In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya in Jerusalem on July 19, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would not intervene with the Syrian revolution.
The Israeli Prime Minister said that Israel would like “the peace and quiet on the Israeli/Syrian border to be maintained” and that “the people, the young people of Syria deserve a better future.”
Here are excerpts from the interview, which was produced by Al Arabiya’s Current Affairs team, headed by Antoine Aoun. The interview will be broadcast in its entirety on Al Arabiya TV on Thursday:
NETANYAHU: Obviously showing enormous courage in the face of strong brutality, we don’t intervene with what happens in Syria. But we obviously would like to have peaceful relationships with Syria and we could only hope for a good future for the people of Syria. They deserve a good future. One of peace and one of freedom.
AL ARABIYA: Do you support the so-called revolution now in Syria?
NETANYAHU: You know anything that I would say will be used not against me but against the process of genuine reform that people would like to see in Syria. So we don’t intervene in Syria. But it does not mean we are not concerned. A) We would like the peace and quiet on the Israeli/Syrian border to be maintained, and B) I’d like to have that ultimately turned into a formal peace between Israel and Syria. And C) I think the people; the young people of Syria deserve a better future.
AL ARABIYA: Prime Minister, you just mentioned the peace along the borders of Israel and Syria, now some people would say that present regime of Bashar Al Assad and before him his father Hafez Al Assad in fact kept peace for about 40 years along those borders, to the extent that some people would say that the regime is indispensible from the point of view from Israel is that right?
NETANYAHU: No, no it’s not right. I mean, I hear people saying that in point of fact, we are not there to choose the next regime, the next government of Syria. I think it’s for the people of Syria to choose but, we didn’t have peace, we had a state of peace, no peace no war. Even though, you know several people tried including myself, in secret negotiations to try to move towards a formal peace. I think what has also disturbed us is that Syria supports and has supported Hezbollah and Iran and Lebanon. The people of Lebanon under five years ago wanted to have their Cedar Revolution. Iran took it away from them with Hezbollah and with Syrian supporters.
AL ARABIYA: The borders remain quiet?
NETANYAHU: They remain quiet after the second Lebanon war and I hope they remain quiet in the future.
AL ARABIYA: As a result of what’s happening in Syria now, do you think the effects might be reflected into a situation probably in southern Lebanon or in the borders between Israel and Syria?
NETANYAHU: Well, I hope not. I hope that no one in Syria thinks of having a distraction if I use that term to try and warm up in a bad sense, heat up the border between us. And I hope Iran or Hezbollah are not tempted to do this in order to shift attention away from what is happening in Syria. I think that would be bad for the people of Lebanon, bad for the people of Syria and bad for peace. I hope it doesn’t happen.
The Israeli Prime Minister then said that he is “willing to negotiate peace with anyone that’s willing to accept the right of his people and his country.”
NETANYAHU: We will always look for people who want peace. We will want always want peace, we don’t nullify people on their belief. But we do expect them in their world view to have a place for the State of Israel. If people say “you know the State of Israel shouldn’t exist, wiped off the face of the earth.” Iran or Hezbollah then there is not much of a place to go. If people have different views, we will listen to those views but I think that from two points of view. One from the internal Arab point of view; if people say we want democracy. Then ask all those that compete in a democracy to respect democracy. I think this is you can’t ask people to say all right we open a democratic doors who want to destroy democracy. The second is from my point of view: I’m willing to negotiate peace with anyone that’s willing to accept the right of my people and my country.
With regard to a Palestinian state, Mr. Netanyahu said that “everything is on the table” in regards to negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on July 19.
Mr. Netanyahu said he is “prepared to negotiate with President Abbas for peace” in his home in Jerusalem or in Ramallah.
NETANYAHU: Six Israeli Prime Ministers, myself included have been negotiating and we all agreed to a Palestinian State. So why didn’t we have peace? Some of them, two of them made very generous concessions and we all recognize that we have to make difficult compromises for peace. I recognize it as that.
AL ARABIYA: Do these compromises include Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees?
NETANYAHU: You know that these issues will be brought up.
AL ARABIYA: So they are on the table?
NETANYAHU: Everything is on the table. But we need to get to the table and this is my point. The main point that I’m saying is we haven’t concluded a peace. Either because the Palestinian leadership did not want to get to the end, maybe they had reasons they didn’t want to get to the end of the negotiations. In my case and my frustration in the past two years, we can’t restart the negotiations. And I repeat what I said to you a minute ago is that this is the most important thing. I’m prepared to negotiate with President Abbas for peace between our two people right now. We can do it here in my home in Jerusalem, we can do it in Ramallah, and we can do it anywhere.
Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel is “not preventing the importation of goods, food, and medicine to Gaza.” He said that Israel is “concerned with Hamas, a terrorist organization, that fires rockets into Israel.”
NETANYAHU: We are not preventing the importation of goods, food, and medicine to Gaza. Anything can go through. The Gaza economy has grown by 25 percent in the last three months. It’s almost a world record. We are concern about having a naval approach to Gaza.That is naval access to Gaza because on a ship you can bring in the entire rockets fired into Israel. In one ship in the second Lebanon war. We don’t want those sea lines open until there is a regime in Gaza. That makes peace with Israel and doesn’t fire rockets into Israel. That is our concern but anybody can come into Gaza. If people want to free Gaza, then they should free it from this Hamas regime that doesn’t give the real freedom to the people of Gaza. We have no argument or battle with the people with Gaza. We are concerned with Hamas a terrorist organization that fires rockets into Israel. That we are concerned with. That is the only reason for a naval action.