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Israeli Cabinet Minister, Danny Naveh

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

DAVID FROST: Now the violence in Israel is accelerating more rapidly than anyone could have expected. As we speak Ariel Sharon's Cabinet is urgently meeting to try and work out their next move. The Minister without Portfolio, Danny Naveh has come straight from that meeting and he joins me now. Was anything decided of importance at that meeting today Mr Naveh?

DANNY NAVEH: I'm, I have come while we're right in the middle of the Cabinet meeting, we're still in the middle of the discussions, Israel is facing a difficult task and mainly we are facing a huge threat of terrorist attacks from the Palestinian side, we're just, have just witnessed such an on Friday in our biggest town where six innocent people were killed. Of course it's our responsibility as the government is to do whatever we can in order to protect the lives of our citizens.

DAVID FROST: What's, what's that noise behind you, is it an emergency going on at this moment?

DANNY NAVEH: I really hope not, I'm speaking to you here from Jerusalem, I hope this is not an emergency.

DAVID FROST: Well we all do, we've seen too many of those and a lot of them on the weekends and so on. It's reported you handled a lot of the negotiations with the Mitchell Report and it's reported today that the Mitchell Report says that one of the great threats to peace, or the possible chance of peace are the settlements and they should, they should stop altogether and at the same time peace now announced yesterday that you built 15 new settlements in the West Bank since Mr Sharon took power, is that correct?

DANNY NAVEH: No first of all this is not correct, we have very clear positions in the government, we are not establishing new settlements, our only responsibility is to take care of the current needs of the existing settlements but on the other hand we have to bear in mind that the reason for the present circle of violence is not the settlements. Arafat took a strategic decision to move ahead with violence and terrorist campaign against Israel, he took the decision a few months ago after he was offered by Mr Barak to be the President of the Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital and the removal of many of the settlements and he still decided to move ahead with violence. Unfortunately it seems recently that Arafat is not interested in peace, he is not interested in negotiations, he is trying to promote his political goals through violence and this is something of course that we cannot tolerate.

DAVID FROST: And of course at the same time Israel is very much under pressure, Kofi Annan said that the bomb outrage was appalling, of course it was, but he goes on to say "Israel's military action has been excessive and misdirected", thinking probably of the fighter planes. Bringing in fighter planes again to bomb so close to home since 1967 hasn't really happened, it's been condemned by the world, was it an over-reaction?

DANNY NAVEH: Look since 1967 it may be true, but since 1967 Israel did not witness such terrorist campaign from the Palestinians and mainly it's because of Arafat's decision to do that and what we attack in the West Bank or in Gazza is simply terrorist infrastructure that served its as bases, from those bases the terrorists are moving out for terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli babies, children and women and our responsibility as the government is to protect the life of our citizens and to attack these terrorist bases infrastructure. On the other hand if Arafat comes to the conclusion, and I hope that sooner than later he comes to the conclusion, that he cannot gain anything through violence and he should start fighting terrorism instead of directing terrorism it will put us in the position that we won't have to take these measures that Arafat should take but unfortunately he's not taking.

DAVID FROST: But at the same time and talking of dangers to life, I mean clearly it's much more dangerous to be a Palestinian, their death toll is 480 or roughly rather than an Israeli with less than 100, that would suggest again excessive force?

DANNY NAVEH: Well it does not suggest that. Unfortunately what's going on is that the Palestinian leadership base its terrorist infrastructure bases in the middle of populated areas and this is unfortunately the terrible consequences of this fact that the Palestinian leadership is using cynically civilians, even children, in order to build a large shelter around the terrorists. Unfortunately we are, we have no intention whatsoever to harm innocent civilians. We are sorry about any civilian that is getting hurt on the other side, unfortunately this is not the policy of the Palestinians and they send terrorists for deliberate murder attacks against babies and children in Israel. We are going to do whatever we can in order to protect the life of civilians on both sides, I hope that one day the Palestinians as well will understand they're putting civilians in the middle, this is not the way to achieve their goals.

DAVID FROST: Do you think in 20 years time we will be doing interviews like this one still no peace in the Middle East?

DANNY NAVEH: I really hope you are wrong, we have nothing that we want more than peace and I really wish that sooner the later we'll be able to resume the peace negotiations between us and the Palestinians. What is needed, you mentioned the Mitchell Report, is that the Palestinians would accept practically, not only in principle, the structure that is within the Mitchell Report which means first of all an unconditional cessation of all violence and terrorist activities, a meaningful cooling off period and then we will be able to resume negotiations. As soon as the Palestinians would accept this concept and will stop unconditionally the violence and terrorism attacks against the innocent Israeli civilians we'll be able to resume negotiations and I really hope that we will be able to do that quite soon.

DAVID FROST: And will Israel welcome the, the new American peace envoy that's been foreshadowed?

DANNY NAVEH: If there is such an envoy of course that we will accept him with warm welcome here, during the years the peace accord between Israel and the Arab countries with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians were achieved through direct negotiations, without any international interference. The US serves as the facilitators as part of most of those negotiations and if the US Administration will decide that they would like to send a missionary here of course we will accept him with warm welcome anyway.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much for joining us on such a hectic morning, we appreciate it, thank you.

DANNY NAVEH: Have a good morning.

DAVID FROST: Thank you.


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