Saturday, July 28, 2012

one of the murderers of the Munich Massacre, during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
Photo: AP

Two years ago, during the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), observed a moment of silence – appropriately enough – in memory of the Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died tragically in a training accident. Ten years ago, in 2002, the IOC memorialized the victims of 9/11, though that terrorist atrocity neither occurred during the Olympic games nor had any connection to them. The duty of remembrance – le devoir de memoir – was justification enough.
The refusal of the IOC, therefore, to observe a moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre – the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes for no other reason than that they were Israelis and Jews – is as offensive as it is incomprehensible.
As Ankie Spitzer, wife of slain Israeli athlete Andre Spitzer put it, “The IOC says it’s not in the protocol of the Opening Ceremony to have a commemoration. Well, my husband coming home in a coffin was not in the protocol either. This was the blackest page in Olympic history. These eleven athletes were part of the Olympic family, they were not accidental tourists – they should be remembered as part of the Olympic framework”.
Indeed, the explanation proffered by IOC President Jacques Rogge that such memorial would be “inappropriate” is shameful.
This steadfast reluctance not only ignores – but mocks – the calls for a moment of silence by Government leaders, including US President Barack Obama, Australian PM Julia Gillard, and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird; by various Parliaments including resolutions by the US Congress as well as the Canadian, Australian, German and Italian Parliaments; and the sustained international public campaign and anguished civil societies appeals.
As well, the IOC decision ignores that the Munich massacre occurred at the Olympic games not par hasard, but precisely because the Olympic games provided a venue of international resonance for such an attack; ignores that, as the German Der Spiegel put it, the killings were facilitated by the criminal negligence and indifference of Olympic security officials themselves; Finally, it ignores and mocks the plaintive pleas – and pain and suffering – of the families and loved ones, for whom the remembrance – zachor – of these last forty years is an over-riding personal and moral imperative.
Accordingly, it is not hard to infer that not only were the athletes killed because they were Israeli and Jewish, but that the moment of silence is being denied them also because they are Israeli and Jewish. Professor Deborah Lipstadt – normally understated in her attribution of an anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli motifs – makes the connection. In her words:
“The IOC’s explanation is nothing more than a pathetic excuse. The athletes who were murdered were from Israel and were Jews—that is why they aren’t being remembered. … This was the greatest tragedy to ever occur during the Olympic Games. Yet the IOC has made it quite clear that these victims are not worth 60 seconds. Imagine for a moment that these athletes had been from the United States, Canada, Australia, or even Germany No one would think twice about commemorating them. But these athletes came from a country and a people who somehow deserve to be victims. Their lost lives are apparently not worth a minute.”
Again to quote Ankie Spitzer, “I can only come to one conclusion or explanation: This is discrimination. I have never used that word in 40 years, but the victims had the wrong religions, they came from the wrong country.”
This Friday, when the Olympic games begin, let us pause to remember and recall each of the murdered athletes. Each had a name, an identity, a family – each person was a universe. And so, on the eve of the Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the month of Av, which begins Saturday evening, let us join with the families and associated private commemorative gatherings in remembering them:
  • Moshe Weinberg
  • Yossef Romano
  • Ze’ev Friedman
  • David Berger
  • Yakov Springer
  • Eliezer Halfin
  • Yossef Gutfreund
  • Kehat Shorr
  • Mark Slavin
  • Andre Spitzer
  • Amitzur Shapira
May their memory be a blessing for us all. Let us hope the IOC may heed the collective call to conscience.
*Irwin Cotler is a Canadian Member of Parliament and the Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He is a Professor of Law (Emeritus) at McGill University. He moved the motion – adopted unanimously – in the Canadian Parliament calling for a moment of remembrance at the London games.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Israel and the U.S. congressional elections

From Israel Hayom, 26 July 2012, by Yoram Ettinger:
During a June 15, 2012 seminar at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bill Schneider, a leading expert on U.S. politics, reaffirmed that both chambers of Congress play a key role in determining U.S.-Israel relations.
In 1990, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Henry Garrett II asked Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, to delete from the proposed defense bill an amendment stipulating the upgrade of the port of Haifa for the benefit of the Sixth Fleet. “Senator, I am the Secretary of the Navy, and I know that the Sixth Fleet does not need the upgrade.”
Inouye retorted: "Mr. Secretary, according to the U.S. Constitution, I supervise you, and I have determined that the Sixth Fleet would benefit from such an upgrade.” Inouye’s position derived from the end of the Cold War which eroded the importance of the port of Naples, and from the gathering sandstorms from the Persian Gulf (leading to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait) which enhanced the significance of the port of Haifa for the Sixth Fleet. The port of Haifa was upgraded despite opposition by President George H. W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker who orchestrated Secretary Garrett's appeal.
The recent turmoil in Egypt has exposed the uncertainty surrounding U.S.-Egypt relations and the reliability of the port of Alexandria, enhancing the significance of the Israeli ports of Haifa and Ashdod to the Sixth Fleet. It underscored the vitality of Congress as a joint-front-seat-driver in setting the national security agenda.
In November 2012, Americans will elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 33 U.S. senators and thousands of state and local elected officials, some of whom will eventually reach Capitol Hill. According to a July 23, 2012 Rasmussen national poll, since mid-2009, Republican congressional candidates have been systematically more popular than Democrats. Of all likely voters, 43 percent would vote for Republican congressional candidates, if the election were held today, while 40% would elect Democrats.
Most polls forecast a strong possibility of a sustained — although moderately eroded — Republican House majority (currently at 242 Republicans to 190 Democrats and 3 vacancies). Democrats need a robust tailwind — which is not currently in sight — to regain the House majority. At the same time, the Democratic majority in the Senate (53:47) is vulnerable. However, the number of toss-up Senate races — such as Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Ohio, New Mexico and Hawaii — is relatively large. Therefore, the race for the Senate majority — which may indicate the winner of the presidency — is wide open.
House and Senate majorities will be greatly affected by the presidential approval rating on election day. Will Obama be a “coattail president,” sweeping his party to victories, as he did in 2008 (69% approval rating), or will he be an “anchor-chained president,” dragging his party to defeats, as he did in 2010 (46%), and as Presidents George H. W. Bush (34%), Jimmy Carter (37%) and Gerald Ford (45%) did in 1992, 1980 and 1976 respectively?
The fate of congressional races also depends on the number of Democratic and Republican seats up for re-election. The more seats a party holds, the more vulnerable the party. Therefore, the 23 seats on the ballot currently held by Democrats — as opposed to only 10 Republican-held seats — pose a threat to the Democratic majority. However, the substantial Republican House majority — which exposes more Republican seats — provides an opportunity for a Democratic gain in the House.
Congressional retirements may also indicate an electoral trend, in addition to reflecting political aspirations or fatigue. Thus, the six Democratic — versus three Republican — retirements from the Senate, and the retirement ratio of 15 Democrats to 11 Republicans in the House, could reflect legislators’ own assessments of the odds in the November election.
The outcome of the Congressional races will, also, be determined by the turnout rate and by the appeal of the individual candidates to the Independents, who account for some 40% of the electorate. Usually, the Independents include “swing voters,” “switch-overs” and “undecided voters.” The turnout rate will be influenced by the enthusiasm and frustration factors (e.g., “anti-establishment,” “Hope & Change,” shattered 2008 hopes) generated by the presidential and congressional candidates.
To realize the significance of the November 2012 congressional elections, one should be aware that Congress is the most powerful legislature in the world. This is the co-equal, co-determining branch of the U.S. government, the most authentic representative of the American people, which has the muscle — when it chooses to exercise it — to initiate, amend, suspend and overrule presidential policies.
International observers, and especially friends of Israel, should focus on the congressional races. When it comes to third down and ten yards to go, Israel has no better, trusted and effective friend than both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

The "peace treaty" with Egypt looks shaky...

From JPost, 24 July 2012, by Isi Leibler:
We in Israel are on the front lines. This means that our border with Egypt will need to be strongly secured and Israel must gird itself for an increase in terrorist attacks.
Mursi and Mashaal meet in Cairo
... we should be under no illusions. Even the greatest optimists cannot gloss over the reality that the Islamic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood seeking to control Egypt are committed to ultimately revoking the peace treaty.
Their motives stem not merely from nationalist xenophobia but are deeply rooted in fanatical extremist Islamic ideology, which is infinitely more intense and inflexible. Although Mubarak treated Israel like a pariah and exploited popular anti-Semitism, in comparison to these Islamic zealots he would be considered a liberal.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the organization which spawned Hamas, and it remains adamantly committed to wiping the “Zionist entity” off the face of the map. This was reiterated last month by its leader Mohammed Badie, who called for “imposing Muslim rule throughout Palestine” and “freeing it from the filth of Zionism.”
It represents the most intolerant wing of Islam, rejecting coexistence with other religions, and is renowned for persecuting and harassing Christians. The Brotherhood is not merely dedicated to imposing sharia law in Egypt but is fervently committed to achieving global conquest on behalf of Islam.
Its leaders, who during World War II allied themselves with the Nazis, are notorious for promoting rabid anti-Semitism. The imams continuously remind their followers that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs and deserve to be killed as enemies of the Prophet Mohammed. They have a long tradition of assassinating opponents, terrorism and suicide bombings.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood is pragmatic and politically savvy and thus disinclined to overplay its hand, initially avoiding extreme behavior which could result in a break with the US and Western countries and lead to a total meltdown of the already disintegrating Egyptian economy. They recognize that Mubarak’s ouster was principally propelled by economic factors and that if they are to retain power they must feed 80 million Egyptians.
US Administration spokesmen are burying their heads in the sand when they imply that once the Brotherhood is in control it is likely to act responsibly and provide a pluralistic environment for Egyptians. Even more absurd are the reassurances that it is undergoing a liberal transformation and committed to maintaining a democratic system of government. Similar delusional nonsense was disseminated about Hamas when it “democratically” gained control of Gaza.
Every “elected” radical Islamic group has ultimately imposed a regime in which political opponents and other independent societal elements were marginalized. One need only observe the more “democratic” and “liberal” Erdogan Islamist regime in Turkey which, in a relatively short time, completely eradicated the reforms of Kemal Ataturk, imprisoned the former military leaders and replaced the secular military government with an Islamic authoritarian regime. The Muslim Brotherhood is far more radical than its Islamic Turkish counterpart.
The reality is that democracy cannot survive in a society dominated by Islamic extremists who brook no opposition. Indeed, much as we despise authoritarian, dictatorial and even totalitarian regimes, precedents clearly indicate that a regime ruled by Islamic fanatics is likely to be far more oppressive than a military autocracy.
Although weakened, the military did dissolve the Islamic fundamentalist-dominated parliament and still represents a barrier to total Muslim Brotherhood control. But it is likely to avoid a direct confrontation unless it is confident it has public support. In this explosive environment, US pressure on the military to stand down can only serve to further undermine Western interests and lead to intensified oppression.
We should not expect newly elected President Mohamed Mursi to be a moderating influence. His recent undertakings to act on behalf of the entire Egyptian people are totally out of synch with his long-standing record of support for hardline Brotherhood policies.
Just prior to the election, Mursi announced that the Koran would be the constitution of Egypt and “that this nation will enjoy blessing and revival only through the Islamic sharia. I swear for Allah and before you all that regardless of the actual text [of the constitution]... it will truly reflect the sharia.”
Mursi, who
refused to accept a congratulatory call from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, stated that he would honor Egypt’s existing international agreements including the peace treaty with Israel. Yet he repeatedly includes the caveat that it is necessary to re-examine the 1978 Camp David agreements and that if Israel’s leaders (who he previously referred to as “vampires” and “murderers”) did not keep their commitments to the Palestinian people, Egypt was not obliged to honor the peace treaty.
Oft repeated chants expressed at his rallies included “Mursi will liberate Gaza,” “Jerusalem will become the capital of the United Arab nation” and “death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration.”
Setting aside the current “standoff” with Israel, there is every likelihood that at a future time of his choosing, like Arafat, Mursi is likely to suggest that the Prophet’s violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiya in 629 CE on the grounds that agreements with infidels and Jews need not be honored, was a historical precedent that could be applied against Israel.
Any doubt about Mursi’s outlook toward the West was clarified with his televised inaugural presidential speech, which the US government ignored. He proclaimed that “it is my duty to make all efforts” to seek the release of the “Blind Sheikh,” Egyptian Omar Abdel Rahman, who headed the terrorist group which allegedly orchestrated the assassination of Sadat, was accused of being allied with Osama bin- Laden and is now serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison for conspiring in 1993 to destroy the World Trade Center and seeking to bomb New York City landmarks....Now, notwithstanding undertakings to Jewish leaders that he would not invite Mursi to the White House unless he made a public commitment to genuinely adhere to the peace treaty with Israel, Obama has announced that he will be hosting the man who will urge him to release an unrepentant major global terrorist leader.
We in Israel are on the front lines. We may enjoy relative tranquility from Egypt in the short term due to the prevailing chaos and restraints from the military. However, Hamas now feels confident that in the event of a future clash with Israel, Egypt is likely to provide it with maximum support and may ultimately even join it in confronting us.
This means that our border with Egypt will need to be strongly secured and Israel must gird itself for an increase in terrorist attacks emanating from the Sinai Peninsula. These are likely to include missile attacks, making the relationship with Egypt extremely fragile.
The only bright side of this dismal picture is our adversaries’ awareness of the incredible power of the IDF. This ultimately represents the greatest deterrent against further deterioration or escalation of assaults against us.

World Bank: PA economy not strong enough to support a state

From JTA, July 25, 2012: The Palestinian economy is not yet strong enough to support a sovereign state because of its heavy reliance on foreign aid, according to a World Bank report.
“The Palestinian Authority ...economy is currently not strong enough to support such a state,” economist John Nasir said in a statement accompanying the report, which was released Wednesday.
The PA says it is facing its worst financial crisis since it was founded in 1994, with debts of $1.5 billion and an immediate cash shortfall of $500 million, the French news agency AFP reported. Donor countries have propped up the Palestinian economy with billions of dollars in assistance.
In the report, the World Bank said the aid has led to 7.7 percent gross domestic product growth between 2007 and 2011, but only in government services, real estate and other non-tradeable sectors.
“Economic sustainability cannot be based on foreign aid," the Nasir statement said, "so it is critical for the PA to increase trade and spur private sector growth.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What "Occupation"?

From The Weekly Standard, 20 July 2012, by Dore Gold*:
In January 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yaakov Neeman, the justice minister, turned to former Israeli supreme court justice Edmond Levy to head a panel of legal experts that would look into questions of land ownership in the West Bank. The initiative came about when it was discovered that a housing project in the settlement of Beit El, north of Jerusalem, had been built years earlier on Palestinian private land, and the government decided to adhere to the judgment of the Supreme Court to have the Israeli building project removed. The panel was intended to study how Israeli decision-making had been made in the past and what could be done to avoid such situations in the future.
Yet, looking back over the last two weeks, what appeared to hit a raw nerve with the critics of the report, that was just released in July by Levy's committee, was not what it had to say about the issues, for which the committee was appointed, but rather with how it dealt with the broader narrative for describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This became evident in how the reaction focused on the report's conclusion that "the classical laws of 'occupation' as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to…Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank). It was this sentence that was paraphrased and plastered on the headlines of Israeli newspapers and became a subject of debate in the international media as well.
How did Levy's panel reach this conclusion along with his two colleagues, Tehiya Shapira, the former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court, and Alan Baker, the former legal advisor of the Israeli foreign ministry in the 1990s? It was Baker who brought in a unique expertise having been one of the main drafters of many of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.
The panel argued that the Israeli presence in the West Bank was sui generis, because
  • there was no previously recognized sovereignty there when it was captured by the IDF in 1967. The Jordanian declaration of sovereignty in 1950 had been rejected by the Arab states and the international community as a whole, except for Britain and Pakistan.
  • Moreover, as the Levy Report points out, the Jewish people still had residual historical and legal rights in the West Bank emanating from the British Mandate that were never cancelled, but rather were preserved by the U.N. Charter, under Article 80—the famous “Palestine Clause” that was drafted, in part, to guarantee continuity with respect to Jewish rights won at the League of Nations.
  • Finally, with the advent of the Oslo Agreements in the 1990s, there was no longer an Israeli military government over the Palestinian population. Indeed, the famous 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on occupied territories stipulates that an occupying power is bound to its terms “to the extent that such a Power exercises the function of government in such territory (Article 6).”
Yet the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 made the situation complex. For as a result, some functions of government were retained by the IDF, others were exercised by the Palestinians, and there were also shared powers. In other words, the situation on the ground in the West Bank was not black and white, which allowed moral judgments to be easily made about a continuing Israeli occupation. The Palestinians did not have an independent state, but they could not be considered to be under "occupation" when at the same time they were being ruled first by Yasser Arafat and then by his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.
The idea that the West Bank could not be simply characterized as "occupied" comported with traditional Israeli legal opinions. For instance, Israel's former ambassador to the U.N., Chaim Herzog (who would later become Israel's president), appeared in the General Assembly on October 26, 1977, and laid out Israel's legal status in the territories with respect to the Fourth Geneva Convention on occupied territories. He stated: "In other words, Israel cannot be considered an 'occupying Power' within the meaning of the Convention in any part of the former Palestine Mandate, including Judea and Samaria."
This view was reinforced again a quarter of a century later. In May 2003, after the IDF conducted Operation Defensive Shield in order to put an end to a two-year wave of Palestinian suicide bombing attacks, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon astonished his supporters by saying that the IDF could not continue to be deployed throughout West Bank cities because that would mean keeping the Palestinians "under occupation." However, Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein, responded that it was not correct to call the West Bank and the Gaza Strip "occupied territories" but rather "disputed territories." A statement published by the justice ministry added that "their status will be decided by future agreements."
It is instructive to see how the international community looks at far clearer cases of territories that came under military control of foreign forces as a result of armed conflict. On July 20, 1974, the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, which had been an independent state since 1960, taking over 37 percent of the island. The Turkish zone declared its independence in 1983, but no state, except Turkey, recognized the new government.
How does most of the international community refer to the territory of Northern Cyprus? The fact of the matter is that they don't label it an "occupation." When the EU accepted Cyprus as a new member state in 2004, it prepared a memorandum explaining that the accession to the EU was suspended "in the area of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control."
There is also the example of Western Sahara, which was completely taken over by the Moroccan army in 1979. After Spain withdrew from the territory and a joint administration with Mauritania failed to emerge, Morocco viewed Western Sahara as Moroccan territory. Morocco's claim was challenged by the Polisario, the militia manned by residents of the region that waged a guerilla war against the Moroccan army with the backing of Algeria. The International Court of Justice in the Hague formally rejected the Moroccan claim of sovereignty, recognizing the people of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination. In numerous resolutions in the U.N., Western Sahara has not been called "occupied territory," even though the Moroccan army has been sitting on land beyond the internationally recognized borders of Morocco.
At the end of World War II, the Soviet army invaded Japan and occupied the Kuril Islands, which had been previously Japanese territory. Here again, the Japanese foreign ministry's recent paper on the Kuril Islands doesn't even speak about ending the Russian occupation, but rather about the need to "reach a settlement of this unresolved issue of the Northern Territories."
All three cases of
  • Northern Cyprus,
  • Western Sahara, and
  • the Kuril Islands
are open and shut cases of foreign occupation under international law and yet in the diplomatic arena the term "occupation" is not formally applied to them.
Ironically, in the case of the West Bank, where the Israeli presence is a far more complex legal issue, the term "occupation" has been uncritically applied, even by Israelis.
Thus the decision to use the term "occupation" appears to emanate as much from political considerations as it does from any legal analysis. For "occupation" is a term of opprobrium. In much of Europe, the term still invokes memories of the Nazi occupation of France. Those being constantly bombarded by the term "occupation" in Europe undoubtedly make subconscious links between Israeli behavior in the territories and the events of the Second World War. Indeed, that is the intention, in many cases, of those using and promoting this language, despite the fact that such analogies are repulsive to anyone with the least bit of Jewish historical memory.
Nonetheless, pro-Palestinian groups, and their allies on the far left, use the charge of "occupation" as part of their rhetorical arsenal—along with other epithets, like "colonialist, apartheid state"—for waging political warfare against Israel. The charge of "occupation" has evolved into one of the most potent weapons in the delegitimization campaign against Israel.
It is noteworthy that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva published a study on the subject of occupation in April 2012 that concluded that the term had unquestionably acquired a "pejorative connotation." Experts attending the meetings of the ICRC recommended replacing the term with new legal nomenclature, in order to get wider adherence to international humanitarian law by those who were occupying foreign territory but wanted to avoid the occupation label.
There are also well meaning Israelis who call for an "end to the occupation" in order to build internal political support for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, by appealing to the conscience of Israelis who do not want to think of themselves as occupiers nor to have the world community see them this way. But in making this call, its advocates strip Israel of the rights it acquired in U.N. Security Council 242 that did not require it to pull back to the pre-1967 lines, which have been regarded by most Israeli leaders from Rabin to Netanyahu as indefensible.
Levy's committee has restored Israel's legal narrative about its rights in the West Bank. There are those who charged that in rejecting the application of the term "occupation" to the Israeli presence in the West Bank, the Levy committee's report will set the stage for eventual Israeli annexation of the territories. Of course these concerns are baseless. The report of the Levy committee says absolutely nothing about what political solution for the future of the West Bank is desirable.
Nonetheless its conclusions are still important for one diplomatic scenario, in particular: a negotiated end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the future. For at the end of the day, there is a huge difference in how a compromise will look if Israel's negotiating team comes to the peace table as "foreign occupiers," who took someone else's land, or if they come as a party that also has just territorial claims.
Moreover, as long as the international community constantly fuels the "occupation" narrative, the Palestinians’ propensity to consider making a real compromise, which is critical for any future agreement, will be close to nil.
In fact, this false narrative only reinforces their mistaken belief in the delegitimization campaign against Israel as an alternative to seeking a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
In sum, the "occupation" label is built on flawed analysis and requires the application of transparent double standards by those who use it, by which they single out Israel for condemnation that it does not merit. Rather than creating a setting for diplomacy to succeed, it only makes a real Middle Eastern peace more remote than ever.
*Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Iranian Global Terror

15-minute video published on YouTube, Jul 22, 2012 by RightSightings:
With Civil War raging in Syria, and Israel charging Iran was behind a bombing that killed five tourists, Chris Wallace is joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to a compelling interview to expose the truth, and to determine which steps need to be taken to avoid further death in the future.

….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…. 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 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 does Assad have control. Look, I think the regime will go. 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 I’m less concerned with what replaces it. But I am more concerned with 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 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 or to any peaceable country in the world.
So, I think that this is -- something will have to act, to stop it 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 at 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? Or 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 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. 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, a 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 tourists who get off of the plane and are about to board a bus.
So, exactly the same modus operandi was exposed in Cyprus. Fortunately there, the terrorist was caught and he admitted he worked on behalf of Hezbollah, Iran's long terror arm. 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 shred 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 answer 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, 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 actually 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 out 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 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 Hezbollah operatives, I believe, in custody. Some of them were found with explosives across a 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 we 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 that 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 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 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 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, 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 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 -- enjoy bipartisan support, both from Democrats and Republicans, and we extend bipartisan hospitality to both Democrats and Republicans.
WALLACE: 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, 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: 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….