Just one day before suffering a massive stroke, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Japanese economic newspaper Nikkei last Tuesday, “If the Palestinians combat terror, I believe there is a chance to move forward in accordance with the Road Map initiative, which, with God’s help, will bring peace.”
Japanese reporters conducted the interview ahead of the planned visit by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Israel, which was eventually cancelled due to Sharon’s illness.
The reporters said that while Sharon seemed to be in high spirits during the interview, they were able to notice that he was weary and detect a slight weakness in his voice.
When asked how he felt prior to his hospitalization (for the angioplasty procedure that was scheduled for last Thursday but never took place due to the stroke), Sharon said, “I feel fine; I’ll remain hospitalized for a day, or several hours.”
During the interview Sharon outlined his diplomatic doctrine, saying, “I am a Jew, and that is the most important thing for me. Therefore when it comes to security Israel will not make any compromises. It is our role to decide what is needed for the security of this nation. I have said to heads of states that the Palestinians have to take steps.
“They should stop terror completely, dismantle terrorist organizations, collect weapons and should implement reforms,” he added.
Sharon promised to visit Japan after the elections as “Israel’s prime minister,” and even expressed his intent to establish centers for Jewish culture studies in Japanese universities.
Is it possible for the Palestinians to share the capital?
Our position is that Jerusalem is not negotiable. We are not going to negotiate on Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be forever a united and undivided capital of Israel.
Do you think it will go down in history that the Palestinians missed an opportunity at Camp David when it declined former Israeli PM Ehud Barak's proposal to divide Jerusalem?
No, I don't think that practically they could have done that. I don't think the Jewish people are ready to divide Jerusalem and I believe the Palestinians made many mistakes but mainly as a result of terror and murder and bloodshed. I took a hard and painful step in the disengagement but after we left Gaza, terror did not stop. I saw that after disengagement terror didn't stop.
Ten Qassams missiles were fired from Gaza into Israel yesterday (January 2). How will Israel respond?
The first responsibility is on the PA to stop terror. The problem is they are not taking any steps whatsoever. The road map says very clearly that to move forward there should be full cessation of terror hostilities and incitement.
I was ready to make painful compromises for a durable real peace. I made painful compromises. But I made it very clear that when it comes to security issues, Israel will not make any compromises, not now, not in the future.
You said terrorism did not stop even after Israel's disengagement from Gaza. Do you have any vision of a unilateral disengagement plan for the West Bank similar to what you have in the Gaza Strip?
No, no, the answer is no. In Samaria and Judea (West Bank) there is a plan that is the Road Map. We are not going to face now also not in the future any unilateral disengagement.
What happens if Hamas wins the Palestinian elections this month?
Hamas is a terror organization with a covenant that speaks about the elimination of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. They are not partners for negotiations. And if, for instance, Hamas' weapons would have been collected and if (portions of) Hamas' covenant would have been banned, then, it is a different situation. I don't see any steps whatsoever by Mahmoud Abbas to try and reach such a position. As to the Hamas terrorists, we will deal with them the way we deal with them now.
What do you think of the Iranian nuclear program?
The elected Iranian president is showing a willingness to clash with the West and take upon himself many risks than those of his predecessors. He continues to develop and advance his nuclear program while in violation of the Paris Agreement, and continues with on-going efforts to enrich uranium. His constant remarks and recent statements with regard to Israel as well as his actions point out the dangers that Israel faces from such a radical Iranian regime determined to pursue his goal of obtaining nuclear capability.
As far as Israel is concerned, the question is not whether or not Iran is successful in reaching its nuclear goals - this could still take a few years - but when they will have technological ability to acquire a nuclear bomb.
Our assessment is that they will be able to overcome this technical shortcoming within one year. In any event time is not working in favor to those who are concerned about Iran.
In 1981, then Israeli PM Menachem Begin launched air strikes against Iraq in order to prevent Iraqi nuclear development. Facing an imminent nuclear threat from Iran, will you act like Mr. Begin did in 1981 if we reach the critical point and the diplomatic solution is not working?
I was then a member of that cabinet when the decision was taken and I had an important role in making this decision then in 1981. First I believe there were different circumstances then. I believe we are still in the phase of diplomatic efforts, Iran should be brought to the Security Council and I believe we are in a phase where sanctions can be taken and we can still stop it.
How do you see the situation in Syria?
First you have to know that Syria together with Iran is backing the Hizbullah terrorist organization. Syria hosts the terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP, there are about maybe 10 or 11 terrorist Palestinian organizations - the most radical of them are headquartered and deployed in Damascus. Terrorists are trained in Syria and weapons come from Iran and Syria and I believe that's something that should be stopped.
Do you think the Golan Heights will stay under Israeli sovereignty forever?
I don't see any situation where Israel will not be sitting on the Golan Heights. For 19 years the northern part of Israel was under heavy war of attrition. We are not going to return to this situation, although Israel will never attack Syria.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been passionate about inviting you to Japan. Mr. Koizumi is expected to visit the Middle East including Israel. What do you expect from the bilateral meeting with him?
Israel views great importance and significance in expanding relations between the two countries, and it's important that these ties develop. We also see great importance in Japan's role in the Middle East. Japan can certainly help by assisting the Palestinian Authority (PA) in their attempts to undertake reform. Since the Oslo accords Japan has already contributed USD 800 million to the PA. I do intend to fulfill my commitment and visit Japan after the elections, when I will visit Japan as Israel's Prime Minister.
Interview republished by permission of Nikkeinet