In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya TV, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of his readiness to talk to the Palestinians anywhere – in Ramallah or occupied Jerusalem.
Mr. Netanyahu sat down to talk to Hasan Muawad on a host of issues including the on-going crisis in Syria and the challenges it posed to its borders as well as the situation in Gaza.
“Everything is on the table. But we need to get to the table,” he said in reference to negotiating with the Palestinian leadership.
Peace talks between the two nations have been on hold since September last year when Israel began construction on settlements that were earlier partially frozen as part of a deal. Palestine refused to negotiate until Israel ceased construction on land they claim as theirs.
The opportunity for negotiations appear slim due to a deal between Hamas and Fatah as Israel refuses to engage with what it believes is a terrorist organization.
The following are excerpts from the interview, which will be aired on July 21:
ON PEACE WITH PALESTINE:
We will always look for people who want peace. We don’t nullify people on their beliefs but we do expect them to recognize and have a place for the State of Israel. If people like Iran or Hezbollah say “the State of Israel shouldn’t exist [or should be] wiped off the face of the earth” then there is not much of a place to go from there.
We have to listen to people with different points of view but from two points: One from the internal Arab point of view: if people say we want democracy then we ask they respect democracy. You can’t expect people to open a democratic door to those who want to destroy it. Two, see it from my point of view: I’m willing to negotiate peace with anyone that’s willing to accept the right of my people and my country.
ON A PALESTINIAN STATE:
Six Israeli Prime Ministers, myself included, have all agreed to a Palestinian state. So why have we not had peace yet? Two former prime ministers made very generous concessions and we all recognize that we have to make difficult compromises for peace. I recognize that.
ON JERUSALEM AND PALESTINIAN REFUGEES:
We couldn’t [reach] peace because the Palestinian leadership did not want to conclude negotiations. My frustration over the past two years has been that we can’t restart the negotiations. And I repeat what I said to you a minute ago that this is the most important thing. I’m prepared to negotiate with President Abbas for peace between our two people right now. We can do it here in my home in Jerusalem, we can do it in Ramallah, and we can do it anywhere.
ON THE SITUATION IN GAZA AND THE IMPENDING FLOTILLA:
We are not preventing the import of goods, food, and medicine to Gaza. Anything can go through. The Gaza economy has grown by 25 percent in the last three months. It’s almost a world record. We are, however, concerned about a naval approach to Gaza because on a ship you can bring in entire rockets [which can be] fired into Israel. We don’t want those sea lines open until there is a regime in Gaza and one that makes peace with Israel and doesn’t fire rockets into it.
If people want to free Gaza, then they should free it from the Hamas regime that doesn’t give the real freedom to the people of Gaza. We have no argument or battle with the people of Gaza. We are concerned with Hamas, a terrorist organization that fires rockets into Israel. That is the only reason behind naval actions.
ON PROTESTORS DEMANDING CHANGE IN SYRIA:
You know anything that I say will be used -- not against me – but against the process of genuine reform that Syrian people would like to see. We don’t intervene in Syria but it does not mean we are not concerned.
A) We would like to maintain peace and quiet on the Israeli/Syrian border. B) I’d like to have that ultimately turned into a formal peace [accord] between the two countries and C) I think the people; the young people of Syria deserve a better future.
ON BASHAR AL ASSAD’S REGIME BEING INDISPENSIBLE TO ISRAEL:
That’s not right. We are not there to choose the next government of Syria. I think it’s for the people of Syria to choose. We’ve not had peace, we’ve had a state of peace, no peace no war.
Several people, including myself, tried using secret negotiations to move toward a formal peace…
What has disturbed us is that Syria supports and has supported Hezbollah and Iran and Lebanon. Less than five years ago, the people of Lebanon wanted to have their Cedar Revolution. Iran took it away from them with Hezbollah and Syrian support.
[Today the borders] remain quiet after the second Lebanon war and I hope they remain quiet in the future.
ON FEARS THAT IRAN AND HEZBOLLAH MAY CREATE DISTRACTIONS FROM SYRIA:
I hope that no one in Syria thinks of [creating a] distraction by stoking the heat at the border with Israel. And I hope Iran or Hezbollah are not tempted to do this in a bid to shift attention from events in Syria. I think that would be bad for the people of Lebanon, bad for the people of Syria and bad for peace. I hope it doesn’t happen.