Interviewer Larry King put the question to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on CNN last week: “You live in the center of a hostile world. Are you ever able to relax?” To which the Prime Minister replied: “Yes, Sir, I am. Every Saturday on our Sabbath, I have a day off. So every Saturday, I take an hour and a half to read the Bible. I draw enormous strength as well as relaxation from this quiet time.” He added that sometimes he spends this time with his 15-year-old son, who incidentally won the national Bible knowledge contest in Israel this year.
As Christians, we are greatly encouraged by this admission. It is great to know that the Prime Minister of Israel faithfully spends time in the Bible, since we believe it is vitally important to understand Israel — past, present and future. The divine influence of the God of Israel is the key to the history of the Jewish people and their nation, Israel. And some credit has to go to Dad, also, for his son’s exceptional knowledge of the Scriptures.
Netanyahu was the featured guest on the “Larry King Live” TV show, which is seen all across America on CNN. King started off with the question, “Why can’t you and the Palestinian Arabs get together?” The Prime Minister answered, “The basic problem is their failure to recognize our Jewish state.” He continued, “I am prepared to make peace with the Palestinians as we did with Egypt and with Jordan. I am prepared to have a demilitarized Palestinian state existing next to Israel. And I am prepared to meet with the Palestinians without any pre-conditions.”
King added, “So you do favor having a Palestinian state?” Netanyahu answered, “Yes, but not a state that will keep firing rockets and missiles into our land. It will have to be a de-militarized, peaceful state. And of course, they will have to recognize our state.”
When asked if he would sit down and negotiate with Hamas, Netanyahu replied: “I will sit down with anyone who will recognize our state. As you know, Hamas has refused to do that. They are true terrorists who even terrorize their own people in Gaza.” He added, “I want the world to look at what we have done in the past few years to help the Palestinians in the West Bank. We have helped them in so many ways economically that their economy is now thriving.”
Of course, interviewer King brought up the recent Turkish flotilla episode, after which most of the world media blamed Israel for the deaths of nine Turkish attackers. The Prime Minister explained that Israel has been checking ships off the Gaza coast for military cargo for a long time now and has never before had any incidents like this one. There were six ships in this group, he related, and they had no trouble with the first five. Only the sixth ship caused trouble. There was a special group of 50 to 60 militants on that ship who viciously attacked the Israeli Coast Guard men when they boarded to check for weapons cargo. “Our men had to defend themselves,” Netanyahu explained. “What would you expect them to do?”
King mentioned that incidents such as the flotilla attack harm Israel’s image around the world — and that has to be troublesome to Israel. Netanyahu stressed that there is a big difference between the world’s perceptions and reality, saying, “Israel has suffered oppression ever since its independence, and we have never had one day of real peace, yet the world continues to see us as oppressors.” He then added, “But we are a people of peace. We have always wanted peace with our neighbors, and we still do. The truth is, they do not seem to want peace with us.”
Next came King’s questions about Iran. He asked, “How much do you fear Iran’s intentions to destroy you?” The Prime Minister replied, “We have learned from history to take seriously their calls to destroy the Jewish State.
King continued, “Would you attack Iran?” Netanyahu answered, “We will always reserve the right to defend ourselves. We will always keep all options on the table.” He went on to say, “Iran is the greatest threat to humanity today. It is important to the whole world that we do not have the most dangerous weapons in the world fall into the hands of the most dangerous people in the world.... We cannot trust Iran to be peaceful.”
King asked Netanyahu his age, to which he replied, “60.” King then asked, “In your lifetime, do you think you will see peace in the Middle East?” The Prime Minister answered: “I will say yes, with conviction. Not in all of the Middle East, but I think we will have peace with the Palestinians.” He stressed, “It will take a lot of courage. We are ready now, and we hope that the Palestinians will soon also respond with the same courage.”