CELUI QUI PRÉVOIT TOUT
Par Ari Shavit, journaliste
Interview de Bibi Natanyahou au King David Hotel à Jérusalem
Parue dans Haaretz le 3 juin 2006.
Vu la longueur du texte, nous n'avons traduit que les passages qui nous ont paru les plus remarquables pour l'actualité.
Traduction partielle adaptée par Albert Soued pour www.nuitdorient.com
Bibi Natanyahou dit en substance:
À propos de l'échec du Likoud aux élections: l'échec est dû à une rupture idéologique au sein du parti. De plus une partie de l'opinion était en colère contre la réforme économique que j'ai entreprise et n'a pas cru dans l'expansion qui a suivi (+ 6,6% par an), qui va se poursuivre et qui va tirer les classes pauvres vers le haut.
À propos du fait que Bibi soit mal aimé par l'opinion: c'est un phénomène que j'ai traité longuement dans le passé dans mes écrits. Mais il y a un renversement de tendance en cours et il semble qu'aujourd'hui on m'écoute, même les grands patrons qui ont bénéficié de ma politique et qui m'ont tourné le dos dès qu'ils ont senti le vent tourner sur le plan politique.
Les médias n'ont pas réussi ou voulu expliquer les réformes profondes que j'ai menées dans le pays. La pauvreté dure déjà depuis trop longtemps et les écarts se sont creusés depuis bientôt 20 ans, la société étant sclérosée par sa non compétitivité, ses chasses gardées, ses habitudes, ses privilèges, sa corruption envahissante…En bousculant tout cela, je me suis fait des ennemis.
À propos des réformes économiques: il ne faut pas oublier que je suis intervenu à la veille d'une banqueroute du pays, comme celle de l'Argentine, et en 3 ans j'ai redressé la situation. L'économie sombrait à – 1,3%… Aujourd'hui Israël est un des plus puissants moteurs économiques du monde qui se développe à un rythme supérieur à
6% ou 7% et cela va continuer pendant au moins 10 ans, c'est à dire qu'on va doubler notre PNB en peu de temps, atteignant 250 milliard $ vers 2016. Israël sera dans le peloton de tête des pays développés. On pourra l'appeler "le tigre du Moyen Orient", comme Singapour ou l'Irlande. J'ai réussi à faire baisser le secteur public trop lourd de 56% à 50%; il faut arriver à 40%, éliminer l'interventionnisme de l'Etat et les barrières qui musèlent une partie de l'économie du pays. Il y a 5 secteurs monopolistiques qui bloquent encore le développement du pays:
- ILA: Israel Lands Administration
- Les achats de l'Etat
- Le secteur de l'énergie
- Les sociétés nationales
- Les collectivités locales
On m'a empêché d'intervenir dans la ILA qui est le secteur le plus important et où se situe la corruption la plus importante. C'est là où se situe la plus grande centralisation que la transparence est la plus faible et la corruption la plus grande. Lord Acton a dit: "le pouvoir corrompt, le pouvoir absolu corrompt absolument".
Ici Bibi parle de ses biens et revenus et des tentatives de corruption subies.
À propos du désengagement et du réalignement: on a quitté Gaza jusqu'au dernier cm, et certains de "nos amis" déclarent encore que nous occupons Gaza… Alors quel avantage nous avons tiré de cette opération qui a été douloureuse pour des concitoyens les plus patriotes du pays. Redoublement des missiles et des infiltrations de terroristes et d'armes (120 tonnes de TNT)… Le réalignement est encore plus dangereux et encore plus absurde. Et pourquoi? 70 000 personnes déracinées, 100 milliard $ de coût pour l'état et quel avantage? Il n'y aura pas de reconnaissance internationale, même pour un retour aux frontières de 1967. Les Arabes voudront toujours plus. D'autant plus qu'ils pensent avoir le vent en poupe du fait de la surenchère iranienne. Cette opération inutile n'a que des inconvénients, elle est sans but réel… Si ce sont des concessions unilatérales que garde-t-on alors pour le jour où on pourra vraiment négocier la paix?
Les populations sont déjà séparées à 98%, il faut s'en tenir là et patienter.
À propos d'une solution à 2 états: dans tous les cas de figure, il faut absolument garder la frontière du Jourdain qui est pratiquement inhabitée, un plan Allon amélioré.
À propos de l'Iran: nous avons les moyens d'empêcher l'Iran d'enter dans le club nucléaire, autrement c'est la fin du monde libre.
par le groupe boaz,copyright autorisé sous
réserve de mention du site
© www.nuitdorient.com par le groupe boaz,copyright autorisé sous réserve de mention du site
By Ari Shavit – Haaretz - 03/06/2006
It was supposed to have
been an election interview - a rare opportunity for the leader of the
opposition to have his say in a campaign in which he wasn't really given the
chance to have his say. But at the critical moment, Netanyahu despaired. He
lost his faith in his ability to affect the outcome, in his ability to block
the erosion of his position. People will not listen to me now, he said; there
is no chance that I will be listened to in such a poisoned atmosphere. Let's
put it off until after the elections. I will tell you what I have to say after
the election defeat.
And so it was. For a few weeks, he was too morose. Then he began to get entangled in the Likud's internal knife-throwing. After that, he cut himself off and closeted himself in order to write a book. Then, two weeks ago, he suddenly called. Now, he said, immediately. As though he felt that the data about Israel's rapid economic growth were the proof that he had been right all along. The difficulties of the convergence plan prove that there was substance to his critical analysis. The blandness of the Kadima government is leading people on the street to show a renewed interest in him. After all, he has that elusive quality of leadership. He, after all, has some sort of political stature. A certain historical gravitas.
The taxi driver was furious when he heard that it was Bibi on the line. The slashed old-age allowance of his father-in-law. The missing items in his uncle's basket of medicines. And the fact that he and his wife feel erased - middle-class and erased. Of the NIS 10,000 they earn per month, their mortgage gobbles up three and a half. Of the six and a half that's left, three goes to pay for the kids' day-care centers. So does Bibi expect a working family to live on NIS 3,500? Does Bibi expect that they will raise their children to be loyal Israeli citizens? He has no heart, that guy. What a mess he made for people. And not just any people. People who supported him. People who followed him. People who gave their soul for him.
But on the veranda of the
King David Hotel, other voices are heard, too. Time after time, the
conversation is interrupted by Jewish tourists from Australia and Jewish
tourists from South Africa and Jewish tourists from California who want just
one picture with him. An affluent-looking ultra-Orthodox man comes over to
Netanyahu and says: The heart grieves for you, Bibi, the heart grieves. Twice
you saved the country and twice they dumped you. What wickedness. What
ingratitude. After the exploding buses you brought us quiet, after the economy
almost collapsed you brought us terrific growth. And the very people you hurt
are still with you, still believe in you. But the ones you made rich, the ones
whose stocks you sent soaring - they stuck a knife in your back. But you will
return, Bibi. I promise you that you will return.
His wife, Sara, had just had back surgery and was resting in a room they had rented in the hotel. So that Netanyahu skips from a conversation about Iran's nuclear project to playing soccer on the lawn with one of his sons. From a conversation about the future of Western civilization to finding out about the prognosis for the vertebrae. He still doesn't smile much, but is no longer morose. He hurts, but is not bitter. He thinks he senses a change in the past few weeks. The way people come up to him everywhere. The way people listen to him. As though they are starting to understand that something serious happened in the election campaign. As though they are starting to understand that they were manipulated. Defrauded. Deceived.
At the moment, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is busy conquering Washington. Netanyahu does not reveal his feelings, but places on the table a page of quotes from the speech he delivered to a joint session of Congress immediately after being elected prime minister, in 1996. The prophecies he uttered even then. The warnings he voiced. Clinton didn't want to hear it, but he described explicitly what was about to happen in Iran. Five years before the Twin Towers, he is convinced that he taught the Americans that fanatical Islam was the new evil.
Netanyahu is always more pleasant when he is down. Less arrogant, less patronizing, more attentive. Leaning back in a deep armchair in the wood-paneled bar of the King David, carefully lopping off the end of a cigar, he starts talking philosophy of history. He is much enamored of the broad brush stroke. The tour de horizon. The passing of the centuries, the clash of civilizations. The emergence and disappearance of nations, the rise and fall of empires. And the fusion of macroeconomic indices with the deep currents of historical processes. Nohi Dankner and Gibbon; Shlomo Nehama and Nordau; Yaron Zilka, Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Eitan Wertheimer.
What is he after? It's not clear. It will take some time before the book is written and edited and ready. It will take some time before the Likud recovers and is rehabilitated. But it looks as though Netanyahu is beginning to sense the potential latent in the particular leadership vacuum that Ariel Sharon left behind. He looks this way and that, and does not see anyone who can really overshadow him, anyone who is more worthy than he of leading the nation in the hour of the great trial, at the threshold of which he believes we are poised.
Benjamin Netanyahu, why did you fail in the 2006 elections?
"Because the Likud split in a planned move by the person who headed the party. There was an ideological rupture and there was an organizational split that tore the movement apart. In addition, part of the public was angry at the economic moves I implemented and did not believe that a recovery would come that would make it possible to start dealing with their plight, as became apparent immediately after the elections."
But the Likud issue was only one variable in the equation. Another variable was you. You encountered unprecedented opposition.
"Years ago I wrote about this phenomenon of the hatred of me. Today, after the elections, I feel a change. People are listening to me. People are realizing that the 6.6 percent growth is connected to things I did. Some of them are realizing that there is something flawed about the clay gods of the disengagement and the convergence. But in real time, during the election campaign, the usual chorus mobilized. The herd did its thing again. In the wake of the media spins of the campaign people in a certain party, the usual suspects banded together again and knew what to say and what to broadcast and which facts to distort. Therefore the outcome was preordained."
You knew in advance that you were going to lose?
"I knew that months before the elections. It was a fight against all the odds."
So you conducted that whole big campaign in the knowledge that there was no hope, that all was lost?
Did you feel you were a marked man?
"By the media? Definitely. But that is nothing new. What was new was that this time there were, despite everything, certain journalists who were fair and were not swept by the current."
Overall, though, the media served Kadima?
"Without a doubt. True, there were exceptions, but again we saw the concentration of power and the concealment of the facts and the twisting of the truth. We saw politicians and media people working hand in hand in order to serve one another. Elements in the media are capable of creating a one-day truth. But if that day is election day, that day is decisive."
Was your feeling as a candidate that you could not have your say?
"You can have your say, but no one really listens to you. You stand before walls of contempt and disdain. A false picture is created, as though until this bad person arrived, there was no poverty in Israel. As though the social gaps had not been growing for 20 years. And they completely ignore the fact that when I came to the Finance Ministry, the economy was about to collapse, as in Argentina. The pension funds were about to collapse. Growth was minus 1.3 percent. The governor of the Bank of Israel warned against the bankruptcy of a major bank. The situation was on the brink of an economic Yom Kippur in which poverty would have expanded and deepened frighteningly, and as a state we would have collapsed. They said none of that. They blurred all that. They twisted reality absolutely and wickedly."
Not only the media was against you. The businessmen whom you cultivated and made rich also finally turned against you.
"I don't know if the businessmen turned against me, but they certainly did not stand by me. Hardly any of them stood by me. I knew before the elections that most of them opposed my political approach. But I would have expected some of them to stand up and say: We dispute Netanyahu politically, but support his economic approach. I would have expected that when whole choruses sang that I destroyed the country, someone would stand up and say it is not so. That this is a populist spin that has no place. But that did not happen. There were actually a few courageous and honest journalists who did speak out in the media. But in the business community, which is well aware of the truth, hardly anyone spoke out. Maybe they were afraid. They saw the polls. They saw which way the wind was blowing. They saw where the power would reside."
Do you have the feeling that you were the victim of ingratitude?
"Yes. I devoted three years of my life to hard labor, day and night, in order to save the country?s economy. So it hurts me. I felt deep disappointment. The only ads in support of my economic policy came from professors in the national camp, who are not known as big-time players in the sphere of capital."
You were hurt?
"Of course I was hurt. I am a human being. I was also disappointed at the fact that people are so weak at critical moments. Really weak. Their immediate interest is probably so strong and so coercive that they are incapable of overcoming it. But as finance minister I overcame my personal interest. I went against my voters. To save Israel's economy I was ready to shed political blood. My political blood. And I did not expect those people to shed their blood; all I expected of them was not to shed my blood."
You are pained.
"There is pain. I am now wallowing in it. There are moments of bitterness, but bitterness contributes nothing. If you scratch the wounds over and over, they will remain forever. So I try to let them be. To move ahead."
Where were you on the evening of March 28, when the exit polls showed the Likud had collapsed?
"I was at the home of friends in Tel Aviv with my wife, my two children and a few good friends."
And what was your feeling?
"It was hard. I was especially hurt to see my younger son crying and the pain on the face of my first-born."
Did you think that this might be the end, that you would not get up from this blow?
"It's precisely when you get a fist in the face that I function best. I was cool and collected. My first task was to reassure my children. Half an hour later I was already at the Tel Aviv Fair Grounds [where the Likud had rented a hall for the evening]. No, I did not think this was the end. I am naive enough to believe that in the end there will be someone who will, after all is said and done, see the truth. Someone who will examine what went on here, what really happened with the economy."
What happened with the economy?
"Israel became one of the most powerful economic engines in the world. From a growth rate of minus 1.3 percent to 6.6 percent growth in three years - there is no such thing anywhere. There is no advanced state in the world that changed direction with that speed in recent years."
Can that growth rate last?
"Of course, but only if we persist with the policy that I led. If the revolution I fomented is not curbed, Israel will grow at a rate of 6 to 7 percent in each of the next 10 years. That means the doubling of the GNP in a decade. An economy of a quarter of a trillion dollars in 2016. One of the world's leading economies."
You really believe in the Israeli tiger?
"Certainly. What a question. It is not an iota less than the Singapore tiger or the Celtic tiger. It is wrong to believe that education alone brings growth. Bulgaria has a very high education level but the people live in poverty because there was no market revolution there. But when you have the combination of a free market with education and technology - the sky's the limit. A few years back I referred to the fat and the lean. In three years we changed the ratio between the fat of the public sector and the lean of the business sector from 56:44 to 50:50. The reduction of the public sector to below 40 percent and the elimination of the boot of government intervention and barriers to competition will bring us the yearly 6-7 percent growth that will thrust us into a completely different economic space."
And the social disparities, the social injustice?
"Their peak is behind us. With the resources that are now being created by the growth engine it will be possible to achieve the lowest rate of poverty in the world within three or four years."
If you were such a success as finance minister, where did you go wrong? How did you come to be so loathed
"I was always careful in money management. Both in managing my money and in managing the state's money. I did not spend money I did not have. It's possible that I should have distributed part of the social benefits half a year earlier. My cautiousness worked against me."
And there was your resignation from the treasury. In retrospect, it looks like the greatest political mistake of all time. You did not prevent the disengagement, you made possible the convergence and you deprived yourself of the premiership.
"I do not pretend to be a brilliant politician. I think that I am a statesman and a leader more than I am a politician. I have a prognosticating ability. I understand the measures that need to be taken in the face of an emerging reality. But I am not a buddy type. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, I do not maneuver well vis-a-vis journalists and editors. I do not have the readiness to benefit the owners of centralized capital and the wielders of influence. I lack certain skills and I lack connections. There is also a limit to the game I am willing to play.
"It turns out that the ability to foresee events is a drawback for a politician. In 1996, when I talked about Iran's nuclear program, the public did not connect with it. In 2003, when I said that we would become one of the most flourishing economies in the world, people thought I was daydreaming. And now too, when I say that it is possible to eliminate poverty within three years, people find it difficult to believe me. It is hard for the public to appreciate long-term prognoses."
Of late there is more and
more talk about corruption. You were prime minister, you were finance minister.
Is Israel a corrupt country?
"There is corruption in Israel. It is increasing. In the past few years it has been growing and deepening at a dizzying pace. But those who talk about corruption are generally off-target. They talk about the connection between the member of [a party's] central committee and the politician who gets him a job in order to win his support. But that is a relatively minor phenomenon, and even when it happens, its material scope is limited. Therefore I say that this is only the tip of the corruption iceberg. It is the less important 10 percent that is above the water. The more serious corruption is below the surface. It is hardly talked about; it is hardly known about. But it is the truly worrisome corruption, it is the true danger."
are you talking about?
"I am talking about the senior politician or the senior official who distributes assets to a magnate who pays him money for it. A great deal of money."
You are talking about bribery - unadulterated bribery.
"Yes. Bribes in envelopes. Bribery in the transfer of millions to bank accounts in Vaduz or the Cayman Islands."
Are you serious? Are you really saying that underlying major economic decisions are bank accounts in Vaduz and the Caymans?
"You know very well what the answer is."
In 21st century Israel assets worth billions are transferred to certain hands in return for bribes?
"Your statement is not completely imaginary."
In which branches?
"The state's assets are concentrated in a number of holdings. The Israel Lands Administration [ILA] is the most important of them. The second is government procurement. The third is the energy market. The fourth is the government companies and the fifth is the local governments. In the realm of government procurement, we carried out reforms involving public tenders and transparency that eliminate almost completely the possibility of corruption. But I was not allowed to even approach the ILA or the energy market. And not by chance. I would say that the greatest volume of corruption is in real estate. In return for land improvement of hundreds of millions or billions, a politician or an official might get millions. But there is also a problem in the energy sector and in the government companies. In local government, it is almost an epidemic. Wherever centralization is high and transparency is low, you have a serious problem of corruption. It is exactly as Lord Acton said: All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Who actually prevented your access to the ILA and the energy market?
"In the negotiations with Ariel Sharon, it was made clear to my representative, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, by Sharon's representative, attorney Dov Weissglas, that there is to be no delegation of authority regarding the ILA. Important energy issues were administered from the Prime Minister's Bureau without giving me real access to them."
In professional circles you are considered impeccable, but among the public the sense is that you are corrupt, too.
"That allegation just infuriates me. That is one of the most vicious and lying spins the public has ever been fed. As prime minister and as finance minister I was responsible for hundreds of billions, over tenders and contracts in huge sums, and never, but never, was I tainted with wrongdoing."
Maybe your image as a corrupt person comes from your close relations with people of wealth?
"On the contrary. My friends have never gained anything from their friendship. The fact that they were my friends did not serve their interests and did not prevent me from often taking action against them. When we sold Discount Bank, the winner of the tender [the Bronfman family] was the one who funded my political rival. When we sold Bezeq [the telecommunications company], friends of mine who bid in the tender lost, whereas the winner [tycoon Haim Saban] assisted my political rivals. The fact that one of the directors of the big banks is also a friend of mine did not prevent me from initiating a reform that greatly weakened the banks. Don't forget that when I concluded my term as prime minister, I had one great worry: how I would feed my family. I can't say I didn't have a cent to my name, but I had very little. I had an apartment on Azza Street in Jerusalem, a not very impressive bank account, two small children and a pension of NIS
When you held positions of power, were attempts made to bribe you?
"There was one time when an attempt was made to approach me. It was done very cleverly and very cautiously. I rejected it out of hand and it stopped. I did not allow it to develop."
If you had accepted the offer, would you have become rich?
Who offered the bribe?
When was it?
"At the beginning of my tenure as minister of finance. Although, also when I was an ambassador, a major figure in today's Israeli politics tried to involve me in some deal."
Why didn't you file a complaint to the police?
"The proposition was passed on to me in a very clever way. I didn't let it develop. I stopped it before it became concrete."
In other words, we can assume that other senior politicians at your level receive similar offers often. Magnates come to them with offers that are tremendously attractive.
As you see it, is it forbidden for a politician to be rich?
"He can come into politics already rich, and he can become rich after politics. But you have to wonder about a politician who does not come from a rich family and becomes rich during his political life."
Has the corruption in Israel become worse in recent years?
"Unequivocally, yes. Look at the international indices that examine corruption. But at the same time it is important to emphasize that when it comes to the wealth-government connection, most of the owners of capital are not part of that connection. Nor are many of those in government. But between a small group of the wealthy and a certain group of people in power, there is a connection on an astounding scale. And therefore I say that corruption has become a cancer. It is a millstone on the economy. It is hindering growth and it is liable to develop to Argentine dimensions. Argentina is a very rich country that stagnated economically because the corruption there became a curse. Once a country sinks into the quagmire of corruption, it is very difficult to get out of it."
Tell me, why is it that the iceberg of corruption you are talking about has not been exposed to this day?
"There are two forces that are meant to expose corruption. The first is the law enforcement systems and the second is the media. However, when corruption deepens its penetration, it enters the enforcement system and also the media systems. Another problem is that certain politicians receive immunity from having their corruption exposed because they promote a desirable political agenda."
You are talking about the 'kid gloves treatment' given to Sharon by the media, as suggested by journalist Amnon Abramovich, in order to give him backing for the disengagement.
"I think the task of the media is not to handle corruption with kid gloves, but to challenge it. And I am talking about the real corruption. About the corruption that transfers state assets to certain hands in return for money. That is the corruption that needs to be exposed. These are not easy things to prove. But the information gets around. Journalists know. Law enforcement officials know. And yet the corrupt are not punished. There is a clear phenomenon in Israel of 'corrupt and well-off.'"
Are you saying that a corrupt politician who undertakes withdrawal receives immunity from the media?
"According to one of your colleagues, he should receive immunity."
And you maintain that this is not an individual approach?
"You know it is not."
So you are actually accusing the media of covering up corruption?
"A considerable proportion of the media is not doing its job in this matter."
Do you still think that the disengagement was a mistake?
"The supporters of the disengagement claimed before its implementation that it would lead to stability in our relations with the Palestinians. They maintained that it would help Abu Mazen and would not lead to firing on Israel. In contrast, my friends and I argued that the disengagement would strengthen Hamas, draw the Qassam rockets close to Ashkelon and enable the introduction of new weapons systems into the areas that would be evacuated. Now you tell me who was right."
And the achievements? The international support?
"What achievements? What international support? Does anyone in the world recognize the lines we set? Even though we abandoned the Gaza Strip to the last centimeter, even our best friends are not ready to declare that the occupation of Gaza has ended."
Olmert has now gone to Washington and conquered Capitol Hill. Another two visits like that and the United States will recognize the separation fence line as Israel's permanent border.
"I have my doubts about that. In any event, the situation in Gaza is over and done with. I do not expect that we will reconquer Gaza in order to reestablish settlements there. That will not happen. I will certainly not lead such a move. But now we have to think about what we are doing next. Olmert spoke about evacuating all the Jews on the other side of the fence by 2010. That means the evacuation of 70,000 to 100,000 people from their homes at a cost of up to NIS 100 billion - the complete subjugation of our economy and our future to a baseless goal.
"Because a separation of populations exists already now. We do not rule about 98 percent of the Palestinians. And at the same time, there will be no international recognition of the withdrawal line. Take note of what I am saying: there will not be recognition. In order to obtain international recognition we will have to return to the 1967 lines, and even then the recognition will be partial and limited. In the eyes of some countries, even the 1967 lines are not legitimate. So that all that will happen is that we will spend vast sums of money in order to move settlers from this hill to that hill while devastating their lives - and we will achieve neither peace nor security, but the opposite. We will bring about a situation in which even if a change should occur in the Palestinian society in the future, we will be left with no chips for peace negotiations, for a final-status settlement. Because we will have thrown all our chips on the table already, just like that, without any thought, without any logic and without any purpose."
Do you see a possibility of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians in this generation?
"Not as long as Iran is growing stronger. But if Iran is stripped of its power and changes direction, I believe that the forces of sanity will be strengthened throughout the Arab world. And the same in Palestinian society. It is possible that as a result of the exhaustion of Palestinian society, Hamas will be defeated. When the majority of the Palestinians recognize that they have to choose between a benighted Islamic state that is engaged in an apocalyptic battle with the Jewish state, and mutual recognition and compromise, we will have a partner."
And will you agree to transfer parts of Judea and Samaria to that worthy Palestinian partner?
"We will have to retain the Jordan Rift Valley and the passages in order to prevent the Palestinian territory from becoming an armed base that will endanger our very existence."
Okay, but will you agree to accept the principle of dividing the land on the basis of the Allon Plan?
"An expanded Allon Plan. We need a defensive shield in the empty areas of the Jordan Rift Valley and the Judean Desert. We have to control the borders and the airspace."
Will you agree to accept the idea of two states for two nations?
"We are not talking about an idea. We are talking about reality on the ground, and I recognize reality."
In other words, you as well, the chairman of the Likud, the leader of the national right, effectively accept the fact that there will be no Greater Israel and that in the end the settlements on the ridge line will be evacuated in order to divide the land between a democratic Jewish state and a Palestinian state?
"I am not in favor of dividing the land. I recognize it [dividing the land]. That is the reality that has emerged. We will not set the clock back."
If so, you are less right-wing than is usually thought. Your opposition to the withdrawal that occurred and to the withdrawal that will take place is not one of principle, but tactical.
"I do not preach religiously holding on to every centimeter of territory. I am against the precedent of evacuation without anything in return, without an agreement and in reaction to pressure. We evacuated settlements at bends in the development of Zionism. When there was no choice, we evacuated Gush Etzion [in 1948]. When there was a peace agreement, we evacuated the Sinai settlements. Those evacuations do not resemble the current situation. We are leaving as a result of pressure by an enemy who is not stopping after the uprooting of Gush Katif and will not stop after the uprooting of settlements in Judea and Samaria.
"That capitulation to pressure is disastrous. It has a tremendous effect on the motivation to go on pressuring us. Consequently, this is not bringing peace closer, but distancing peace. This is not adding security, but undermining security. Above all, we are projecting weakness of the national will. Projecting weakness like that in the face of a national will that is becoming ever more zealous is folly. Its most serious consequence is against Iran. I do not think that the large-scale convergence is a practical plan, but it is clear to me that it erodes our deterrent strength in the face of extremist forces in our region. When Israel reacts to pressure with silence, with withdrawal, with uprooting and with an imaginary convergence within itself, the message is received across the Middle East, and it is a message of weakness. In the dramatic situation we are entering now, such a message is bad. Very bad."
How much does Iran perturb you?
"Very much. But it is not just Iran. The problem of nuclear armament is liable to crop up in other countries. Many people do not yet understand this, but the twilight period is about to end. We are entering a new age. We are about to face a different world. This new age has to give every sane person sleepless nights."
What are you referring to?
"The 19th century was relatively orderly and stable. It internalized the lesson that Europe learned from 500 years of war: compromises and settlements are obligatory. The 20th century saw one major exception to the enlightened concept of managing the world - Nazism. True, Communism ignored human nature in managing a society and economy, but it showed great responsibility in preventing a world war. In contrast, we are now facing a species of Islam that rejects compromise and coexistence and believes in the need to bend rivals to its will by force of the sword, in order to restore some fantasy of the rule of the pure Muslims in the world. When the sword possessed by those Muslims becomes a nuclear sword, the world will be a different place. All of humanity will find itself at a different point in history. What was effective against the Soviet Union will not be effective here. We will find ourselves facing new barbarians. Facing a challenge the likes of which Western civilization has never before known."
Is Iran a threat to humanity?
"Yes. But that is not the problem. The problem is that since Alexander the Great, the West has always overcome the barbarians. The advantage of freedom imbued the fighters with greater motivation and equipped them with more advanced weaponry. Now, however, we are facing the possibility that backward, fanatic states will succeed in massing enough resources to obtain an atomic bomb. One nuclear warhead will be enough for the whole balance of power vis-a-vis the West to change utterly. So we are now at a dramatic moment of unparalleled urgency. Two demonic forces in human existence are about to merge: the dark side of human nature and nuclear weapons. There is no historical analogy for this moment. This is a turning point in human history."
How do we deploy for the new age?
"By means of a combined strategy of prevention and deterrence. The bad news is that the new world is a threatening and unstable place. But the good news is that Israel has economic, technological and military strengths which enable it to cope with the danger. The new Israeli economy, which is growing by leaps and bounds, can finance the various projects which are needed for our defense."
Isn't it too late? Are we not fated to accept a nuclear Iran?
"Absolutely not. We have to prevent Iran from going nuclear."
At any price? By every means?
"We have to prevent Iran from going nuclear."
Is the Begin doctrine still valid?
"Yes. But Begin prevented nuclearization using one way. There are also other ways and there are other forces."
Is there a chance for diplomatic prevention?
"I would be happy if I could believe that. At the same time, the United States must be allowed to exhaust the international diplomatic effort."
How much time is left?
"Our time is running out. The experience of the past shows that states that conduct an ambitious nuclear project reach their goal sooner than expected, not later."
Do you see an analogy with the 1940s?
"The difference is that today we have a very strong state with very potent capabilities. In the 1940s the free world industrialized, but it did so after the disaster already struck us. I am convinced that this time, too, the world will get its act together and overcome the danger, but we must ensure that it does not do so after tragedy is inflicted on us again. Therefore Israel must forge alliances with others, but not count on those alliances. We must build our defensive force already now and buttress our national existence. We must be prepared for the possibility that we will have to defend ourselves with our own forces."