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interview ehud barak

[There were] negotiations to build up a coalition ... [in terms of] the peace process. The first thing you do is go and see President Mubarak in Egypt. Why?

I thought it was important that, before even I go to the United States to try to shape together with President Clinton the coverage of the agenda for the next year and half that he was still to be in power, ... [first] I have to have a dialogue with the immediate neighbors. I felt that it might avoid a feeling that we are somehow patronizing them or trying to conspire something with the Americans before we even talk to them. So I made a point of going to see both [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak and King Hussein [of Jordan], and Arafat, before I left for the United States.

The Egyptians told me they were very much impressed by what you said to them. Do you remember what you told President Mubarak?

... I told to him, "I am ready. I do understand that it won't be easy, but I am determined to leave no stone unturned in the way to peace. I understand that it won't work without some kind of compromise from both sides." ... I told him that there's no way to establish a state of equilibrium in the Middle East without the active backing of Egypt. I told him, "You were the first to break the circle of enmity, to make the decisions even when everyone else in the Arab world thought that President Sadat and he, Mubarak as his deputy, were going too far. But in retrospect it became clear that you did the right thing, both for the region and Egypt in a way." ...

[I told him that] I'm determined to try to stabilize the process with the Palestinians, to turn to the Syrians and try to solve it, if it's possible, if there is a partner on the other side; that I was deeply involved in what Rabin had done with the Syrians and I am ready to continue; and [that] we'll try to solve Lebanon, that I made public statement during my election campaign that within a year we are not going to be there anymore; and that I will make sure that we will be transparent enough so that the Syrians will not suspect that we are trying to trick them with the Palestinians. And the other way around, that the Palestinians will not be frightened by what we are doing with the Syrians.

Basically, it is in our interest to solve our conflict with all of them. But in the same time, I should tell you that I made it clear to [Mubarak] that it would need both their backing, the Egyptians' backing, and some of their support with the Arab world. ...

A former army chief of staff and one of Israel's most decorated officers, the Labor Party's Ehud Barak became Israel's prime minister in 1999 after soundly defeating incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. At the failed Camp David summit in July 2000, Barak came closer than any of his predecessors to making the tough compromises on sensitive "final status" issues. But his governing coalition collapsed with the Al Aqsa uprising of September 2000 and he announced his resignation in December 2000, just a year and a half after assuming office. Two months later, he was defeated by Likud Party leader and hard-liner Ariel Sharon. In this interview, Barak discusses his relationship with Arafat, the myths about the Camp David summit, and his own efforts to make peace with Palestinians and find a two-state solution.

You had your first meeting as prime minister with Yasser Arafat, and you told him that you wanted to go [as quickly] as possible to final-status talks. He didn't like it.

I don't think this was the case. I was aware all the time of the obstacles of the Wye agreement. ... The point that was complicated is that each side believed that it reached its objectives in regard of the third further redeployment [of Israeli troops] at Wye. Netanyahu thought that he replaced the third further redeployment by what he gave at Wye. He told the Americans that Israel will not convey more than 1 percent in the third further redeployment, and somehow it is up to Israel to decide what is the size of it. ... And the Americans approved it to Netanyahu.

But at the same time, the Americans told the Palestinians that, first of all, it's part of the previous agreement that Israel is responsible to shape the size of the third further redeployment. But at the same time, it's written in the same agreement ... that the ultimate result should be that ... the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [should be considered] as a single territorial unit, except for settlements, specified military locations, and issues related to the permanent agreement. The Palestinians interpreted [it] as being 90 percent or 92 percent or 89 percent of the territory, I don't know. A gap was here, and was supposed to create a major problem. ... It is a recipe for another eruption or collision. ...

We are in the seven or eight years of a dialogue that began in Madrid, then in Oslo, then in Peres' government, and even in Netanyahu's government. By running into major collisions where each side will argue that he is doing the right thing and letting the whole thing explode without even knowing whether there was a chance to have an agreement is something irresponsible. So I told him, "Let us suggest an alternative. First of all, we schedule the transfer of area that we have to do according to the Wye agreement. ... But then let us agree on a way, mutually agreed, that will give us an opportunity to try to see whether we can shape the contours of a solution in terms of a framework for a permanent solution." If we can shape such an agreement, such a framework agreement, ... it will give both sides the incentive to get over all the [barriers] ... in order to achieve this peace. ...

You were worried the whole time that there might be an explosion?

... The expectations are great on all sides, and if we won't try seriously to solve it, at a certain point, it will explode. Most of the world will say ... the Palestinians have the high kind of moral ground. ... Since the Six-Day War, the whole world, which is the real arena of battle between us and the Palestinians, believes that Israel is right in regard to procedure, namely problems and disputes should be solved around the negotiating table. But at the same time, the whole world, or most the world, believes that in terms of substance, the world is closest to a Palestinian version of how a solution should be found. ...

So I told them we were heading towards an iceberg. It was the utmost responsibility of a government to try to avoid it by looking open-eyed at the situation. ...

The iceberg was, for you, the Palestinian uprising?

No. The iceberg was not only the Palestinian uprising, the Palestinian terror. ... We will be torn between right and left, where some of the Israelis might believe that our government is responsible. We had this kind of situation three times: at beginning just before [the Yom] Kippur War in the War of Attrition, second time during Lebanon, and the third time, during the first intifada.

It's a tragic situation for us. ... Israel is much more effective when the Israelis are convinced that we are on the moral high ground, that we are acting not just out of might, but also out of right. The risk seems to me to be that we will be both colliding, erupting in violence, and having the lower hand in the world, and [especially] within ourselves.

You got the Sharm el-Sheik agreement. Everybody was there, King Abdullah [of Jordan], Mubarak. How did you feel?

I felt that we had made the first step in the right direction. And unlike kind of later version of the Palestinians [that] somehow we initiated unilateral steps, it's not true. We did it fully in coordination negotiations with them. [Israeli chief negotiator] Gilead Sher negotiated I believe with Saeb Erekat ... and we reached an agreement. Namely, we stretched the implementation of Wye over another two and a half months. ... I told Arafat more than once, "It will enable me ... to try to see whether there is an opportunity to go ahead with the Syrians." I told him very clearly, "You will not find yourself manipulated. You will know. We will be transparent. We'll not allow the Syrians to manipulate you through us and, we, of course, will not let you do the same, in regards to them." ...

Now the idea of a framework agreement was taken from Camp David I in 1978. Even then, you can recall, there was a two-week gathering at Camp David where only the breakthrough was achieved; it was a framework. It took a year afterward to write the details of an agreement and sign it. But the breakthrough became irreversible. That exactly was our line of thought.

[This totally contradicts] the revisionist version [of events] ... by some Arab and some low-level American players, that tried to argue that Barak tried to dictate to Arafat an all-or-nothing kind of [situation]. It's not true. The opposite is true. We shaped the concept of a framework agreement deliberately, in order to avoid the obstacles of all-or-nothing [situations].

So I felt very good. We were on the right way. ... We had to make one concession along the way, namely to make it clear ... that if we cannot achieve a framework agreement, the issue of the third further redeployment was still there.

You had a problem in naming your negotiators. ... Why didn't you take people who were the first negotiators at Oslo -- Uri Savir [for instance]?

I don't think that at this level it's important who exactly will be there. My experience [is] that the most important element is discreetness and a direct line to the prime minister, who basically has to run it. It's not about experience with the Palestinians. There's no secret kind of logic, Palestinian logic. They are intelligent. They are capable people. They are exactly like you and me, and they represent the Palestinian case. They don't represent the Israeli case. So it's not about who will do it.

I am fully confident that Gilead Sher is capable as any other name that you mention, or that Oded Eran could do. But it took some time. I know that the Palestinians used it, even at the time, as a kind of excuse to build a kind of complaint. At first, I ignored it. I didn't believe that someone serious could use this kind of argument when we are trying to solve the most profound issues on the national agendas of both Palestinians and Israelis. ... It was total nonsense. The fact that there wasn't a chief negotiator could not block any kind of direct contact between my office and Chairman Arafat's office. ...

I made it very clear to Arafat in many of our meetings, my judgment is that the real challenge is not just for either side to tackle the other side's positions, but [to deal] with your own backyard, your own domestic constituency. And here the preparation should begin first. It's especially true for the Palestinians.

There is major asymmetry. In Israel, there is a peace camp that can convene 200,000 people in central square of this city, on very short notice, and there is a major movement among academics, politicians, thinkers, and public leaders for peace, even at a painful price. On the Palestinian side, you can find them individually here and there, but there is no public movement. There is a real need to begin preparation on the ground.

Let's take a pause in talking about the Palestinians and talk about the Syrians. Some of your negotiators told me you were very close to an agreement. ...

... We were very close. It was very clear to me that it could be reached. ... We will leave no stone unturned on the way to peace, and if there is a partner, there will be a peace agreement. But at the same time, ... it takes two to tango. You cannot impose peace. One party can impose war on the other side, but no party can impose peace on the other side. If there will be no partner, at least we will know the reality, however painful or frustrating, and we will stand united and could expect honest people. ... This was the strategy. It was said loud and clear from then.

Now, what really happened after Shepherdstown was that somehow [Syrian then-President Hafez] Assad -- and I now tell you my judgment -- he found himself in declining health. He was aware of it. He was totally consumed by the need to ensure a succession process that will lead to power taken by his son Bashar, and it just consumed him. At a certain point, he kind of shaped an approach that said, "If Israel is ready to capitulate to all my basic demands -- even before the negotiations open, as a precondition for opening the negotiations -- I will be ready to consider it." But this is beyond what we can afford. ...

There is a thin line between peace of the brave and peace of the hostage, ... between compromise -- even calculated risk -- and irresponsibility and capitulation. The thin line could be shaped as long as both sides that are in the dispute realize that in order to bridge the gap, they have to build the bridge from both sides. It should not necessarily end at the middle. According to circumstances and the nature of the problem, it could end very close to this or the other side's position. But the real pre-condition for stability is that both sides will know that they get an agreement and was ready to give something, to contribute something. If either side ends up with the feeling that he got everything that he wanted without even being in a need to negotiate, that's exactly what might create both an undefendable situation, both politically and sometimes security-wise, and at the same time, an inevitably non-stable kind of agreement.

When it became clear to me that what the Syrians are trying to achieve is an Israeli political commitment to Syria -- an irreversible one -- about giving territory beyond even the international border, beyond the line of June 4 or beyond anything that Sadat or King Hussein were ready to take -- not as a result of negotiation, but as a pre-condition to their readiness to open it -- it defines a situation that is irresponsible. It crosses the lines of a calculated risk. Now it's not a matter of quantity; it's a matter of degree. ...

The issues are already clear for years. There is no change in the issues. I spent two days negotiating with General [Hikmat] Shehabi, the former Syrian chief of staff ... when I was myself chief of staff during Rabin times. ... The issues were fully clear. ... It's about the readiness on the very top level to make the kind of decisions that could lead to breakthrough, even if the writing of a detailed agreement might take a year or so afterwards.

You have the withdrawal from south Lebanon. Before the military announced it, you had messages from the Palestinians [that said]: This a bad message for our population. How did you answer that?

It's a tragic situation for us. Israel is much more effective when the Israelis are convinced that we are ... acting not just out of might, but also out of right.I never thought that this is a bad message. ... It was not a surprise. I made it clear, a year and a half before implementation, that if I am elected, I am going to put an end to this tragedy within one year from the establishment of my government. ... I preferred to do it in an agreement. ... But I made it very clear that we will not be there. ...

For the Palestinians, it helped them to justify their own behavior -- their lack of readiness and eagerness in implementation, the lack of determination to put an end to terror, the lack of determination to put an end to incitement, the lack of determination to arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They needed this excuse, and they used it.

You had two channels of negotiation with the Palestinians: Oded Eran [an Israeli negotiator] and [Palestinian Yasser Abed] Rabbo, and the Stockholm channel. ... At which moment did you decide there was no other way than a summit?

For me, basically, it was clear from the very beginning that there will be a need for a summit. The need becomes clear only when you close your eyes and try to imagine what would happen if, as I predicted, we are heading towards a collision. ... It will happen just after Mr. Clinton ended his term of presidency, and we would look at each other's eyes and ask ourselves how the hell we could not manage -- after seven years of the most friendly president ever for Israel, that happened to be respected by the Palestinians and the Arab world -- without even trying to bring it to a clear kind of decisive moment where we will know if there is a partner. ...

The Israeli people cannot afford being dragged into another round of violence after a generation and a half of control ... over the Palestinians, and half a generation after the first intifada, after eight years of an effort ending the term of a president that invested so much capital in it, without even knowing whether it was possible or not.

So I thought at the very beginning that there will be the need for a summit. Of course if the violence would erupt even before then, it might cancel it. But it was clear to me that we have to have it, and it's better to have it when the president is still strong and authoritative. ...

Before Camp David, Bill Clinton and [his national security adviser] Sandy Berger said they were upset that there were no Israeli confidence-building measures. For example. the three villages near Jerusalem. You had it voted in the Knesset and it didn't happen. ... Sandy Berger [said] that the president himself promised to Arafat that he would get the three villages.

[Ed. Note: In May 2000, the Knesset voted to transfer three villages near Jerusalem to Palestinian control; Barak halted the handover when unrelated riots broke out.]

Look, our gesture of promising them that we would contemplate conveying the three villages was on a lesser level than the contract itself. It was a unilateral, so to speak, confidence-building measure that we were ready to contemplate on a kind of lower level than the agreement itself. ...

It was not easy for us. You know how disputable these villages are, they're basically on the very border of Jerusalem. At the very day that I came to the Knesset -- in a Knesset where I don't have a majority to the peace process -- I came there to convince the Knesset to permit me to do this. It ended up that for the first time, Palestinian policemen and Palestinian security units used the rifles that were given by Peres and Rabin as a part of the Oslo agreement to shoot at Israeli soldiers and security people. ...

I told Clinton, "Arafat just stabbed the Israeli peace camp in the back." This was the focal point of the dispute for many years. ... The right wing in Israel always argued "Are you crazy? Are you giving these terrorists guns? Rifles? They will use it against us at a very crucial moment." And we [the left] said, "Oh no, how can you ask them to dominate their own streets? How can you ask them to arrest Hamas? How can you ask them to put an end to terror just with clubs? They need these weapons."

Arafat was fully aware of it. ... He never used [the weapons] to dismantle Islamic Jihad and Hamas. ... He broke the very defining element of the signed agreement for which he already got a Nobel Peace Prize. This is something that I told the president: Without becoming convinced that he will not repeat it, he will not get these villages.

At Camp David, you made the decision that you would not have one-on-one negotiations with Arafat. Why?

It's quite clear. You know, first of all, I [did] not make the decision. I spent with him some time in social meetings; I met him a lot. ... The only real logic for such a meeting is that lower-level officials and players are meeting, they are shaping it under our guidance. ... I thought that first of all, it's natural, it's the only reasonable way. If I would have to sit with Arafat and negotiate, it would end with nothing.

Now it is not that I did not meet Arafat. I spent more hours with Arafat than I believe any Israeli former prime minister, maybe except for Peres. But as a prime minister, Peres didn't have so many hours with him. ... I know him [Arafat]. It's clear to me that by trying to solve it between ourselves, we reduced the chance that it would be solved. ...

At Camp David you were the first prime minister of the state of Israel who broke the taboo of Jerusalem, the united city. You proposed autonomy, functional autonomy, and you even were ready to make a major concession of the Temple Mount. How did you feel at that moment when you went that far?

First of all, I felt that it's our responsibility to make sure that if an agreement is possible, we'll try to achieve it without breaking the vital security interest of Israel, the main issue that tends to do with its identity, namely the right of return. And we could not agree. And I told it to Clinton and Arafat all along ... that I would not sign any document that [concedes] the sovereignty of the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.

I told Clinton -- and Arafat, in a kind of slightly more delicate version -- that the fact that we are ready to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state; the fact that we understand their affiliations or feelings about certain places and certain symbols; ... the fact that we were ready to listen to the needs of the Palestinians doesn't mean that we were about to wipe 2,000 years of affiliation of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, to its holiest place, or to erase the tears, the sweat, the blood, the toil of four generations of Israelis. We were ready to listen, to understand, to try to find a solution that will define the situation around and in Jerusalem in a way that will reflect the real needs of both sides. But we are not going to do it at any price or losing sight of our very vital identity and interests. ...

We were ready to take ideas that were raised by President Clinton as a basis for negotiations. We said we have our reservations. ... The problem with Arafat was that he never was ready to take President Clinton's ideas as a basis for negotiations. It was telling, frustrating, but we entered it hoping for the best, but ready to face whatever kind of consequences.

Now why I thought that it's important that we will not make suggestions -- and that even the Americans will not leave them with a document -- ... is that even before Camp David, it was not clear to us where Arafat is headed. We were not fully sure that we are going to have a peace. So I told Clinton, "Look, if I don't know what Arafat has in mind, whether everything we've just seen until now is just tactics and at the moment of truth, he will be ready to make a tough decisions. ... I am not sure."

There are two possibilities. One is that this is the case. ... The other is that he is just trying to extract from me and from the American president a documented position that he can both reject and use. And we should not allow him to get away on this tactic. ... So we have to make sure that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, to make sure that if the summit does not reach a framework agreement, it's null and void whatever was mentioned there. It doesn't mean that it erased from the collective memory of the world, but diplomatically it's null and void. You cannot use it anymore. ... I will make a point of not letting him have any document. ...

Now there is a reason for it. It has to do with once again with the same asymmetry: Namely, no Israel negotiator had ever had in his hand a Palestinian document, or even a record of suggestions that they made that can be interpreted as moving forward in real terms on any of the substantial issues. And that made us have to be very cautious in our steps.

The peace process didn't end with Camp David. ... You continued negotiating. ... Even you had at the end of September [2000] a very good meeting with Arafat in your own home. ... You had a 40-minute discussion with him. What did you [talk] about?

We tried to discuss the responsibilities, I tried to raise the responsibilities that we have upon ourselves before we are going beyond the verge of the abyss into a full-scale violence. It will not [only inhibit] ... such talks on my veranda, but also will block maybe for quite long period the opportunity for continued peace negotiations. And it might end up with a lot of graves on both sides. ... I told him, "This is a time for decisions. This is a time for seriousness." I was much less optimistic after Camp David. I didn't want to judge the situation in irreversible terms since I suspected that it would not be accepted by some of my colleagues as well as some of the world leaders. ...

[What did Arafat say to you?]

... Basically Arafat always, in such meetings, he looks very serious. He listens very carefully; he writes down; he tries to talk as little as possible. Basically, when he says something, he basically says something positive, not positive in a kind of determined active way. But I call it positive passivity. Namely, he doesn't announce or share with you his decisions to make something positive, but he says something that will carry with it certain warm response without making any change or any committing position. ...

You called Bill Clinton from your home with Arafat. ...

We tried. We were at a major, last minute effort and I saw that it makes sense to be as positive as possible both in content and in statements. But I was less optimistic at the time. ... I didn't see Arafat at any moment really focused on taking action to do something about it. But I thought that in spite of my own doubts, it makes a point to try. ... [It will] enable it so that when we reach the end of this road, we will know. If we will have to say that we ultimately decided that Arafat is not a partner, we should be able to convince our own people, we should be able to convince honest people in the world.

Two days later, we have the visit of Ariel Sharon on the Temple Mount. ... The police lost control the next day, on the Friday. ... This was the iceberg?

No, this was the excuse of Arafat. He decided to launch a violent attack, to turn back to violence after Camp David. He prepared it for certain time. We have evidence of intelligence we shared with some of the leading intelligence communities in the world. ... But this event on the Temple Mount, especially the second day, fell into his hands as a ripe kind of fruit, becoming a very kind of natural excuse for him. Namely, he somehow felt that he cannot have a better excuse.

But the reality is that the visit itself was coordinated to an extent by our people even with the Palestinian Authority not just with the Waqf [the Islamic religious trust that administers the Temple Mount]. And there was an agreement, a negotiation. They [went] back and forth and decided at the end that Sharon will not enter into the mosque and he agreed to just visit the square. And basically, as you mentioned, almost nothing happened in the first day, except for some Israeli members of Knesset, of Arab origin, shouting at Sharon's entourage. ...

In fact, it's not an intifada; it's a terror campaign. The first intifada, I was then commander of Central Command, commanding the West Bank basically. And I know to what extent the first intifada was a popular uprising. This is not a popular uprising. It's a deliberate terror campaign in order to intimidate Israel and to change the image of the conflict after his diplomatic defeat at Camp David. At Camp David, at the end of it, Clinton went very publicly against him. The reason was not the fact that we did not reach an agreement. Clinton is basically, he's an honest president. ... If Arafat would have been ready to negotiate, he would not have blamed him even if we would not reach an agreement. What really infuriated Clinton is the fact that he realized that Arafat deliberately avoided even contemplating taking his ideas as a basis for negotiations. And that breaks the whole kind of revisionist stories about Camp David. ...

There was a blame that Barak tried to drag a kicking-and-yelling Arafat and impose upon him a summit. It's ridiculous, for more than one reason. First of all, how can you drag ... a Nobel Peace Prize laureate into a peace summit to try to solve the conflict? ... And there was also the argument that Barak was not warm enough, like Arafat is a kind of kid with disturbances that needs special treatment by a psychologist. He's the leader of a nation. ... Do you think that de Gaulle ever talked to [Ahmed] Ben Bella or that Nixon ever talked to Ho Chi Minh or General Giap, or for that matter that Begin ever talked to Sadat at Camp David before there was a breakthrough? It's ridiculous; it doesn't matter. ...

Clinton called me and told me, "What the hell are all these kind of op-eds in The New York Times, the special reports, the revisionist history of Camp David?" Assume that we both [had a] press conference and were telling the whole world, "We made 50 mistakes, or maybe 50 mistakes each of us." How can it change the real nature of what happened at Camp David? For the first time in the history of the conflict, an American president put on the table an offer well within the international understanding of how [the conflict] should be solved. The Israelis -- with all pains and problems back at home, political and other -- were ready to take it as a basis for negotiations; Arafat refused to take it as a basis for negotiations, and turned deliberately into fire. That's the story. ...

What did you expect from the Taba negotiations? Did you expect an agreement? A declaration?

There was no way to make an agreement. It was the height of the election campaign. ... I saw it as a last kind of opportunity to see whether Arafat's mind is changed somehow. So it was clear to me that there was no sense in trying to negotiate; I did not even allow our people to establish a delegation that sits together with a Palestinian delegation.

But I saw that there is no other better use for this time -- before I [stand for reelection] and before President Clinton leaves office forever -- than to give Arafat a last chance to signal a change in his mind. And at the same time, if this is not the case, [it was a chance] to let other leaders of the Israeli left -- namely people like Yossi Sarid or Yossi Beilin -- who were not personally involved in the frontline of these negotiations to get a first-hand impression of ... the Palestinians. ... [If there isn't a breakthrough, then at least] we will stand united and I suggest the unilateral separation from the Palestinians as our next kind of strategy for the future.

Everyone says there was progress at Taba.

No, it's not true. The progress ... that I was waiting for was never there, namely a signal that I would understand that Arafat changed his mind, that unlike what happened at Camp David, he now realizes that there is no way to get the right of return into Israel. ... And [he would have to show some] sensitivity to the affiliation and needs of Israel in Jerusalem, especially in the Temple Mount. Since I didn't realize any of this during this one-on-one, the rest of it is not important.

Taba is much, much less important than Camp David and much, much less important than some of the players try to make it in retrospect for this or that purpose.

Why did you resign? If you wouldn't have resigned the premiership, you could have maybe had elections in April or May, this would have given you another two or three months. ...

It was just technical. ... It was clear that there is no more political latitude for my government, that a majority of the players, the political parties, is determined to lead to an election. ... Politically, it saved my party the need to stand once again in election since when I resigned, it was just the election for premiership and Labor would still remain the biggest party in Knesset.

And I had certain worry that the effect [of] Arafat deliberately [turning] to terror reduced the sentiment for the peace process in an extent that would backfire, not just at Labor but at all of peace camp in the case of a new general election. So I didn't think that the fact that I decided to go that far and to try to make this historic experiment about the nature of Arafat, the nature of the Palestinian approach to the peace process, that this should risk the stakes of the Labor, the political left camp, in the Knesset.

When you were in the army, you went on many very dangerous missions. This was the most politically dangerous mission you ever made?

... It was of course the most risky one since I'd never been in politics before then. I was very new to politics, I came a few months before Rabin was assassinated. ... I became a prime minister within four-and-a-half years, the shortest kind of career ever in Israeli political history. And I found the political system in Israel one that blocks you from doing the right things in the long term. ... In Israel, the system that enables the Knesset to try to block, based on a combination of interest groups, a major move forward makes prime minister either passive, and trying basically to survive, or proactive, ... thinking that there is no meaning becoming prime minister of Israel, walking on the rope, if you are not really trying to change reality. And I tried to change reality.

You are bitter?

No, never, since I did it fully aware of what I'm doing, fully aware of the risks. ... And when I was asked about the risks, ... I told them, "But we are doing the right thing for the real interest of the people of Israel. We are not that important to compare us to the real interests of Israel." When I compared the tragic consequences of not trying to solve the problem, ... I thought that it was more important to try to solve it than to survive per se. ... I never look backward with any drop of bitterness. Some frustration, but not bitterness. ...

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