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Benjamin Netanyahu, Former Israeli Prime Minister
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

DAVID FROST:

Now on Tuesday the people of Israel will vote for what could be their fifth different prime minister in just over five years, this weekend's polls put the right-wing Likud Party candidate Ariel Sharon up to 21 points ahead of the current leader Ehud Barak The former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who didn't want to stand as Likud's candidate in these special elections joins me now live from Jerusalem. Good morning.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Morning David, how are you?

DAVID FROST:

Very well, we heard that situation towards the end of the year when, when it was thought that Mr Barak had carefully called this election so that you couldn't take part but then they changed the law and you decided you weren't going to take part anyway, why was that?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Because these are really rigged elections in some sense, Barak tried, you're right, to shut me out knowing the base of support that I have in the public, but the Knesset our Parliament would not go the extra step of actually disbanding itself so I could be elected by all polls with the widest margin of any candidate in Israel by far but I would not, I would come back to the same impossible Parliament that is completely locked, that is completely fractionised and it'll be very hard to do, it's like becoming a CEO of a board of directors that is pitted against you and I didn't think that was the right idea. I want to do things as prime minister, not just be prime minister, I was prime minister and I know what's required to get security and a genuine peace process moving again and I know what's required to further liberalise the Israeli economy and that's just not likely to be done with this kind of Knesset so I'll wait for the next general elections for prime minister and Knesset that has to happen within a fixed time, two years or perhaps even considerably less.

DAVID FROST:

And so you will, as of now you are planning to stand in the next election for the leadership of Likud and therefore the prime ministership if you win?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Very likely, I'll definitely be there but at the moment I'm concentrating my efforts on making sure that Mr Barak is being replaced by the Likud candidate Mr Sharon for the simple reason that in many ways this election is a referendum on Barak's failed policies. I think that most Israelis have figured out that the Oslo process is gone, in many ways the Palestinian violations and violence in recent months have killed it but they have not given up on peace, they want a real peace and not a peace process that goes along with the daily murder of Israelis, that they cannot accept. And that is what Mr Barak did accept and that's why they say you go, and he will go.

DAVID FROST:

But in this situation you will have read, obviously, that there are people who are filled with fear knowing that Mr Sharon's past record and so on, and saying this could mean war, is that misplaced, that fear?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

I think that what could lead to war, David, is the continuation of the present policies of weakness. You know here you have an almost ideal experiment, when I took office they said the same thing, I would lead to war, well within six months I took something like what we have today, that is exploding buses, fear of Israelis to even walk the streets because of Palestinian terror, mothers would not send their children to school and within a very short time we got that straightened out and restored security by a policy of firmness and then proceeded to negotiate two partial agreements, Hebron and the Wye agreement that stood us quite well I think. It turns out that Mr Barak came in, this, I should say didn't satisfy a lot of people in the world, what I did and they said well this is an obstacle to peace, it's not moving fast enough and let's remove the obstacle for peace. Well they've put in a new government, a new prime minister who went the distance, he offered unimaginable concessions to the Palestinians, unimaginable because they include even the city of Jerusalem behind me, which has never been offered for division for 3,000 years and a return to the fragile indefensible 67 boundaries, unimaginable concessions and the response was more and more violence because the Palestinians interpreted that as weakness, if we press the Israelis with violence they'll give us more and if we press them with more violence they'll give us even more. And that's what's, I think on the line now, the choice between peace through weakness and peace through strength and I think peace through is going to win the day.

DAVID FROST:

But when you talk about weak policies and weakness, I mean after the controversial visit by Mr Sharon to Temple Mount, I mean in the last few months the figures show a massive preponderance of deaths to Palestinians, not to Israelis, we don't want anyone to die but I mean it's, it's a massive preponderance of, of people killed were Palestinian so, how can Israel be, be tougher than that?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

You're right about the first part and that was the technique by Arafat of throwing kids into the, in front of the cameras, putting them in the line of fire and that indeed produced a lot of tragic casualties, I think that's subsided considerably in the last two months and what you see a lot more actually is Palestinian sniping at Israelis who are driving in the highways, just the highway, it's like the highway between, I don't know, London and Manchester, you drive and all of a sudden somebody's standing on a bridge and he's killing you and Israel is trying to pinpoint the actual killers of this rather than the crowd control, as you call it, I think that's limited somewhat the violence. But I think, I think our response actually should look more at the Palestinian authority itself, the people who are allowing these killers and sometimes sending these killers rather than trying to guard every individual metre in Israel. So I think we'll need to readjust our defence policy, it's not really a question of using overwhelming force, it's a question of using perhaps force a little, in a more, what I believe is a more intelligent way. But in any case the feeling that everyone has in the country, or a great many people have is that Barak did not allow the effective thing to be done because he was trying continuously to placate Arafat to try to get a deal at any price. You have a word for that in your country, basically invented term, it's called appeasement, it never works, it doesn't get you peace, it gets you, it gets you escalation and that's what we're having right now. So there is a fear of war, the fear that will continue along the present escalation without any resolution.

DAVID FROST:

Thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning, we appreciate it.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU:

Thank you.

DAVID FROST:

Benjamin Netanyahu there talking about the upcoming election in Israel on Tuesday.

END

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