A Wednesday interview with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears on the YouTube World View series, based on questions from viewers around the world.
The 25-minute long interview with the Israeli leader, featuring a clear and succinct presentation of Israel’s stance on critical issues, is the third in the YouTube World View series. The series features interviews with world leaders based on questions from viewers around the world; Netanyahu follows U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The interview was held in Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem, and was screened live on Channel Two news, whose star interviewer, Dana Weiss, asked the questions. The queries were asked and voted upon by the YouTube community around the world. A record number of questions - 3,673 - from a record number of countries - 90 - were asked of PM Netanyahu.
Brother's Death Steered His Life
Asked what experience most changed his life, Netanyahu said that it was the fall in battle of his brother Yoni as he commanded the Entebbe rescue of Israeli hostages from the hands of German and Arab terrorists.
“That event changed my life and steered it towards its present course,” Netanyahu said. “Yoni believed that the war against terrorism was not merely military, but also political and moral - and that is the war that I have been waging for these 35 years… When I go to visit a bereaved family [of Israelis murdered by terrorists or killed in battle] and I see a mother grieving for her son, I say, ‘That’s my mother.’ And when I see a father grieving for his son, I say, ‘That’s my father.’ And when I see a brother grieving for her son, I say, ‘That’s me.’ When I have to send our soldiers into harm’s way, I think [an extra time], and I think it makes me a more responsible leader.”
How to Wake Up the World
He was similarly asked, as were Obama and Cameron before him, “If you could ask one question of a world leader, what it would be and to whom?”
Netanyahu said, “I would ask Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Britain during World War II, ‘Is there anything you could have done differently to persuade the world to act in time against Nazism?’ Because even though he was a great leader, he failed in this task of getting the world to wake up to Nazism in time. Perhaps his answer would be, 'Naah, nothing could have been done differently, because ultimately there’s such a thing as the slumber of democracies, they have to be banged on the head.' I feel that same frustration now, because I’ve been talking for 15 years about the danger of Iranian nuclear terrorism, how they could control the world’s oil supply, and how they threaten our country with obliteration and could do the same with others. You try, and you try, and you try, and I don’t want to say that there’s been no progress - but not the kind of mobilization that is required against something so great.”
One question dealt with the violence and uprisings in Middle Eastern countries: “What side are you [Israel] on, and do you feel threatened?”
Netanyahu: “We’re all on the same side – Israel, America, the democratic world, we all want to see the triumph of democracy. This includes the people of Iran, where it really all began a year and a half ago – not in Tunisia, as is widely thought. The Iranians stormed the streets because they had a fake election there. So we want democracy, but we’re all concerned, I suppose, that the democracy will be hijacked by radical or militant Islamic regimes. That’s what happened five years ago in Lebanon. People there wanted to see a liberal, open, tolerant Lebanon – but five years later, we don’t have that kind of democracy: we rather have a theocracy, with Iran and Hizbullah controlling Lebanon. We don’t want militant theocracies.”
Netanyahu reiterated several times that Israel “is the only country in the Middle East where Arabs and Muslims enjoy full civil rights.”
The Real Issue: PA Refusal
The top vote-getting question was this: “Do you believe that approving more homes in the settlements in response to the slaughter in Itamar will bring peace, and if so, how?”
Netanyahu: “Well, look, first of all, I think that a few houses is not the real issue. I think the real issue is –"
At this point, interviewer Weiss interrupted and said, “One second. Because the asker is not here, I’m going to ask you to answer his question, and not the question that you think is the main issue.”
Netanyahu: “No, no, I’m answering: He asks if the settlements will stop peace, and I’m saying that this is not the reason we don’t have peace! The reason we don’t have peace is because the Palestinian Authority, so far, refuses to recognize a Jewish State in any borders.
“They negotiated for 18 years when there was plenty of settlement construction, and they didn’t make it a pre-condition, so a few houses on less than 1% of 1% of the land is not a big thing. Yes, it’s disputed land – we have a historical connection to it. My name is Benjamin; the first Benjamin, the son of Jacob, walked these hills 4,000 years ago, so we have some connection with this land. The Palestinians claim it, so we have to sit down and discuss it, we’re prepared to negotiate; they’re not.”
Every Fair-Minded Person Knows
Netanyahu also explained that the new units are being built “in areas that every fair-minded person knows will remain in our hands - suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.” Reminded that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had just called for an end to settlement construction, Netanyahu said, “Any one in his right mind knows that this is part of the ancestral Jewish homeland; it’s in the Bible. We have to reach a compromise, everyone knows we can’t kick out 350,000 or 400,000 Jews from their homes; many of them, by the way, were kicked out [from their homes in Arab countries] before the founding of Israel by hostile Arab armies…”
Continuing to attack the PA obstinacy of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, Netanyahu said, “We had 50 years of conflict before there was a single Israeli in any of these settlements – what was that all about? For decades, when [Judea and Samaria] was in Arab hands, they attacked us again and again, even though there were no Jewish settlements [in Judea and Samaria].”
Jewish day school students in Ohio asked Netanyahu if he was concerned about a new Palestinian intifada – apparently a reference to the plans to march on Israel on May 15 - and what can be done to stop it. He did not address the question directly, but said only that he hopes the Palestinians will choose peace and not alliance with Hamas.
Are You Kidding?
Asked what the United States gains from its alliance with Israel, the prime minister said, “My answer would be: Are you kidding? The entire Middle East all the way up to India is shaking and rocking, and the only stable country in the whole place is Israel! … If we didn’t exist, America would have to invent us! If not for Israel, the entire Middle East would simply collapse.”
He concluded by listing what he felt were the two great missions facing our generation and the next one: “We must make sure Iran and other radical regimes do not get nuclear weapons, and we must find a substitute for oil.”