All interviews were carried out in Hebrew on 1st June. All appear in their entirety.

Minister of Infrastructure Ariel Sharon

IMRA: Is the Netanyahu Government developing today its opening position for the negotiations with the Palestinians on the permanent arrangements or Israel’s “red lines.”

Sharon: That’s the question. That’s exactly what I asked the head of military intelligence. I don’t know. It pains me greatly that I am not part of the group which is working on this. I really don’t know.

National Religious Party MK Shaul Yahalom

IMRA: Is the Netanyahu Government developing today its opening position for the negotiations with the Palestinians on the permanent arrangements or Israel’s “red lines.”

Yahalom: I don’t know. It is clear to me that it is an opening position but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also Israel’s red lines. It all depends on the pressures. The NRP isn’t even satisfied with the proposal as it is so we will certainly apply as much pressure as possible on this matter.

IMRA: Can this lead to a confusion in the process itself since one participant may present what is actually a true red line while other participants in the process think that this is only an opening position and room was left for compromise?

Yahalom: Yes.

Likud Knesset faction chairman MK Michael Eitan

IMRA: Is the Netanyahu Government developing today its opening position for the negotiations with the Palestinians on the permanent arrangements or Israel’s “red lines.”

Eitan: Let’s be realistic and not fool ourselves. What we say doesn’t matter. If it is only an opening position or not, the moment that negotiations begin whatever position the government gives is an opening position.

There is no question that it is not just a question of the position of the coalition but also what the Left says. This also influences the process. We can say that we live in a democracy so there are many views but that there is only one government but other Israeli views will have an influence.

I want to point out that I was attacked for my talks with [Labor MK Yossi] Beilin and others for reducing the demands of the government regarding the permanent arrangements but I said clearly that I was doing this as a private individual – neither as a representative of the government or the Likud party. The point is that I had an agreement with Beilin which included important features, such as the position on keeping settlements intact.

I want to say on this matter that red lines are not set before negotiations but only during negotiations and history has shown that the phase “red lines’ never end up being real. We had red line in Lebanon – what happened? Sinai – what happened? Also what is asked for today as “red lines” are now much less than in the past.

Red lines won’t stand.

IMRA: Isn’t there a point, however, that you can say that if you don’t have “X” then its better to continue without an agreement then to sign a deal without “X”?

Eitan: It appears to me that the security element is a function of a combination of the situation in the field and other matters. Consider for example that one of the most difficult and serious problems is control of the envelope so that if your control of the envelope is greater then you may be able to agree to be more liberal on your control inside. On the other hand, if your control of the envelope is less, then your requirements inside have to be greater.

Former senior intelligence officer Brig.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Levran

IMRA: Do you think the military is providing the government with red lines or just opening positions?

Levran: The army can say ‘this is desirable’ and ‘this is vital’ but it can’t talk in terms of opening negotiating positions.

IMRA: If the military thinks that the government may compromise on things it considers to be vital is there the possibility that it will overstate what is vital to offset a compromising government in advance?

Levran: I am certain that those in the military organizations present a more liberal position to a Labor government than to a Likud government. Not in the areas of black and white but in the gray areas. I think that they would present a harder position to a Likud government this because they wouldn’t want to be attacked by the ministers. But in both situations there is an issue of integrity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t bend the positions of the military somewhat.

I do not see asking a military man if a given position is a “red line” but rather how much risk is associated with it; is it the bare bones or is there any meat left and how much?

IMRA: Are there any true “red lines”?

Levran: There are and should be, by definition, red lines. For example, the position against returning to the ’67 borders is most definitely a red line.

IMRA: Are there geographical elements which can’t be compensated for by other means?

Levran: Look, you have to hold the Eastern slopes of the Jordan Valley and since there are also settlements in the Valley itself you don’t give that either. There are also some high places in Judea and Samaria which you must hold and you have to widen the narrow waist of Israel in the Kalkiliye area.

I always said that from an ideological standpoint we should hold everything. This is our land. But even if you consider the situation purely from a security standpoint, at best it is possible to pull back from 15% of the land and this is a nonstarter as far as the Palestinians are concerned. You simply can’t fit another country into this tight area. I see only a functional solution, some form of autonomy for the Palestinians.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645