tv Israeli Defense Minister on Middle East Security CSPAN April 30, 2018 4:00pm-5:01pm EDT
good morning. welcome to the washington institute. i'm rob sutloff, director of the institute and i'm delighted to welcome all of you thismorning to our institution for this very special event .our guest was kind enough to remember that event in the middle east took him away at the last moment a year ago when he was do to come in to speak at this institution, and although there are no shortage of public aided and even tragic events going on in the middle east today, we are gratefulto him and to his team and delegation for making time in this important mission to come and the washington institute . i don't really have to list all of the issues that
confront israeli security today when one need only look at the headlines, look at the map and see thaton virtually every front surrounding israel , there is red ink, the income challenge, the ink of threat going from lebanon to syria. going from gaza to thesinai . it is the responsibility of our guest today to address these issues . to lead in both the political and military sense, israel's response to security challenges near and far and our guests, i think it's fair to say as israel is about to celebrate by the american calendar it's 70th anniversary. our guest is somewhat of a poster child for the zionist experience. he is an immigrant for the
former soviet union, not born into a noble and historic zionist family of six generations in the holy land but someone whocame to israel and created for himself a new life , a career and an important role at the top of the leadership of his country . it doesn't happen very much in countries anymore and this is i think one of the great embodiments of what it means to have the jewishstate . our guest, avigdor lieberman is the founder of the israel party. he has had in the ministry of defense since 2016. he has served in the israeli knesset since 1999 and in that time he has served as as deputy prime minister,
foreign minister, minister of infrastructure, transportation and strategic affairs. in other words, there are very few significant ministries in which avigdor lieberman has not offered his leadership, his commitment and his determination to support israel. we are delighted he's here with us. i've invited minister lieberman to offer remarks and then you and i will down and have an impromptu conversation about the entire range of issues facing israeli security. i'd like to ask everyone to please put your cell phones on silent. this is an on the record event. we are streaming live with c-span. feel free to tweet out all the brilliant remarks of our guest but please keep your cell phones on silent. ladies and gentlemen, the minister ofdefense of the state of israel, avigdor lieberman . [applause]. >> good morning and thank you
for the opportunity to express my views and thank you first of all for the introduction, first of all i'm happy to see that headlines today are not regarding the middle east and it's a very remarkable meeting in the korean peninsula o. it's really something. it's really, really good news. the second tpoint as you mentioned, i came to israel as an immigrant . i was thinking about reparation, not immigration and of course when i came, i was 20 years old and the fact that i am minister of defense , it's maybe another illustration that israel is
more america in that the sky is the limit than any other country. when you, as a young guy without a background, without language and the money and you say as the minister of defense, it's a phenomenon and another short introduction from my side, you know for many years the first issue in israel and middle east was the palestinian issue. and it was through the presentation on missile spending that our dispute with the palestinians is the heart of the middle east conflict.
i think in the arab spring, everybody understands there is no linkage between the palestinians and uprisings in tunisia or similar wars in syria or a situation in bolivia or the complicated situation in iraq or lebanon. and for the arab world for many years, the palestinian issue was only an excuse to justify their failure and their domestication's and for them it was very easy wato incite crowd and to blame israel and their own domestic problems. another remark because
everybody asks me how you view the middle east, if we can hope to achieveone-day real peace in the middle east . i think not realistic.mething i think the illusion and the biggest problem for the middle east is not israel but arab society. at least in my opinion, what we see in the arab world, i don't think even the two states areliving in peace . 99 percent of all conflicts in the middle east, it's not between israel and the arab states, nor between jews and muslims but between muslims themselves .
not without any connection to israel. only in syria in the last year, more than a half million people are slaughtered. every day, ohundreds of people killed and injured in the middle east, in libya, in yemen, in sudan, in syriaand iraq . you can see really the news developing in all channels. you can see football, basketball, some other news , even one report abouthundreds of people killed in the middle east every day . the main problem of the middle east in my opinion is arab society, that the middle
class doesn't exist. it's the main reason. because of the peaceful policy to coexist and accept different people, different states, you need a strong middle class. if i take for example most successful countries in the world like norway, sweden, 90 percent of the population is very strong and successful middle-class . and if maybe three percent, two or three percent, who knows. in the era of society, the situation is completely different. 90 percent of population, really they are suffering. and it's a very young society. if you take for example you compare the demographic of
muslim states and european states, they are completely different demography. in the arab world, 70 percent of people, very unsatisfied . and with 60 percent of unemployment among the young population, it's a crazy situation. and again, israel proved our desire to achieve real peace withsacrifice . we gave up sinai and signed a peace agreement with egypt. we gave up half of the jordan , we withdrew from the gaza strip in 67 and we see the results of the missiles on
israel and every day provocations. i cannot understand in the gaza strip. we evacuated 21 settlements. we evacuated more than 10,000 jews. we are ready to establish industrial zones to create jobs for people in gaza. and by the way, i remember my last conversation with our prime minister before disengagement and i asked what we were doing and he explained to me that he wants to create an opportunity for palestinian people to prove that they can live their own state and he said you will see in the gaza strip is the
singapore of the middle east and with what happened with the singapore with the middle east? and when we speak about the tough situation in the gaza strip, i extend that people will ask about the reasons for this tough situation within the gaza strip. and there are two reasons. first of all, hamas talks from the people of gaza and they invest this morning in missiles. and they are not ready to dive or even one dollar from missiles and even to the benefit of people, not to invest money in water management and it has meant
nothing. for them, all this money, it's only to destroy the state of israel and the second reason that mahmoud abbas decided to stop any funding to support in the gaza strip is payment for a electricity, water, etc. they try also. their last frictions are now in the border. i'm not sure if people really pay attention, what are their slogans? what are their demands? how can they live side-by-side with israel in peace, not to create jobs but to destroy the state of israel . they are speaking to an intent to take over for tel aviv.
not a demand to negotiate for peace, the opposite. and of course, you mentioned all challenges that we are facing around our own borders. maybe we are facing more challenges than any other country in the world. in the gaza strip, you have to hamas and the islamic jihad. in that sinai we have the islamic state. and in lebanon, we have hezbollah. in syria we have the kia and behind all of them, in israel of course in all reality we are trying to manage the situation. we are trying to create modern society and a moderate society.
and at the same time to protect ourselves. it's really a huge challenge and i think that up until now we havesucceeded . thank you. >> mister minister, thank you for those opening remarks. let me begin with your trip here to washington. the appropriate place to start. you met in the last couple of days with a great senior american officials, white house, the pentagon. what can you come away with, what the return to israel with in terms of your sentence from the administration about understanding your security challenges and any new understandings with washington and how to address
them and i will specifically focus on the syria front in this regard. >> first of all, we have really very goodfriends in russia . and it's interested in security, first of all and the main reason that the two states we are sharing the same values with commitment to democracy, or freedom of speech and especially in the russian front, people understand that in the middle east that the democracy itself, it is a big challenge so as i mentioned, and open society and with our press,
that is more america than america and it's a real friendship. i think there is also a deep understanding, how deeply the challenge for israel to handle the same time with all threats that you mentioned and i mentioned d. especially with syria. all the atrocities in syria, this kind of regime that would act against his own people and we know that assad's expression of hezbollah andiran , everybody asks for involvement with russia. the russians of course, they have their priorities.
the difference that russians really, they don't hate the israelis. it seems to destroy the state of israel and opposite has bullock, iran, every day you see in gaza tetheir intentions, policies to destroy the state of israel. and the russians have been uninterested but we are trying to keep open channels, open lines. what we call barring conflict with russia, we have enough problems and it works and
americans also, the united states also, with their generals and we tried to toconcentrate on the iranian nation. with all respect to israel, then there is the day we have our official policy is not to interfere in the domestic issues withinsyria . it has drawn enough security concepts in the european union and it's not our problem but prour problem is they will not allow the irradiance to establish a base in syria against israel.
it's for us clear, to clarify our position in russia but also around the world. i think there is understanding in russia to our challenges, our problems and we of course discussed and we have some more than understandings, we have operations and moving in and enjoying very, very good relations and an alliance with the united states are appreciated. >> do you leave washington with any confidence, more confidence that the united states will be remaining in syria or do you leave washington with the sense that in fact the united states will be removing its
troops from syria sometime in the not-too-distant future? >> i don't know, i'm not in a position to give ,advice so to the american administration but there seems a misunderstanding to our concerns regarding the situation in syria and more of the situation in syria, it's possible to create a language from iran to syria and if you want one unity from iran to iraq, syria and lebanon. and also i think that - everybody in russia can understand what it means and fully explain our position. i'm sure that we will make
the right decisions here. >> you were quoted just recently saying we will destroy every street where we see around positioning itself militarily from syria. we will not allow it at all costs. of course, there are thousands of irradiance and iranian backed militias in syria. what precisely is israel's red line in syria? >> there are many irradiance but not so many irradiance that can come to a misunderstanding regarding iranian presence in syria. what we are speaking exactly about our military base in every part of syria. as far as a military presence, we will not allow.
we have some difference in their capacity advisors. but we established some military base, an airbase or navy or some base from beyond operations . and i think it's this position we explained to everybody and we have our political will and determination. >> let me ask if you could put on your analytical half for a moment. i think people here in israel and elsewhere turned to you for a special insight into understandingrussian strategy . how do you evaluate what russia really wants in syria
and what the limits of russian objectives are? example, there's a big debate in the united states on the russian iranian relationship and we divide russia from iran. what do you think the popular story is? >> all things repeat. it's not the right approach for me to stand for some analysis for russia but it's important to understand t the russians, they are very pragmatic players. their reasonable guys, it's possible to deal with them and we understand what their interests and their interests are really different from our
own interests . to that respect they have their priorities, we tried to tap down fractions and tensions and they are very pragmatic guys. one of the priorities they have is spending non-pragmatic, it's not reasonable that this is their biggest problem for people from the islamic state who agare not pragmatic guys, they are really pragmatic guys and radical guys. it's a problem. also, when you speak with arab people from the it's a good news. there is a moderate sunni state. they really understand what israel, what scientists and
what radical islamic groups due to their society and best of all, it's the irradiance considering a threat for them. and i think that they know russia has every power in the world e. >> and of course they know all russian political being from sanctuary, they are the first kinds of financial navy bases in israel. and they have their culture. >> and also we are trying only to protect our security interests. if only one of the issues that is compromised, is our security . >> doesn't give you any particular concern that for
the first time when you look to the north you see russian presence and russian control of a syria but the americans are very far away? >> our concern is the irradiance. iranians and hezbollah. and around with hezbollah, they have their ambition but their readiness to sacrifice their own people and they are very pragmatic, reasonable guys. i think what we are facing with iran is really a crazy situation in this century and the iranians, they are very difficult. it's a difficult economic situation . the problems are traveled within iran, inflation .
it's a very complicated situation. the deal there is very shaky within iran and despite all of their domestic problems, they continue to be the biggest sponsor of terrorist activity. base and about $2 billion every year for all this crazy csupport for terror. and in lebanon. >> hamas and jihad islam, in the gaza strip. he drives in yemen, the shiite militia in iraq. the $2 billion every year for it. it's crazy all their domestic
problems. they invested up till now in syria and since this war, about $60 billion. and we see that the biggest problems of the fanatical regime in syria, are not reasonable. we don't get any problem with the iranian people. and they enjoy radical innovations. ideology. and one day they will see in korea, also establishing good relations with the iranian people that we will see that they will change and see leadership see if they don't
have any dispute with iran. they run a politically committed todestroying the state of israel and it's a fanatical ideology . >> this leads to my next couple of questions i wanted to ask you. you are in washington and auspicious week. you're in good company with the president of france e and the chancellor of germany. they are here to import convinced president trump to not to withdraw the united states from the iran nuclear deal. you are quoted as saying europe is wrong again. they made a mistake when they signed the munich agreement with germany, we all know what happens and you use that analogy to describe the iran nuclear deal today. so first, a great guessing
game and do you think president trump is going to do? >> i completely agree o. >> it's i think that the west has grown soft, they have lost their political will and determination. and the deal with the iranians, is something that i cannot understand. because they are know that irradiance are cheating. >> and their lipolitical goal is not only to nuclear energy , but they need an additional peaceful nuclear energy deal. they need the ballistic missile threat. and peaceful ballistic energy. . >> and they see the regime
there approach to the minorities. freedom of speech, democracy and they know that means about finding of terror. every aspect of the department and the states that they are sponsors of their movements in theworld . iran, every era of the birthplace and also is there era and they know everything. iran during the last year, the iranian missile as inscriptions in hebrew, all their rifles, they see their movements and despite all of the respects, they are still supportive of israel and iran.
i think it's our obligation, our commitment as jews to remain everything in our history and the iranians, they say we will destroy the state of israel. >> and we can imagine it's possible to discuss publicly how well the situation is in syria if it's not succeeded through nuclear involvement. >> and i always think of saddam hussein. and i think it's a huge mistake for the west in this agreement, this agreement with nuclear iran. the situation really is very similar. as in the setting as far as
the nuclear agreement and is the worst sacrifice from czechoslovakia which has a very big feeling regarding their commitment to our security. and they will not take any chances. >> i'm sorry, are you suggesting that the countries that support the nuclear agreement are appeasing our iran and are sacrificing israel's security for czechoslovakia? >> i think that to pacify iran, the mission has posted. they understand only the top language and all the economic benefits that they achieved from this nuclear deal create
an ability for iran to finance all their activity in syria to support hezbollah and the booty militias. there you should know i think it's clear that the iranian support, not hezbollah, not militias, not hamas, not islamic jihad. and is not able to resist even one week. without 85 percent of all their budget. >> bwith hezbollah and booty militias and the islamic jihad. >> comes from iran. >> but i think it's really a huge mistake. and it's a bad message. and it's our position again, not in position to give advice on operations but it
islam necessary our position. >> israel has suggested that if there is further escalation with iran because of its presence in syria, that iran itself might not be off-limits in israeli retaliation. >> i think also reciprocity is dangerous and we tried to keep ability with iran. it's like in american movies, not ain reality. but we hope there are enough smart not to provoke our movement to create a new quagmire.
i see that the people of iran and of course if there are enough ambitious enough to destroy iran. what we need is security and time of the possibility to develop our economy, our science, our technology. we don't have any solutions for them not to come back intogaza or syria . >> if i can, let's turn to the situation on the gaza border which you spoke about earlier in your remarks . we are in the run-up to may 15. we've seen various levels of
border conflict. what do you expect? do you think there will be an entirely new level of conflict and how would you evaluate your own response dealing with the conflict over the last number of weeks? >> first of all, i hope that we are able to avert a new conflict with the people in gaza. as i mentioned, we don't have any ambitions for conflict or to come back to gaza city, not to establish a new settlement. you have your gaza strip and they tried to concentrate all your efforts to build new society and it's not our
business. but if they will try to provoke, they will launch missiles. >> to penetrate israel of course. we will do everything to try to prevent them from launching a missile at american territories or some of them launching missiles from russia or china. we described israel as you mentioned and every day we have another terrorist of evil against our people. against our sovereignty, and
i think it's unbelievable. people try to justify and also what we see is then using their children even as a human shield. the leaders of hamas on the front lines, they are behind their children and we try to avoid confrontations but we are not allowed to jeopardize our security. >> what is the strategic solution for gaza? on the one hand, a mahmoud abbas, head of the palestinian authority doesn't want to move into gaza until
hamas yields its guns. how is it likely that hamas will do so. how do you square the circle. is there a solution out there? >>. >> i think the solution is reconstruction. or the militarization. my view, my approach. >> and i think that it's this obligation of people to gaza that opposes this fanatic leadership. this fanatical organization. it replaces normal people and you know we are ready to create jobs, to create and establish industrial results. more than in the past. even to more construction,
the heart of the gaza people, everything but we need a clear understanding that we gave up their intention to destroy israel. they have changed paragraphs of their have to. they have evolved their right to accept the right to recognize israel. and the militarization. >> it's impossible that they invest there. all their money. in the military rank and they complain that another difficult economic situation yet hamas and the military are being battered to $260 million. and it's the worst of that
money and in health and education. they've invested all against israel. >> the militarization or reconstruction? >> it's not one approach. >> let me turn to the west bank for a moment. the minister of defense was responsiblecourse or the west bank . there is no publicly active peace process at the moment. yet the west bank is th relatively -- >> no peace and no process. >> but the west bank is relatively quiet. would you say a few words about your cooperation, your relationship with the palestinian authority, how things are operating relatively quietly on the ground . >> i think that's we must
assess the economic situation. despite that we signed. 25 years ago. [inaudible] and frankly, i am a settler. i'm a russian guy by birth. and it's a very right-wing government to be in. thequestion , why do we fail to achieve some agreements, even substantive agreement with the palestinians, during 25 years? and the members of, we have including iraq and the city and they are doing that or remember the meetings that we can designate.
in our believe me, on that metropolis and the question, it's the biggest issue. and i think that at least in my understanding, the problem with the real dispute, it's not bad spent us, it's the palestinians but between us and the arab world. and us, the arab world has three different dimensions. ourrelationships with the arab states . our relations with the palestinians . now relations with israeli arabs. it's crucial for a result and at the same time,
simultaneously, all our problems with the arab world are problems with the palestinians. the palestinians alone are not able to sign the final step disagreement. they are heavyweight. and they don't have capacity. ndand to speak frankly, the palestinian authority doesn't exist. they have to different entities. you have judea and somalia. you have hamas in gaza straight. and the elections to the palestinian service, they are supposed to be helping generals in 2010. and we're not sure that knesset is and in according with their constitution. has been a legitimate right to sign any agreement on the health of palestinian
peoples. >> but even with all this problems. i remember what they offered indianapolis, to be a level shop. >>. >> it's not maybe the most generous offer possible from the israeli fight. and in despite this offer, at the end of the day, it's the result. and it feels to sign the final status agreement. and it's only another illustration of existing bilateral frame. but it's impossible to achieve. in a real solution. >> it's ashould be a regional comprehensive solution.
we should sign with the arab league, with the palestinians and to find a solution forthe israelis and arabs . the deepest part of them identify themselves as palestinians. and i think it's also very, very crucial. it's the biggest issue to continue the same things and to hope that they resolve their cultures. and it's politically correct to say that crush. >> your opening remark when you sat at this podium was real peace is an illusion. i think you said solution, it's not peace. peace needs a real to democratic society. not a middle-class. and economic situations are
much better than the magistrate. >> because knesset has visited aggression 10 times more than hezbollah or jeannie. he really has no interest to establish commonality. he doesn't worry about prosperity in listing. like revolution. >> and the united states for independent states, you need capacity of a colony, you need jobs and education . y it's not enough only to have a declaration of independence. and of course it costs a lot of money. and most of all, they should double their efforts to
create their own economy. >> i have to ask you this question. it is, one hears that criticism for years is that political leaders here in israel and elsewhere that the current situation is quote, unsustainable. is it in fact very sustainable? >> know and the middle east isthe middle east . their problems are our problems. this situation is not so stable now and unpredictable. [inaudible] everything unpredictable. we don't want to be with gaza and we don't know the future for the palestinians.
all the problems of everything in the middle east are alike and they are all vessels. [inaudible] with errands. and the sinai, egypt is our problem with islam. and this is a small part of the middle east, israel and the palestinians to achieve real, stable piece like france and germany and italy. it's also very nacve approach . we need to achieve this strategic breakthrough and about his visit to jerusalem.
it's really from both sides, we feel very strong with huge support with our society. >> and 112 members of knesset voted in support of this agreement between israel and egypt and i don't remember any other vote with such a huge majority. 112. and it meant that the support of that that they had from all the people of israel. >> you said the new leadership in saudi arabia is the 21st century set off. >> i don't know to speak frankly, the problems with leadership in the middle east , the real organization and approach to our problems
solved. >> but it would be crucial for them also, notonly for israel , but regional solutions and i speak many is about the belief, the original solution is to change only the risk for arab world.israel, it's a nation with science and geography. [inaudible] with our mutual efforts to change. [inaudible]. commonly and of course security. it's very interesting.
>> we are running out of time. i can't let you go with these asking a couple political questions, i hope you don't mind . so you think your coalition will stand the full term? >>these are new elections coming . >> i think it's maybe most difficult coalition that i remember. i don't see anything any interest. with in incarnations of all parties or other elections. i don't see elections next year. >> maybe it will be something before but it's really very stable coalition and i don't, i don't remember elections before. >> you have served as i said earlier in democracy, i'm not going tosay every but almost
every senior position in an israeli government . >> can we imagine you being a candidate for prime minister? >> ask if i want to be a minister of cultural support. >> know, but i think that really, since our country in many solutions in many capacities, i try my best in all positions but there are remember people in politics that have done everything and there are people in auction. but it's only an option. i really enjoy this job, this capacity . this possibility and i feel very good in this position. and who knows?
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