In lieu of a holiday interview
Haaretz stages a mock interview with PM Netanyahu to discuss regional unrest, diplomatic impasses and U.S.-Israel ties.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for agreeing to answer our questions, despite your tendency to avoid interviews with the print media. We'll open, of course, with the diplomatic situation.
"Our political situation is excellent. The wave of revolutions in Arab countries and the expected collapse of those regimes still standing show the West that Israel is its only dependable ally in the Middle East."
The situation is excellent? The defense minister has warned of an approaching "diplomatic tsunami" in September and that Israel will be denounced and ostracized as an apartheid state - and you think everything is fine?
"We have disagreements with our friends in the West over the settlements in Judea and Samaria, but that is nothing new and it is not expected to change. What has changed is the strategic situation in the region. Iran is growing stronger and the moderate regimes have disappeared. We've seen the poor job the NATO forces are doing in Libya. They don't have enough strength or determination to fight even a legitimate target like Muammar Gadhafi. The only power protecting Western interests in the Middle East and preventing the region from falling to Iran is the Israel Defense Forces."
Next month you will address the U.S. Congress. What do you plan to say?
"Exactly what I have just told you: That America has no better partner and ally than Israel, and that the current situation in the Middle East proves this."
What partnership? Everybody knows that President Barack Obama can't stand you, and sees you as responsible for the diplomatic freeze - which makes his Nobel Peace Prize look like a joke.
"Politics is comprised of interests, not love. Churchill and Roosevelt couldn't stand each other, but together they defeated Hitler. Beyond Israel's strategic importance, Obama also has domestic considerations. He's running for reelection, and Israel enjoys great sympathy among the American public. Why would he irritate his voters and supporters?
"I don't know what Obama thinks of me deep down, but his practical policy supports us. He vetoed the condemnation of the settlements in the United Nations; he postponed the meeting of the Quartet that was to have moved a forced solution forward. Before the Passover seder, he called to wish me a happy holiday; we talked about our cooperation in the war against terror and the success of Iron Dome. I'm sure our relationship will only continue in this way."
Why will you speak in English on Capitol Hill and not in Hebrew?
"Because the public at home accepts my evaluation of the situation - that we do not now have a Palestinian partner for an agreement, and that with the region in flames, we must not take any chances. We have to keep the Palestinian Authority under our control in Judea and Samaria, continue with controlled settlement construction and deter Hamas in Gaza, while keeping open the option to attack Iran during the summer."
But even if you persuade Congress, and Obama offers his support, you'll still have a serious problem in Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel don't believe you, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is ignoring you.
"That's why I'm looking for a nice fat bone to throw to the Europeans so they won't support the declaration of a Palestinian state in September; a package of steps on the ground, maybe even a withdrawal from a few hilltops, just so they'll calm down."
Did I hear you correctly? Withdrawal? Would Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman let you withdraw - and not use the situation as an opportunity to bring you down and take over as the leader of the right wing?
"What right wing? Lieberman is scared of going to jail and he's trying to kowtow to the prosecution and the leftist media. He only just heard about the indictment against him, and he's already proposed formulating a final status agreement with Tzipi Livni, who supports withdrawal from almost every inch of the territories. He lashes out at me sometimes, but he doesn't really have anywhere else to go. He will support whatever decisions I make."
And finally, we must ask you about your trips with your wife Sara to fine hotels and castles, traveling abroad via private jets. Looking back, don't you think you overdid it a bit with the minibars, the spas and the laundry service?
Netanyahu unwraps a cigar and smiles. "Nu, I got out of that nicely, didn't I? The comptroller is investigating everyone's trips, [journalist] Raviv Drucker is busy defending himself against my libel suit, and now everybody's preoccupied with Lieberman's indictment."
Thank you very much and enjoy your Passover holiday.
"The same to you and your readers - and don't forget to grab a copy of the booklet 'Talking Facts,' which I wrote about the government's achievements."
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