Transcript: PM Netanyahu on dangerous times in the Middle East - Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace


On July 22, 2012 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at length with Chris Wallace on Fox News about the Syrian Civil War and terrorism against Israeli citizens. Below is a transcript of his remarks. You can watch the full interview here.


Up next, we'll talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the civil war in Syria and how his country will respond to that terror attack on Israeli tourists.


WALLACE: With civil war raging in Syria and Israel charging Iran was behind the terror bombing that killed five tourists, we are joined now live from Jerusalem by the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."


WALLACE: Let's start with the civil war in Syria. How much control does President Assad have over his country at this moment?

NETANYAHU: Well, before I answer that, let me just offer my condolences on behalf of all the people of Israel to the bereaved families from this massacre in Denver and to the United -- entire American people. I think if any people on Earth that empathize with the Americans at this time, it's the Israelis because we've been through so much of this and you've always stood by us in our grief and we stand with you.

Now, you ask about, does Assad have control. Look, I think the regime will go. I think it's a question -- I don't know if its days or weeks or months, but I don't think it's sustainable and I think it will go, and less concerned with what replaces it. But I am more concerned with the seam line (ph) of what could happen to those stocks of chemical weapons and those deadly rockets and missiles when there is no government in Syria. That's my principal concern.

WALLACE: Well, let me follow up on that because your defense minister, Ehud Barak, said the other day that Israel is prepared to seize control of those weapons if there is chaos in Syria. How will you decide whether it is time for Israel to intervene, cross the border into Syria and seize those weapons?

NETANYAHU: We hope we don't have to and I didn't necessarily -- we didn't necessarily consider seizing those weapons. There are other possibilities.

But I think this is a real problem. Can you imagine Hezbollah, the people who are conducting with Iran all these terror attacks around the world -- can you imagine that they would have chemical weapons? It's is like al Qaeda having chemical weapons. It's something that is not acceptable to us and not acceptable to the United States and to any peaceable country in the world.

So, I think that this is -- something will have to act, to stop if the need arises. And the need might arise if there is a regime collapse, but not a regime change. That is you go into chaos and all of these sundry sites are left basically unguarded. Hezbollah can come and pick it or some other terrorist organizations or groups can come and pick at it. And that is something that is a great concern to me, as I'm sure it is to the United States.

WALLACE: Would you prefer that the United States and other Western powers act to secure these weapons? Do you feel that Israel is going to have to protect itself?

NETANYAHU: I think this is a common concern. We have to see if there is a common action to address that concern. But in any case, we certainly don't want to be exposed to chemical weapons falling in the hands of Hezbollah or other terror groups, because that's something we can't be indifferent to. It's a great threat. We'll have to consider our action.

But do I preclude, do I seek action? No. Do I preclude it? No.

WALLACE: Let's turn, Mr. Prime Minister, to the terrible terror bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists this week.

WALLACE: Have you been able to identify the bomber and have you been established clear links between that bomber and Hezbollah and Iran?

NETANYAHU: The answer is yes to all those questions. That is certainly to Hezbollah yes. We do know who it is. I mean, the whole world can see who it is.

We do know that it's Hezbollah. We would have known that, you have known, or been able to surmise that. But you know from Cyprus a week ago, Hezbollah operative was caught preparing exactly the same attack, exactly the same time. You know, going to an airplane to attack, collecting information for an impending attack on Israeli tourist who get off of the plane and are about to board a bus.

So, exactly the same modus operandi and was exposed in Cyprus. Fortunately there, the terrorist was caught and he admitted he worked in behalf of Hezbollah, Iran's long terror arm as you know. Now, that you could have surmised intelligently from the proximity of these two events and the identical nature of the planned attack and the executed attack.

Here, I'm not surmising. I am giving you something that I know as the prime minister of Israel, because I know, based on absolutely rock solid intelligence, this is Hezbollah and this is something that Iran knows about very, very well.

WALLACE: Do you know -- you say we all know who the bomber was. Yes, we have seen a picture of the bomber, but do you know specifically his identity?

NETANYAHU: Well, that's being pieced together right now. But we know with absolutely certainty, absolutely certainty and not a thread of doubt that this was a Hezbollah operation.


WALLACE: If I may ask -- if I may ask, sir, there is a question on the part of the Obama administration, can you give us any of that evidence, hard evidence?

NETANYAHU: We certainly give it to the appropriate agencies, friendly agencies in the world.

WALLACE: You have called this an Iranian terror attack and said that Israel will respond with force. Will the retaliation be linked to Israel's possible action to stop Iran's nuclear program? Or are those two separate matters, retaliation for the response, the terror attack, and any action that you might take to stop Iran's nuclear program?

NETANYAHU: You just asked me several questions, so let me put them in context and I'll each one as best as I can.

The first is the context of the unfolding terror attacks that have taken place over the last two years, led by Iran, sometimes using -- very often using Hezbollah, its terror proxy from Lebanon which it arms and funds and equips and so on. And instructs by the way.

So, what they have done over the last two years and increasingly in the last year, and in increasingly in the last few months, is to either carry out attacks -- most of which have been foiled -- or lay the ground, the foundations for future attacks in five continents and about 24 countries that we count, and the numbers might be bigger and that's a worldwide terror campaign, directed at us and often including others. For example, there was an Iranian attack, planned attack on the Saudi ambassador to the United States. They have taken away several senators with them. They don't particularly care. It's very brazen.

How could Iran be doing this and getting away with murder literally? It's because nobody names and shames them.

So, the reason I'm on this program, Mike, is to name and shame, because Iran is using terror the way anybody uses terror. You use it in stealth. You hide behind somebody else, in order not to be given responsibility for the heinous acts. And the same is done with Hezbollah.

Well, we now have five Iranians in custody, we have two Iranians -- two Hezbollah operatives, I believe, in custody. Some of them were found with explosives across the myriad of countries. It's them. We know it.

And it's time for all countries to point the finger at the country behind these attacks and the group that helps them and that's Iran, with Iran's proxy Hezbollah. That's the first thing you have to do. Expose those who stand behind the terror.

The second is the question that you asked is exact a price for terror, because terrorism continues as long as terrorism pays. So, you have to make sure terrorism it doesn't pay. Exposing it is the first step to make it not pay.

And the last thing you asked about their nuclear program. I think -- I think these acts, these attacks on a busload of tourists, including a pregnant mother, tells you what kind of people we are dealing with. Now, imagine these people who are capable of doing anything, imagine them possessing nuclear weapons. People who gun down innocent people, will send suicide bombers who could block the straits of Iran, who threaten to annihilate Israel, who murdered diplomats, who have taken over your embassy, you want these people to have atomic bombs? I think -- I think this is a reminder, this wave of terror attacks, that the world's most dangerous regime must not be allowed to have the world's most dangerous weapons.

WALLACE: But the question is this -- you've got the West, the United States and our allies working with this regime to try to make a deal to stop the nuclear program. If they stop the nuclear program, would you be satisfied with a deal that leaves this regime, that this leaves the mullahs in power? Is that good enough?

NETANYAHU: Yes, if you stop the program. But so far, all these talks and this round of talks in the last few months follows the previous round of talks that hasn't stopped the regime one bit, not an inch. I mean, since the previous rounds of talks.

They have enriched material for five nuclear bombs, five nuclear bombs, that is 70 percent of the enriched material that they need, which is low grade uranium enriched. They are continuing to enrich with one bomb. They're getting very close to the 20 percent. That's the higher enrichment necessary to get 90 percent of the way to the first bomb.

So, they are basically thumbing their nose at the international community, the leading powers that are called P5-plus-1. And they are basically saying, we can talk, we can delay and we can deceive and while we continue to race towards atomic weapons. So, that's effectively what's happening.

WALLACE: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney travels to Israel next week. You have known each other since 1976 when you both work for the Boston consulting group. He says you two almost speak in short hand because you have such a close relationship.

He has promised to do exactly the opposite of President Obama when it comes to security in the Middle East. Do you understand what that means?

NETANYAHU: Well, you are not going to draw me into your politics because I have enough of mine. We can exchange notes about my politics as you want to off camera, but I'm not going to get drawn into that.

I will say this, President Obama said Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, that he said that containment is not an option, and that Israel must have the capacity to defend itself, by itself against any threat. Well, these are obviously principles that I agree with and I think that the -- it's in our common interest to make sure that Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons.

But the jury is out on all of us, because the real thing -- the real question is not stated policy but actual results on the ground.

WALLACE: Briefly, what do you think of Mitt Romney? And what do you think of his trip to Israel?

NETANYAHU: I think that you're far too wise a journalist to think that I'm going to get into your field of American politics. But I will say that I will receive Mitt Romney with the same openness that I received another presidential candidate, then-Senator Barack Obama, when he came almost four years ago, almost the same time in the campaign, to Israel. We -- Israel has -- enjoys bipartisan support, both Democrats and Republicans, and we extend bipartisan hospitality to both Democrats and Republicans.

WALLACE: Well, you are a skilled interviewee on television. So, I'm going to tell you, you have two minutes for this final answer.

Israel has always lived in a tough neighborhood. There's no question about that. But at least it was stable. And you knew who Assad was and his father and Mubarak.

When you look at the changing landscape in the Middle East now, is the so-called Arab Spring good or bad for Israel?

NETANYAHU: Well, the question is what kind of season is this? Because in fact, what is happening is there have been a tide of -- mostly, not always -- there are some exceptions, for example in Libya, it's a welcome change, welcome exception. But in general, there's been this cascade of Islamic regimes that conduct the first election but you're not sure about the next election and what's in between, because democracy -- real democracy is something that is not particularly known here and not particularly well-observed.

If we had that, we would have nothing to fear because I think that that would be very good for peace. It would reflect the needs of all the people.

I can't tell you where the Middle East is going. Probably, the years of stability, the decades of stability that we had with Egypt, you can't guarantee that they'll continue. I appreciate the fact that the United States demands, or expects, as we do, that the peace treaty will be maintained.

Syria -- I know that Iran and Hezbollah, who were supporting Syria, including in the act of killing, really don't want to see a regime change, and who knows what will happen when that happens.

But I can tell you this, Mike. The Middle East is unstable because it doesn't have the political philosophy of the liberal democracy that would underpin the Arab Spring. So we may be in for a rougher ride, and we'll have to rough it out and be very strong, very resolute and very, very steady. And I think we'll be all that.

WALLACE: Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you so much for talking with us. You probably don't realize you mistakenly call would me Mike a couple of times in this interview. I want to say he did many interviews with you over the years, so...

NETANYAHU: Did I say that?

WALLACE: So have I. But let me just say, these days, it warms my heart. So...


... thank you very much. Always good to speak with you, sir.

NETANYAHU: It's the passing of generations and something that I've experienced, too, so forgive me. I hope I haven't offended you.

WALLACE: Oh, no, not at all. And as I said to you, I'm so sorry about the loss of your father as well.

Prime Minister, thank you. Please come back.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

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