Binyamin Netanyahu's Outlook

Interview by Lally Weymouth
Saturday, February 28, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu sat down last week with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth -- his first interview with foreign media since he was asked by President Shimon Peres to form Israel's next government. Excerpts:

Q. President Peres reportedly believes that you have matured since you served as prime minister in 1996.

A. One would hope. I think time has its uses. One of them is to reflect on your experiences and those of others. I have watched carefully the successes of governments and . . . [seek] to draw from those the elements of policy and leadership that will enable me to move Israel to a better future -- one of peace, security and prosperity.

I propose a [new] way, which I believe can achieve progress: to continue political talks and at the same time advance the economic development that has begun and also strengthen the Palestinian security forces.

I personally intend to take charge of a government committee that will regularly address the needs of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank.

But economic progress is not a substitute for political progress.

It's not a substitute but in Northern Ireland it was an unbelievable facilitator for the Good Friday agreement and the others that followed.

So you think you can promote economic progress and political progress at the same time? And show a real difference between the West Bank and Gaza?

This is what has happened. In the recent conflict, the West Bank did not boil over. The people there cared about the loss of life in Gaza, but they said, "We do not want to go that route. We have the beginnings of economic development in Jenin and we do not want an Islamic fundamentalist regime." They'd like a society with law and order.

Didn't President Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad control the West Bank?

There was that, too. But I don't think any amount of local control could have overcome an eruptive popular sentiment.

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