Do you worry about Tony Blair exerting pressure on George Bush
to put more pressure on Israel to make more concessions?
The answer is no. We have made our position
very clear. For genuine, durable, real peace I am ready to make
painful compromises. I spoke about compromises in the cradle of the
Jewish people. I made it very, very clear to the heads of the United
States and Great Britain and other European countries and President
Putin that when it comes to the security of Israeli citizens here,
there are not going to be any compromises; not now, not in the
We accepted the road map. We had 14
reservations, but we accepted. I am committed to that. When it comes
to security nothing will move us to give up our right to self-
One must understand that the Jews have
a tiny country - although it is a country with many talents and a
courageous nation. This is the only place where the Jews have the
right and capability to defend themselves by themselves. I have made
it clear in difficult times, as a politician - before the elections,
during the Likud primaries; that is how I lost a majority within my
Not so long ago you were saying
that a withdrawal process from the West Bank and Gaza Strip
would be national suicide. Have you changed your position?
If there is a Palestinian government and there are real
reforms, if there is a plan based on stages and in the first stage
there is a full cessation of terror, I will be ready to make painful
compromises. And I am committed to that.
the one that suggested a plan that is, more or less, similar to the
vision of President Bush. There should be real reform, there should
be a prime minister who will give up Yasser Arafat´s strategy of
murder and killing. I will be ready then to make painful compromises
on the political and territorial side, but I will not make any
compromise on security.
There is a new
government. But the problem is that Arafat is undermining the new
government. It is a good thing that Mahmoud Abbas [also known as Abu
Mazen] was nominated as the prime minister. I have met him several
times. He is one of those who understood that Israel cannot be
defeated by terror and he understood very early that the suffering of
the Palestinians was caused by Arafat and his strategy.
If there is complete quiet and terror organisations are
dismantled, weapons taken from them and given to a third party in
order to be taken from the Palestinian Authority are destroyed - if
they take serious preventive steps to stop incitement and start
educating for peace, I believe that Israel will then be able to
I mentioned a state. I meant a
fully demilitarised state. I meant without final borders, because
final borders will only be agreed upon in the third stage. The plan
is called a performance-based plan. Things should be fully
implemented. We do not move from one stage or sub-stage to another
one unless the former one is fully implemented.
In the history of the arguments over disarmament of
the IRA in Northern Ireland there have been huge difficulties.
That would seem to put back the question of when Israel would
The reason we have not moved
forward before is that both sides have not implemented every point of
the agreement. The policy of Israel was that if we give up this point
or another point, maybe that will help and there will be quiet.
The government I lead now is a different government.
Of course all the reforms should take place. I think it´s a major
mistake to keep contact with Arafat because Arafat is undermining Abu
Mazen´s government. All those visits and telephone calls only
postpone the solution here. I am fully committed. I was the one
behind the idea of this plan.
I was the one who
suggested we recognise a fully demilitarised Palestinian state. I
want to do it. I have time now. There are four years to go to the
next election. I want to make a major effort to solve the problem and
to move forward.
Abu Mazen has made quite
clear he has no intention of dismantling Hamas or disarming
the militants. This surely means the road map is going to stop
at the first stage and there will be no Palestinian state.
The Palestinian prime minister is having some
problems. These were not exactly the words which were said here. But
things are very clear. If the new Palestinian government will not
dismantle terrorist organisations, if it will not collect weapons and
hand them to third parties for destruction, and will not take serious
preventive steps and will not stop incitement, then nothing will move
Has Abu Mazen given you a private
I have confidence in him because I
know that he understands the situation.
Mazen is not a member of the Zionist movement. He is a Palestinian.
But he understood that one cannot defeat Israel by terror, although
we have suffered heavy casualties.
When you look
at the numbers of casualties it´s hard to imagine what we suffered.
In three years 815 Israelis have been killed and 5,615 injured. It is
not only the numbers. But here the targets are different - the goal
is to kill civilians.
As one who participated in
all the wars of the state of Israel, and I had the privilege to
command or to serve in some of the finest units of the Israeli army -
commando units, the parachute corps and the larger armoured forces -
I saw the horrors of war and felt the fears of war and saw my best
friends killed in battles, and I was seriously injured twice, and I
felt the terrible pain in hospital. I had to take decisions about
life and death of others and myself. I believe that I understand the
importance of peace, to put it moderately, not less than many of the
politicians who speak about peace but never had that experience.
For me peace means security and the right of the
Jewish people to live in peace. For that I´m ready to make painful
compromises. Israel is the only country in the world that is ready to
make compromises - even though it did not lose any wars.
You have said several times this afternoon that you
are ready to make painful compromises, but it´s not entirely
clear what those compromises might be. For some in your
cabinet the release of 400 prisoners is a painful compromise.
If the Palestinians do everything that you want them to do, what
is it that you have to offer them?
would be a mistake at this stage to say, for instance, where the
final borders will be. If you say it now, that will be the starting
line for negotiations. The final borders depend on the relations that
will develop and the negotiations that take place.
You have not said anything so far to convince our
readers that you are no longer the patron of the settlers
which you were for many years.
What should I
It exposes you to the accusation that
you merely say things to sound accommodating but in fact you
have little intention of making real concessions.
Very few other politicians would have said the things I
have said at a very inconvenient time.
started off by saying concessions bring terrorism, but now you
say concessions are possible. What made you change your mind?
Do not think for one minute that
concessions will be made if terror will continue. That´s the point.
In the past, say during Arafat´s leadership, there was no chance
whatsoever that terrorism would stop. It´s a new experience with the
Palestinian Authority. We have to see how it will develop. Now maybe
for the first time we can say there is hope.
What happens if terror is reduced but there are
still some attacks?
If the Palestinians will
make 100 per cent effort and there is an act of terror, we would take
into consideration that such things may happen.
What do I mean by 100 per cent effort? One hundred per
cent effort means that terrorists, their supporters and those that
instigate murder are arrested, interrogated and punished.
Terror organisations - like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the
Popular Front, the Democratic Front, and the security/terror
organisations - should be dismantled.
was it about Abu Mazen´s personality that convinced you he was a
man of integrity?
It´s not just a
question of believing. We are beyond the era of promises,
declarations and talks. We tried that already. Everything is based on
performance. It should be done in phases so we can follow the
development of relations.
If the terror
continues, what do you do then?
We will do
what we have always done. My grandfather, my father, myself, my sons -
there are people who have faced Arab terror for five or six
generations. They will have to hold a sword in one hand.
That is what we have done until now. That is what I
would like to change.
At the same time we have
managed to bring millions of newcomers and integrate them. We have
revived the Hebrew language. We built here a sophisticated industry.
We have famous centres of research and science. We have beautiful
music. We have a very advanced agricultural system, really one of the
most developed in the world. We have done tremendous things here.
We will continue. We have a plan in the next 10
to 13 years to bring one million more Jews here. We are going to
develop and build. We are not going to surrender. We would like to
live a quiet life. But if we have to defend ourselves we will defend
You are the last of the generation
who built the state. Are you the last person who can make peace in
Our generation has seen everything.
I remember well from the age of five. I remember the past 70 years. I
think it is our generation´s role to try to achieve peace. As a
result of everything we have seen, we will make fewer mistakes. That
is how we see it. I feel that there are many things I would like to
do. I decided it is something I have to try to solve.
Gen Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli chief of staff, said
Israel had scored a victory over the Palestinian armed groups. Do you
We had tremendous achievements in the
struggle against terror. This kind of war against terror - anti-
terror guerrilla warfare - is very daring and different, not like a
war when you attack with 10 tank divisions.
can see that Hamas needed this ceasefire. They suffered high
casualties. They had to hide themselves. They didn´t use their cars,
telephones. The problem now is we don´t see yet acts against
terrorist organisations, or any dismantling. They are regrouping and
reorganising and smuggling weapons and so on.
When we reach peace, that will be victory.
Is Arafat strong enough to obstruct the process?
He is doing it. He controls the larger part
of their armed forces, still part of the money, and he got all those
telephone calls from leaders, mostly from Europe, and he receives
messages, ministers of foreign affairs and others.
Every act of this nature only postpones the progress in
the process. Most European countries are doing that. By that they are
undermining Abu Mazen. This is a major mistake. I hope with time they
will understand this.
Don´t you regret still
being in the saddle - why not be on the farm, listening to
I would like to be on the farm to
ride horses and to watch the cattle and the sheep and the citrus
plantations. But as long as I have the strength, I´ll have to
continue and face these complicated problems.
long as I can do it, I will do it.
As one who
has been in hard situations, I believe that I know how to deal with
complicated and hard situations. The horses will wait. The cattle
will wait. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002. 07/12/03)