- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli prime minister who is expected to be a candidate again, yesterday urged the United States not to abandon its "moral clarity" in fighting terrorism, nor to withdraw support as Israel fights against Palestinian terrorism.
"Will America apply its principles consistently?" Mr. Netanyahu asked at a session with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, is the same as terrorism on the West Bank.
He was dispatched to the United States by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his rival in the Likud Party, to persuade America not to give in to European and Arab opposition to Israel's 13-day incursion into Palestinan cities.
He took note that President Bush at first said Israel had a right to defend itself but, when moderate Arab capitals were rocked by street protests against America and Israel, changed his policy and demanded a pullback.
"I believe that in his heart, President Bush understands us," Mr. Netanyahu said. "He doesn't believe a word [Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat] says. I think the president wants an extensive cease-fire [to give the United States time] to finish off Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But Arafat knows that and will never stop terrorism."
Earlier in the day, Mr. Netanyahu spoke to more than 40 U.S. senators and dozens of House members on Capitol Hill. He said he heard strong support for Israel's military incursion against Palestinian militants.
He scorned European critics, noting that the European Union does not back American preparations to oust the Iraqi dictator, either. "You're going to take guidance from them?" he asked of the lawmakers. "There is no political solution to terror. You have to defeat terror militarily in order to have a political process. Yasser Arafat's terrorist regime must be toppled, not courted."
Mr. Netanyahu told editors and reporters at The Times that he sees no chance of negotiating successfully with Mr. Arafat. "The Oslo agreements, unfortunately, are dead. Arafat killed them."
The Palestinian Authority's Internet site shows the state of Israel as "Palestine," and this is a part of a greater Palestine that Mr. Arafat hopes to create after destroying Israel, Mr. Netanyahu said.
When an editor asked whether deporting or killing Mr. Arafat could open up the region to even greater violence by militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Mr. Netanyahu replied: "How can it be worse?"
The former Israeli leader, traveling in a convoy escorted by his own heavily armed security detail and D.C. police, suggested that the American strategy of ousting the Taliban in Afghanistan after September 11 without fretting over what would follow is a proper strategy for Israel in its struggle with Palestinian suicide bombers.
"You can't uproot terror without uprooting the regime," he said.
He rejected calls for U.S. or other international monitors to separate the Palestinians and Israelis, recalling that such forces had failed to deter Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon from attacking Israel.
However, he said, the Americans could promote peace and stability by promoting democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip once the Arafat regime has been removed. There are moderate Palestinians who would be ready to make peace with Israel, but "they are frightened."
He scoffed at Arafat claims that he holds a democratic mandate to represent Palestinians; anyone who runs against him risks "kneecapping" or worse.
He discounted as well assertions by Palestinians and other critics, including some Israelis, that the Israeli occupation and Israeli settlements in Arab lands are the root cause of frustration and terrorism.
"Settlements are not the problem," said Mr. Netanyahu. "Our being in the territories is not the problem." Palestinian complaints about refugees, occupation and other issues are "the results of their aggressions" against Israel over the years. "This is not to say that we should not have a solution with Palestinian leaders who disavow our destruction."
He proposes "some equitable solution that allows self-government" but a solution that does not give Palestinians the power to destroy Israel. Israel should have defensive buffers, and the Palestinians should not have the ability to bring in ships with weapons or allow troops from Iraq and other countries to enter their areas.
"I do not accept the word 'Palestinian state,'" he said. Instead, he would apportion an autonomous Palestinian area, overseen by Israel.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide