Magazine article Newsweek

I'm a 'Coalition of One': On the Eve of Israel's Anniversary, Netanyahu Says Peace with the Palestinians Is Still Possible

Magazine article Newsweek

I'm a 'Coalition of One': On the Eve of Israel's Anniversary, Netanyahu Says Peace with the Palestinians Is Still Possible

Article excerpt

On the eve of Israel's anniversary, Netanyahu says peace with the Palestinians is still possible

After a rocky two years as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, 48, appears to be hitting his stride. Under pressure from the Clinton administration to push the peace process forward, Netanyahu is reported to be close to a deal that would transfer another chunk of West Bank territory to Palestinian control. Newsweek's Lally Weymouth talked with Netanyahu in Jerusalem last week.

WEYMOUTH: I've heard that you and U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross discussed a new proposal--allowing the Palestinians to build in some Israeli-held areas near the Jordan Valley.

NETANYAHU: We're discussing a number of possibilities to bridge the gaps, but we haven't made any final determination. There are two principles we believe are essential for peace: the Palestinians must fight terrorism and annul their covenant [calling for the destruction of Israel]. Moreover, the U.S. must recognize the need for Israel to determine its security needs and hence the area from which it will withdraw.

What is your vision of peace with the Palestinians?

At the end of the final settlement, the Palestinians would have their own territory and the ability to govern themselves, but none of the powers that could threaten Israel.

They won't be allowed a defense capability?

They would be able to have local law-and-order capabilities, but they shouldn't be able to field a large army or to import weapons that could effectively neutralize Israel's defenses.

So there will be no Palestinian state?

My opposition to the word "statehood" is that it tends to encompass unlimited powers that could threaten Israel.

Your right-wing supporters oppose giving more land to the Palestinians.

I made it very clear that if Arafat and the Palestinian Authority keep their side of the bargain, we'll keep our side.

No matter what conditions your right-wing supporters lay down, you can deliver?

Yes. The primary issue for me is not the coalition. It's a coalition of one, myself. If

I'm convinced that the Palestinians will do in concrete terms what they are expected to do--arrest terrorists, collect weapons, hand over killers and annul the charter--then no coalition will prevent me from delivering on our side of the bargain.

Your relationship with the Clinton administration appears to be strained.

It's had its difficult moments. Over the years we've had divided views between U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers on Israel's security needs. We had [Dwight] Eisenhower and [David] Ben-Gurion differing on the Sinai; [Gerald] Ford differing with [Yitzhak] Rabin during the reassessment in 1975; [Ronald] Reagan and [Menachem] Begin clashing over Lebanon...

Do you and Clinton have major differences?

In comparison to those disagreements, this is . …

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