Wed, March 30, 2011 | Prime Minister’s Office | Youtube
YouTube World View Interview With PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Transcription from the Channel2 and YouTube World View Interview with Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, March 30, 2011, (English version). For the hebrew version of this interview, go here.
Welcome to YouTube World View series following US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel will answer your questions today. Welcome to this unique interview, straight from Jerusalem where Benjamin Netanyahu will answer questions asked and voted by the YouTube community from around the world. So without further ado, let me introduce Dana Weiss, leading correspondent of Channel 2 news in Israel and she will start the interview: You Ask — Netanyahu Answers.
Dana Weiss: Hello and good evening to you viewers from around the world and to you Prime Minister Netanyahu.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu: Good evening.
Weiss: My name is Dana Weiss from Channel 2 News and I would like to thank you for joining us for this special project World View YouTube and Channel 2 News. Mr. Netanyahu is the third leader in the world to invite the views to his residence and let the viewers ask the questions and he will give the answers. I would like to remind you all that this broadcast can be seen live on Channel 2 News website. Let’s begin.
From Iran to Syria, Ecuador, Jamaica, Libya and of course all over Israel, thousands of internet users demanded answers. It’s been done in the United States and Great Britain, but when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the hot seat, records are broken — the largest amount of questions in relation to the population and a record number of countries from which questions were asked.
“This is Ariel form Taiwan, the United States, Osaka, Japan.”
Weiss: Now it’s time to get some answers, it’s time for the questions that you asked.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, let’s begin with Keith from Washington D.C. Let’s see.
Keith Clark: Mr. Netanyahu, my name is Keith Clark and I have a question that’s on all the minds of all Americans and that is, how does Israel feel about the current disruptions of violence throughout the entire Middle East. Which side are you on? Which side do you take? Do you agree with how America has reacted to what’s going on in the Middle East? Do you as a country of Israel, do you feel threatened in any way shape or form about the current violence across the Middle East? Thank you.
PM: Thank you Keith. I mean, that’s a lot of questions, but I’ll try to answer them. First of all, we’re all on the same side — America, Israel, the democratic world, we all want to see the triumph of democracy. It’s clear that peoples of the Arab world and Iran where it all began, this actually began not in Tunis, but in Teheran a year and a half ago where people stormed the streets because they had a fake election. They stole the election from them. So we all want to see people from Iran to Tunis and in between, have democracy because democracy is a friend of peace, but we’re all concerned I suppose that the democracy will be hijacked by radical regimes or militant Islamic regimes. This happened five years ago in Lebanon. In Lebanon there was the Cedar Revolution. All these people wanted to see a liberal, open, tolerant Lebanon, and a million of them walked in the streets of Beirut — five years later we don’t have that kind of democracy in Lebanon. We have a theocracy; we have Iran and Hizbullah controlling Lebanon. So clearly we want real democracy — we don’t want a militant theocracy — that’s the side we’re on. And if democracy triumphs, then it’ll be good for peace and good for our security. If Iran and radical regimes triumph, it’ll be bad for our security, bad for your security too in the United States.
Weiss: But you know as we speak, President Assad has blamed Israel today for the turmoil in his country and I wanted to ask you if you believe that it’s in Israel’s best interest to see the Assad regime fall.
PM: Well, any answer I would give you wouldn’t be a good one, so I’ll tell you again, we’d like to see everywhere, including in Syria, genuine reforms for democracy, genuine emergence of democracy. That’s no threat to any of us, but one thing I can say is that is common to this entire region — the reason you have this extraordinary turbulence, this earthquake from Pakistan to Morocco, is because the Arab peoples and the Iranians there and others have basically had the 20th century skip them by and now 21st century technology, like the internet and television is telling them what they missed out on. And so they’re rebelling. And as I said, I hope they succeed in creating stable, democratic structures. But there’s one place you noticed in this entire vast part of the globe — there’s only one country in the heart of the Middle East that has no tremors, no protests, and that’s Israel because we’re the only genuine democracy — the only one where we respect human rights, the only one that respects the rights of Arab citizens. Twenty percent of our population are Arabs and they enjoy full civil rights in Israel. It’s the only place in this entire expanse where Arabs and Muslims enjoy complete freedom and complete equality before the law.
Weiss: Well, I don’t think it will surprise you, but the vast majority of questions posed to you from the world viewers were concerning the peace process and the settlements. Actually this question from Benz from Tel Aviv was the top vote getter on this project. Let’s see. And the question goes like this:
Prime Minister Netanyaho,
PM: That’s actually misspelled, it’s with a “u” at the end.
Weiss: You’re always a man of details.
“In response to the horrible murder in Itamar, you have ordered the building of 500 housing units in the settlements. Do you believe that this action will bring peace, and end the violence to the region, and if so, how?”
That was the number one vote getter of the viewers.
PM: First of all, I think that this is not the issue. I think the real issue is not a few houses. The real issue…
Weiss: Because Benz isn’t here, I’m going to ask you to answer his question — not the question that you think is the issue.
PM: No, no, I’m going to answer. He asks, is this going to deprive peace. That’s not the reason we don’t have peace. The reason we don’t have peace is because the Palestinians so far have refused to recognize a Jewish State in any border. They negotiated for 18 years when there was plenty of settlement construction. They didn’t make it a precondition and the fact that a few hundred houses are built on a less than 1% of 1% of the land in dispute is not a big issue. It’s disputed land. We have historical connection there. You know my name is Benjamin, the first Benjamin, the son of Jacob walked these hills four thousand years ago, so we have some connection to this land. The Palestinians claim it — we need to sit down and negotiate for it and so far the Palestinians refused to do so. You can’t conclude a peace agreement if you don’t begin to negotiate it. We’re prepared to begin negotiating it, they’re not and I hope that they’ll remove this refusal because the only way to get peace is to negotiate peace.
Weiss: But about building those 400 units?
PM: Well, they’re built — you know where they’re built? They’re built in places that are going to remain in Israel under — any fair-minded person knows that the places that are in question are basically suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Nobody expects us to dismantle these places. Even our Palestinian interlocutors often admit privately that they’ll have to accommodate them. But they don’t admit it publically. Publically they do this kind of thing.
Weiss: Today, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon practically told Israel to surrender and give up all settlement activities and he said that the Jewish presence in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem is morally and politically unsustainable and must come to an end. That’s what he said today.
PM: I think that anyone in his right mind knows that this is part of the ancestral Jewish homeland — it’s in the Bible. We’ve been there for four thousand years. We understand another people lives there. We have to divide — we have to have some kind of compromise. But it can’t be that we’ll kick out 350-400,000 Israelis who live there in places that — many of them by the way were kicked before the start of Israel — the founding of Israel — by hostile Arab armies. There has to be a negotiated agreement — it can’t by dictate — it can’t be by changing and distorting history.
You know we had fifty years of conflict against the Jewish State and the idea of the Jewish State, before there was a single Israeli in any one of these settlements, what was that all about? There weren’t any Israelis in Judea or Samaria or the West Bank and Gaza. This was in Arab hands. For fifty years, half a century, from 1920 until 1967 the Arabs attacked us again and again and again. Why did they attack us if they had this area where the settlements are? Why did they do it? They did it because they refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist in any border. The issue of settlements has to be resolved and it has to be resolved in negotiations. We’re prepared to enter those negotiations. But those negotiations will have to get the Palestinians to say, yes, re recognize a Jewish State. Yes, we’ll have to make compromises on our own. Yes, Israel will be here permanently. And so far they refuse to say that and most people around the world don’t know that they refuse to say that so I value the fact that we have this direct contact and I can talk to millions of people around the world.
Weiss: So let’s talk to some questions coming from Ohio now.
Students in Ohio: Shalom Mr. Prime Minister. Are you concerned with the possibility of a third intifada and what do you think we can do to prevent it?
Weiss: This of course refers to the latest thing going on in Facebook talking about a Third Intifada on the 15th of May.
PM: Well, I hope that the Palestinians will choose peace and not violence. I think that’s what they have to choose. It’s very unsettling to me that the Palestinian Authority which is supposed to be the moderate element is talking about a unity with Hamas which is a terrorist organization supported by Iran that openly declares its goals to wipe out Israel and fires thousands of rockets on Israel’s cities. So I hope the Palestinian Authority will choose peace — that they’ll choose peace with Israel and not peace with Hamas — that’s the only real peace possible. And I hope too, that they will not go the direction of violence with a new Intifada. We’ll have to deal with it if it happens, I hope it doesn’t happen both for our sake but also for the sake of the Palestinians. They deserve better.
Weiss: Okay, a lot of questions from around the world were dealing with your Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Let’s see one coming from Jerusalem.
Jonah: Hello Prime Minister Netanyahu. My name is Jonah and I made aliyah from the United States four years ago. In the United States I witnessed the wave of de-legitimization and the public diplomacy challenges that Israel faces. In light of this, why have you allowed Avigdor Lieberman to serve as our foreign minister considering that he is completely incompetent in that position; that he has single-handedly created several diplomatic crises and that he has publically challenged the stated positions of your own government. Thank you and todah raba.
PM: Well first of all Jonah, I’m glad you immigrated to Israel, made aliyah and it’s good that you’re here. Now you can realize that our politics are somewhat different than some of those in the United States. In the United States you don’t need a coalition. You just form a government any way you want. The president can appoint any one he wants. In Israel you appoint cabinet members based on the distribution of votes to the parties. I think your characterization of Avigdor Lieberman is wrong. I think that he shares many of my concerns about security. He’s opened up some important places that Israel didn’t really have diplomatic opening to — in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere. But if you really want to give changes to Israeli politics, why don’t you vote in the next elections. Give the Likud 95 seats and that way we can choose whoever comes to mind at a particular time.
Weiss: So you’re saying to Jonah that if you could, Avigdor Lieberman wouldn’t be your first choice for Foreign Minister. We understood that he is scaring the world. And speaking a different voice than you.
PM: No. First of all, Avigdor Lieberman is a colleague and a friend and we work together on important issues regarding Israel’s security and its future. The second thing is that I think that it’s just not true to say to try to attribute to him or to any one person the problems that we face. We have sixty years of accumulative bad propaganda against us — especially since the Six Day War. That’s almost a half a century…
Weiss: Jonah is saying that he can hear you saying one thing about the peace process and then he sees Avigdor Lieberman standing in the UN council and saying something completely different.
PM: That’s not true in a coalition process.
Weiss: At least inside, but when he goes abroad…
PM: We don’t have a presidential system. We have a parliamentary system and that’s common in many places, but ultimately the decision is made by the Prime Minister and approved by the Cabinet, but here’s the point I want to say, Israel is receiving sustained attacks de-legitimizing it because people don’t hear these kinds of interviews because there’s systemic violation of the truth. I said before, how many people who are hearing me now know that 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs. There are Arab Knesset members in our parliament, there have been Arab ministers in the government, that there are Arab doctors, lawyers, judges — there’s an Arab judge on Israel’s supreme court and that an Arab judge in a district court recently — just a week ago, sentenced the former Israeli president, an Arab judge. How many people know that? This is a free country. This is the only place where Arabs have full rights under the law. Arab women have full rights. Around us in this vast expanse of darkness, Arabs have no rights, their rights are trampled on, women are treated as chattel, they’re brutalized, they’re stoned for adultery, gays are hanged. Israel is a free country for Arabs, Jews, and all of its citizens.
Weiss: And here was Jonah asking one question and getting all this.
PM: Jonah got two questions.
Weiss: and Jonah got two answers. But I want…
PM: Jonah said something about the foreign minister which I answered, but Jonah talked about de-legitimizing Israel which I’ve also answered because the only way to combat falsehood is to tell the truth. I just did.
Weiss: There are so many questions so I want to with your permission move on and I suggest for the next question you pay extra attention because there’s a little surprise in it coming all the way from Osaka, Japan.
Paul: Good evening Mr. Prime Minister. My name is Paul Jorgenson, originally from Vancouver, Canada, but currently living in Osaka, Japan. I’ve actually met you once before, so this is the second time that I’ve met you. My question is I’ve heard a lot of talk that since the collapse of the Soviet Union that Israel a strategic asset to the United States but rather a strategic liability. So my question is what is your response to that? In what way is Israel still a strategic asset to the US and what does the US get out of the relationship between the two countries.
Weiss: I’m not going to ask if you remember him because that would be, you know, too hard, but he has a hard question to answer.
PM: No, I don’t think so. First of all, it’s good to see you again Paul. Come again, I’d love to see you. I hope things are OK in Osaka and in Japan in general. We’re all rooting for the people of Japan in their difficult times.
I think that my answer to Paul would be: Paul, are you kidding? Look at this. Earth shaking everywhere, west of India right up to the Straits of Gibraltar. Everything is shaking and rocking and the only stable place, the only stable country, is this democracy Israel — a developed country, prosperous country, everybody is equal under the law, it has a strong military because it has a strong society.
People call Israel an aircraft carrier. God, if you had a few more I think you wouldn’t be in this trouble. I think that if there’s anything that represents both the values and interests of the United States and the free world, it’s this free country called Israel in the heart of the Middle East. You should invent us if we didn’t exist and you need more of us. God forbid what would happen if we weren’t here. You’d have the whole Middle East collapse, just collapse in front of the radicals. I think many people in America understand it, probably better than most peoples elsewhere. This is a common interest of all those who want to see democracy, stability and progress in the Middle East.
Weiss: There are some people in the Obama administration who specifically say that Israel is currently the problem in the Middle East and is really affecting the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
PM: Dana, I heard this coming from some areas, and I want to say, I’m not sure it came from where you say it is but I think, if you look at it now you see this turmoil in Tunis, in Libya, in Egypt, in Bahrain, in Syria and elsewhere. In all these places — in Tehran, of course — so what are people demonstrating? Are they saying: oh Israel is the problem, we have to solve this problem, the Palestinians? That’s not what they’re saying. They’re saying we want freedom. We want progress. Some of them are saying we want to see a free country in our own state like the one the Israelis have.
Israel is not the center of this crisis. We need to solve our conflict with the Palestinians for our own sake and for the sake of our Palestinian neighbors. But the reform of the Middle East, the turbulence of the Middle East has got nothing to do with Israel. It’s got to do with the very basic thing that I said before. The 20th century skipped by this vast part of the world and the 21st century technology is telling these people what they missed out on. They missed out on having a developed society like Israel, and they know it.
Weiss: There are a lot of surprises in this project, and I want to show you the next question coming from Taiwan. It was the most popular video on the project. It’s quite interesting.
Q: Hello Mr. Prime Minister. This is Ariel from Taiwan. What do you say to your children about peace, about love, and about the universal belief that all are created equal?
PM: I tell them that these are the most basic elements of our beliefs. I read the bible. One of my boys is Israel’s national Bible champion, number three in the world. We read it right in this room actually every Sabbath. What does it say? It says that all men are created as children of God. That they all have a right to live; they have a right to their dreams, their aspirations. This is a fundamental concept that was brought forth by the Jewish people in the Bible. It’s with us. It’s expressed in the fact that in Israel there’s equality under the law for everybody. People don’t know that. They don’t know that there are Arabs, there are Muslims, there are Christians, there are Jews, everybody is equal under the law. I always find it amazing. I don’t know Ariel if you know this, I don’t know if you know that every fifth Israeli is an Arab, and that they enjoy complete freedom. And in fact, that the only place in this vast part of the world where Arabs live and Muslims live, mostly, the only place where they have freedom and equality under the rights is in Israel, because, Ariel, I’m talking to Ariel, because this is such an elementary part of our ethos. I don’t even have to tell it to my children, because you know why, they tell it to me. You have a national Bible champion as your son and you’ll hear this again and again.
Weiss: Now we’ve got to the part which is called in this project “the Big Three.” The questions that Obama’s answered, Cameron answered and now it’s your turn. So shortly let’s start with the first “Big Three” question, and that is “Tell us about one experience that changed the way you view the world.”
PM: Undoubtedly, the most powerful experience in my life was the fall of my older brother Jonathan, Yoni, in the Entebbe rescue mission. Basically he was the leader of the commando force that set out to rescue Israelis that were taken by German and Arab terrorists and put in Uganda, Uganda under Idi Amin at the time. And he died in the rescue and that changed my life, steered it to its present course because Yoni fell in the battle against terrorism, but he never believed that the battle against terrorism was only military. He believed it was political and moral.
And so I have been waging this political and moral battle against terrorism for the last thirty something years. I’m still doing it. I’m concerned with the greatest terror of all, nuclear terror. I think the effect of that has been that when I go to a bereaved family in Israel, and I see a mother grieving for her son, I say, that’s my mother. Or I see a father grieving for his son, I say, that’s my father. When I see a brother, I say, that’s me. And as a result of that I think carefully before I send our young men in harm’s way. I have to, often, but I think about it. I think it makes me a more responsible leader.
Weiss: Interesting. Let’s go to the second question and that is “If you could ask one question of a world leader, what would it be and to whom?”
PM: I’m getting a double lining because I was asked this in Hebrew. So I answered one answer for a Hebrew question.
Weiss: For a Hebrew audience, for an Israeli audience.
PM: Well, for an Israeli audience, even though the person I asked the question in Hebrew wouldn’t know Hebrew at the time. But if you ask me for an English speaker, I would ask the question to Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain in WWII. The question I would ask Churchill is: “Is there anything you could have done differently to persuade the world that they have to act forcibly in time against Nazism.” Because Churchill, even though he was a great leader, he failed to persuade the great powers of the day to act in time against Nazism. I’d like to ask him that, and maybe his answer would be: no, there’s nothing you could do, because ultimately, there’s what you call the slumber of democracies. Democracies sleep and they sort of have to be banged on their head until they wake up. I find that frustration now…
Weiss: Regarding Iran.
PM: Because for 15 years I’ve been talking to the world about the danger of Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons. What nuclear terrorism we could have, how they can control the world’s oil supply. They threaten my country with obliteration, but they’ll threaten many others. And you try, and you try, and you try. There’s some progress, I don’t want to say that there isn’t, but not the kind of mobilization that is required against something so great.
So I want to ask Churchill maybe I can glean from him some idea how to do it better this time. I have to say that I regret the fact that he’s not going to answer me.
Weiss: He’s known to be a very big hero of yours. Let’s go to the third question and that would be: “What is the biggest problem facing the next generation and what should we do to solve it today?”
That’s a big question, but let’s see if you can try give us an answer.
PM: I just gave the answer. I just said that the greatest mission that we have is to prevent a militant Islamic regime from meeting up with nuclear weapons or from nuclear weapons meeting up with a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran, the second is called Pakistan, or more specifically a Taliban takeover of Pakistan. Because if these radical regimes have nuclear weapons, they will not obey the rules that have been obeyed in the last almost seven decades. And they can threaten our world. So the first thing is to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. That’s mission number one and mission number two is to find a substitute for oil. That would make our planet safe, that would make our planet clean.
These are the two great missions for our generation and the next one.
Weiss: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, I would like to very much like to thank you for this opportunity and for letting the viewers from the world come into your official residence and answer their questions directly, I thank you very much, and thank you for tuning in.
PM: Thank you. I look forward to doing this again.