George W. Bush photo

Interview With Jacob Eilon and Gil Tamari of Channel 10 TV of Israel

May 12, 2008

Q. Mr. President, thank you for speaking with Channel 10.

The President. Yes, sir.

Jenna Bush Hager's Wedding

Q. First of all, congratulations on your daughter's wedding this weekend. [Laughter]

The President. Thank you. It was—as my Jewish friends tell me, there was mazel tov. And it was a beautiful experience. It was very emotional, and it was—to see your little girl marry a good guy. And Laura and I were thrilled.

Q. Made you proud?

The President. Yes, I was very proud of her. It was a wonderful time. And we did it on our ranch, which was—we didn't do it here in the White House because Jenna wanted a more low-key, kind of homey environment. And she loves the ranch, and so do we, so it was perfect. It was wonderful. Thanks for asking.

Q. Great. Now to business.

The President. Yes. [Laughter]

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just said a couple days ago that he would resign if he was indicted with some new corruption charges. Does that change in any way your strategy on the peace process in the Middle East?

The President. No. The vision of the peace process still is the same. I have come to the conclusion that it is essential for Israel to have a Palestinian partner that is a democracy committed to peace. I fully understand not all Palestinians agree with that vision. But I also believe, over time, that when confronted with life in Gaza, what that's like, or life in a place where you can raise your child in peace, most of the Palestinians will choose peace, and that the best way to marginalize these radicals who murder the innocent to achieve their political objectives is through Palestinian democracy.

Q. And you can do that with Olmert and Abbas?

The President. Well, the Prime Minister's—as I understand it, the legal issue goes on, and I fully understand that and respect Israeli rule of law. I will just tell you, in my—I have great relations with the Prime Minister. I find him to be a frank man, an honest man, an open man, a guy easy to talk to, and somebody who has— understands the vision necessary for Israeli security.

And so we will continue working hard. And I do believe we can get a state defined by the end of my Presidency. A state won't exist until certain obligations are met by everybody, but to have it defined is very important.

Middle East Peace Process/Hamas

Q. So that's the goal? By the end of the year, a defined—what borders of a Palestinian state?

The President. Well, that and refugee issue as well as the other key security issues that are necessary for a state to come into being. But the roadmap has obligations for all parties. And so my goal is to get the state defined.

Look, I firmly believe that—first of all, I supported the Sharon move on Gaza and still think it was the right move; and that I supported the elections, because there needs to be clarity. Everybody's got to see the truth. And the truth is that Hamas can't deliver promised—promises for the Palestinian people. And the truth is, is that there's an opportunity now to offer a different vision from theirs. Their vision is, destroy Israel. How about a vision that says, we want to coexist with Israel so we can raise our children in peace?

Now, they—I'm sure people say, oh, Bush, man, he sounds hopelessly idealistic. But the truth of the matter is, in order for peace to secure, it's that kind of idealism that has got to prevail.


Q. Mr. President, you have said that the bombing of the Syrian/North Korean facility by Israel sent a message to Iran. What was the message? You are next?

The President. No, it's just that people are going to take care of their security needs. And the message to Iran is that your desire to have a nuclear weapon, coupled with your statements about the destruction of our close ally, has made it abundantly clear to everybody that we have got to work together to stop you from having a nuclear weapon.

I mean, to me, it's the single biggest threat to peace in the Middle East, is the Iranian regime, not only because of their desire to have the technologies to build a weapon—the technologies necessary to build a weapon, but it's also to—their funding of Hizballah. Look what's happening in Lebanon now, a young democracy trying to survive. By the way, it's in Israel's interests that the Lebanese democracy survive.

Q. So what's going to stop them?

The President. Well, pressure, sanctions, diplomacy, all options on the table. They're trying to destabilize the young Iraqi democracy. And what stops them there is when we catch them moving their weapons in, they're brought to justice. That's what stops them.


Q. Many Israelis think that the only thing that would stop them would be a military attack. Have you considered that?

The President. I've always told people that all options are on the table. I've also learned that in my 71⁄2 years as President, it's probably best not to be talking about the specifics of any option.

Q. If Israel does that, would you understand?

The President. You're becoming very hypothetical in your questions. I fully understand Israel's concerns about Iran. That's going to be my message when I come to Israel, and that is that you need to be concerned about Iran, and you are concerned about Iran, and so are we. And part of our job is to—you know, look, we want to solve anything—I mean, stopping them enriching is—the first choice is to do it diplomatically, of course. And that's why we're working on the sanction regime, and that's why we're trying to affect their money flows.

But it's hard because not everybody shares the same anxiety as Israel and the United States does. And—but it's a tough issue, and I fully understand it. And I will continue to pressure as best I can.

Jonathan Pollard Case

Q. Mr. President, did you get any official request to pardon Jonathan Pollard, and if yes, would you consider it? And do you know, many people in Israel think that the arrest of Ben-Ami Kadish in another spy case tended to influence you?

The President. We are constantly analyzing cases. There's been no change in the Government's attitude at this point.

Q. So——

The President. No change.

Q. What is your—did you get such a request from Israel?

The President. Oh, yes, constantly.

Q. Constantly?

The President. Sure.

Q. So for our 60th birthday, any new presents?

The President. We'll analyze every request, but there's been no change of attitude.

Situation in the Middle East/Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, it took, like, 7 years before you got involved in the Middle East.

The President. No, but that's not an accurate statement, please.

Q. Well, it is in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, maybe to be more accurate.

The President. No, that is an inaccurate statement too. But, anyway, go ahead. I will let you finish your question.

Q. Would you recommend the next President to start earlier?

The President. Look, I inherited—when I came in office, there was an intifada. It's hard in the middle of the intifada to be talking peace. I mean, you had people scrambling for their security. But I gave a speech in June 2002—remember, I was sworn in in 2001—which really helped define the two-state solution. It talked about who we would or not deal with. I've been—I know, we've been very much engaged in terms of setting the conditions. Remember, the roadmap was done during my time. Anyway, no, we've been very much involved in the Middle East. It's a——

Q. And should the next President start early?

The President. Like me?

Q. You're not the next President.

The President. No, no, you mean, start it early like I did? Sure, yes——

Q. No. Okay——

The President. ——you can't help it. Look, this is the—one of the accomplishments—or one of the interesting things that's happened in this administration is we have placed American foreign policy—a top priority of our foreign policy is squarely in the Middle East. We got Iraq, we got Lebanon, we got Iran, and of course, we got the Middle Eastern—the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis, which frankly is moving down the road pretty good. And I hope during my time, before it's over, we get the vision defined. But it's—I think any American President is going to be committed to Israel's existence and understand the realities and threats in the Middle East.

President's Upcoming Visit to Israel

Q. Finally, Mr. President, you are coming to Israel for your second visit as President of the United States. What do you expect from this visit?

The President. I expect a chance to speak in the Knesset, which I'm excited about, and I'm thankful. And I'm looking forward to telling people that I fully understand that—the nature of the world, and that there are ideologues who murder innocent people to achieve their political objectives. And we must do—we must stand strong against those ideologues, and we must, on the one hand, be strong in our security measures, and on the other hand, offer a competing vision. And that's what I'm going to talk about.

It's a hopeful speech. It's an optimistic speech. And it's one that I hope assures Israelis that during the Bush administration and the subsequent administrations, they'll have a strong friend and ally in the United States of America.

Q. Mr. President, we wish you a pleasant trip to Israel. Thank you very much.

The President. I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, sir.

Q. Thank you very much for this interview.

The President. Yes, thanks. Good to see you guys.

NOTE: The interview was taped at 11:30 a.m. in the Map Room at the White House for later broadcast. In his remarks, the President referred to Henry Hager, husband of Jenna Bush Hager; and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. The interviewers referred to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority; former civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of treason and espionage in 1987; and former civilian U.S. Army mechanical engineer Ben-Ami Kadish, who was arrested on April 22. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 13.

George W. Bush, Interview With Jacob Eilon and Gil Tamari of Channel 10 TV of Israel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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