Jerusalem, 8 May 2001
I would like to thank you Howard for your words. I would like to
thank the Foreign Press Association, thank you for coming. I will
make some remarks, we call them headlines, and then if you will
have any questions, only if you do have I will be ready to answer
You know from the last two months, I regard the National Unity
Government to be very very important in order to be able to
accomplish all those hopes that we have in order to be able to
contain and face all the dangers that we are facing.
I would like you to know that all of us are committed to peace.
For Israel peace is a natural and first choice. I am really sorry
to say that I am not sure that is the first choice of the
I know that myself, I have been portrayed to be, maybe as a result
of my long time service in the Israeli Defense Forces or just
being a general, I have always been portrayed as a general looking
for wars. But I would like to tell you that myself, I am committed
to peace like everybody here in Israel. I had the merit to serve
in all the wars of the State of Israel, always in the hardest part
of those wars. I had the merit to command perhaps the best units
and formations of the Israeli army. I went through the ranks, I
could have seen it from every angle, and I saw all the horrors and
fears of wars. I saw my friends being killed in battles. Myself I
was badly wounded in battles twice and felt all those terrible
pains in hospitals. I had to take decisions of life and death of
others, and of myself.
Therefore, I think I can say that I understand the importance of
peace, not less, or I may say even better than, many of the
politicians who speak about peace, but never had that experience.
I saw all these things myself. But for me, peace is not an
election gimmick, peace is something serious that should last for
generations and peace should provide security to the Israeli
citizens in the one and only small country that we have -- where
we have the right and the capability to defend ourselves by
ourselves. For that we have to thank G-d every day. That, of
course, we have to preserve.
I don't have to tell you that we are deeply saddened by every loss
of life. And talking altogether about the Israeli armed forces, I
don't know any other military force, I would say, that has the
kind of moral values that we have. Maybe the Israeli armed forces
are the only real people's army. As I said, we are greatly
saddened by every loss of life.
Altogether, about the political developments, I see a two-step
plan. The first phase where we have to ease restrictions while
fighting terrorism -- not a reduction of violence but a total
cessation of violence. Then after calm is restored, we start
negotiations. We have no desire to occupy areas already given to
the Palestinian Authority. I can say that we have a burning desire
to reach peace.
No doubt, we believe that the Palestinian Authority must fight
terrorism. They made commitment to fight violence; violence will
not get them anywhere. I would like to tell you in a very frank
way -- we will not pay protection money. That is our position. We
don't have to pay in order to create a situation that we will not
be killed. That is not what we believe. We believe there should be
security, that is the first role of the Palestinian Authority.
They signed an agreement, that is what they signed, and that is
what they committed themselves to.
Looking backwards now, I don't think that the Oslo Agreement would
have been signed unless Arafat himself committed himself and
signed himself that he is responsible for that law and order, and
of course no terror or no incitement will be here. That is how we
I know that is a complicated situation, not an easy one. It will
not take one day, it will not take one month, and it will be a
long struggle. I believe in the strength of the Israeli citizens.
Of course, we have many goals that we have to achieve and I
believe that that is what we are going to do. Altogether I think
we can look forward with optimism and we see what we are doing in
the last one hundred years here.
I think that I must say that the Zionist revolution -- maybe it
was the greatest one - it may be the only true revolution that
took place in the last century, in the last one hundred years. We
managed to bring over here millions of Jews from all around the
world. We brought Jews here from 102 countries speaking 82
languages and all were integrated. It was not an easy task, but
all were integrated, they all speak Hebrew. We built here a
tremendous infrastructure -- from a very sophisticated industry to
very interesting farming. That I know, I am a farmer myself, that
I know maybe better than any other thing that I know. We have here
from the most beautiful music, which I am sure you have listened
to. We have here centers of research and science and a tremendous
infrastructure which we built here. Of course, when you see all
those achievements, I believe that we can look forward with
optimism. I think that one of the main goals of the government
will be to bring another million Jews in the coming ten to twenty
years to Israel. And by the year 2020 our hope is that the most or
the largest part of the Jewish people will be living here in the
State of Israel.
So, having all those hopes I believe that we can look forward, as
I said, with optimism. I am optimistic about the future of the
State of Israel. We are united and determined to meet the
challenges that lies of head. Of course, I believe the day will
come and we will have peace with the Palestinians and with the
rest of the Arab world with whom we have not signed yet peace
[Questions and Answers]
Q: Sir, two things have happened in the last day. One was the killing
of the Palestinian baby in the Gaza Strip during an attack by the
Israeli army. We would like to hear your comments on that. Secondly,
the discovery off the shores of Lebanon of a boat filled with
weapons. Could we hear your comments on that as well?
Prime Minister Sharon: Thank you. About the baby, I expressed my
sorrow yesterday. Children should not be involved in all this
struggle that takes place. I am fully convinced that the Israeli
forces didn't have any intention to hit civilians, to hit the baby.
Myself, I expressed my sorrow yesterday when I heard it.
What was there? That the Palestinians quite often deploy their
mortars by schools, behind schools. They use mortars and then
disappear immediately. It has happened several times, and that is
what happened this time. The soldiers, after one of our communities
was hit by mortar fire, reacted immediately to the place where the
mortar was fired.
Altogether, I am really very sorry for that and no one had any
intention to do it.
I think that the demand should be a very strong demand from Arafat --
there is only one thing he has to do -- just stop firing, shooting
that is all. Arafat controls the area, yet never took any preventing
steps against the terrorist organizations and against their
infrastructure. We've had many words, but steps were never taken. I
think that Arafat should be under heavy pressure to stop fire and to
stop terror. That is, I would say, the answer to the current
situation. Altogether, I am really very sorry for that and I have
been thinking about that since yesterday, but the fire should be
stopped and the one who is responsible for that is Yasser Arafat and
the Palestinian Authority.
About the [smuggled] Katyushas and the mortars and -- maybe even the
more serious thing is -- personal anti-aircraft shoulder missile, I
mean the Strella, which is similar to the American Stinger. It is a
very dangerous development; the Katyushas is a very dangerous
development. We know, we have been watching for months already, that
there is an attempt to smuggle weapons by the Palestinian Authority.
We know that this boat itself, it is the fourth time coming with
weapons to Gaza. This time they were caught on a routine patrol and
that only emphasizes the intentions of the Palestinian Authority.
Altogether, as you know, they are not allowed to have any weapons
whatsoever beside the light weapons for self-defense or what I think
used to once be call a side-arm. They are not allowed to keep
mortars, nor Katyushas or anti tank weapons, nor mines. It is a clear
violation of the agreement. As a matter of fact an agreement that
Arafat signed -- I saw him signing at Wye when we spent there ten
days -- he signed that all illegal weapons and weapons that they are
not allowed to keep should be collected, handed to American
representatives, taken out from the Palestinian Authority area and
destroyed. He signed it. As a matter of fact, he signed to stop
incitement. He signed to arrest terrorists, but he released all of
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, two questions. Just one as a follow up from
the statement that you just made that this is the fourth time that
this particular boat had tried to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Did they
succeed the other three times? That is the first question. Did they
actually manage to succeed to smuggle weapons into Gaza? Secondly,
what political conclusions do you draw from this, from the fact that
they either succeeded or tried to smuggle this type of weapon into
Prime Minister Sharon: As we know from the captain of this boat, that
was the first time, maybe once out of those four, they had not
succeeded. If that is really the same boat, but they said it is the
first time they were doing that. One must understand that the only
one who could have collected them -- only the Palestinian Authority.
I mean no one had those means to be able to collect on the beaches of
Gaza to get such quantities of weapons. They are doing that.
I think that what they are doing, Arafat would like to gain as much
as possible by negotiations, but to prepare himself to further
pressure in order to get more in the future. Otherwise it is very
hard to explain why they have to violate the agreement that he
Q: Mr. Prime Minister I think there is no doubt about the difference
in military might between Israel and the PA, and the different
Palestinian groups in general. My question is, do you think there
might be a military solution to the crisis, to the war in which we
are engaged? Do you see a political outcome of the situation? The
second question is, do you think Yasser Arafat can feel secure, so
far there has been a 'gentleman's understanding' that the leaders
might not be touched. But do you think that he can still feel secure
in Gaza, Ramallah, wherever he will be?
Prime Minister Sharon: No doubt that all of us believe that at the
final stage of the negotiations there should be a permanent
agreement. I mean everyone understands that. I believe that at the
present time -- taking into consideration that this struggle with the
Palestinians, now they used to be called Arabs until the 30s, only in
the late 30s they started to be called Palestinians, this struggle
started more than 120 years ago. My grandfather was facing Arab
terror, my parents, myself and my sons are already officers in the
reserves are facing Palestinian terror. I know families here that
were facing Palestinian terror now for five or six generations. That,
I would say is a bitter conflict.
And I personally, and mostly after we saw what happened with the
former negotiations at Camp David and Taba and so on, I mean, we
don't have after all those concessions -- and I must say that Prime
Minister Barak really had gone very very far, he has gone to places
that no Israeli Prime Minister ever had dared to think about and he
really tried. He took, I think it was a mistake, but he took from his
point of view a very courageous step. He did not manage to bring
peace, he did not manage to bring security, on the contrary. So that
means that maybe after that conflict, which is such a long conflict,
it will be very hard to jump this mountain in one jump. Therefore, I
myself believe that that should be achieved in stages.
First of all there should be a cessation of hostilities, of course.
But then maybe the first stage should be something similar to
non-belligerency. I don't want to elaborate more on that. I believe
you know of it, if somebody will ask I will elaborate later.
So I would say the end of the process, no doubt, will be a permanent
agreement. I believe that before that, it should be a long period of
non-belligerency. Of course, as a Jew -- and first of all I am a Jew
and that for me is very very important -- but as a Jew I can tell you
it is also hard to be a Palestinian, I agree. So we have to take some
steps in order to make it easier.
Now, I don't believe that we can start negotiations under terror and
violence. That was the mistake of the former government because
Arafat put more pressure, more terror, as more concessions were made
and that is what happened. So therefore, if you ask me, if all the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to be solved by military steps?
The answer is no. I never thought about it. But should it be quiet
before negotiating the political solutions? Yes, that is a must.
Now, about Arafat? I don't understand really the question. You asked
if Arafat is safe? I can tell you one thing, we are not taking any
steps against political leaders. So if you ask if he is safe from our
side? Yes, he is safe from our side. But I don't know if we are the
only danger that exists for him. I don't know that. But that is our
policy, we don't take any steps against political leaders. So I hope
you feel quieter now.
Q: The Mitchell Committee has asked Israel to stop building new homes
in the settlements. Such a move would be hailed by the international
Prime Minister Sharon: I think that I mentioned when I started, I
said that I regard it to be very very important to form a national
unity government. In order to form a national unity government, it is
really a very complicated thing, but I am glad that I managed to do
it. And I can tell you that I have all the hopes that this government
will last until the coming elections in November 2003. But of course,
we have to take into consideration other opinions, I would say of our
main partners. Then we decided and we agreed that new communities are
not going to be built during the term of the government and that is
very very clear.
Then, it has been said about adding homes, that that will be done in
accordance with the current needs. That is what is written there and
that is the situation. As a matter of fact, I am sure you have been
here for a while, so you know the situation here. Arabs are living
everywhere. There are hundreds of Arab families who live in Upper
Nazareth; there are hundreds of Arab families who live in Beer Sheva.
I think if you walk in Ibn Givrol Street in Tel Aviv or in many other
places, you will find there many shops owned by Arabs and nobody said
a word about that.
Beside that there is no connection whatsoever between the Palestinian
violence and terror, and those communities.
Besides that, I think it is important to read the Oslo Agreement, I
was not a supporter of the Oslo Agreement. I thought it was a very
very complicated and a very dangerous one. As a matter of fact you
can see what happened out of that. But in this agreement it said very
clearly that the issue of Jewish communities will be discussed once
we will reach the discussion of the permanent agreement. Therefore, I
don't see any reason for this demand.
Let us assume that a family is going to have a baby. It happens. So
they have to leave their place where they have been living now for
twenty years or ten years or were born there? What happens here? What
happens, I just want to know. What should be? Let us say if that
thing happens, so what should they do, abortion? What is this
madness? We said very clearly there are not going to be new
communities and when we said that we mean it. What I mean I say and
what I say I mean. There will not be new communities. But now what is
going to happen there? They should live, let us say, three
generations in two small rooms?
We are going to act in accordance with the guidelines of the platform
of the national unity government and an agreement that Israel signed
in the past. That demand is something that we cannot accept.
Q: You were saying to the Mitchell Commission that you simply don't
agree with any points on this and that the size of the settlements
will continue to grow.
Prime Minister Sharon: What would you have me say? Let us say that
they have to leave the place, what should we do now? Let us assume,
what would happen, for instance, if we would decide that an Arab
couldn't buy an apartment in Ramle or in Lod or in Haifa. It would be
that all the world would be attacking us.
You have to know one thing. Jews and Arabs are living together here.
I can tell you that looking back to my childhood on the farm where I
was born, I never thought that we would be living without Arabs. We
used to live with Arabs, we wanted to live together with Arabs and I
believe, as a matter of fact, that I am one of those that can bring
Q: [regarding Iran]
Prime Minister Sharon: The Arabs are now planning missiles of 2,500
kilometers and they are working or thinking now about a missile of
5,000 kilometers. The danger is not only for Israel. The danger is,
let us say, for all the region here, and I think that the danger is
to you and even to the United States. Therefore we have to look at
that as one of the main dangers to the stability in the Middle East.
I would like to just take advantage of your question, I would say
that there are two major threats to stability in the Middle East, in
which we are interested, the United States is interested, Europe is
interested and the region is interested. One is terrorism and the
second one is Iran and Iraq. So we speak about a common interest, a
common strategic problem that all those countries or regions are
involved with or interested in. I think that every effort should be
put in order to postpone this as much as possible -- because they are
working, it is not that they are not working, they are working. -- to
try and postpone it as much as possible.
I think that, being in Washington we discussed this issue, but I
don't want to go into any details about that. The United States is
the leader of the free world and they have a major role. Being there,
I must admit, I felt very proud, because when it comes to anti
missile developments, Israel is the real partner. You know, due to
our more sophisticated technology here -- maybe as a result of the
fact that in Israel we have more engineers per capita than in any
other country in the world, including the United States -- when we
came to discuss this issue, I really felt not as somebody who comes
and asks for something, but as someone who is a real partner. And I
believe that there is a great interest in this cooperation. No doubt
we are going to continue.
You mentioned Iran. But I think that the danger of Iraq is not
smaller. Iraq has the know how of manufacturing multi-stage weapons.
And I think it is good to remember that if the Israeli Government in
1981 under the leadership of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin
-- and I was privileged to be a member of his inner cabinet -- I
think that if we would not have taken the step there to destroy the
nuclear reactor in Baghdad, I don't know what could have happened
during the Persian Gulf War -- because they would have had nuclear
weapons. One must understand that now, Iraq is not under inspection
for over two years. No doubt they are working and I think Iraq should
be under very severe and serious inspection.
Q: Last night a settler was killed in a settlement called Itamar. How
will there ever be in Israel a country of two States if Israel has to
expand and hold on to settlements like Itamar.
Prime Minister Sharon: I will tell you, maybe the question should be
-- you know, we live, our [the Sharon family] farm is not far from
Gaza, on what is called now on 'our side', of what used to be the
border. I would say there are beautiful farms there. And they are
under fire all the time. At night, you know it is so close there, now
I am in Jerusalem, but when, on the weekend, I'm on the farm at
night, mostly when we have the western wind at night, we hear all
that shootings all the time. Shooting, shelling, ambushing, there is
a difference I am told. But terrorism is terrorism, in this side of
what used to be the border, on the other side what used to be the
border. It doesn't make any difference. Terror is mortars. Terror is
roadside bombs, car bombs, all that is terror. First of all, terror
should be stopped, it should be calm, and then all the other things
will be discussed later.
Q: With your permission I want to specify a question about the
building activity in the settlements. Arafat claims that he is ready
to stop violence if your government is ready to freeze the building
activity in the settlements. By agreeing to freeze this activity for
a certain period, you might put Arafat's will and ability to stop
violence into a test. Why isn't it worth to give it a try?
Prime Minister Sharon: You mean that we will do that, and then Arafat
will violate his agreement as before and he will feel ashamed that he
was caught again violating an agreement? That is what you meant?
Q: Israel does not take any risk on herself if she freezes for a
certain shorter period, let us say two months or three months and to
test out what is really Arafat's intention. Does he stand behind it?
Is he able to do it and does he want to do it?
Prime Minister Sharon: My dear friend, if I may call you that, we do
not have to pay in order not to be killed. It is very simple. We will
not pay protection money. There is no reason whatsoever to shoot at
our people, to kill civilians. We don't have to pay for it and we
will not pay for it. Take it as I say: We have the right to live
peaceful lives and we don't have to pay in order not to be killed and
murdered. I believe that every country in the world would behave the
same way. Do you think for one minute that say somebody, let us take
the United States, that they will be under fire and they will be
asked, "Give us back that and that and we are not going to kill you."
What would happen? Take any other country in the world.
So we have the right, the Jews have the right to live quietly, it is
a birthright to live quietly and not be killed. So why should one be
astonished so much, you don't have to. I said it very clearly, we are
not going to pay for not being killed. It is our right to live in
peace, to live normal lives. Protection money will not be paid here.
Q: Not even temporarily?
Prime Minister Sharon: I will tell you something. It maybe better if
you can -- I know that all of you are very busy, but if you can have
some time -- try and see all those tens and tens if not more than
tens and tens of agreements that Arafat violated. You don't have to
do that, it is a birthright, Jews have the right to live peacefully
and don't expect they will do that [which you suggest]. We do not
make experiments when it comes to Israeli citizens' lives. In order
to put Arafat, I would say, in an unpleasant situation later, to see
if he's not going to bluff.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, there have been a lot of questions about
settlements. I think we are not questioning whether Jews have a right
to live peacefully. The questions is, do the Jews have a right to
live peacefully in land that according to the Geneva Convention,
there should be no settlements of people in occupied land. What is
Israel's legal view of settling Jews in the West Bank and Gaza?
Prime Minister Sharon: You know, all of you are young people and
young people not always the time to bother themself with respect to
the past, so nobody knows altogether who occupied, from whom
occupied? Who occupied? As a matter of fact, if you ask this
question, let us start with Gaza. There is a small community that is
called Kfar Darom. Have any of you been there? If not you have to
arrange a trip there. I would be happy to be your guide, some of you
have been together with me in some places. Kfar Darom is the place
where three kids from one family lost their legs. Do you remember
this sad case. This settlement or community was occupied by the
Egyptian army when they invaded Israel on the night of the
announcement of the Declaration of Independence [15 May 1948]. It was
a settlement, it was built on Jewish land several years earlier. So
what should we do now? I can give you any place, believe me I know
well every mountain and every wadi here, every hill and every
settlement. I was born here and I know it well, better than many of
those who live in those places. So, I will give you an example. But
why only that? I can tell you of other places. What is the question,
what do you mean occupied?
Q: And the Geneva Convention?
Prime Minister Sharon: Okay, let us come to the question of
'occupation'. I thought I gave you an example, I can give you many
more. But let us speak about the occupation. The resolution of the
United Nations of [29 Nov] 1947, that very night the war started, the
invasion started six months later but the war started that night.
After five and a half months -- in which we were facing the
Palestinians here as well as what used to be called the Arab
Salvation Army, mostly Iraqis and Syrians -- seven Arab countries
invaded Israel. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and
people were also sent from Yemen. Seven Arab countries.
It was a very hard war, I participated in this war as a young platoon
leader. I was badly injured when I tried to open the siege of
Jerusalem. After the war, Gaza stayed under Egyptian occupation for
nineteen years, and Samaria and Judea, at the beginning under Iraqi
and Jordanian -- and the Iraqis withdrew and they gave the territory
to the Jordanians -- and it was under their occupation for nineteen
Now, we are here in Jerusalem. From the window -- I don't have to
tell you, we live here -- I can see the walls of the old city.
Jerusalem was occupied by the Jordanian army, and Palestinian forces
were on the Walls. The old synagogues, hundreds of years old were
destroyed. So who occupies? Beside that it never belonged to the
Palestinians. I am not talking about what should be in the future,
but first of all let us put the facts straight. But I don't think
that. That is not 'occupied' territory, but rather disputed
territory, and that is the real thing. That is disputed territory.
Therefore, I agree with what has been said, that when we reach the
phase of permanent agreement, all these things will be discussed