'I Have Made a Very Long and Difficult journey.'(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)(Interview)

By Weymouth, Lally | Newsweek, June 23, 1997 | Go to article overview

'I Have Made a Very Long and Difficult journey.'(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)(Interview)


Weymouth, Lally, Newsweek


Israel's Netanyahu predicts he will ultimately reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians One year ago this week, Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel. Today he's under attack from all sides. The right claims he's making too many concessions to the Palestinians, while the left is upset with the stalemate in the peace process. Earlier this month Netanyahu unveiled a plan proposing territorial compromise with the Palestinians- a first for a Likud prime minister. This plan and his acceptance of the Oslo accords are departures from the hard-line ideology he inherited from his father. In an interview last week Netanyahu spoke with NEWSWEEK'S Lally Weymouth. Excerpts:

WEYMOUTH: Has cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority in fighting terror broken down?

NETANYAHU: Well, it isn't being conducted at the higher levels. There is cooperation, but it certainly is not sufficient.

What will it take to get the peace talks going?

I see ways of resuming them, but I think they're best explored in a confidential way. If the will is there on the Palestinian side, there will be a way to set the peace process back on course. We have the will to do so. The Palestinian side must live up to its commitments in order to restore confidence in the process.

Do you want to meet [Palestinian Authority President] Arafat now?

I would meet with anybody, Arafat included, to advance the cause of peace.

Are you willing to suspend building at Har Homa to get the talks moving?

The notion that we would limit the construction of housing in Jerusalem is a very peculiar idea of peace. Remember that under the Oslo agreements Israel has complete freedom to build in Jerusalem.

Are you willing to freeze settlements?

The idea that the growth of Jewish communities is an affront to peace, while the equal and often greater growth of Palestinian communities is not, is unfair... [Prime Minister] Rabin was very clear that there were no limitations whatsoever on Israeli construction in Jerusalem.

Rabin was the one who authorized the building of Har Homa.

Why have you decided to move toward accelerated final-status talks?

The important thing is, how do we achieve peace? The Palestinian Authority must fulfill its commitments under Oslo, especially those relating to security and the revocation of the Palestinian Convenant. Second, we must move on to accelerated talks for the completion of the final-status agreements. If we engage in a slow, step-by-step process, we will erode confidence; a package approach has a greater chance of success. …

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