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AP - Former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
APRIL 7th, 2002

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

DAVID FROST: I'm joined now by the former Prime Minister of Israel, some, including himself, might say the future Prime Minister of Israel too, Benjamin Netanyahu. Good morning.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: How long realistically can Israel defy President Bush?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well I don't think anyone is interested in conflict or confrontation with the United States but what we're interested in is what the United States and President Bush himself has said. You have to be clear about winning the war against terrorism. Israel has been subjected to the most unprecedented continuous terror attacks in history, not as ferocious as the one-shot, as the one meted on Manhattan but in cumulative terms actually eight times greater in per capita casualties.

DAVID FROST: Yes, yes I know that but the point is this time, I mean Bush has said immediate effect, withdrawal to begin immediately without delay and at the moment


DAVID FROST: Mr Sharon is defying that and can you go on directly defying President Bush who seems to me quite a serious player?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I have a, I have sad news David, it's not Mr Sharon, it's 90 per cent of the people of Israel who said themselves enough is enough, we're not going to be slaughtered. Sixty years ago on the soil of Europe Jews were slaughtered and Europe lifted not a finger. Now Jews are being slaughtered by deliberate targeting of civilians, that's what terrorism is, the deliberate targeting of civilians and we are tacking action, careful action for seven days, not seven months and you're still doing in Afghanistan and rightly so, but for seven days to clear up with tank fire, with careful precision, action that is claiming, yes it's claiming dozens of civilian casualties without a doubt, not thousands as in Afghanistan and I'm not blaming you for doing it because the terrorists not only deliberately target civilians, they deliberately hide behind civilians and dictators do that, that's what Arafat, a dictator like him is doing. But you don't stop in Afghanistan, you've cleared out the terrorist nest, you've booted out the Taliban and that's precisely what we should do here, we should complete the action as soon as possible, with minimal casualties and then boot out Arafat.

DAVID FROST: Yes, good, the, well we'll come on to Arafat in a minute, but you're still not answering the question which in addition to all the things you said is, is America, George Bush says out, withdraw with immediate effect, how long can you go on defying him?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think we're not defying him we're just doing what we need to do, what America's doing, what Britain would do, is doing, against such attacks, in fact no country has sustained it and any country, normal country would do what we're doing. In fact if we accelerate the activity what we're going to do is have more loss of civilian lives because the slower we go the fewer the civilians die because we're very careful. We're not using massive air power, we didn't take our entire air force and bomb these places, in fact we're not doing that at all, we're risking our soldiers in order, in fact several have died already, in order to minimise the loss of civilian life on the part of the Palestinians. We're targeting the terrorists, we've caught a lot, over a thousand. By the way 80 per cent of what we've caught are Arafat's own people, only 20 per cent of Hamas. So what we're doing is systematically going about the battle of terrorism. President Bush has said Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism, I'd like to know any other way that Israel could defend itself except by deliberately and carefully doing what it is doing now, with an attempt to minimise, as we are doing, civilian loses.

DAVID FROST: But at the same time the world looks at these figures obviously, we're all horrified obviously when we see that more than 400 Israelis before this, this current invasion were killed, largely defenceless, but I mean 1100 Palestinians were killed, largely defenceless but this was before operation, this operation got under way, I mean it is, it seems to the world, excessive force, that you, you kill lots of defenceless Palestinians and they kill lots of, lots of defenceless Israelis, but it's always, Palestinians always lose more lives and therefore Israel, rather than being plucky little Israel as back in the Six Day War, as the editorials today say, appears like the big bully boy?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: David that is, forgive me, a bogus argument and coming from, from someone who should know better because you know the history of World War II, that's like saying that America was in the wrong because America killed, in fact, in World War II, twenty times the number of Germans died as the number of Americans, half of them by the way civilians, millions of them. That didn't make the Nazi regime right, the fact is in Afghanistan many, many, many more thousands of civilians, it's not clear how many but many, many, many more by several orders, by several multiples have died and those who died, and the civilians who died in the, in New York and then Washington, that doesn't make the Taliban right, of course not, because what you have are dictatorial regimes who couldn't care less. They don't give a damn about civilian lives, in fact that's precisely the problem, they deliberately target civilians, that is the essence of terrorism, and they deliberately encamp their terrorists in civilian compounds, seeking immunity but America and Europe didn't give them immunity any more than the Allies gave the Nazi's immunity in World War II and neither do we, the only difference is this, we're using a lot less fire power, a lot more careful military tactics, putting our people on the ground at risk, something by the way the United States and Britain did not do in Afghanistan and we are simply using that, that caution in order to minimise civilian casualties. The fact that there are those civilian casualties are the responsibility of one man, Yasser Arafat and the fact that there are so many or the number that is greater than Israelis is no more a condemnation of Israel than the number of Germans killed is a condemnation of America or Britain in World War II.

DAVID FROST: I don't, I don't agree with that rather spurious comparison, but let's move on to

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Really, why not? What about the Taliban, no, no, David, don't

DAVID FROST: Arafat, you mentioned Arafat earlier on

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The UN, the UN said that 7,000 civilians died in Afghanistan among them a thousand babies, does that make the American claim and the British claim that they're right in Afghanistan spurious, does that say that because according to these figures, if they are, right that because two times the number of civilians died in Afghanistan that America's wrong and the Taliban are right, that's ridiculous. You cannot have the argument both ways, you cannot say we have more clarity, that all terrorism is not acceptable, the deliberate targeting of civilians is unacceptable, we have strategic clarity that we must strike back at the terrorist regime and at the terrorists that it shelters and that there'll be civilian casualties in the process then condemn Israel for doing the same in a lesser quantity, it's simply untenable.

DAVID FROST: But the, but the point is

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: You either have principles or you don't.

DAVID FROST: But the point is, just coming back to the point, the Sunday Times editorial today and this is a pro-Israel point in a way, not a pro-Sharon point but they say there that the real tragedy of what you're doing is you're, you're trying to find a military solution when there's going to have to be a political one and in the mean time every Palestinian you kill creates a hundred new suicide bombers and that in fact making the situation worse not better, valid point to argue?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: No it's not a valid point, it's the wrong point, it is valid to argue that a political solution can be reached politically, it must be reached politically which I fully agree with. But in order to get to a political solution you must defeat terrorism and that you can only do militarily and terrorism can and has been defeated militarily many times, you the British defeated it militarily in Malay, in Malaya, in Malaysia. We defeated from Nasser's Egypt and from Jordan in the early 1970s, it was years, decades before we had a peace process, the Turks stopped terror from Syria using military force. The Americans and Brits stopped terrorism from Libya 15 years ago using military bombing, the conflict still goes on between these various, most of these countries and most of these political entities but the terror has been removed. In order to get to a political solution you must stop terrorism because if you make political concessions to terrorism, terrorism increases and prevents a political solution


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Therefore what we have to do is exactly what you're doing, get rid of the terror regime, get rid of Arafat's regime, let a new beginning, democratic leadership emerge among the Palestinians with saner people who do not tell their children to emulate themselves and to kill as many Israelis as possible

DAVID FROST: Right I'm going to have to come in there, we're just about to lose the satellite so I, I have to come in there and say thank you very much indeed for joining us today.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Thank you David, appreciate it.


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