Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on Good Morning America today to declare the US-Israeli relationship as “rock solid,” but the Israeli Prime Minister straightens out George Stephanopoulos and the American media on the details. When Stephanopoulos asks Netanyahu about the demands to stop building settlements in the disputed territories, Netanyahu points out that these areas of Jerusalem have never been controversial until now. Stephanopoulos pushes hard on these settlements and asks about an Obama-imposed peace plan, but Netanyahu’s not biting and wonders “why we’re arguing” about them at this late date.
Later, Netanyahu demands a tougher sanctions regime against Iran, while Stephanopoulos sounds skeptical about the Obama administration’s willingness to pursue them:
Yid with Lid has the “annotated” transcript:
NETANYAHU: Second, on the question of Jerusalem we’ve had– not my personal policy but the policy of all governments including Yitzhak Rabin’s, Golda Meir’s, Shimon Peres for the last 42 years. Now the Palestinian demand – and I don’t I’m not saying what the American position is. But the Palestinian demand is that we prevent Jews from building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. That is, you know, that is an unacceptable demand. If we made it in London or made it in New York or in Paris, people would cry foul.
The issue of Jerusalem would be discussed and will be discussed in the final settlement and negotiations. But to bring it forward, to say that these neighborhoods that are part and parcel of Jerusalem, they’re not isolated hilltops in the West Bank. They’re about four minutes’ drive from here. About 200,000 Israelis live there.
The (pronunciation unclear) neighborhood that was — in the news was populated by Yizhak Rabin. He wasn’t against peace. Neither were all the other prime ministers, including until a year ago, that were building in these neighborhoods, these Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. And the Palestinians were negotiating peace with them. This demand that they’ve now introduced, the Palestinians, to stop all construction, Jewish construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, is totally, totally a nonstarter. …
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. As you know, sir, a lot of those neighborhoods in East Jerusalem were empty lands as recently as 1993 when Yitzhak Rabin met Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. They are next to Palestinian neighborhoods. Not contiguous to other settlements, which is one of the reasons why President Obama has called for a freeze. It does seem to be your position right now is fairly clear on that. I would just say what would be your reaction then if the President decides, as he’s been advised by some, to put a United States peace plan on the table?
NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, on these neighborhoods which are part and parcel of Jerusalem and has not displaced anyone and no Palestinian, Palestinians live in their in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Jews live in Jerusalem neighborhoods.
And everybody, in any peace plan that I know, every single one– including in the Camp David summit of 2000 and including in other programs that have been put forward, in every single peace plan these neighborhoods will, Jewish neighborhoods will remain part of Jerusalem and part of Israel. And so the the real question is why are we arguing about something that’s not a real argument? I don’t think that it makes any sense.
Stephanopoulos then asks whether Netanyahu thinks there will be war in the area if peace talks remain stalled by the summer:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me follow up on that. President Obama has said it’s very clear that he believes that making progress in this peace and negotiations is in a vital U.S. national security interest. Is it in the vital national security interests of Israel? And how worried are you about the prospect of war that King Abdullah of Jordan has raised? He said if no progress is made by this summer war could break out?
NETANYAHU: I think no one wants war. And certainly Israel doesn’t want war. Israel wants peace. We yearn for peace. It’s a vital interest for us. You know, we know the pains of war. I — last night I just went to the cemetery to visit the grave of my brother who fell while rescuing the hostages at Entebbe.
I myself was wounded in a battle to rescue a hijacked Sabina airplane. I’ve lost friends and relatives in the wars of Israel. I don’t want my children or the Palestinian children or anyone’s children to suffer through a war. So we don’t have to be goaded into peace. We want peace. The people of Israel want peace, pray for peace, yearn for peace. And I want peace. That is in our interest.
And I think the important thing is that it’ll be a real peace. A peace that we can defend. In our neighborhood — it’s a very tough neighborhood, the only peace that lasts is a peace that you can defend. Peace with security. This is something that we can only negotiate with our Palestinian neighbors or with any one of our other neighbors who want peace. You can only make peace with those of your neighbors who want peace. We want peace. We are ready for peace. I’ve been calling for peace. And I hope that we’ll move on the path of peace as soon as we can.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’re not worried that war could break out this summer?
NETANYAHU: If it’s up to us, there won’t be any war. I’ve heard these attempts to destabilize the area and & it’s not a secret that Iran is goading this through Hezbollah they’re trying to create tensions, probably to deflect world attention from Iran’s advancement and its plan to develop nuclear weapons. It is trying to distract the agenda on false charges against Israel.
Netanyahu obviously wants to preserve the public perception of strength in the US-Israeli relationship, for both national-security and political purposes in Israel. But just as obviously, Barack Obama isn’t on the same page as Israel, nor does it appear he wants to correct that situation.