Sunday 5 November 2017

Transcript of Andrew Marr's interview with Benjamin Netanyahu (5 Nov 2017)

ANDREW MARR: In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter announcing his conversion to the idea that the Jewish people should have a national home in Israel. This Balfour Declaration is regarded as one of the founding documents of the modern State of Israel, and to celebrate its centenary, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has come to London, where he's been in talks with Theresa May. To some, he is the arch defender of the Jewish people. To others, he is a bellicose hardliner dedicated to expanding the very settlements seen by the Palestinian Arabs as their obstacle to peace, and he joins me now. Welcome Prime Minister.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The good part was shorter than the bad part. 
ANDREW MARR: Well, let me turn to the bad part, if it's a bad part. The second bit of the Balfour declaration which does say that "Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine". Can you really say that that has been held to by your Government? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: They talk about the civil and religious rights. In fact Israel's Arabs citizens are the only ones, the only Arabs in the Middle East, who enjoy genuine civic and religious right. Religious freedom is protected in Israel as nowhere else, tragically, in the Middle East. And civil rights, of course there's a Supreme Court judge who's an Arab, and ministers, including in my Government, who are Arabs, Druze, and members of the Parliament who are Arabs and so on. I would like to see more involvement of the Arabs in civil life...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] In Israel and in the occupied territories, there are pretty gross human rights breaches. Human Rights Watch. Let me read you this: "Whether it's a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit or a checkpoint where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during the 50-year occupation". And again, Amnesty International say much the same thing: "Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestine civilians, including children, in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and detained thousands of Palestinians who opposed Israel's continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill treatment of detainees remained rife and is committed without impunity". That is not in the spirit of the Balfour declaration. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I completely disagree with the arguments about torture and I completely dispute the whole tendentious statement here because no democracy has been threatened like Israel, with enemies that seek our destruction and have fired thousands of missiles on us. Just imagine thousands and thousands of missiles on London. Actually you don't have to imagine it. You had it. Look at what was done in retribution. We haven't done that. We act, I think, in moral ways. Our army. There's no more moral army in the world. It's maligned. And I think that part of the battle that I'm involved with, is to dispel these lies, and I have no compunction in doing so. Israel stands out as a beacon of democracy, a beacon of self-restraint, in a sea of troubles - in the attacks, the wanton, violent attacks which are meant to destroy us. And that should serve as an example to others around us, because there are others in the region who do not do this. 
ANDREW MARR: Right. If there is one thing that upsets supporters of the Israel, including many Jewish community leaders in this country, is the push of settlements. Now, your own defence minister has said that the rate of settlements in very sensitive areas like East Jerusalem and the West Bank is faster than at any time since 2009. You're pushing ahead. And this is the one thing that makes supporters of Israel despair, including in this Government.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think that the settlements are an issue. I don't think they're the issue. The issue is the 100-year-old persistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognise the Jewish state and any boundary. If that were removed all these issues, including the issue of settlements, would be resolved. I do take issue with one other thing since I can...
ANDREW MARR: Take issue as you like. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I think the idea that Jews cannot live in Judea is crazy.
ANDREW MARR: But, at the moment, this is Palestinian territory, and you're putting...
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: But it is disputed territory...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] The UN says it is a flagrant violation of international law. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The UN also says know, vaunted organisations...just said that Jewish people have no connection to Jerusalem. Tell that to King Solomon and King David, 3000 years ago. I think the facts are different, but I think the central fact is this: I think settlements are a side issue because the idea...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] Not to the Palestinians, it's not. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I think it is too, because when we removed all the settlements from Gaza and ostensibly did what they say, Andrew," Go back to the 67 lines, take away the settlements", which we did. Gaza didn't become peaceful. Gaza launched thousands of rockets from Gaza, that we vacated, against Israel...against Tel Aviv, against Jerusalem, against every part of Israel. And when I asked them and I asked, "Why are you doing this?", rhetorically. "Is it to liberate the West Bank?", where the other part of the Palestinian people live. They said, "Yeah, but that too. No, we want to liberate "Palestine" - Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Acre...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] You're in a war with Hamas. They've now done a deal with Fatah. Do you distinguish between Fatah and Hamas in this regard? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Yes, I do because Hamas takes its goal of destroying Israel and translates it into active terror. That is the not case with the Palestinian Authority. One would hope that Hamas would move to that position and not have the Palestinian Authority move to Hamas. So I would say this: Unity for peace is good. Unity for the destruction of Israel is bad. And that's what we're looking at. 
ANDREW MARR: Now what is also clear, however, is that your policy for Gaza is not working, the policy of having a kind of cordon around Gaza, restricting what can come in and go out, a kind of blockade of Gaza, that has actually increased the power of Hamas in Gaza and mobilised the population behind Gaza because of the appalling human rights situation inside Gaza. This policy is simply not working. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Gaza is occupied. By Hamas. Hamas is 30,000 armed thugs. It's a thugocracy, an armed thugocracy, in which they periodically execute Gazans, Palestinians. They don't cut off their heads but they pretty much do the same - masked executioners who put an AK-47 bullet right in the back of the neck of anyone who tries to relieve the people of Gaza from this. Here's what we've done. Here's what I've done. I have...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] You have shot a lot of people there too.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I have opened up the border crossings to enable 1,000 trucks a day of goods, food, medicine, anything you want, unlimited supplies coming into Gaza, as long as they are not weapons. And, in fact, it is Israel right now, if I had to say, it is one country, Israel, more than any others that is actually taking care of the population of Gaza, because we have no quarrel with the population. We do have a quarrel with those who have hijacked them and use the territory of Gaza to launch a war against Israel. One day I hope we will be rid of Hamas, Hamas will disarm, and then we can have a glorious future. 
ANDREW MARR: Well, let's look at the future, because you've described the issue of the Palestinian state very vividly recently. You said, "Actually, what we can't have is an armed, hostile anti-Israeli state sitting on our borders forever. We just can't have that. And, therefore, you've used the word 'an entity', 'a 'Palestinian entity'. Are you suggesting that what the Palestinians might get is, as it were, the status of a kind of self-governing territory inside a greater Israel?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think they should have all the powers to govern themselves and none of the powers to threaten us, which means that it has to be...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] Falling short of a full state, in other words?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, the reality of the Middle East , which is peppered with failed states, and pre-failed states and collapsing states, means that if we withdraw our security control from an area, what happened invariably is that militant Islam comes in, whether Daesh, Isis, or Hamas backed by Iran. Either one is horrible, horrible not only for us but horrible also for the Palestinians or the Lebanese. You just heard Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon,...
ANDREW MARR: Resigning.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Resigning. He said, basically, that's because Hezbollah took over, which means Iran took over, and I think this is a wake-up call for everyone. It says what the Middle East is really experiencing. It's experiencing the attempt of Iran to conquer the Middle East, to dominate it and subjugate it. And I think when Israelis and Arabs - and it is all the Arabs and the Israelis - agree on one thing, people should pay attention. We should stop this Iranian takeover, for your interests...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting]  I want to come to Iran directly in a moment, but just before I do, it see, if you talk to almost any British MP, they say "Two-state solution! Two-state solution!", but the way you are talking it sounds as if two-state solution is more or less over and we are moving to a different solution, a one-state solution. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: No, I don't want a one-state solution. I'll be be clear about that.  But also...and I'm unabashed about saying that...but I want to make sure that what we have next to us is something that won't threaten our lives. It really does make a difference what the other state is. Is it Costa Rica or is it North Korea? Is it another mini-Iran or is it Luxembourg? Nobody says that. When you say "Two states", the other state, if it's not demilitarised, if it doesn't recognise the state of Israel ,which the Palestinians still refuse to do, then it merely becomes a platform for continuing the war against the one Jewish state. And, therefore, I think you have to be more specific and say, no, what we want is the recognition, finally, 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, finally recognise the Jewish state. I want to...expletive deleted...It's about time. Recognise the Jewish state, and let's make sure that Palestinians do not have the weapons to destroy it. 
ANDREW MARR: And you've been talking about all of this with Donald Trump, a man who's got a slightly dodgy rep[utation] in this country, but you've just seen him up close and personal. What do you make of him? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Firstly I think he has leadership qualities, and I think he sees in the Middle East something different. There are some people who saw Iran as the solution to the problems of the Middle East...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] Some people like Barack Obama, you mean?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Some people. I had, by the way, a very good relationship with Barack Obama when we did agree on things, so we signed an MOU, Memorandum of Understanding, to give Israel a 10-year security package, and I welcome and respect that, but I disagreed with him on Iran because, yes, I think he saw Iran as a solution in many ways, and Donald Trump sees Iran is the problem. But it's not Donald Trump who sees Iran as the problem. We do. The Arab states do. And Hariri, who's just resigned, does as well. And he's right. 
ANDREW MARR: There is a new and unexpected alliance, if I can say that, between Israel and many of the Sunni states in the region, against Iran. Listening to you talk about Iran, it's almost as if you see them as one of those great empires moving in...the Assyrians or whoever...moving from Asia right the way to the Mediterranean. And you have said very clearly, putting aside even the nuclear issue, "We will stop them doing that. We will not let them get to the Mediterranean. We will not let them have an Iranian Shi'ite empire spreading from Tehran right the way to the shores of the Mediterranean. How are you going to stop them doing that? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Iran openly calls for our destruction, something even in your experience. You may have been under threat of conquest. But not destruction But Iran openly says, "We're out to destroy" what they call us "the small Satan" on route to the Big Satan, the Great Satan, the United States, and in the middle is...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] ...a middle-sized state. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Middle-sized state. No offence. You're a middle-sized state. No offence.
ANDREW MARR: No offence taken. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: But this is what Iran wants to do. It is seeking to colonise Syria for that purpose, and that is to Lebanon-ise Syria. What the did in Lebanon, PM Hariri resigned over, is basically take over the country. They probably killed his father, threatened to kill him. So basically the same thing is doing done...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] The collapse of so-called Isis or the Islamic State...
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And as Isis Isis moves out, Iran moves in. But they want to bring their air force there, right next to Israel. They want to bring Shi'ite and Iranian divisions right next to Israel. They want to bring submarines and military vessels, right into the Mediterranean, right next to Israel. So we will not let that happen. We will resist it, and I think...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] And you would go to war to stop that happening? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The more we are prepared to stop it the less likely it is we will have to resort to much greater things. There's a principle I very much adhere to and that is "Nip bad things at the bud". 
ANDREW MARR: But if you can't? We've have rocket attacks on Riyadh in the last few days. We've had what happened in Lebanon. Things are moving all other the place. Things are moving in the Horn of Africa. You can see this is a big , big situation. Are we drifting or moving at this stage towards a major war in the region between Iran and her allies and proxies on the one hand, and Israel and the Sunni states on the other? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: You're definitely in such a conflict, and you're quite right, there is a realignment in the region, but I think it's a larger battle. It's the battle between medievalism and modernity. The forces that stand for modernity - Israel squarely does - have to fight this...have to resist the onslaught of this militant Islamism that uses rockets, terrorism, suicide bombers and so on, and the sparks of that ferment you see on the streets of London. If medievalism wins there, you lose here. So we are really on the front line of this great battle for the future of the world, not merely the future of the Middle East, but the future of the world... 
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] And you think Donald Trump gets it and is at your back? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think he definitely understands that Iran is the primary problem. It probably accounts for 95% of the problems we experience now in the Middle East, and I think he gets it and that it's a good thing that he gets it. 
ANDREW MARR: Can I ask about the condition of Jews in this country, because there are a lot...I've got a lot of Jewish friends and there are a lot of Jewish community reader who are very worried about your Government, and they say that particularly the settlement issue has made it much, much harder to defend Israel in this country. We have always had antisemitism in Britain but it has been quite quiet for a long time, and it is back on the rise. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, no, I wouldn't blame Jews for antisemitism any more than I would blame blacks for racial hatred towards them or about anti-gay hatred, because of what they are...
ANDREW MARR: [interrupting] But the distinction is between Jews and policies. 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, you know what happened. Theresa May gave this extraordinary speech...extraordinary...on the Balfour Centennial, and she said, "You cannot go and attack and say that Britain has no right to exist because you oppose some of the British Government's policies. So Britain has a right to exist, Israel has a right to exist. You may disagree with this or that policy but you would never question any other country's right to exist based on this or that disagreement with a policy." Yet this is what is levelled against Israel and against Israel alone. 
ANDREW MARR: One of the big supporters of Palestinian rights in this country is the new leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn who has said in the past, for instance, that we shouldn't allow free access for who he calls "Israel's criminal politicians" to come into this country. He might very well be Britain's Prime Minister before long. What would that do to relationships? And should you not pick up the telephone and talk to him directly? 
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, the British people decide who they want to govern them, but I hope there will be a continuity of British policy with Israel because here's something people don't know: That cooperation has saved many lives - many Israeli lives; many, many British lives - because we have an intense cooperation between our security and intelligence agencies, and it is protecting Britain and it is protecting Israel, and it's something I hope will continue in the future. 
ANDREW MARR: Mr Netanyahu, thanks very much indeed for talking to us. 


  1. leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn ..... He might very well be Britain's Prime Minister before long.....

    How can Marr get away with making such a loaded statement as this to the Prime Minister of another country? The UK voted in a General Election just a few months ago. They didn't elect Corbyn - he lost. 'He might very well not be Britain's Prime Minister - ever'. What Marr does signal with this assertion is pure political bias from the BBC combined with unbelievable arrogance.

    1. Smug Marr should spend less time parroting the BBC narrative ....He might very well be Britain's Prime Minister before long..... and instead, in due course, ask Jeremy some searching questions that might make him sit up, remove the smoke and mirrors, forget about the money tree, and tell us what a country governed by Labour might look like. If the electorate like the detail of what they hear, then Corbyn might be Britain's Prime Minister. Personally, I doubt it.

  2. Dreadful. Netanyahu and Trump. No one wants to be forever forced from their homes. The world wd be a better place without these 2 narcissists.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.