Interview with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

(Ha'aretz) Ari Shavit - On the Post-Saddam Climate: The removal of Iraq as a threat is definitely a relief. However, Iran is making every effort to produce weapons of mass destruction and is engaged in making ballistic missiles. Libya is making a very great effort to acquire nuclear weapons. What is developing in these countries is dangerous and serious. In Saudi Arabia, too, there is a regime that grants sanctioned aid to terrorist organizations here. We face the possibility that a different period will begin here. The move carried out in Iraq generated a shock through the Middle East and it brings with it a prospect of great changes. There is an opportunity here to forge a different relationship between us and the Arab states, and between us and the Palestinians. I think opportunities have currently been created that did not exist before. The Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular have been shaken. There is therefore a chance to reach an agreement faster than people think. Do you think there is a prospect of reaching a settlement in the foreseeable future? That depends first and foremost on the Arabs. It obligates a different type of leadership, a battle against terrorism, and a series of reforms. It obligates the absolute cessation of the incitement and the dismantling of all terrorist organizations. But if there will be a leadership that understands these things and will carry them out seriously, the possibility of reaching a settlement exists. Do you consider Abu Mazen a leader with whom you will be able to reach a settlement? Abu Mazen understands that it is impossible to vanquish Israel by means of terrorism. On U.S.-Israel Relations: There are some matters regarding which we will be ready to take far-reaching steps. We will be ready to carry out very painful steps. But there is one thing that I told President Bush a number of times - I made no concessions in the past, and I will make no concessions now, or ever make concessions in the future, with regard to anything that is related to the security of Israel. I explained to President Bush and made it clear to him that this is the historic responsibility that I bear for the future and the fate of the Jewish people. You should know this - on this subject there will be no concessions. We will be the ones who in the end decide what is dangerous for Israel and what is not dangerous for Israel. We are not under pressure. There is dialogue. Sometimes we see things the same way, sometimes we view them differently. But our relationship is very close. Our relationship with the White House has never been so good. I would like to emphasize that we are not in a conflict with the U.S. I do not live with a feeling that we are under any threat. On Settlements: What about Netzarim? [An isolated settlement in the Gaza Strip] I don't want to get into a discussion of any specific place now. This is a delicate subject and there is no need to talk a lot about it. But if it turns out that we have someone to talk to, that they understand that peace is neither terrorism nor subversion against Israel, then I would definitely say that we will have to take steps that are painful for every Jew and painful for me personally. Isn't that phrase "painful concessions" a hollow expression? Definitely not. It comes from the depth of my soul. Look, we are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people. Our whole history is bound up with these places. Bethlehem, Shiloh, Beit El. And I know that we will have to part with some of these places. There will be a parting from places that are connected to the whole course of our history. As a Jew, this agonizes me. But I have decided to make every effort to reach a settlement. I feel that the rational necessity to reach a settlement is overcoming my feelings. Would you be willing, perhaps as a gesture to the Americans, to freeze construction in the settlements or to evacuate illegal outposts as part of the first st

2003-04-14 00:00:00

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