Euronews: Mr. Vilnai, you are in charge of the security of the Israeli people. Sixty three years have passed since the independence of Israel. There have been many wars, skirmishes, violence. There have been many attempts by Israeli governments to secure the security of the people and yet after all that, you have not gone far, you have not reached much and you are still talking of security and the lack of it. Where do you want to go from now?
Matan Vilnai : “We would like to live peacefully in the Middle East. This is our goal, this is our vision. You ask every Israeli in the street, in the market, whenever you want. Every Israeli would say: I am in favour of peace. The most important thing is to secure the security of Israel, to defend the state of Israel. My goal, my mission is to secure the home front because the Arab states understand that they cannot beat our army in the battlefield, so they prefer to hit targets in civilian areas.”
Euronews: How do you want to do that? With more wars, with more bombarding of people? You see have done that for 63 years …
Matan Vilnai: “you are speaking to a general who has fought in all the wars you can think about since before the ’67 war…”
Euronews: …And they have not produced much results…
Matan Vilnai: “No, but there is a big difference. Sixty three years ago, there was a big UN decision, a wonderful decision: a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state. They used to call it an Arab state in those days, and we voted for this. It was the partition plan.
“Arabs decided that by using force, they would push all the Israelis into water. We have peace with Jordanians, with the Egyptians. They are part of our neighbours that used to fight us. So, we achieved something. For the Palestinians, it is their problem, they think because they are using terror, they are going to finish the problem. Now after 64 years, they understand that they must have another way. Although there is a group of radical Muslims within Palestinian society, you can call them Hamas or Jihad, they are the same, that really believe that they are going to eliminate Israel by using force.”
Euronews: Let me interrupt because this is a very important point. Mahmoud Abbas has reached agreement with Hamas for the group to put down their arms and join a government of national unity. Would you accept that as the grounds for negotiations towards peace with Palestinians?
Matan Vilnai: “The new agreement between Hamas and AbuMazen is the best agreement in the city. Personally, AbuMazen is a real peace leader, not like Arafat (who) was a terror leader, but the problem is that 40% of his people are Hamas and Jihad. He tries to bridge the gap, so they are trying to have a national unity government, only talking…nothing has happened until now. If there will be a national government like this on their side, it means there will be no terror, which means that the other side of Hamas and Jihad must understand and agree for the existence of it. Til now, they are against it. You have to understand that from their point of view, the whole of the Middle East, is a ‘Waqf’. ‘Waqf’ is holy ground; holy Muslim ground. There is a wonderful example: there was a wonderful small democracy in the Middle East called Lebanon. What has happened to Lebanon? The old Lebanon disappeared; there is no Lebanon. There is something else although there is Lebanon, there is a president, a prime minister..a force of the Lebanese army, but there is no Lebanon. There is more Christian Lebanese in South America and in West Africa than in Lebanon, because they were not strong enough. The radical Muslims are sure that in time, they will do the same to Israel. No chance.”
Euronews: If and when the Palestinians form a national unity government, would you be prepared to resume negotiations with them?
Matan Vilnai: “On one condition: that the whole government, including the radical Muslims will recognize the existence of Israel.”
Euronews; There are other conditions: for example other problems, obstacles, like the settlements, that they consider, and the international community consider as illegal. Would you be prepared to negotiate the settlements?
Matan Vilnai: “We can negotiate everything. The basics is first of all, the understanding of the whole Palestinian society, the whole Palestinian political range, about the existence of Israel and about stopping terror. If there will be no terror and each one of the Palestinians will understand that the main thing is the existence of Israel – we can talk about everything.”
Euronews: Would you be prepared, if they recognise the Jewish state, or the existence of Israel, would you be prepared to go back to the borders of 1967 and dismantle all the settlements?
Matan Vilnai: “We have to discuss everything form the beginning. And the main issue is the security of Israel. Because if you will look at the map of the 67 borders, you understand that in many aspects you can defend Israel in this borders. But if it would be a real peace, we can discuss everything. The main obstacle is the radical Muslims, the main obstacle is using terror against Israel, – think that every two days one rocket will blow up all over this area – only one…
Euronews: It’s the chicken and egg question, you know, the Palestinians would say, what about Jenin? What about Sabrah? What about Shatila? What about Gaza being bombarded? So they would say the same thing to you: If you stop, we’ll stop.
Matan Vilnai: “In some places, we’ve made mistakes. And we inquire every incidence in Jenin, and in Sabrah and Shatila. But they never did it.”
Euronews: Let me move forward and take you to Iran: Not long ago, PM Nethanyahu threatened Iran with military action, what does it mean?
Matan Vilnai: “Iran is the enemy of the whole free world. If the whole free world will gather together and push them, by using diplomatic channels and economic obstacles, we can do it. We are using diplomatic channels and economic sanctions in order to understand what they can do and what they can’t do.”