THE ROAD AHEAD
MAY 31, 1996
Charles Krause interviews Zalman Shoval, foreign policy advisor to the new Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, about what new directions can be expected in U.S.-Israel relations and the middle-east peace process.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Benjamin Netanyahu's day began at Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he was cheered by supporters and where he met with several of his top political advisers. Israel's next prime minister also issued a statement this morning saying that only statements issued by him or in his name should be considered binding on the next government. It was an apparent rebuke of hard-liners within the Likud coalition who've already begun calling on Netanyahu not to honor Israel's next commitment as part of the Middle East peace process, withdrawal of Israeli security forces from Hebron and other sections of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Later in the day, Netanyahu prayed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and also spoke with a man he narrowly defeated, Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who's promised an orderly transition. Netanyahu reportedly told Peres that he shared the outgoing prime minister's hopes for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Those conciliatory words today came after a hard-fought campaign during which Netanyahu sharply criticized the Middle East peace process initiated by Peres three years ago. Netanyahu accused Peres of sacrificing Israel's security. Zalman Shoval is one of Netanyahu's closest foreign policy advisers. Chairman of the Likud Party's Foreign Policy Committee and a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Shoval meets regularly with Netanyahu and has been mentioned as a leading candidate to become the new prime minister's chief foreign policy adviser. We interviewed Amb. Shoval last night in Tel Aviv.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How will Mr. Netanyahu's approach differ from that of Mr. Peres?
ZALMAN SHOVAL, Netanyahu Adviser: Well, first of all, I think he will try to reassess the progress which has been made to resolve the mistakes and some of the things which have to be rectified. That applies principally with regards to Syria, where the government hasn't made any headway, the previous government, in spite of their declarations that they would be willing to give back all of the Golan. I mean, for whatever reason, President Assad has not really bitten and he has not made any progress on, on the peace process with Israel, and I think the United States as well is beginning to have some second thoughts with regards to the real intentions of, of Syria.
CHARLES KRAUSE: During the campaign, Mr. Netanyahu said he wouldn't meet with Mr. Arafat. What's his position now?
ZALMAN SHOVAL: Well, his position is that whether we are enthusiastic about it or not, we will meet with the elected leadership of the Palestinians and that includes Mr. Arafat, whether we like it or not.
CHARLES KRAUSE: During the campaign as well, Mr. Netanyahu said that he would allow the settlements to continue. Will that be the position of his new government?
ZALMAN SHOVAL: We certainly do not consider Jews living in any place in the country as something which is illegitimate. I mean, we are not going to agree to some sort of apartheid in our country, but this does not mean necessarily that we will promote, uh, activities in the settlements which could be interpreted as being harmful to the peace process. Now, if you look at the map and if you look at the agreements which have already been signed by the previous government, Oslo I, Oslo II, uh, the country, the territories, uh, are actually divided and subdivided into three different zones. One has been transferred to the Palestinian Authority fully. They're not going to change that. Uh, one is under the effective control of Israel, where most of the settlements, by the way, are. They are definitely not going to change that, let's say, to our detriment. Quite on the contrary. The real negotiations, I think, are ultimately going to be about Zone B, where there are some settlements and many Arab villages and it's all intermixed and interwoven and so on and so forth. Most of the Jewish settlements in the territories, whether they were put there by Likud governments or by Labor governments, were put there, among other things, for strategic reasons. These strategic reasons are still very valid, but whether we shall go all out in a program of promoting these settlements, that is up to the government to decide once it is constituted.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But at the same time, the Likud Party platform, I believe, said that it favored new settlements.
ZALMAN SHOVAL: Well, it favored settlements. It favored the continuation of the settlement effort, but all within the framework of the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. Netanyahu has said that he would never agree to an independent Palestinian state. If that's the case, how is there ever going to be peace?
ZALMAN SHOVAL: Well, you know, we could go into whole lecture about world history, how many peoples and nations do not have an independent state, including in this part of the world, but I, I won't go--I won't engage in that. What we have said is that we want Palestinians to run their own affairs completely, in everything except security. I mean, security must remain as it was really conceived in Camp David and later on, the prerogative of the Israeli government. We don't want to be their overlords. We don't want to tell them how to do this and how to do that. This will really be, I would say, almost complete self-administration, self-government which few peoples in this part of the world have. I hope they will be content with that.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Do you think realistically they will?
ZALMAN SHOVAL: It all depends how you look at the proposition. They started with nothing. They never got anything, any under the--under any sort of Arab sovereignty--not when Egypt wasn't a territory, not when Jordan wasn't a territory. Israel proposed to them to give to them the possibility to run their own affairs. Are they going to risk that in order to achieve a maximum solution? I mean, that's what compromise is all about. It's give and take.
CHARLES KRAUSE: A last question about the territories. The Golan Heights, has Mr. Netanyahu ruled out returning the Golan Heights to Syria?
ZALMAN SHOVAL: Here we have had three years or four years of negotiations with the Syrians with the former Israeli government declaring a priority it would be willing to give back all of the Golan to the Syrians and still we have no peace treaty, so something must be very wrong with the whole concept, and I think that both the American government's Secretary of State Christopher and Israel will now reassess the, the Syrian position. Maybe the people in Damascus have other priorities. It's not just a unilateral sort of thing, we want peace. What do they want? We'll see. We want to make progress with the Syrians, but to get them back to the Sea of Galilee for some sort of, well, half-baked peace is not a good proposition.
CHARLES KRAUSE: In today's "Jerusalem Post," there was an editorial which accused Mr. Clinton of intolerable interference in Israel's internal affairs. Does Mr. Netanyahu resent the preelection statements which Mr. Clinton made?
ZALMAN SHOVAL: What counts is the view of the United States Government after the election. And the American State Department has made a very positive declaration today supporting any decision made by the public in Israel expressing its certitude that the new Netanyahu government would go ahead with the peace process and that's the spirit, I think, which should rule the relations between our two countries and the relationship is so close it goes beyond the partisan politics, it goes beyond the question, by the way, who governs in Washington, not just who governs in Jerusalem. Now I don't see a problem. I don't see a problem. You know, I was the ambassador during a very difficult period in the Israeli-American relationship, lack of chemistry and so on and so forth, but the bottom line was that we had a good relationship and we have very good results, and I'm not worried about that on that account at all.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
ZALMAN SHOVAL: Thank you.