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In 2001, while he believed he was speaking in private, Netanyahu revealed his contempt for the United States (“something that can easily be moved”) and took pride in having halted the peace process (“I actually stopped the Oslo Accord”).
The then-former Israeli prime minister was visiting a Jewish settlement in the West Bank to pay his condolences to the family of a man shot by a Palestinian. Three minutes into the conversation, Netanyahu requested that the video camera be switched off so that he could speak ‘freely’ but in mid-conversation, the camera resumed operation.
Dena Shunra, a Hebrew-English translator living and working in the United States, provided a translation of the conversation which was broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10. The following transcript published by Mondoweiss, runs from 3.15 to about minute 8.
Netanyahu: Are you starting to understand what the slogan “Judea and Samaria are right here”?
What does Arafat want? He wants one big settlement. It’s called “Tel Aviv”.
Woman: Yes, that’s what my daughter in law, who comes from England, that what she says: “Tel Aviv is a settlement too.”
Netanyahu: As far as they’re concerned, I think, our territorial waters are also their?
Netanyahu: The fact is that they want us in the sea, yes, but over there in the sea [points aside]. The Arabs are currently focusing a war of terror and they think it will break us. The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one hit, so many painful its that the price will be to heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing.
Woman: They’re not afraid, they’re making fun of us. They shoot into our settlement and make fun of us.
Netanyahu: Fear that everything is collapsing. That’s what leads them to… [makes a hand motion]
Woman: wait a moment, but then the world will say “how come you’re conquering again?”
Netanyahu: the world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.
Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?
Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right correction.
Child: They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…
Netanyahu: They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.
Child: On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…
Netanyahu: So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” look. That administration was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.
Child: But never mind that we gave them things, and we can’t take them back. Because they won’t give them back to us.
Netanyahu (holds his and to stop him from speaking): first of all, first of all Oslo is a system – you’re right. A, I don’t know what can be taken and can’t be taken.
Woman: he has political opinions, believe me.
Netanyahu: He’s right.
Woman: He said such things to Arik Sharon that I told him: that’s not – that’ not a child’s opinion. The Oslo Accords are a disaster.
Netanyahu: Yes. You know that and I knew that.
Woman: Fine, so I thought that…
Netanyahu: The people [nation] has to know.
Woman: Right. But I thought that the prime minister did know, and that he’d do everything so that, somehow, not to do critical things, like handing over Hebron, that…
Netanyahu: What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: “Will you act according to them?” and I answered: “yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.” “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?
Narrator: The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.
Netanyahu: No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.
Woman: Right [laughs]. The Beit She’an settlements. The Beit She’an Valley.
Netanyahu: How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter – to my and to Arafat, at the same time – which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: “I’m not signing.” Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to my and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.
Woman: And despite that, one of our own peope, excuse me, who knew it was a swindle, and that we were going to commit suicide with the Oslo Accord, gives them – for example – Hebron. I never understood that.
Netanyahu: Indeed, Hebron hurts. It hurts. It’s the thing that hurts. One of the famous rabbis, whom I very much respect, a rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, he said to me: “What would your father say?” I went to my father. Do you know a little about my father’s position?
Netanyahu: My father is…
Child: No. [laughs]
Woman: He’ll read in a little while.
Netanyahu: He’s not exactly a lily-white dove, as they say. So my father heard the question and said: “Tell the rabbi that your grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milikowski, was a smart Jew. Tell him it would be better to give two percent than to give a hundred percent. And that’s the choice here. You gave two percent and in that way you stopped the withdrawal. Instead of a hundred percent.” The trick is not to be there and break down. The trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.
Woman: May you say that as prime minister.
Netanyahu: In my estimate that will happen.