In Fighting Trim

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Do you regard the sudden call for elections as a failure?
Well, it's a failure of the coalition. It was just a question of time before it fell because of a challenge from the right flank. I could have kept the government had I submitted to the terms posed to me from my right wing, which said that if I would tear up Oslo and the Wye accord they would stay. I refused, and equally I refused subsequent conditions from the left that said I [should] go ahead and implement Oslo regardless of Palestinian violations and no matter what violence the Palestinians perpetrate on us.

What happens to the Wye agreement now?
The Wye agreement is not suspended. It is awaiting Palestinian compliance. I wish Arafat would stop the violence, stop calling for the release of terrorist murderers, comply with the other promises the Palestinians made to us. If they would comply with their obligations and cease their violations, we would implement the next phase well before the elections.

What would you do differently in a second term?
I wouldn't do anything differently on the political side. Where I would do things differently is in the management of egos. I would say the Prime Minister has to devote equal time not only to the tasks of security and peacemaking and economic reform, all of which I did to my utmost, but to the maintenance, shall we say, of, ah, personal relationships.

So you give yourself some of the blame for this?
Oh, who doesn't make mistakes?

Both major parties are being advised by American political consultants. To what effect?
I don't think it has that much effect. It'll certainly make for a lively campaign. What I see imported from the U.S., I'm sorry to say, is the tactic of the lowest personal attack, which I believe in the end the voters will reject.

Why is it that you're unpopular among politicians and popular with the people?
It's the physics of the record disk. Those in the outer circle move with greater speed, and the closer you get to the pivot the slower they turn. So [laughing] it's the same thing. Those who are closest to the hub of politics move the slowest. It may take them a few years to accept the leadership. There's a cadre of people who were ahead of me when I entered the Likud, who never really accepted my leadership.

The most common criticism of you across the political spectrum is that you are deceitful. Why?
Every time somebody does not receive from you what they want, they say, "Netanyahu lied to me." That's another way of saying, "I didn't get from Netanyahu what I wanted."

Recently your father, of all people, suggested you might make a better Foreign Minister than Prime Minister.
The addendum to that that you're not quoting is that [he said] nobody would be a better Prime Minister. I'll live with that.