Lally Weymouth interviews Benjamin Netanyahu

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lally Weymouth of Newsweek and The Post interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Q: What did you think of the Goldstone report?

A: I thought there were limits to hypocrisy but I was obviously wrong. The so-called human rights commission accuses Israel that legitimately defended itself against Hamas of war crimes. Mind you, Hamas didn't commit just one type of war crime. It committed four. First, they called for the destruction of Israel, which under the U.N. Charter is considered a war crime -- incitement to genocide; secondly, they fired deliberately on civilians; third, they hid behind civilians; and fourth, they've been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years.

And who gets accused of criminal behavior at the end of the day? Israel that sent thousands of text messages and made tens of thousands of cellular phone calls to Palestinian civilians [to warn them to evacuate]. This inversion of justice is patently absurd.

People here appear to feel the Goldstone report is very unfair, but some have called for an internal inquiry. What is your position?

We've had 26 allegations investigated. Not because of the U.N. decision but because this is our procedure. We've investigated people for wrong behavior. We've put people on trial in the past because we're a functioning democracy. We'll do it in this case too. But what the Goldstone report actually accuses Israel of is deliberately targeting civilians, which is patently false.

So you're not in favor of an independent inquiry?

We're looking into that not because of the Goldstone report but because of our own internal needs.

The best way to defuse this issue is to speak the truth because Israel was defending itself with just means against an unjust attack. Serious countries have to think about adapting the laws of war in the age of terrorism and guerrilla warfare. If the terrorists believe they have a license to kill by choosing to kill from behind civilian lines, that's what they'll do again and again. What exactly is Israel supposed to do?

That's why you think the report is so dangerous?

This gives terrorist regimes a new weapon against democracies and even against non-democracies -- it allows them to attack entire cities with weapons of mass terror and get away with it simply because they fire the rockets from populated areas. In the case of Hamas, they deliberately targeted civilians while hiding behind civilians. So our attempted surgical strikes would be attacked as [acts of] war criminals. There's a world of difference between the incidental civilian casualties that are tragic in any war and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

Now [comes] the new tactic, which is the deliberate targeting of civilians while using civilians as a human shield. A double war crime. [But] the U.N. commission in Geneva added insult to injury by condemning Israel. It's a complete inversion of the facts, which is more[or] less what this report does. It just stands truth and justice on its head. So the simplest way to deal with this [report] is to tell the truth. The United States did that with great clarity.

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