Q. Now that you've signed this agreement with the Palestinians, what next?
A. For me, the main test is the implementation, especially in Gaza.
Jericho is symbolic. In Gaza there are three-quarters of a million Palestinians,
poverty, economic and social problems. The real problem is to what
extent the P.L.O. will have the means to take over. They have never been
responsible for running a large community -- to maintain law and order,
to prevent terror, to run an economy, to build houses, to run schools,
to develop industries. The whole future depends on how it works in
Q. How do you think the Palestinians will manage self-rule?
A. I believe there is a good chance they will succeed. But without a tremendous amount of money from the outside, I don't see great hope that they will manage even in Gaza.
Q. How do you assess the security risks to Israel?
A. The Palestinians don't
present militarily a threat to the existence of Israel. There are
certain risks to the personal security of a limited number of Israelis.
Q. What if the personal-security risks to Israelis increase?
A. If terror will continue, it means the Palestinians cannot keep their commitments, so what is the meaning of the agreement?
Q. In that case the accord would be rolled back?
A. I didn't say so. You said it.
Q. How will your government respond if the right wing in Israel rebels against the accord?
A. I don't believe that there will be rebellion. Israel is a democracy. There might be expressions of opposition, but I believe that whatever the government and Knesset approve will be carried out.
Q. What about rebellion against the Palestinian authorities?
A. No doubt they'll have problems, mainly with Hamas. They will focus on
increased terror activities against Israelis. They believe that the
best way to foil the deal is to create antagonism to the agreement among
the Israelis. We had lately suicide terror acts. It creates problems.
Q. The Labor Party seems to be softening its opposition to a Palestinianstate.
A. No. I am against this. Ioppose the creationof an independent Palestinianstate between Israel and Jordan, and I don't believe that at this stage it would be a good idea if I brought out the options.
Q. How will the accord affect your negotiations with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan?
A. We expect the other partners in the peace negotiations to assist in the implementation of what has been agreed upon with the Palestinians. Idon't
see a problem signing a peace treaty with Jordan tomorrow if they limit
the issues to Jordanian-Israeli problems. It will facilitate
negotiations with Syria, but maybe on a longer timetable.
Q. When you shook Arafat's hand in Washington, you managed a smile. Or was it a grimace?
A. I can't remember. I stood there for about one hour. Do you expect me to remember every expression that I had?
Q. It must have been a memorable moment. How did you feel?
A. It was not easy.
Q. What made you decide finally to deal directly with the P.L.O.?
A. It took me and others a long time to overcome the mental and
practical block to this. For 30 years the P.L.O. carried out terror
activities, among them many cases I can call atrocities. But mutual recognition, in my humble opinion -- to the extent that they will keep their commitment, and I assume they will -- made the P.L.O. entirely different from what it was before.
Q. You are 71 years old, late in your political career. Did this motivate you to reach a solution now?
A. It is not a question of my age but a question of my purpose in being in politics. When I decided to run for Prime Minister, I believed
that the coincidence of events on the international scene, in the
Middle East, in Israel were ripe to achieve two goals: peace and
security, and changing the order of national priorities for the people
of Israel -- not to look at the territories as the main issue. At least
96% of Israeli Jews live on sovereign Israeli soil, within the green
lines, including united Jerusalem. The future of Israel depends much
more on what that 96% of Jews and about 1 million non-Jewish Israeli
citizens will achieve in their economy, social progress, cultural and
American born, my wife and I moved to Israel in 1970. We have lived at Shiloh together with our family since 1981. I was in the Betar youth movement in the US and UK. I have worked as a political aide to Members of Knesset and a Minister during 1981-1994, lectured at the Academy for National Studies 1977-1994, was director of Israel's Media Watch 1995-2000 and currently, I work at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. I was a guest media columnist on media affairs for The Jerusalem Post, op-ed contributor to various journals and for six years had a weekly media show on Arutz 7 radio. I serve as an unofficial spokesperson for the Jewish Communities in Judea & Samaria.