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EDITIONS
Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Danny Naveh, Israeli Cabinet Minister
Danny Naveh, Israeli Cabinet Minister
Danny Naveh, Israeli Cabinet Minister
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY FERGAL KEANE
INTERVIEW:
DANNY NAVEH,
ISRAELI CABINET MINISTER
AUGUST 11TH, 2002

FERGAL KEANE:
As President Bush steps up the pace over Iraq, one other region of the world is looking onto the situation with great trepidation - Israel. This weekend Israeli government officials said the US administration will notify Israel in advance of any attack on Saddam Hussein. They say they think a successful mission could actually decrease the violence in the West Bank and Gaza. Just before he went into this morning's cabinet meeting, I spoke to Ariel Sharon's minister without portfolio, Danny Naveh. I began by asking him what the cabinet view is about the possibility of an attack on Iraq by the US and its allies.

DANNY NAVEH:
First of all, of course, it is not up to the state of Israel to decide about this issue but I can tell you that our main desire here, in the area in the Middle East and Israel is to live in peace and we are the only democracy in our area and like the United States and the United Kingdom we share the same values and we share the need to fight terrorism, we share the need to stop those countries who harbour terrorist organisations world-wide to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And I really hope that at the end of the day we will be able to get back to days of peace and we understand that in order for the need to live in peace we have to live in security first.

FERGAL KEANE:
Does that mean, is that sort of code for saying yes, we think it's a good idea to attack Saddam Hussein and we will back any American moves to do so?

DANNY NAVEH:
Look I'm not in the position to give any advice this morning, at least not a public advisory to the American administration -

FERGAL KEANE:
But you would welcome an attack on Saddam Hussein, would you?

DANNY NAVEH:
We, first of all as I've said, I can only say that we welcome the conception that in order to live in peace here in our area and the entire world, we have to stop those who try to acquire weapons of mass destruction and to harbour terrorists.

FERGAL KEANE:
Now the last time there was an attack on Saddam Hussein, Israel itself came into the firing line. Back then, President Bush's father said to your prime minister, look please don't respond to the Iraqi attacks. If it happens this time, if Scud missiles are launched, if chemical weapons are launched at Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or any Israeli city, are you going to sit on your hands and allow the Americans to do the retaliating for you or will you fight back?

DANNY NAVEH:
First of all I really hope that no one over there in Baghdad would think about such a possibility to launch missiles towards us, or try to attack the state of Israel and I can only tell you that of course we, we keep our right to self defence.

FERGAL KEANE:
So that means you would respond if the Iraqis attacked you?

DANNY NAVEH:
It means exactly what I've said and I don't think it's going to be smart on my part to get into specifics right now.

FERGAL KEANE:
But if you did respond militarily to anything - and the newspapers here are suggesting that Ariel Sharon has already made up his mind that Israel will respond - if you did that wouldn't you run the risk of widening the conflict beyond Iraq into a broader Middle East war?

DANNY NAVEH:
First of all I haven't, you know, I didn't say exactly what we are going to do, I have just said that we are going to exercise our right of self defence in such a case and I really, we have no interest in any deterioration in the area. Our only aim, as I've said, is to live in peace and security.

FERGAL KEANE:
Well let's look at that whole question of peace, there has been meetings between the CIA director, George Pennett and Palestinian officials in Washington. Do you believe that brings us any closer to a resumption of political negotiations between yourselves and the Palestinians?

DANNY NAVEH:
I really hope so though so far we haven't seen any real change on the Palestinian part. You know, only last night an Israeli woman was shot to death in her bed by a Palestinian terrorist in front of her two young children. And this is Arafat's responsibility, the same man who signed the Oslo accord is the man who signs the cheque to pay the terrorists and unfortunately under our part the Palestinian Authority has become a terror-endorsing body and so far we haven't seen any real change over there.

FERGAL KEANE:
Danny Naveh in Jerusalem, thank you very, very much.


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