this is not a colonial past. This is the Promised Land.
America was the new promised land, we are the original Promised Land.
MORGAN: How solid are the Americans. The reason I say that is the former U.S. State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, recently said, if and when Israel offers its own thoughts on how to move the peace process forward, we will be listening tentatively. Now that is diplomatic speak for, you are not doing anything.
NETANYAHU: Oh, sure, I mean, look, I think people expect that. They’d like, I think, honest and fair people understand that Israel wants peace, that the Palestinians have rejected negotiations. And I hope they change their mind.
But you ask me about anti-Semitism in Europe and I said, first of all, there is a difference in the way that Europeans view Israel and Americans view Israel. But there is also anti-Semitism in Europe.
There is the new boiling anti-Semitism of radical Islam that sweeps Europe, as a whole. And there is a strange fusion-that is the only word
I can use to describe it-a fusion with the anti Semitism of the radical far, far left. And you know this is the strangest view you could possibly contemplate. Because the radical Muslims, you know, they stone women, they execute gays, they against any human rights. They are against feminism, against what have you. And the far left that is supposed to be for these things, they all unite on one thing, you know, bashing Israel state. And that is a terrible union and one that I think should be excoriated. It should be condemned. Because the last thing these people have in mind is peace maybe a peace without Israel.
MORGAN: Do you believe you are losing the support of some of the European leaders?
NETANYAHU: I think there is a great commonality of interest and values, there are differences that have been there for a long time. I expect Europe, on whose soil 6 million Jews were exterminated, to display some understand, to put it mildly, for Israel’s security concerns. And, you know, often I’m advised on what is really good for Israel. Be a little more humble. I mean, we have-we didn’t do too well in Europe where only a few courageous people lifted their-lifted themselves up and try to save Jews, but in general, European society-
MORGAN: I hope-I can understand that, but there is also-and you are aware of it-there is a growing frustration amongst European leaders about their perception that there is inactivity here moving the process forward. And you were reported to have had a pretty lively conversation with Chancellor Merkel, in Germany, where you rang to berate her and she ended up giving you her very forthright views on your lack of any action.
NETANYAHU: That is actually an entirely false report on both the tenor and the substance of this conversation. I appreciate Angela Merkel. I think she generally wants-she is a friend of Israel. She wants to see peace here. But we can have differences, you know why? Because we live here and we are going to have to continue to live here and live with the consequences of the decisions. If you make a bad peace, you know, some of the most celebrated peace agreements, in history, were short-lived and turned out to be calamitous, even catastrophic arrangements. I want a peace that will hold. And I know that people berate us. You should read some of the things they said about Begin. I think "TIME" magazine says it rhymes with Fagin. You know, from Dickens? They said horrible things. He doesn’t want peace. He’s extreme. What nonsense. And the same kind of nonsense is leveled at me, at my government, and at my people. There is no people that wants peace more than Israel. There is no people who have been threatened with annihilation who understand what the benefits of peace-
MORGAN: But what happens if your continued inability to move this process forward means the international community decides that they are going to go away from you. Go with the Palestinians, and set up a state of Palestine, recognize it officially. Where does that leave you?
NETANYAHU: Well, in fact, that is what they are doing. They are actually accelerating the movement away from peace. Because when the international community says to Israel, you are the only one who has to compromise, but they don’t ask the Palestinians to compromise. To actually recognize the Jewish state, to understand that we’ll have to have security arrangements, otherwise we could get Iran walking in again, a third time, into territory that we vacated.
MORGAN: Are the Americans doing enough now?
NETANYAHU: If we have-if the international community says, hey, listen, let’s just line up with what the Palestinians say, why should the Palestinians negotiate? Why should they compromise? Peace requires mutual compromise.
MORGAN: But that can’t be good for Israel if that happens. And that could happen.
NETANYAHU: But in fact it is happening, because a lot of the international community who think that they are advancing peace are lining up unilaterally with the Palestinian demands. And in fact, what they are doing is pushing peace further away, because rather than compromise the Palestinians-
MORGAN: Well, no, hold on-
NETANYAHU: -say we don’t have to do anything.
MORGAN: No, by looking at it they keep pushing Israel away. Isn’t that worrying for you? I mean, what they are doing is isolating you and saying if you don’t do a deal here, and you are in a position to do this, well, OK, we are going to bypass you. And that puts you in an even more isolated position, doesn’t it?
NETANYAHU: You can’t by pass, you can’t bypass the parties to peace.
You can’t oppose peace from the outside. You can’t have a fiat, or a dictum, that says, "Thou shalt have peace." No, peace comes from the actual negotiations that both sides do, and the compromises they give each other. That is what happened with Begin and Sadat, with Israel and Egypt. That is what happened with Rabin, and the King Hussein, the late King Hussein, with Israel and Jordan. And that is what has to happen, began happening when I negotiated some arrangements with the Palestinians. They are the only two agreements that have held up in the 18 years since the Oslo peace process began. The two agreements that have held up are the peace agreement I negotiated on Hebron, and the peace agreement I negotiated at Wye. These are partial agreements.
I am prepared to negotiate a final agreement, but I need a partner.
That partner, right now, because of the international, reflexive attitude against Israel, that puts the onus on Israel’s side, Israel is proven guilty, is judged guilty until proven guilty, and the Palestinians are deemed innocent. They don’t have to do anything. They can call public squares in honor of terrorists. They can teach their children in textbooks that Israel doesn’t exist. They can have their state media, state controlled media-Israeli media is not state-controlled I guarantee you. They are phew-vigorously independent.
They can do whatever they want.
That is not the case in the Palestinian media. They spout horrible anti-peace, anti-Israel things. They are given a pass, the Palestinian Authority. And I say stop giving them a pass. You want peace? You have to get both sides to compromise. And above all, you have to get both sides to sit down and negotiate.
For God’s sake, Abu Mazen is 10 minutes away. I’ll come to him. He can come here. I can go anywhere.
PIERS MORGAN: When was –
NETANYAHU: By the way -. I’ll go to Damascus. I’ll go to Riyadh. I’ll go anywhere.
MORGAN: When was the last time you spoke to President Obama?
NETANYAHU: Oh, I speak to him regularly.
MORGAN: And is he as supportive now as he’s always been?
NETANYAHU: I think there’s no question, he’s – he’s expressed the support for Israel, and especially for Israel security. And I have to say that he’s acted on it, in ways that are not commonly known. Because if the United States has recently supported our anti-missile defense, we cooperated with security in ways that people don’t normally know. So, there’s been important cooperation –
MORGAN: Is he personally pushing you to make this happen? Is he saying, we need to do this? What can I do, President Obama, to help you, Prime Minister Netanyahu, make this deal happen?
NETANYAHU: He’s said that quite a few times, and I told him what I think is required, and we’re engaging in this discussion. I have to tell you where a lot of it is not public. I did appreciate the fact that the president vetoed one-sided and unfair resolution at the UN Security Council.
I think that part of the way that we see American support for Israel is the willingness to stand up if necessary alone against unfair, unbalanced resolutions. And that’s important to put balance in the reflection –
MORGAN: Are you coming under more pressure – are you coming under more pressure from the president and America to get this done?
NETANYAHU: I suppose there’s always this desire on the part of the United States. It’s expressed publicly and privately. But I think that people in the United States recognize that Israel wants peace, needs peace, but needs a peace that can be defended.
You know, peace is not a piece of paper. You can have a peace agreement that is absolutely meaningless. It’s not a power point presentation, where you say oh, security, right, dot, put a V there. No, it means you have to be underground. You actually have to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into territory that abuts our cities.
You just flew into Israel the first time, right?
NETANYAHU: Ben Gurion Airport?
NETANYAHU: Nice, big, international airport. Well, a couple of miles away from that airport is the West Bank. If that is not demilitarized, then you’ll have rockets that will bring down the aircraft that you landed in. They could be rockets that are directed against all our cities, our air fields, our communications centers. It could collapse and paralyze our country.
So, my formula that I put forward in my speech at Bar-llan University, for peace between us and the Palestinians, is demilitarized Palestinian states, that recognizes the Jewish state. Demilitarized, because if it’s militarized, then we won’t be able to defend the peace, and won’t be able to defend ourselves in case peace unravels.
Recognizing the Jewish state, because that’s the corollary to our willingness to recognize the Palestinian states. We already given that recognition, and I hope the Palestinians reciprocate. That’s something that we can do. Now, it won’t take care of the world. Just as the Israeli/Palestinian problem is not the cause of the instability between the west of India and up to Morocco. Then resolving it is not going to resolve that either. But, it will give us a chance to disentangle our two people.
You’re still going to have people attacking this. They’ll say that the Arabs sold out, that I sold out.
MORGAN: But that’s always going to be the case.
NETANYAHU: But it’s important for us here. I don’t think it stabilizes the entire region. People often say, well if you do that, then everybody will line up against Iran. I think it’s actually the other way around. I think that if we could neutralize Iran, defang it from its nuclear capability, we’ll have a lot greater chance and moving peace between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the rest of the Arab world.
If Iran goes, we’ll have a brilliant future goes with all the difficulties. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to create a defensible and secure peace but protect ourselves from the worst.
MORGAN: I want to take a final break now Prime Minister. When we come back I want to talk to you about you, your personal life and your heroes.
MORGAN: Prime Minister, I want to take a short break and when we come back I want to zero in on exactly what concessions Israel may be prepared to make, to make peace happen.
MORGAN: When we come back, I want to talk to you a little bit more about this peace process and how we can –
MORGAN: When we come back from the break I want to talk to you more about this peace process.
MORGAN: We’ll be right back after a short break, Prime Minister.
MORGAN: Prime Minister, who are your heroes?
NETANYAHU: Oh, people who mattered, changed the lives of mankind and the lives of my people. First year, I suppose, Theodor Herzl – how old are you?
MORGAN: I’m 45.
NETANYAHU: Forty-five. Well he was dead by then. He began at 36. He was a journalist in Vienna, saw the Dreyfus trial, understood that the Jews were going to be exterminated in Europe and began the movement that resulted in the creation of the modern Jewish state. He worked all of eight years. Like a prophet of old, who came out of nowhere and changed the history of our people. He was a pretty big hero.
I admire Winston Churchill because I think he saw the danger to western civilization and acted in time to staunch the hemorrhage. I have other heroes.
MORGAN: You lost your brother in this conflict in the Raid on Entebbe, the famous occasion when so many sacrificed their lives. Would he be one of your heroes? And he’ll be looking down on this like so many who’ve lost their lives in the name of Israel, I would imagine oping that his brother can bring resolution to his. Because in the end, peace is always the etter option, isn’t it?
NETANYAHU: Sure is. But rolling back terrors – compliment to peace, not a – it’s a necessary ondition for it. And my brother lost his life in the attle against terror. Made a profound impact on e. I have to tell you it changed my life and teered it into its present course.
MORGAN: In what way did it change you?
NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, it’s a terrible blow ecause it’s like, you know, it’s like taking an xe, cutting off your arm or tearing out a piece of our heart. You live like an amputee. I mean, people don’t see that because your limbs are intact but, in fact, something is gone and so every time that I have to make a decision to put our soldiers in harm’s way, and if they are lost, I go to the families, the bereaved families and I think of these are my parents and my brother is me.
And so my brother once said that the test of a commander – of a great commander is not merely to win the battle, but to win it with the minimal loss of life. That’s what he always did. That’s what I try to do. And his last battle at Entebbe at the rescue at Entebbe, in fact, he was the only soldier who lost his life. First of all, economize with lives. They’re too precious. And second, seek to bring the world to peace.
It’s actually astounding and remarkable that Israel is getting this bad press. It’s amazing that people who have stood, you know, in the ramparts of war and know the cost of war, that they’re accused of not wanting peace when they’re – we’ve done concessions, we’ve done steps for peace that no one has ever done. We’ve given up the Sinai. We’ve given up all our oil. Can you imagine people doing that anywhere else in the world? And we’re prepared to do more. And yet it is Israel that is being castigated.
I often have a somber thought about that. I think about that. You say the entire world is thinking that. Piers, do you think what the entire world was saying about the Jewish people for centuries?
I mean, educated and intelligent people believe the worst thing about the Jews. There was a pestilence, the Jewish fault. Famine, the fault of the Jews. Political instability, the fault of the Jews. And I thought that was gone. And yet it comes back. After the Holocaust you thought it was gone but it’s come back and it’s become fashionable now to say it’s not the fault of the Jews, it’s the fault of the state that the Jews built. That wasn’t true then and it’s not true now. And I use this opportunity that the tell you. You say I look – I think of my brother, I think of my sons, I think of our children, I think of the Palestinian children. We could have a better world. We could have a world of peace and considerable prosperity as it turns out. But it has to be based on truth. It can’t be based on distortion. And the worst distortion is that we who pray for peace and are threatened with eradication, that we don’t want peace. We do. With God’s help we’ll find it. With God’s help, I’ll find it.
MORGAN: Could you imagine the scenario in your lifetime where this deal doesn’t get done?
NETANYAHU: Well that’s been the case for nearly a century. So supposedly that’s the – you know, that’s the normal course of things.
But there has been a change in Israel. It’s interesting. There’s been – I think two parallel things have happened. One, a political readiness on the part of the public and I represent a mainstream party, a center right party. It’s got its fringes here and there but people know that if I bring a peace, they’ll be willing to follow it, including territorial concessions. They’ll buy it.
And yet at the same time that there’s been a political softening of the position of the mainstream Israeli public, there’s been a hardening of the security requirements. So the peace has to be a lot more robust in terms of security. Why? Because we’ve seen that we walk out and Iran comes in time and time again. We see the instability in the region, this earthquake, all kind of corruption –
MORGAN: In the end – in the end –
NETANYAHU: So they want both. They’re willing to make compromises but they expect me not to compromise on our –
MORGAN: I completely understand the argument you put forward. What is not so logical for you – and I’d like to end with this really – is just that everyone watching this, this is the first time you’ve spoken this year on television about any of this. And the Middle East is now this extraordinary, evolving, moving, revolutionary story. Everything’s changed.
MORGAN: Changing. And changed in some places already. Everyone’s looking at you. The whole world is looking at Prime Minister Netanyahu to do something. They’re looking to you to be the hero, not to be the villain. And I can’t believe, given your love of history, given your position in Jewish history, that you don’t want to be that guy that delivers what the world wants you to deliver.
NETANYAHU: Well then if I end up meeting your expectations, you’ll have to invite me back to another interview, won’t you?
MORGAN: I will do that with great pleasure.
NETANYAHU: I’ll come with great pleasure.
MORGAN: Prime Minister, I look forward to it.
NETANYAHU: Good to see you.
MORGAN: Thank you very much.
NETANYAHU: Thank you.