Saturday, October 24, 2009

PM Netanyahu interview with The Washington post: On Iran-‘The Issue is Not the Security of Israel But of the World’

Lally Weymouth of Newsweek and The Post interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Excerpts:

Q. What did you think of the Goldstone report?

A. I thought there were limits to hypocrisy but I was obviously wrong. The so-called human rights commission accuses Israel that legitimately defended itself against Hamas of war crimes. Mind you, Hamas . . . committed four. First, they called for the destruction of Israel, which under the U.N. Charter is considered a war crime -- incitement to genocide; secondly, they fired deliberately on civilians; third, they hid behind civilians; and fourth, they've been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years.

And who gets accused of criminal behavior at the end of the day? Israel that sent thousands of text messages and made tens of thousands of cellular phone calls to Palestinian civilians [to warn them to evacuate]. . . .

So you're not in favor of an independent inquiry?

We're looking into that not because of the Goldstone report but because of our own internal needs.

The best way to defuse this issue is to speak the truth because Israel was defending itself with just means against an unjust attack. Serious countries have to think about adapting the laws of war in the age of terrorism and guerrilla warfare. If the terrorists believe they have a license to kill by choosing to kill from behind civilian lines, that's what they'll do again and again. What exactly is Israel supposed to do?

What did you think of the Geneva deal that the Obama administration and other Western countries appear to have struck with Iran?

It's too early to say because the crucial thing is that the international community pressure Iran to stop the enrichment of uranium, which has only one purpose. Iran is swimming in oil. The purpose of enrichment is the development of nuclear weapons capability, so any solution has to be accompanied by the cessation of enrichment. . . .

The issue is not merely the security of Israel but of the world. Free and open societies are menaced by a dark radicalism that is seeking to arm itself and its proxies with nuclear weapons.

You're speaking of Iran?

Yes. We're definitely the first country threatened but definitely not the last.

Reportedly, Israel might be preparing for a strike against Iran.

I'm not responsible for rumors. Our belief is that this is a global problem. Since it's the problem of the international community, the international effort led by the United States is the way to stop this danger.

What do you think should happen with the Palestinians?

We just wasted six months because of the Palestinian effort to place preconditions on the negotiations -- preconditions that weren't there for the last 16 years.

Is that freezing the settlements?

It's freezing the settlements, it's committing in advance to the results of the negotiations.

It's committing to the outcome basically?

Yes, it's the old technique. Let's agree on what the results of the negotiations will be before the negotiations begin.

Didn't the U.S. get the Palestinians' hopes up by saying there should be a settlement freeze?

I think the Palestinians have to recognize [that] Washington says there should be negotiations without preconditions.

Shimon Peres told me that you are mistakenly viewed as a right-winger.

I think we do represent a consensus of the Israeli public. I think what we've done in the last six months is to consolidate a great part of the Israeli body politic around certain clear principles that will enable us to achieve peace.

The gist of the problem is that for 62 years the Palestinians have refused to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinians say they've recognized Israel, but now they have to recognize it as a Jewish state.

That's right. Israel is not a binational state. It has non-Jews who live here with full, equal rights, but it has two things that assure its special character. It's the homeland of any Jew. And there is a very broad consensus in Israel that the Palestinian refugee problem should be resolved outside Israel's borders. Jews come here and Palestinians will go there. So choose. That's the basis of a solution.

I gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University in which I said [this]. It wasn't easy but I did it. There has yet to be a Palestinian leader who actually turns to his people and says, 'We're not going to have a state that will continue to make demands on Israel. It's over. We recognize that Israel is the Jewish state just as we ask the Israelis to recognize the Palestinian state. . . .'

The popular explanation is that this conflict is about the territories captured in the 1967 war. So why did the conflict rage [when] there were no settlements? The Arabs fought wars and terror campaigns in the 1920s, '30s and '40s against any Jewish state, and then they rejected the partition. Our presence in the territories is not the cause of the conflict but one of its results.

. . . I'm not talking about Hamas. I'm talking about the moderates. . . . We will end the conflict by establishing a state. That simple truth requires a lot of courage from the Palestinian leadership. They have to stand up and say we will make a final peace with the Jewish state of Israel. Courage is required on both sides.

What do you think of President Obama?

There is much greater cooperation and transparency between the Obama administration and my government than people know. We speak openly.