Chat Transcript Sunday, Feburary 15, 1998 1:00 - 2:00 PM EST (1800 GMT)
An Online Discussion with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Please note that this log contains only those comments that were seen publicly in CNN's chat room during this moderated event. A few participants were selected to speak freely and you see their comments included in this log. However, the private question queu where participants submitted their questions for consideration is not included in this log.
Bernard Shaw: Hello from Washington. I'm Bernard Shaw. To our domestic and international audience and to you joining us on the worldwide web, welcome to a special presentation. A conversation with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
We invite you to participate in this unique online discussion with the Prime Minister via our CNN web site. Both sound and picture from this program are available live at CNN.com.
Prime Minister Netanyahu joins us from Jerusalem at a critical time. With a United States led military attack against Iraq appearing more likely by each day, the prospect of war places more pressure on a region already in conflict.
Here now is where things stand at the moment. A UN technical team arrived in Baghdad Sunday to survey 8 presidential sites Iraq has deemed off limits to United Nations weapons inspectors. Iraq has agreed to a Russian and French proposal that would open the sites to inspectors under certain conditions. The United States has rejected this plan. The U.S. is dispatching more fire power to the Gulf. Six additional f-117 stealth fighters left for Kuwait overnight. In defiance of a palestinian authority ban and an Israeli warning, about two hundred Palestinians held a demonstration Sunday in support of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. And, Mr. Netanyahu met Sunday with his cabinet to discuss the crisis with Iraq. Israel is prepared to retaliate if attacked by Iraq.
As we begin our discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu, again this reminder. You can join us on the world wide web at CNN.com. And you can pose your questions to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as this program unfolds.
Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to this special hour.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Thank you, good evening. Good Afternoon.
Bernard Shaw: Afternoon from Washington. First question. If Saddam Hussein fires one Scud missile into Israel what would you do?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well in case we're attacked, we have our answers and I don't think there's any point in going into it.
Ruben Pernia: Given the vast cultural differences between Arabs and Jews, is there a chance for a cultural and social reconciliation so that both ethnic groups might not only co-exist peacefuly but in friendship?
Bernard Shaw: How would an attack led by the United States and Britain, an attack on Iraq, affect the Middle East peace process?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: I think there is a big problem in that. In the eastern part of the Middle East in this case, in Iraq but also in Iran, there are dictatorial regimes that are arming themselves with ballistic missiles and Saddam Hussein is the quintessential example of such a regime.
We would like to see those missiles dismantled. Those capabilities for non conventional weapons dismantled without the use of force. We understand and appreciate the position of President Clinton and the United States, that says that much greater instability much greater damage to the cause of peace in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East, would be perpetrated if we don't check for proliferation of those weapons in the hands of those regimes. So, I think you have to ask a different question - what happens if action is not taken now to restore the US monitors? And there I think a prognosis for peace is very grim indeed.
Pame5Ashe: How does Israel feel, knowing the US is not being backed by the coalition as it was in Operation Desert Storm?...does this have any impact on Israel?
Bernard Shaw: We have a question from Allon Mason, Mr. Prime Minister. QUESTION : What kind of impact do you think the Iraq situation will have on the peace process?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well I've just answered that. I have to say that I wish the impact would be the other way. That is, assuming we had progress with the Palestinians which I want to achieve very much and which we are working on as we speak, that this would in any way affect Saddam. I think that is not the case. Sad dam is arming himself to the teeth he devoured Kuwait 7 years ago without any relation to what is happening on the Palestinian-Israeli front. And thats not his game. It's not his beef. If anything, he's opposed to any progress for peace and might be emboldened to attack if there is such progress. But we want to pursue the peace with the Palestinians independent of Iraq. I don't think that if we make progress as I hope we will, that would affect Saddam one way or the other. Now the contrary is true. If Saddam has unimpeded access to the development of ballistic and non-conventional weapons then he would effect and undermine any peace agreements which we have achieved with our neighbors and any peace agreement which we hope to achieve with our Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese neighbors.
Bernard Shaw: This question from Ben Pace. How much land do you plan to give to the Palestinians and how long after do you expect peace to last?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: That's the $64,000 question. We're in the middle of a negotiation and I assume that your audience knows that you don't reveal all of your cards. But I can reveal some of it.
We are prepared right now as part of an interim settlement to cede part of the territory that does not affect security. We have actually conducted an analysis and we've said that part of the defensive wall that protects Israel. Israel is a tiny country. It's 1/5 of 1% of the combined landmass of the 21 Arab states. Israel doesn't amount to 1% of the land of the Arab states. And within that 1% or 1/5 of 1%, we have a wall, a wall in the form of the Samarian and Judean mountains that protects us against the possibility of ground invasions. A million Palestinians live on that wall. I want them to be able to live in their areas and to run their own lives. But parts of that wall are essential for our survival. So, this is the land we want to keep and we're prepared to have the Palestinians have that part of the wall in which they live and is not essential to our defense.
I'll bring to your attention a fact that probably 99% of your listeners or your viewers don't realize. And that is that the Palestinians now control 98% of the Palestinian population in Judean-Samarian on the West Bank. 98% of the Palestinians now live under Palestinian rule. So the land that is remaining to talk about does not involve human rights. Human rights are where human beings live. It affects security. It affects interests in national claims, but it does not affect the Palestinians now where they live. I would like to maintain that land which is important and vital to Israel's defenses and I'm prepared to cede the parts of that land which is not essential.
Bernard Shaw: Continuing with our questions from viewers online...Rajina Quantaco asks: What does peace mean to you?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Everything. I grew up in a nation that went to five big wars and a lot of wars in between them. The wars of terrorism. I, like every Israeli, lost loved ones in these battles and we know the enormous anguish of a war better than any other people. I have small children at home and I want for them a future of peace.
I am working to get a real peace. And a real peace means two things in my mind. One is that the Palestinians keep their side of the bargain as much as we're supposed to keep our side, and I'm prepared to proceed along that route. That is we keep our side and they keep their side. Including annulling the charter which calls for the destruction of Israel which has yet to be amended.
And the other thing it means for me which is what I've just said, it means security. We live in a very difficult neighborhood. It's very different than Western Europe or North America. We're surrounded by dictatorships, or at least non-democracies. We cannot rely on the natural tendencies of human beings in these regimes to prevent aggression from their leaders. Because, Saddam Hussein doesn't exactly take a poll right now in downtown Baghdad. And very few of the leaders around him, around us, do the same. So we have to make sure that we have the ability to repel aggression as part of the peace agreement.
And therefore I will never put Israel's security at risk. I will never put Israel's survival at risk. I'm willing to take those steps and those risks that do not imperil the survival of this tiny Jewish state. I'm prepared to do that but I'm not prepared to jeopardize our security. These twin considerations, that is reciprocity, we both fulfill our commitments, not just Israel. And security. Those are the foundations by which I intend to approach peace. And how I intend to achieve peace within this coming term of office.
Rejeanna Barnes: Do you ever foresee a time that that "wall" won't be necessary?
Edwin Grodberg: Do you think Arafat is against Palastinian riots seen lately due to the gulf situation?
Bernard Shaw: We will have a question for you right after we come back, we will put the question up and to all of you out there online, watching and listening, you can pose your questions to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the World Wide Web at CNN.com. We'll have more of our conversation in a moment.
Pame5Ashe: Is the "Wall" like the wall in Germany?
Bernard Shaw: Welcome back to our conversation with Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu. He's joining us from Jerusalem. The Prime Minister is also taking your questions via the World Wide Web. And you can join in on the discussion by clicking on CNN.com. From Shawnie, Oklahoma, Mr. Prime Minister, Jesse Lovette asks: What are you willing to give up for peace?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well, I just said that we are prepared to trade that land which is not essential for our security with the PAlestinians in exchange for their policing terrorists from the territory which we've given them.
That was essentially the deal of Oslo. Which the late Prime Minister Rabin, my predecessor struck with Mr. Arafat. The deal was we give the Palestinians territory and they give us the promise that they will fight terrorists from that territory. Unfortunately, that base of deal has not been kept. We gave them territory but they allowed these Palestinian areas to be turned in to safe havens for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. So if we were to have peace we must avoid the kind of explosion of terrorism in Israel's cities that we saw since Oslo. That means that the Palestinians have to get down to fighting terrorism, fighting it in deed and also fighting it in words. And that means that they have to come out very strongly, very forcefully, against these demonstrations that initially were organized by their own people. Calling for Saddam to bomb Tel Aviv and destroy Israel.
These kinds of things are against peace. So we're prepared to give our share. But we want to see them control the terrorists from the territory that they received. And educate their people for peace. At the end of the day that is the true test of leadership. I stood before my constituency which was against Oslo and I said we're going to do it. We're going to implement this agreement. Providing they of course implement their part. It wasn't easy for me to do. It wasn't easy for me to get out of 80% of the city of Hebron. The oldest Jewish city. Older than Jerusalem. But we did that too. What I expect the Palestinian leadership to do, is to fight terrorism and stand in front of their people and say, the war is over. No more war. No more bloodshed. That's the message that I'd give to my people. I would like to see Yassir Arafat and the Palestinian leadership, drive that message home to their people.
Ruben Pernia: Currently, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya are developing programs to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. Is there anyway to prevent a nonconventional arms-race in the region to prevent further bloodshed?
Joe Shambro: What do the neighboring Arabs think they could take advantage of by attacking Israel? What would be their advantage?
Husker: We are scheduled to go to Israel in 3 weeks. In light of the current situation with Iraq, would it be prudent for us to re-schedule our trip?
Jeni Goodin: What is Mr. Netenyahu doing visa-vie Mr. Arafat, to keep the Palestinians out of the Iraqi conflict?
Allon Mason: What kind of impact do you think the Iraqi situation will have on the peace process?
Albert: Do you think the PA is doing a good job?
AmitLev: Mr Netanyahu: What do you plan to do about the disconnection from Morocco and other countries because of problems in the peace process.
Boston: WELCOME to this live chat event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu! We are in "Auditorium" mode. Please submit questions for Mr. Netanyahu to Moderator.
Amerikai: what are you willing to give up for peace ?
Liraz Barak: After watching the huge demonstrations of the Palestinians calling to Saddam Husein to destroy Tel-Aviv, what do you think about the chance of the peace process?
Pete: Are you being hypocritical talking about Iraq?
Bernard Shaw: Our next question is from Jeff Davis: Can you foresee the day that Iraq, Syria and Jordan will be economic partners with Israel?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Sure. It could happen. It could have happened a long time ago. If we remove the impetus for war. We are in fact having right now economic relations with Jordan and Israeli industrialists who have now established plants in Jordan. We have a free trade zone between Jordan and Israel. We're thinking we have open bridges between us. We have common agricultural and other economic projects.
We now have a pilot run of the common airport in Ochabackilat area. That is on the sourthern border between Israel and Jordan, we have now established a common international airport. So the possibilities are endless.
And I think that one of the benefits of peace will be the growth of the Arab economies and coincidentally of course, the Israeli economy by this trade. It's my hope that other countries like Jordan see the benefits of peace and proceed to do away with the saber rattling or missile rattling. Israel wants peace. It wants economic relations with the Arab countries. It wants economic relations with the Palestinians. And I'm very proud of the fact that I have doubled the income for Palestinian workers working in Israeli cities, this year, compared to what it was two years ago when I came in to office.
I am a great, great economic liberal. I practice what I preach not only inside my own country, liberalizing our economy, but in providing the freest possible economic relations with our Palestinian, our Jordanian, and from my point of view any other Arab neighbor that wants to make peace with us.
Boston: MODERATOR QUEUE OPEN: Please submit your questions for Mr. Netanyahu to "Moderator." (/msg Moderator text of question)
Bernard Shaw: In Israel, Edwin Grodberg poses this question to you: Will you keep national security a high priority?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: The highest. I think one has to understand that our quest for peace is not separate from our quest for security. It doesn't work at least in our region that you can say we'll sacrifice security for the sake of the peace treaties.
If you'll remember, everyone of our neighbors had treaties with their neighbors. Arab countries had peace with Arab countries. Iraq and Iran had their peace between them. It didn't prevent them from going to war against one another. So what safeguards peace in our area? Which is populated by, as I said, non-democratic regimes that are not subject to the will of the electorate. What keeps the peace ultimately is the ability to deter war. Or to have strong security ramparts to keep the peace. And therefore, when people say to us, "what's so important?" Go ahead, give them the wall that protects Israel, which is all of the West Bank, just do away with it. You'll get a piece of paper, a peace treaty, that will protect you. That is not what happens in this area. For that piece of paper to hold you need strong security agreements. That is our national security, that is what I will protect in order to ensure the peace is real.
VicFerrari: good answer Bibi.
AMITg: In case of war, Will you let the Americans attack Iraq alone, or will you do it yourself? (From Israel)
Mefody: during 50 years of Israel's existaince there wasn't a day of peace. why do you think it's possible now?
TedRomeyn: How do you view the Russian position that, if Iraq strikes at Israel and Israel retaliates, there is the potential for a third world war?
Joe Shambro: What do the neighboring Arabs think they could take advantage of by attacking Israel? (From Granite City, Illinois)
RejeannaBarnes: Amerikai--that is the question that is up.
cynic: from Philadephia, PA: What is the status of the Jonathan Jay Pollard affair? Does it remain a priority on your agenda?
Albert: Do you think the PA is doing a good job ? (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Moderator: have faith megiddo.
Edwin Grodberg: Will you keep your promise that national security is a basic condition for peace with any arab country in the area - Syria??
Pame5Ashe: PM Netanyahu....Do you ever forsee a time when the Temple will be rebuilt and Isreal will live in peace?....(from N. Myrtle Beach, SC USA)
Joe Shambro: What steps are you taking, Mr. Netanyahu, to realize your dream of Israel being the "Silicon Valley of the East"? (from Granite City, Illinois, USA)
SoftBill: What would your reaction be on an Iraq attack on Israel?
Bernard Shaw: There are many questions. Another one coming up very shortly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking your questions on the web at CNN.com. We'll continue our conversation after this break.
Bernard Shaw: Welcome back to our conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is answering your questions on the World Wide Web at CNN.COM. This question from Paul Coronado: Do you see Israel as a secular multi-cultural country or as a Jewish state?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: That is a question for the ages which asks you to define what is a Jew. Is a Jew just a secular national grouping or does it have a religious identification to it? And the answer is, it has both. The Jewish people are very unique. You know we have our own history our own national identification, our own religion.
But we have the only religion which says, Next year in Jerusalem , it's tied to a particular place. You don't hear many Catholics saying next year at the Vatican. It's separate. Religiosity in most places, and national identification is kept usually separate. So, I'm not going to divide Jewish identity at this point.
What I believe is this - I believe we have, Israel is the national state of the Jewish people. It has free religious practice for all. It's probably the only place in the Middle East where you are guaranteed to have free worship for Moslems, Christians and Jews under law.
And secondly, it is a place where we believe democracy should reign. Should prevail. Our Arab citizens our Jewish citizens have equal rights. But it is not a secret that the majority of citizens are Jews, just as the majority of the citizens of Britain are Englishman, a majority are probably doing injustice to the Scots and the Welsh. But what I'm saying is that just as the majority of the residents of Germany are German, the majority of the residents of France are Frenchmen, the majority of the residents of the Jewish state are Jews. Not withstanding the democracy or not nullifying it anyway, the democracy that characterizes Israel as a special free state in a very large radius.
VicFerrari: Israeli-citizen Ahmed Tibi, Arafat's advisor, caused a storm on Friday when he said, "You [Israelis] are preparing your shelters, while we are cleaning our roofs." He was referring to the Palestinian dancing on the roofs during the Persian Gulf war when Scud missiles landed in Tel Aviv.
Pame5Ashe: There you go Jesse..
Ruben Pernia: If other nations in the region tried to blackmail Israel with weapons of mass destruction, what kind of security could be guaranteed to the people living in Israel?
Liraz Barak: why won't you and Mr. Arafat meet and try to solve the differences yourselves? (Israel)
Joe Horman: Why should Israel not be held to the same standards as Iraq since both nations are in material breach of UN Security Council resolutions? (Houston, Texas, USA)
Amit Lev: Mr PM: Zionism is based on the basis of the right for an independence state from the declaration of human rights. What about the Palestinans? (15, Petah-Tikvah, Israel)
JwS: How significant is foriegn military presence to maintaining stability/peace in the area? (Granite City, Illinois)
Liraz Barak: Mr. Netanyahu : After watching the huge demonstrations of the Palestinians calling to Saddam Husein to destroy Tel-Aviv, what do you think about the chances of the peace process? (Israel)
Bernard Shaw: And before we lose our CNN domestic viewers, I want to get in this question from Tindall McCall: Are you going to allow Orthodox Jews, the right to determine who is rightfully a Jew?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: No. We're not going to change in any way the status of Jews either in Israel or outside of Israel. You know that if you have a reformed or conservative Jew in the United States they undergo reform conversion or conservative conversion. We recognize that in the state of Israel. I will never allow that to change. For me every Jew is legitimate I will not allow illegitimate Jews.
We have a question of who performs conversions within in Israel and that has been done by the rabbi for the last 50 years. I don't suppose that this is going to change. But I must tell you, that we have no question whatsoever. And I will not allow the question to come in about the legitimacy of reformed or conservative Jews anywhere in the world or reformed or conservative conversions in the United Sates or anywhere else in the world.
Bernard Shaw: Even if this might cost you politically, given the fragile coalition of your government?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: I don't think anyone would seriously challenge that. We have a question now in Israel as to whether or not someone other than the Rabbi, which is orthodox, should perform conversions in Israel. The number of such conversions is very small. Inside of Israel. On that we are trying to reach some kind of understanding some kind of dialogue. And I'm very proud of that, the fact that I've initiated this dialogue since the first time of the founding of Israel. But I hope we'll find a solution to this particular problem inside of Israel. But I will never allow - even when challenged - the question of legitimacy of Jews as such, worldwide, reformed, conservative, orthodox, they're all the same to me - in their respective communities. They are people I respect and people I will continue to respect.
Stream: Welcome to this live chat event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu! If you wish to have CNN's Bernard Shaw ask your question of Netanyahu, please send it to Moderator (/msg Moderator your question).
Edwin Grodberg: Are there any unknown talks with arab countries such as Syria?
Bernard Shaw: For our domestic audience we've come to the end of our conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but for our International viewers and for those of you online, this conversation will continue. You can pose your questions for the Israeli Prime Minister at CNN.com.
Toni Oubari: Why if you want peace do you violate all agreements including international law by the continued building of illegal settlements?
Hunter Schaeffer: Bush called Saddam the next Hitler, Clinton has called for the indictment of Saddam for his use previous of chemical weapons against Iran & his own people. Do you support a War Crimes Trial for Saddam? If he is found guilty of war crimes for his use of "weapons of mass destruction", do you support a reward for the capture of Saddam Hussein - "Dead or Alive"? (Atlanta, GA, USA)
JwS: Mr Prime Minister, Do you feel events like this online conversation will help promote International Understanding of issues facing our countries? (From Granite City, Illinois)
Bernard Shaw: I'm Bernard Shaw in Washington. Welcome back to our interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. We remind our viewers and listeners around the world that the entire interview and transcript will be available on our website throughout the day at CNN.com. Mr. Prime minister, let's consider this next question. From Tony Oubari: Why do you continue to build illegal settlements?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well first of all they are not illegal. Secondly, They are open land, public land. Thirdly, they take up less than 1%, 8/10th's of 1% of the entire West Bank or the entire land of Judea and Samaria which is our ancestral home. We don't want to kick out the Arabs, they shouldn't kick us out. We live in a very tiny area. We have to find a way to live together.
I must tell you that the picture that we are building these vast estates which you can create an image of by focusing a camera on a few buildings and that we are gobbling up land is nonsense. We are taking up less than 1%, the built of land of these communities takes up less than 1% of the entire area of the West Bank. And this West Bank isn't foreign territory to us. It is territory that was conquered by the Arabs in the war of independence in an illegal attack against us. In an occupation that was recognized by no country except England and Pakistan, and now that we have, that we retook this territory in 1967, we have a dispute. We have to resolve this dispute about this land.
And as I said I think we can have a solution where we keep those areas that are important to us and are important to our security, and the Palestinians get to have the areas which are populated by them. They already control 98% of the territories, 98% of the Palestinian population lives under Palestinian rule. So the picture that is presented as though the settlement are gobbling up huge swaths of Palestinian land this possessing the Palestinian's is not true. We have not appropriated one square inch of private Palestinian land, for the construction of one single home. I think there is a lot of misinformation and I am glad to have the opportunity to set it straight.
Bernard Shaw: Moving to our next question, from Jason Chong: How will Israel react if Chairman Arafat declares a Palestine state by next year?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well that would be in violation of the Oslo accords. It left the question of the final status of the territories and of the Palestinian entity within the territories open to negotiation. If the Palestinians decide to violate the pledge of having a negotiation, then we will be free to make our own unilateral decisions. I don't want to get in to that because I think that would be a grave mistake. I think there is only one way to go. And that is, for Yassir Arafat and me to sit down opposite on a table and to sit down and try to negotiate these outstanding questions.
I think the way not to go is what I've been seeing in the Palestinian areas in the last few days, regrettably. And that is threats of violence, to have a Palestinian dictate to us is not accepted by us. Threats of calling for Saddam to bomb Tel Aviv that is opposite the spirit of peace. And we'd like to see people go back to the table and work things out in direct negotiation face to face negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Between Arafat and myself - these outstanding questions. That is the way to achieve peace and we're prepared to go that route.Dave Cunningham: Mr. Shaw -- please point out that the settlements also control farmland etc. much greater than under the PA control .... the PM is disingenuous here.
Allon Mason: Democracy is reigning.
Joe Shambro: What do you feel about the involvement of Germany in the Iraqi conflict?
LarronMuha: How safe is it to travel to Israel?(Memphis TN, USA)
Bernard Shaw: Does President Clinton have enough prestige and influence to bring you and Mr. Arafat to the an agreement?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well first of all, I think he has enough prestige and influence. I think he's doing the right thing. Today its not an easy time certainly for any of us and its certainly not an easy time for him. As far as the United States and President Clinton helping us get together, I think the US is doing its best in that regard, but I have to tell you the truth. At the end of the day will all the good efforts of President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright, it's up to the two sides to get together.
Bernard Shaw: What are you waiting for?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: From my point of view, nothing. I said a year ago, I think I said it on CNN, that the way to go is to cut directly to the heart of the matter that your viewers are asking about.
I said, what is the final settlement? Whats the shape of the Palestinian entity? What are the borders? Who gets what? On land what about the settlements? These are all very tough questions. But I think the easiest way to answer them is to get them all out on the table. We can trade. I can give something to Arafat, he can give something to me. And as paradoxical as it sounds, a comprehensive negotiation is actually easier to negotiate than going piece by piece slowly breaking down, creating friction for both of us instead of cutting the Jordanian knot in one shot. My proposal has not been accepted. We've wasted a year.
I'm prepared to try one piece-meal step. And we're working on that now. But at the end of the day if you ask me how do we arrive at a real settlement? It is with the help of the United States but really it is only through direct negotiation between Palestinians and Israeli's. I'm prepared to do that. I'm prepared to make very tough decisions through this final settlement and I expect that Arafat will do the same. At the end of the day that's the way to go. It's easier to make those tough decisions when at the end of the day those decisions are the final comprehensive settlement - a comprehensive peace agreement. I hope that we take this up as soon as the dust subsides in the Gulf crisis.
Edwin Grodberg: during the peace process european countries have been "taking sides" , can this help the process?
HunterScha:Under what circumstances would Israel go to war against Iraq?
Allon Mason: Do you view all these power threats as contributing to a regional bi-polarity between Israel and other Arab nations? If so, who do you view as Israel's greatest threat?
JoshGitlit: Mr. Netanyahu: In the event of armed conflict and a direct attack on Israel, will US armed forces be granted use of Israeli military facilities?
Bernard Shaw: We're trying to get in as many questions as possible. The next one is from Whit Wyant: How significant is foreign military presence to maintaining stability in the area?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well its not significant for Israel per se. We are not in the conflict and we don't seek to be in the conflict. We are engaging in civil defense measures to protect our population because we have had scuds reign down on us during the Gulf War.
Bernie you may remember this - you used to interview me during the Gulf War when we had scuds reign down on Israel, but we are not seeking in any way to be part of this conflict. Except to support the United States to allow the inspectors in to Iraq. As far as a foreign presence or if you will, a military presence in the gulf, I think thats the inevitable consequence of the fact that Saddam has not complied with his promise to allow these inspectors to go in. And that is the cause of the problem. My preference is that he will allow that to happen without the necessity of the use of force.
Ruben Pernia: Mr. Prime-Minister, Israel is the only democratic nation in the region. Could this example serve other nations in the region to become more democratic? (College Station USA)
Toni Oubari: Why would a democratic state not allow Jews and Christians to marry inside Israel?
Liraz Barak: After watching the huge demonstrations of the Palestinians calling to Saddam Hussein to destroy Tel-Aviv, what do you think about the chances of the peace process? (Israel)
Rejeanna Barnes: Doesn't that whole conversion issue create conflict with Jews, worldwide? (Portland, OR)
Boston: THANK YOU Mr. Prime Minister and Bernard Shaw for inviting us to participate in this CNN Interactive event!
Bernard Shaw: Let me go back to my first question and I ask this question again to get an idea of your mindset as a leader. Please indulge it again. If Saddam Hussein fires one scud missile into Israel what will you do?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: First of all I hope he doesn't fire. If he fires on e missile or missiles, I think that would be highly ill-advised on his part.
Bernard Shaw: Question: If you had an opportunity to sit down with Saddam Hussein and talk candidly with him, what would you say to him, what would you discuss?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: I haven't relished that possibility I have to tell you.
Bernard Shaw: You have not??
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: There are some closer neighbors that I had in mind, to tell you the truth. But, well for example, Syria and Lebanon are on our immediate agenda. Not to mention completing the Peace agreement with the Palestinians. But uh, I suppose that the question that is in our minds, is why build these weapons, why fire them, why project these deadly weapons beyond your borders. They are an indication of non-peaceful intention. Iraq has more than enough military force. Thousands of tanks, Thousands of artillery pieces to protect itself against any threat to its sovereignty. I would suppose that I would want to see from Iraq the dismantling of these ballistic missile capabilities that threaten the entire region and indeed threaten the world.
Allon Mason: What kind of impact do you think the Iraqi situation will have on the peace process?
SoftBill: Is it safe for tourists to visit Israel right now?
VicFerrari: Mr. PM do you feel that the current US admistration is safegaurding the special relationship btween the US and your country, or is it putting unilateral pressure on Israel to appear even handed to the Arab states?
MichaelJ: For all those who have asked, I think Israel is definitely safe to visit.
Edwin Grodberg: Mr. Prime Minster, Does arafats policy satisfy you?
AmitLev: Mr Prime Minister: What is your opinion about late Yitzhak Rabin and the horrible Murder, and what is your respond to the pictures of you in the anti-Rabin demonstrations?
MichaelJ: Liraz, I think that the tougher the line taken against Saddam Hussein, the better the chances for the peace process.
Rejeanna Barnes: I'd like to know about what role, if any, Israel feels it may play or have to play in the Iraq situation? (Portland, OR)
Bernard Shaw: Before we take our next question from Malaysia, I want to get from you your thoughts and what you can say about this. In the United States congress there is a Congressional report that says that Iraq in 1992 had sent materials from its nuclear program including 27.5 pounds of highly enriched Uraniam to Sudan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: I'm not sure that I can confirm that. As we say, I'll check in to that and let you know but I don't think I am in a position to confirm that report.
In any case, the main problem that we see with Iraq, is not that it would export in the form of stashed raw material, but that it would export nuclear material in the form of warheads against its own neighbors. That is the threat. And by the way, if we talk about that threat, which by the way the entire world is legitimately and understandably focused on this threat, remember that right next to Iraq is a regime called Iran, which is no less aggressive. It is developing ballistic missiles, biological weapons and nuclear missiles, without any interference and I think the world should pay attention to both regimes.
Because if we think that we have a problem today with Saddam, and we do, think of the problem that we'll have tomorrow with Iran, with the Ayatollah regime. Start worrying and indeed, I think the world should start working against the importation of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to Iran as well as to Iraq.
Bernard Shaw: Mr. Prime Minister our next question is from Malaysia. Why can't you just give that piece of land to Palestinians and gain peace in return?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well for one thing that piece of land was in the hands of Arabs up until 1967. It was all of 10 miles wide and we didn't get peace. In fact, they saw the Mediterranean and all it did was tempt them into the 1967 attempt to destroy the state of Israel.
Now, those borders we would return to are the borders of war. They are not the borders of peace. What happened in 1967 was that we removed the borders from the outskirts of Tel Aviv across a mountain range called the West Bank or the Samarian mountains, and they are now in the Jordan. We don't get a lot of strategic advantage because of that change. What we got was a lot of strategic height because that added territory gives a wall over a kilometer high, going down to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea, the bottom of the Jordan river.
So if you wanted to ever invade Israel, you'd have to climb over this huge wall. And all of a sudden in 1967, Israel went from a position from extreme vulnerability where we really thought we could be driven into the sea anyday, into a position of relative strength. And it is this relative strength, the fact that Israel could not be overcome by land armies that produced the progress towards peace. The peace with Egypt, then peace with Jordan and the Palestinians which we now want to complete, and then ultimately I beleive with Syria and Lebanon. We know that if we ever just walked away from this wall, that we would begin the dismantling of the peace because the temptation to destroy Israel would return.
We also recognize that there are Palestinians who live on the wall. So my peace proposal would be this - Israel retains that part of the wall which is important for our defenses, to ensure that we have peace that we deter any future onslaught, and the Palestinians have those areas where they live and conduct their lives.
And again, today, as we speak, before we have completed the final agreement, the Palestinians already have that area in which 98% of Palestinians live under Palestinian rule. We don't manage their lives. They are managed by the Palestinian authority. And we are prepared to give additional land but not any of the land which is crucial for our security and crucial for the makings of peace.
AmitLev:15, Petah-Tikvah, Israel: Mr. PM: What do you think about the mass amounts of money given to orthodox jews opposed to secular jews.
Rejeanna Barnes: Mr. Prime Minister--You talk about this "wall". Do you foresee that wall as being permanent? Will there come a time that such a strong wall isn't needed? (Portland OR)
Bernard Shaw: Around the world, people are watching and listening to this discussion. Lets go to South America, Brazil, to Rio de Janeiro, Ricardo Goldberg asks: What's your reaction to the statement once defended by Sharon that Jordan is the real Palestinian state?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well I think we have to recognize that we have made our peace with Jordan. Jordan is a freindly country to Israel, it has a responsible regime, a responsible government, the Hashima kingdom. We have no claims against Jordan and we don't have, we have every view that the sovereignty of Jordan should be maintained. We have no wish to interfere. We happen to believe that it is important that Jordan, that the present government in Jordan be allowed to maintain its responsible position which its exercised certainly in signing its peace agreement with us. We'd like free trade and peace between us, the Jordanians and the Palestinians. But there is no question in our minds of any change in the government or the composition of Jordan.
Joe Shambro: Mr. Prime Minister, how do you feel about involvement of countries other than the United States in the conflict? (From Granite City, Illinois)
Bernard Shaw: From South America to North America. This question from Pame in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach. Do you ever forsee a time when the Temple will be rebuilt and Israel will live in peace?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Well I can see a time when Israel will live in peace, and I believe that's possible. As I said, our victory in the 6 day war, paved the way for the gradual acceptance by the Arab world that Israel is here to stay. And I believe that we can fashion peace with security which I believe is the only peace.
When I say that Israel will live in peace, it is different than the peace of North America between Mexico and Canada and the United States. It's different because in all these areas, you have democracies. And democracies that are bordered by other democracies don't need military defenses to protect themselves. But you know you kept the peace against the Soviet Union which was a non-democracy for half a century by maintaining peace through strength. I believe that we can fashion peace agreements which will retain our security, retain our strength to keep the peace and therefore I agree that yes, Israel will live in peace. Will the temple be rebuilt? Well, we have no plans to rebuild the temple. We have full respect for the Moslem holy sites, we have guaranteed their well being and unimpeded access of Moslems and of course Christians as well, to their holy sites. I am very proud of the fact that it is only after Israel reunited the city of Jerusalem, a holy city to three faiths, for the first time in centuries. This will continue to be free for all faiths.
Bernard Shaw: Mr. Prime Minsiter we are fast running out of time and I apologize to the person who filed this question, but I remember the essence of the question so I will ask the question of you: years ago in the memory of your brother you established the Jonathan Institute to combat terrorism. What is the current status of the Institute and that's our last question.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: It's a foundation and it occassionaly puts out publications. Its purpose was to alert the world to the dangers of terrorism. Remember that was 21 years ago that we founded this institute. And we said that terrorism was not a problem of individuals, terrorism is an instrument of states.
And I think that one of those states, groups of states, blocks of states, particularly the Soviet states, happily disappeared from the world. Russia is now a democracy, it no longer practices terrorism. It's the tool of dictatorships. And we have no better example of this type of terrorism than the dual dictatorships of Iraq and Iran. Each of which have practiced and do practice terrorism.
I think we have to recognize that if we deter aggression by applying sanctions on aggressive states, than we can also deter terrorism by applying sanctions on offending regimes who harbor terrorist organizations. The validity of that argument has not changed. Terrorism has changed form. BUt the substance of terrorism being used as a tool of political warfare is still being used by rogue states against democracies. And the democracies have to unite against the weapons of terror.
Bernard Shaw: This reminder this entire interview and a transcript thereoff will be available on our website at cnn.com. This has been an online conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Thank you.
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