Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel, Palestine, Power, Corruption, Hate, and Peace | Lex Fridman Podcast #389 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel, Palestine, Power, Corruption, Hate, and Peace | Lex Fridman Podcast #389".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.

Opening Remarks

Introduction (00:00)

We should never, and I never, set aside and say, "Oh, they're just threatening to destroy us. They won't do it." If somebody threatens to eliminate you, as Iran is doing today, and is Hitler did then, and people discounted it, well, if somebody threatens to annihilate, well, take them seriously, and act to prevent it early on, don't let them have the means to do so, because that may be too late. - The following is a conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister of Israel, currently serving his sixth term in office. He's one of the most influential, powerful, and controversial men in the world, leading a right-wing coalition government at the center of one of the most intense and long-lasting conflicts in crises in human history. As we spoke, and as I speak now, large-scale protests are breaking out all over Israel over this government's proposed judicial reform that seeks to weaken the Supreme Court in a bold accumulation of power. Given the current intense political battles in Israel, our previous intention to speak for three hours was adjusted to one hour for the time being, but we agreed to speak again for much longer in the future. I will also interview people who harshly disagree with the words spoken in this conversation. I will speak with other world leaders, with religious leaders, with historians and activists, and with people who have lived and have suffered through the pain of war, destruction, and loss that stoke the fires of anger and hate in their heart. For this, I will travel anywhere, no matter how dangerous. If there's any chance, it may help add to understanding and love in the world. I believe in the power of conversation, to do just this, to remind us of our common humanity. I know I'm underqualified and underskilled for these conversations, so I will often fall short and I will certainly get attacked, derided, and slandered. But I will always turn the other cheek and use these attacks to learn, to improve, and no matter what, never give into cynicism. This life, this world of ours, is too beautiful not to keep trying, trying to do some good and whatever way each of us know how. I love you all. This is the Lex Friedman podcast, to support it, please check out our sponsors in the description, and now, dear friends, here's Benjamin Netanyahu. You're loved by many people here in Israel in the world, but you're also hated by many.

Discussion On Global Issues

Hate (02:35)

In fact, I think you may be one of the most hated men in the world, so if there's a young man or a young woman listening to this right now who have such hate in their heart, what can you say to them to one day turn that hate into love? - I disagree with the premise of your question. I think I have enjoyed a very broad support around the world. There are certain corners in which we have this animosity that you describe, and it sort of permeates and some of the newspapers and news organs and so on in the United States, but it certainly doesn't reflect the broad support that I have. I just gave an interview on an Iranian channel, 16 million viewers. I gave another one, I just did a little video a few years ago, 25 million viewers from Iran. Certainly no hate there, I have to tell you. Not from the regime, okay? And when I go around the world, and I've been around the world, people want to hear what we have to say. What I have to say is the leader of Israel whom they respect increasingly as a rising power in the world. So I disagree with that. And the most important thing that goes against what you said is the respect that we receive from the Arab world and the fact that we've made four historic peace agreements with Arab countries, and they made it with me, they didn't make it with anyone else. And I respect them and they respect me and probably more to come. So I think the premise is wrong, that's all. - Well, there's a lot of love, yes. A lot of leaders are collaborating. - Respect, I said, no, no. - Okay, all right, well it's a spectrum. But there is people who don't have good things to say about Israel, who do have hate in their heart for Israel. - Yeah. - And what can you say to those people? - Well, I think they don't know very much. I think they're guided by a lot of ignorance. They don't know about Israel, they don't know that Israel is a stellar democracy, that it happens to be one of the most advanced societies on the planet that what Israel develops helps humanity in every field in medicine and agriculture and the environment and telecoms and talk about AI in a minute but changing the world for the better and spreading this among six continents. We've sent rescue teams more than any other country in the world and we're 1/10 to 1% of the world's population. But when there's an earthquake or a devastation in Haiti or in the Philippines, Israel is there. When there's an earthquake, devastating earthquake in Turkey, Turkey, Israel was there. When there's something in Nepal, Israel is there and it's the second country. It's the second country after, in one case India or after another case in the United States, Israel is there, tiny Israel is a benefactor to all of humanity. - So your student of history, if I can just link on that philosophical notion of hate, that part of human nature, if you look at World War II, what do you learn from human nature, from the rise of the Third Reich and the rise of somebody like Hitler and the hate, the permeates that. - Well, what I've learned is that you have to nip bad things in the bud. You have to, there's a light in turn that says, upstart pinky, stop bad things when they're small. And the deliberate hatred, the incitement of hatred against one community. Demonization, deligidimization that goes with it is a very dangerous thing. And that happened in the case of the Jews. What started with the Jews soon spread to all of humanity. So what we've learned is that's what we should, we should never, and I never set aside and say, oh, they're just threatening to destroy us, they won't do it. If somebody threatens to eliminate you, as Iran is doing today, and as Hitler did then, and people discounted it, well, if somebody threatens to annihilate, well, take them seriously and act to prevent it early on, don't let them have the means to do so, because that may be too late. - So in those threats, underlying that hatred, how much of it is anti-Zionism and how much of it is anti-Zionism? - I don't distinguish between the two. You can't say, well, I'm okay with Jews, but I just don't think there should be a Jewish state. It's like saying, I'm not anti-American, I just don't think there should be an America. That's basically what people are saying, vis-a-vis anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. When you're saying anti-Zionism, you're saying that Jewish people don't have a right to have a state of their own. And that is a denial of a basic principle that I think completely unmasks what is involved here. Today anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism. Those who oppose the Jewish people oppose the Jewish state.

Judicial reform and protests (08:15)

- If we jump from human history to the current particular moment, there's protests in Israel now about the proposed judicial reform that gives power to your government to override the Supreme Court. So the critics say that this gives too much power to you or is surely making you a dictator. - Yeah, well, that's ridiculous. The mere fact that you have so many demonstrations in protest, some dictatorship, huh? A lot of democracy here, more ambitious and more robust than just anywhere on the planet. - Can you steal man the case that this may give too much power to the coalition government to the prime minister, not just to you, but to those who follow? - No, I think that's complete hogwash because I think there's a very few people who are demonstrating against this. Quite a few, quite many don't have an idea what is being discussed or basically being sloganized. You can sloganize something about not mass media right now, but the social network. You can basically feed deliberately with big data and big money, you can just feed slogans and get into people's minds. I'm sure you don't think I exaggerate because you can tell me more about that. And you can create mass mobilization based on these absurd slogans. So here's where I come from and what we're doing, what we're trying to do and what we've changed and what we're trying to do. I'm a 19th century Democrat in my small deal, yes, in my views, that is I view, I ask the question, what is democracy? Okay, so democracy is the will of the majority and the protection of the rights, so they call it the rights of the minority, but I say the rights of the individual, okay? So how do you balance the two, okay? How do you avoid democracy, okay? And how do you avoid dictatorship, the opposite side? The way you avoid it is something that was built essentially by British philosophers and French philosophers, but was encapsulated by the founding fathers of the United States. You create a balance between the three branches of government, okay? The legislative, the executive and the judiciary. And this balance is what assures the balance between majority rights and individual rights. And you have to balance all of them, okay? That balance was maintained in Israel in his first 50 years and was gradually overtaken and basically broken by the most activist judicial court on the planet. That's what happened here. And gradually over the last two, three decades, the court arrogated for itself the powers of the parliament and the executive. So we're trying to bring it back into line, bring it back into line into what is common in all parliamentary democracies and in the United States. Doesn't mean taking the pendulum from one side and bringing it to the other side. We want checks and balances, not unrival power. Just as we said, we want an independent judiciary, but not an all powerful judiciary. That balance does not mean bringing it back into line, doesn't mean that you can have the parliament archness that override any decision that the Supreme Court does. So I pretty much early on said after the judicial reform was introduced, get rid of the idea of sweeping override clause that would have with 61 votes. That's majority of one. You can just nullify any Supreme Court decision. So let's move it back into the center. So that's gone. And most of the criticism on the judiciary reform was based on a non-limited override clause, which I've said is simply not gonna happen. People are discussing something that already for six months does not exist. The second point that we received criticism on was the structure of how do you choose Supreme Court judges. How do you choose them? And the critics of the reform are saying that the idea that elected officials choose Supreme Court judges is the end of democracy. If that's the case in the United States, it's not a democracy. Now there is France and now there are just, I don't know, just about every democracy on the planet. So there is a view here that you can't have the sorted hands of elected officials involved in the choosing of judges. And in the Israeli system, the judicial activism went so far that effectively the sitting judges have an effective veto on choosing judges, which means that this is a self-selecting court that just perpetuates itself. And we wanna correct that. Again, wanna correct it in a balanced way. And that's basically what we're trying to do. So I think there's a lot of misinformation about that. We're trying to bring Israeli democracy to where it was in its first 50 years. And it was a stellar democracy. It still is. Israel is a democracy, will remain a democracy, a vibrant democracy. And believe me, the fact that people are arguing and demonstrating in the streets and protesting is just the best proof of that. And that's how it'll remain. - We spoke about tech companies offline. There's a lot of tech companies nervous about this judicial reform. Can you speak to why large and small companies have a future in Israel? - Because Israel is a free market economy. I had something to do with that. I introduced dozens and dozens of free market reforms that made Israel move from $17,000 per capita income to within very short time, to $54,000. That's nominal GDP per capita, according to the IMF. And we've overtaken in that, Japan, France, Britain, Germany. How did that happen? Because we unleashed the genius that we have and the initiative and the entrepreneurship that is latent in our population. And to do that, we had to create free markets. So we created that. So Israel has one of the most vibrant free market economies in the world. And the second thing we have is a permanent investment in conceptual products, because we have a permanent investment in the military and our security services, creating basically knowledge workers who then become knowledge entrepreneurs. And so we create this structure. And that's not gonna go away. There's been a decline in investments in high tech globally. I think that's driven by many factors, but the most important one is the interest rate, which I think will fluctuate up and down. But Israel will remain a very attractive country because it produces so many, so many knowledge workers in a knowledge-based economy. And it's changing so rapidly. The world is changing. You're looking for the places that have innovation. The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is the preeminent innovation nation. It has few competitors. And if we would say, all right, where do you have this close cross-disciplinary fermentation of various skills and areas, I would say it's in Israel? I'll tell you why. We used to be just telecoms because people went out of the military intelligence, RNSA, but that's been now broad base. So you find it in medicine, you find it in biology, you find it in agritech, you find it everywhere. Everything is becoming technologized. And in Israel, everybody is dealing in everything. And that's a potent reservoir of talent that the world is not gonna pass up. And in fact, it's coming to us. We just had NVIDIA coming here. And they decided to build a supercomputer in Israel. Wonder why? We have had Intel coming here and deciding now to invest $25 billion just now. In a new plant in Israel, I wonder why? I don't wonder why. They know why. Because the talent is here and the freedom is here. And it will remain so. - So you had a conversation about AI with Sam Altman of OpenAI and with Elon Musk. - Yeah. - What was the content of that conversation? What's your vision for this very highest of tech? Which is artificial intelligence? - Well, first of all, I have a high regard for the people I talk to. And I understand that they understand things I don't understand and I don't pretend to understand everything, but I do understand one thing. I understand that AI is developing at a geometric rate. And mostly in political life and in life in general, people don't have an intuitive grasp of geometric growth. You understand things basically in linear increments. And the idea that you're coming up ski slope is very foreign to people. So they don't understand it. And they're naturally also sort of taken aback by it because what do you do? Okay? So I think there's several conclusions from my conversations with them from my other observations that I've been talking about for many years, I'm talking about the need to do this. Well, the first thing is this, there is no possibility of not entering AI with full force. Secondly, there is a need for regulation. Third, it's not clear there'll be global regulation. Fourth, it's not clear where it ends up. I certainly cannot say that. Now you might say, does it come to control us? Okay, that's a question. Does it come to control us? I don't know the answer to that. I think that as one observation that I had from these conversations is if it does come to control us, that's probably the only chance of having a universal regulation because I don't see anyone deciding to avoid the race and cooperate unless you have that threat. Doesn't mean you can't regulate AI within countries even without that understanding, but it does mean that there's a limited regulation because every country will want to make sure that it's not, does give up competitive advantage if there is no universal regulation. I think that right now, just as 10 years ago, I read a novel. I don't read novels, but I was forced to read one by a scientific advisor. I read history, I read about economics, I read about technology, I just don't read novels. Okay, and this I'm follow Churchill. He said fact is better than fiction. Well, this fiction would become fact. And it was a book, it was a novel about a Chinese-Americans future cyber war. And I read the book, one sitting, called in, a theme of experts and I said, all right, let's turn Israel into one of the world's five cyberpowers and let's do it very quickly. And we did actually, we did exactly that. I think AI is bigger than that, than related to that because it'll affect, well, cyber affects everything, but AI will affect it even more fundamentally and the joining of the two could be very powerful. So I think in Israel, we have to do it anyway for security reasons and we're doing it. But I think what about our databases that are already very robust on the medical records of 98% of our population? Why don't we stick a genetic database on that? Why don't we do other things that can bring magical, what are seemingly magical cures and drugs and medical instruments for that? That's one possibility that we have it in, as I said, in every single field. The conclusion is this, we have to move on AI. We are moving on AI just as we moved on cyber and I think Israel will be one of the leading AI powers in the world. The questions I don't have an answer to is, where does it go? How much does it eat, chew up on jobs? There's an assumption that I'm not sure is true, that all previous, the two big previous revolutions in the human condition, namely the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution, definitely produce more jobs than they consumed, okay? That is not obvious to me at all. I mean, I could see new jobs creating and yes, I have that comforting statement, but it's not quite true, because I think on balance they'll probably consume more jobs, many more jobs than they'll create. At least in the short term. And we don't know about the long term. No, I don't know about the long term, but I used to have the comfort being a free market guy, I always said, we're gonna produce more jobs than by, I don't know, limiting certain government jobs, we're actually putting out in the market, we'll create more jobs, which obviously happen. We had one telecom company, a government company, when I said we're gonna create competition, they said, you're gonna run us out, we're not gonna have more workers. Yeah, they had 13,000 workers, they went down to seven, but we created another 40,000 in the other companies. So that was a comforting thought, I always knew that was true. Not only that, I also knew that wealth would spread by opening up the markets completely opposite to the socialist and semi-socialist creed that they had here. They said, you're gonna make the rich richer and the poor poor, no, and made everyone richer. And actually the people who entered the job market because of the reforms we did actually became a lot richer on the lower ladders of the socioeconomic measure. But here's the point, I don't know, I don't know, that we will not have what Elon Musk calls the end of scarcity. So you'll have the end of scarcity, you'll have enormous productivity. You know, very few people are producing enormous added value. You're gonna have to tax that to pass it to the others, okay? You're gonna have to do that, that's a political question. I'm not sure how we answer that. What if you tax and somebody else doesn't tax, you're gonna get everybody to go there. That's an issue, an international issue that we constantly have to deal with. And the second question you have is, suppose you solve that problem and you deliver money, okay, to those who are not involved in the AI economy. What do they do? The first question you ask somebody whom you just met after the polite, you know, the polite exchanges is, what do you do, right? Well, people define themselves by their profession and it's gonna be difficult if you don't have a profession. And, you know, people will spend more time self searching, they'll more time in the arts, more time in leisure, I understand that. If I have to bet it will annihilate many more jobs than it will create and it'll force a structural change in our economics, in our economic models and in our politics. And I'm not sure what's gonna go. And that's something we have to respond to at the nation level and just as a human civilization. Both the threat of AI to just us as a human species and then the effect on the jobs and like you said, cybersecurity. And what do you think? You think it's gonna, we're gonna lose control? No, first of all, I do believe maybe naively that it will create more jobs than it takes. Write that down and we'll check it. It's on record. And you know, we don't have, we don't say, we'll check it after our lifetime. No, we'll see it in a few years. We'll see it in a few years. I'm really concerned about cybersecurity and the nature of how that changes with the power of AI. And in terms of existential threats, I think there will be so much threats that aren't existential along the way that that's the thing I'm mostly concerned about versus AI taking complete control and becoming sort of superseding the human species. Although that is something you should consider seriously because of the exponential growth of its capability. It's exactly the exponential growth which we understand is before us, but we don't really, it's very hard to project forward. To really understand. That's right, exactly right. So, you know, I'm, so I deal with what I can and where I can affect something. I tend not to worry about things I don't control because there's no point. I mean, you have to decide what you're spending your time on. So I think in practical terms, I think we'll make, we'll make Israeli a formidable AI power. We understand the limitation of scale, computing power and other things, but I think within those limits, I think we can make here this miracle that we did in many other things. You know, we do more with less. I don't care if it's water, the production of water or the production of energy or the production of knowledge or the production of cyber capabilities, defense and other. We just do more with less. And I think in AI, we're going to do a lot more with relatively small but highly gifted population, very gifted. - So taking a small tangent, as we talked about offline, you have a background in Tae Kondo.

Competition (26:53)

- Oh yeah. - Yeah, we mentioned Elon Musk. I've trained with both. - This is a quick question. Who you have, who you betting on in a fight. - Well, I refuse to answer that. I will say this. - Such a politician you are. - Yeah, of course. Here I'm a politician. I'm openly telling you, then I'm dodging the question. Okay, but I'll say this. You know, I actually, I spent five years in our Special Forces in the military and we barely spent a minute on martial arts. I actually learned Taekwondo later when I came to, it wasn't even at MIT, at MIT I think I did karate, but when I came to the UN, I had a martial arts expert and taught me Taekwondo, which was kind of interesting. Now the question you really have to ask is, why didn't we learn martial arts in this special elite unit? And the answer is, there's no point. If you saw Indiana Jones, you know, there's no point. You just, you know, pull the trigger, that's simple. Now, I don't expect anyone to pull the trigger on this combat then I'm sure you'll make sure that doesn't happen. - Yeah, I mean martial arts is it's kind of, it's bigger than just combat. It's this kind of journey of humility and, it has, it's an art form, it truly is an art, but it's fascinating that these two figures in Taek are facing each other. And I won't ask a question of who you would face and how you would do, but. - Well, I'm facing opponents all the time. - All the time? - Yeah, that's part of life. - But not each other. - Part of life is, I'm not sure about that. - Are you announcing, you know, right? - No, part of life is competition. You know, the only time competition ends is death. But, you know, political life, economic life, cultural life is engaged continuously in creativity and competition and the problem I have with that, as I mentioned earlier, just before we began the podcast, is that at a certain point, you want to put barriers to monopoly. And if you're a really able competitor, you're gonna create a monopoly. That's what Peter Thiel says is a natural course of things. It's what I learned and basically in the Boston Consulting Group, if you're a very able competitor, you'll create scale advantages that gives you the ability to lock out your competition. And as a prime minister, are you want to assure that there is competition in the markets, you have to limit this competitive power at a certain point. And that becomes increasingly hard in the world where everything is intermeshed. Where do you define market segments? Where do you define monopoly? How do you do that? That is very, that actually conceptually, I find very challenging because of all the dozens of political, of economic reforms that I've made, the most difficult part is the conceptual part. Once you have, you've ironed it out, you say, "Here's what I want to do. Here's the right thing to do." Then you have a practical problem of overcoming union resistance, political resistance, press, Calum, the opponents from this or that corner. That's a practical matter. But if you have it conceptually defined, you can move ahead to reform economies or reform education or reform transportation, fine. And the question of the growing power of large companies, big tech companies, to monopolize the markets because they're better at it. They provide a service, they provide a lower cost, rapidly declining cost. Where do you stop? Where do you stop when monopoly power is a crucial question? Because it also becomes now a political question. If you amass enormous amount of the economic power, which is information power, that also monopolizes the political process, which creates, these are real questions that are not obvious. I don't have an obvious answer. Because as I said, as a 19th century Democrat, these are questions of the 21st century which people should begin to think, do you have a solution to that? The solution of monopolies growing arbitrarily, unstoppable in power. Economic power and therefore in political power. I mean, some of that is regulation, some of that is competition. You know where? To draw the line? Stop breaking up BTN2, it's not that simple. Well, I believe in the power of competition that there will always be somebody that challenges the big guys. Especially in the space of AI, the more open source movements are taking hold, the more the little guy can become the big guy. So you're saying basically the regulatory instrument is the market? In large part, in most part, that's the hope. Maybe I'm the dreamer. That's been in many ways by policy up to now. Okay? The best regulator is the market, the best regulator in economic activity is the market. And the best regulator in political matters is the political market. That's called elections. That's what, that's what regulates. You have a lousy government and people make lousy decisions. Well, you don't need the wise men raised above the masses to decide what is good and what is bad. Let the masses decide. Let them vote every four years or whatever. And they throw you up. By the way, it happened to me. There's life after political death. There's actually political life. I was reelected five or six times and this is my sixth term. So, I believe in that. I'm not sure. I'm not sure that in economic matters, in the geometric growth of tech companies that you'll always have the little guy, the nimble mammal that will come out and slay the dinosaurs or overcome the dinosaurs. Which is essentially what you said. - Yeah, I wouldn't count the little guy. - You wouldn't count out the little guy. I hope you're right. - Well, let me ask you about this market of politics.

Power and corruption (33:34)

So you have served six terms as prime minister over 15 years in power. Let me ask you again, human nature. Do you worry about the corrupting nature of power and you as a leader, and you as a man? - Not at all. Because I think that the, again, the thing that drives me is nothing but the mission that I took to assure the survival and thriving of the state, the Jewish state. That is, it's economic prosperity, but it's security and it's ability to achieve peace with our neighbors and I'm committed to it. I think there's still, there are many things that have been done. There are a few big things that I can still do, but it doesn't only depend on my sense of mission. It depends on the market, as we say. It depends really on the will of the Israeli voters and the Israeli voters have decided to vote for me again again, even though I wield no power in the press. No power in many quarters here and so on, nothing. I mean, I'm probably, I'm gonna be very soon, the longest serving prime minister in the last half century in the Western democracies, but that's not because I am mass great political power in any of the institutions. I remember I had a conversation with Sylvia Belaskoni who recently died and he said to me about, I don't know, 15 years ago, something like that. He said, so, baby, how many of the people how many of Israel's television stations do you have? And I said, none. He said, you have none. I have to have. Do you have, I said none. I have two. He said, no, no, but what you mean, you don't have any that you control. I said, not only do I have none that I control, they're all against me. So he says, so how do you win elections? And you know, with both hands tied behind your back and I said, the hard way. That's why I have the largest party, but I don't have many more seats that I would have if I had a sympathetic voice in the media. And Israel is, until recently, was dominated completely by one side of the political spectrum that often vilified me, not me because they viewed me as representing basically the conservative voices in Israel that are majority. So the idea that I'm an omnipotent authoritarian dictator is ridiculous. I'm, I would say I'm not really a champion of democracy and democratization. I believe ultimately the decision is with the voters and the voters, even though they've had, you know, they have constant, constant press attacks, they have chosen to put me back in. So I don't believe in this thing of amassing the corrupting power of, if you don't have elections, if you don't have, if you control the means of influencing the voters, I understand what you're saying. But in my case, it's the exact opposite. I have to constantly go on elections, constantly, you know, with a disadvantage that the major media outlets are very violently sometimes against me, but it's fine. And I keep on winning. So I don't know what you're talking, I would say the concentration of power lies elsewhere, not here. - Well, you have been involved in several corruption cases. How much corruption is there in Israel? And how do you fight it in your own party and in Israel? - Well, you should ask a different question. What's happened to these cases? These cases have basically are collapsing. And before our eyes, the, the, you know, there were, there was recently an event in which the judges, the three judges in my case, called in the prosecution and said, you know, your flagship, the bribery charts, so-called bribery charts, you know, it's gone, doesn't exist. Before a single, a single defense witness was called and it sort of tells you that this thing is evaporating. It's quite astounding. Even that, I have to say, was covered even by the mainstream press in Israel because it's such an earthquake. So, you know, a lot of these charges are not a lot. These charges will prove to be nothing. I always said, listen, I stand before the legal process. I don't claim that exempt from it in any way on the contrary. I think the truth will come out and it's coming out. We see that not only that, but with other things. So I think it's kind of instructive that, you know, no, no politician has been more vilified. You know, none has been put to such, you know, what is it about a quarter of a billion shackles were used to scrutinize me, scour my bank accounts, sending people to the Philippines into Mexico and to Europe and to America and looking at everybody using spyware, the most advanced spyware on the planet against it. My associates, blackmailing witnesses, telling them, you know, think about your family, think about your wife, you know, you better tell us what you want. All that is coming out of the trial. So I would say that most people now are not asking, are no longer asking, including my opponents, sort of trickling in as the stuff comes out. People are not saying, what did Netanyahu do because he apparently did nothing. What was done to him is something that people ask. What was done to him? What was done to our democracy? What was done in the attempt to put down somebody who keeps winning elections, despite the handicaps that I described, maybe we can nail them by framing them. And the one thing I can say about this court trial is that things are coming up and that's very good. Just objective things are coming up, changing the picture. So I would say the attempt to brand me as corrupt is falling on its face, but the thing that isn't being uncovered in the trial, such as the use of spyware on a politician, a politician's surroundings to try to shake them down in investigations, put them in flea-ridden cells for 21 days and invite their 84-year-old mother to investigations without cause bringing in their mistresses in the corridor, shaking them down. That's what people are asking. That corruption is what they want corrected. - What is the top obstacle to peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians?

Peace (40:45)

Let's talk about the big question of peace in this part of the world. - Well, I think the reason you have the persistence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which goes back about a century, is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state, a nation state for the Jewish people in any boundary. That's why they opposed the establishment of the state of Israel before we had a state. Now that's why they've opposed it after we had a state. They opposed it when we were. We didn't have Judea and Samaria, the West Bank and our heads and Gaza. They opposed it after we have it. Doesn't make a difference. It's basically their persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundaries. And I think that their tragedy is that they've been commandeered for a century by leadership that refused to compromise with the idea of Zionism, namely that the Jews deserve a state in this part of the world. The territorial dispute is something else. You have a territorial dispute if you say, okay, you're living on this side, we're living on that side, that's the side where the border is and so on. That's not what the argument is. The Palestinian society, which is itself fragmented, but all the factions agree, there shouldn't be a Jewish state anyway, okay? They just disagree between Hamas that says, oh well, you should have it. You know, we should get rid of it with terror. And the others will say, we know we should also use political means to dissolve it. So that is the problem. - So even as part of a two-state solution, they're still against the idea. - Well, they don't want a state next to Israel. They want a state instead of Israel. And they say, if we get a state, we'll use it as a springboard to destroy the smaller Israeli state, which is what happened when Israel unilaterally walked out of Gaza and effectively established a Hamas state there. They didn't say, oh good, now we have, you know, our own territory, our own state, Israel is no longer there. Let's build peace, let's build, you know, economic projects. Let's enfranchise our people. No, they turned it into a, basically into a terror bastion from which they fired 10,000 rockets into Israel. When Israel left Lebanon, you know, because we had terrorist attacks from there, then we had Lebanon taken over by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel. And therefore, every time we just walked out, what we got was not peace. We didn't give, you know, territory for peace. We got territory for terror. That's what we had. And that's what would happen as long as the reigning ideology says, we don't want Israel in any border. So the idea of two states assumes that you'd have, on the other side, a state that wants to live in peace and not one that will be overtaken by Iran in its proxies in two seconds and become a base to destroy Israel. And therefore, I think that most Israelis today, if you ask them, they'd say, it's not gonna work in that concept. So what do you do with the Palestinians? Okay, they're still there. And I don't, unlike them, I don't wanna throw them out. They're gonna be living here, and we're gonna be living here in an area which is, by the way, to certain to stand. The area, the entire area of so-called West Bank and Israel is the width of the Washington Beltway more or less. Just a little more, not much more. If you can't really divide it up, you can't say, "Well, you're gonna fly in. "Who controls the airspace?" Well, it takes you about two and a half minutes to cross it with a regular, you know, 747, okay? With the fighter plane, it takes you a minute and a half. Okay, so you're not. How are you gonna divide the airspace? Well, you're not gonna divide it. Israel's gonna control that airspace and the electromagnetic space and so on. So security has to be in the hands of Israel. My view of how you solve this problem is that it is a simple principle. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves and none of the powers to threaten Israel, which basically means that the responsibility for overall security remains with Israel. And from a practical point of view, we've seen that every time that Israel leaves a territory and takes its security forces out of an area, it immediately is overtaken by Hamas or Hezbollah or Jyadis who basically are committed to the destruction of Israel and also bring misery to the Palestinians or Arab subjects. So I think that principle is less than perfect sovereignty because you're taking a certain amount of power, sovereign powers, especially security away. But I think it's the only practical solution. So people say, ah, but it's not a perfect state. I said, okay, call it what you will call it. You know, I don't know. Limited sovereignty, call it autonomy plus call it whatever you wanna call it. But that's the reality. And right now if you ask Israelis across the political spectrum, except the very hard left, most Israelis agree with that. They don't really debate it. So a two-state solution, where Israel controls the security of the entire region? - We don't call it quite that. I mean, there are different names, but the idea is yes, Israel controls security and the entire area, it's the tiny area between the Jordan River and the sea. I mean, it's like, you know, you can walk it and not one afternoon, if you really fit, you can do it in a day. Less than a day, I did. - So the expansion of settlements in the West Bank has been a top priority for this new government. So people may harshly criticize this as contributing to escalating Israel policy and tensions. What do you, can you understand that perspective that this expansion of settlements is not good for this two-state solution? - Yeah, I can understand what they're saying and they don't understand why they're wrong. First, most Israelis who live in Judea, Samaria, live in the urban blocks and that accounts for about 90% of the population. Okay? And everybody recognizes that those urban blocks are gonna be part of Israel in any future arrangement. So they're really arguing about something that has already been decided and agreed upon really by Americans, even by Arabs, many Arabs. They don't think that Israel's gonna dismantle these blocks. You know, you look outside the window here and within about a kilometer a mile from here is you have Jerusalem, half of Jerusalem grew naturally beyond the old 1967 border. So you're not gonna dismantle half of Jerusalem, that's not gonna happen. And most people don't expect that. Then you have the other 10% scattered in tiny, you know, small communities. And people say, "Well, you gotta have to take them out." Why? Why? Remember that in pre-1967 Israel, we have over a million and a half Arabs here. We don't say, "Oh, Israel has to be ethically cleansed from Arabs in order to have, from its Arab citizens in order to have peace." Of course not. Jews can live among Arabs and Arabs can live among Jews. And what is being advanced by those people who say that we can't live in our ancestral homeland in these disputed areas? Nobody says that this is Palestinian areas. And nobody says that these are Israeli areas. We claim them, they claim them. We've only been attached to this land for, oh, 3,500 years. But, you know, but it's a dispute, I agree. But I don't agree that we should throw out the Arabs. And I don't think that they should throw out the Jews. And if somebody said to you, the only way we're gonna have peace with Israel is to have an ethnically cleansed Palestinian entity, you know, that's outrageous. If you said the only way, you know, you shouldn't have Jews living in, I don't know, in suburbs of London or New York and so on, I don't think that will play too well. The world is actually advancing a solution that says that Jews cannot live among Arabs and Arabs cannot live among Jews. I don't think that's the right way to do it. And I think there's a solution out there. But I don't think we're gonna get to it, which is less than perfect sovereignty, which involves Israeli security, maintained for the entire territory by Israel, which involves not rooting out anybody, not kicking out, uprooting Arabs or Palestinians. They're gonna live in enclaves in sovereign Israel and we're going to live in probably an enclave there, probably through transportation continuity as opposed to territorial continuity. That is, you know, for example, you can have tunnels and overpasses and so on that connect the various communities. And we're doing that right now. We're doing that right now. And it actually works. I think there is a solution to this. It's not the perfect world that people think of because that model, I think, doesn't apply here. If it applies elsewhere, it's a question. I don't think so. But I think there's one other thing. And that's the main thing that I've been involved in. You know, people said, if you don't solve the Palestinian problem, you're not gonna get to the Arab world. You're not gonna have peace with the Arab world. Remember, the Palestinians are about 2% of the Arab world. And the other, you know, the other 98%, you're not gonna make peace with them. And that's our goal. And for a long time, people accepted that after the initial peace treaties with Egypt, with Prime Minister Began of the Likud and the President said out of Egypt, and then with Jordan, between Prime Minister Rabi and Kinku saying, for quarter of a century, we didn't have any more peace treaties because people said, "You gotta go through the Palestinians." And the Palestinians, they don't want a solution of the kind that I described or any kind, except the one that involved the dissolution of the state of Israel. So we could wait another half century. And I said, "No, I mean, I don't think that we should accept the premise that we have to wait for the Palestinians because we'll have to wait forever." So I decided to do it differently. I decided to go directly to the Arab capitals and to make the historic Abraham Accords and essentially reversing the equation, not a peace process that goes inside out, but outside in. And we went directly to these countries and forged these breakthrough peace accords with the United Arab Emirates, with Bahrain, with Morocco and with Sudan. And we're now trying to expand that in a quantably with Saudi Arabia. - What does it take to do that with Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Biz al-Mam? - You know, I'm a student of history and I read a lot of history and I read that, you know, in the very side, discussions after World War I, President Woodrow Wilson said, "I believe in open covenants openly arrived at. I have my correction. I believed in open covenants secretly arrived at." So we're not gonna advance a Saudi-Israeli peace by having it publicly discussed. And in any case, it's a decision of the Saudis, if they wanna do it, but there's obviously a mutual interest. So here's my view. If we try to wait for the 2% in order to get to the 98%, we're gonna fail and we have fail. If we go to the 98%, we have a much greater chance of persuading the 2%. You know why? Because the 2%, the Palestinian hope to vanquish the state of Israel and not make peace with it, is based among other things on the assumption that eventually the 98%, the rest of the Arab world will kick in and destroy the Jewish state, help them dissolve or destroy the Jewish state. When that hope is taken away, then you begin to have a turn to the realistic solutions of coexistence. By the way, the required compromise on the Israeli side too. And I'm perfectly cognizant of that and willing to do that. But I think a realistic compromise will be struck much more readily when the conflict between Israel and the Arab states, the Arab world is effectively solved. And I think we're on that path. It was a conceptual change, just like, you know, I've been involved in a few, I told you the conceptual battle is always the most difficult one. And you know, I had to fight this battle to convert a semi-socialist state into a free market capitalist state. And I have to say that most people today recognize the power of competition and the benefits of free markets. So we also had to fight this battle that said you have to go through the, you know, the Palestinian straight SDR-AIT to get to the other places. There's no way to avoid this. You know, you have to go through this impassable pass. And I think that now people are recognizing that we'll go around it and probably circle back. And that I think actually gives hope, not only to have an Arab Israeli piece, but circling back in Israeli-Palestinian peace. And obviously this is not something to find in the sound bites and so on, but in the popular discussion of the press, but that idea is permeating. And I think it's the right idea 'cause I think it's the only one that will work. So expanding the circle piece, just to linger on that requires what secretly talking man to man, human to human, to leaders of other nations. - Theoretically or right? - Theoretically, okay. Well, let me ask you another theoretical question. On the circle of peace, as a student of history, looking at the ideas of war and peace, what do you think can achieve peace in the war in Ukraine, looking at another part of the world? If you consider the fight for peace in this part of the world, how can you apply that to that other part of the world between Russia and Ukraine now?

War in Ukraine (55:18)

- I think it's one of the the savage horrors of history and one of the great tragedies that is occurring. And let me say in advance that if I have any opportunity to use my contacts to help bring about and enter this tragedy, I'll do so. I know both leaders, but I don't just jump in and assume, there's be a desire at a certain point because the conditions have created the possibility of helping stop this carnage, then I'll do it. And that's why I choose my words carefully because I think that may be the best thing that I could do. Look, I think what you see in Ukraine is what happens if you have territorial designs on a territory by a country that has nuclear weapons. And that to me, you see the change in the equation. Now, I think that people are allowed to use nuclear weapons and I'm not sure that I would think that the Russian side would use them with happy abandon. I don't think that's the question, but you see how the whole configuration changes when that happens. So you have to be very careful on how you resolve this conflict. So it doesn't, well, it doesn't go off the rails, so to speak. That's, by the way, the car area is here. We don't want Iran, which is an aggressive force with an just aggressive ideology of dominating first the Muslim world and then eliminating Israel and then becoming a global force. Having nuclear weapons, it's totally different when they don't have it than when they do have it. And that's why one of my main goals has been to prevent Iran from having the means to, means of mass destruction, which will be used, atomic bombs, which they openly say will be used against us and you can understand that. How to bring about an end to Ukraine? I have my ideas. I don't think it's worthwhile discussing them now because they might be required later on. - Do you believe in the power of conversation since you have contacts with Vladimir Zelensky and Vladimir Putin, just leaders sitting in a room and discussing how the end of war can be brought about? - I think it's a combination of that, but I think it's the question of interest and where there you have to get both sides to a point where they think that that conversation will lead to something useful. I don't think they're there right now. What part of this is just basic human, ego, stubbornness, all of this between leaders, which is why I bring up the power of conversation, of sitting in a room realizing we're human beings and then there's a history that connects Ukraine and Russia. - Yeah, I don't think they're in a position to enter a room right now, realistically. I mean, you can posit that it would be good if that could happen, but entering the room is sometimes more complicated than what happens in the room and there's a lot of pre-negotiation on the negotiation than you negotiate endlessly on the negotiation. They're not even there. - It took a lot of work for you to get the handshake in the past. - It's an interesting question.

Abraham Accords (59:15)

How did the peace, the Abraham Accords, how did that begin? I mean, we had decades, 70 years, or 65 years, where these people would not meet openly or even secretly with an Israeli leader. Yeah, we had the Mossad making contacts with him all the time and so on, but how did we break the ice to the top level of leadership? Well, we broke the ice because I took a very strong stance against Iran and the Gulf States understood that Iran is a formidable danger to them, so we had a common interest. And the second thing is that because of the economic reforms that we had produced in Israel, Israel became a technological powerhouse and that could help their nations, not only in terms of anything, just bettering the life of their peoples and the combination of the desire to have some kind of protection against Iran or some kind of cooperation against Iran and civilian economic cooperation came to a head when I gave a speech in the American Congress, which I didn't do lightheartedly. I had to decide a challenge of sitting American president and on the so-called Iranian deal, which I thought would pave Iran's path with gold to be an effective nuclear power. That's what would happen. So I went there and in the course of giving that speech before the joint session of Congress, our delegation received calls from Gulf States who said, "We can't believe what your prime minister is doing. "He's challenging, you know, the president of the United States." Well, I had no choice. I mean, because I thought my country's own existence was imperiled. And remember, we always understand through change of administrations that America, no matter what leadership, is always the irreplaceable and indispensable ally of Israel. And we always remain that. We can have arguments as we have. But in the families, we say, in the Mishbokha, you know, it's the family. But nevertheless, I was forced to take a stand. That produced calls from Gulf States that ultimately led to clandestine meetings that ultimately flowered into the Abraham Accords. Then, and I think we're at a point where the idea of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Arab-Israeli conflict can happen. I'm not sure it will. It depends on quite a few things, but it could happen. And if it happens, it might open up the ending of the Israeli-Islamic conflict. Remember, the Arab world is a small part. It's an important part, but there are large Islamic populations and could bring about an end to the historic enmity between Islam and Judaism. It could be a great thing. So I'm looking at this larger thing. Now, you can be hobbled by saying, well, well, you've had this hiccup in Gaza, or this or that thing happening in the Palestinians. I don't, it's important for us because we want security. But I think the larger question is, can we break out into a much wider peace and ultimately come back and make the peace between Israel and the Palestinians, rather than waiting to solve that and never getting to paint on the larger canvas? I want to paint on the larger canvas and come back to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. - As you're worried about in your book, what have you learned about life from your father?

History (01:03:15)

- My father was a great historian. And well, he taught me several things. He said that the first condition for living organism is to identify danger in time, because if you don't, you could be devoured, you could be destroyed very quickly. And that's the nature of human conflict. In fact, for the Jewish people, we didn't. We lost the capacity to identify danger in time, and we were almost devoured and destroyed by the Nazi threat. So when I see somebody parroting the Nazi goal of destroying the Jewish state, I try to mobilize the country and the world in time, because I think Iran is a global threat, not only a threat to Israel, that's the first thing. The second thing is I once asked him before I got elected, I said, "Well, what do you think "is the most important quality for a prime minister visual?" And he came back with a question, "What do you think?" And I said, "Well, you have to have vision, "and you have to have the flexibility of navigating "and working towards that vision, be flexible, "but understand where you're heading." And he said, "Well, you need that for anything. "You need it for, you know, "if you're a university president "or if you're a leader of a corporation or anything, "anybody would have to have that." I said, "All right, so what do you need "for to be the leader of Israel?" He said, he came back to me with a word that stunned me. He said, "Education, you need a broad and deep education, "or you'll be at the mercy of your clerks." Or the press, or whatever. You have to be able to do that. Now, you know, as I spend time in government, being reelected, you know, by the people of Israel, I recognize more and more how, how right it was, you need to constantly ask yourself, where's the direction we want to take the country? How do we achieve that goal, but also understand that new disciplines are being added? You have to learn all the time. You have to learn all the time. You have to add to your intellectual capital all the time. Kissinger said that he wrote that once you enter public life, you will begin to draw on your intellectual capital. And, you know, it'll be depleted very quickly if you stay a long time. I disagree with that. I think you have to constantly increase your understanding of things as they change because my father was right. You need to broaden and deepen your education. As you go along, you can't just sit back and say, "Well, I studied some things in university or in college "or in Boston or at MIT and that's enough." You know, I've done it. No, learn, learn, learn, learn, never stop. - And if I might suggest, as part of the education, I would add in a little literature, maybe Dostoevsky, in the plentiful of time you have as a prime minister to read. - Well, I read him, but I'll tell you what I think is bigger than Dostoevsky. - Oh, no. - Who's that? - Not who's that, but what's that? I was just, Dan Rather came to see me with his grandson a few years ago. And he asked me, the grandson asked me, he was a student in Iberlea College. And he said, he's 18 years old, and he wants to study to enter politics. And he said, what's the most important thing that I have to study to enter political life? And I said, you have three things you have to study. Okay? History, history, and history. That's the fundamental discipline for political life. But then you have to study other things. Study economics, study politics, and study the military. If you have, I had an advantage because I spent some years there, so I learned a lot of that. But I had to acquire the other disciplines and you never acquire enough. So read, read, read, and by the way, if I have to choose, I read history, history, and history. Good works of history, not lousy books. - Last question.

Concluding Remarks

Survival (01:08:02)

You've talked about a survival of a nation. You yourself are a mortal being. Do you contemplate your mortality? Do you contemplate your death or your afraid of death? - Aren't you? - Yes. - Who's not? I mean, if you're a conscience, if you're being with conscience, I mean, one of the unhappy things about the human brain is that it can contemplate its own demise. And so we all make our compromises with this, but I think the question is what lives on? What lives on beyond this? And I think that you have to define how much of posterity do you want to influence? I cannot influence the course of humanity. We are specks, you know, little specks. So that's not the issue. But in my case, I've devoted my life to a very defined purpose. And that is to assure the future and security. And I would say permanence, but that is obviously a limited thing of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. I don't think one can exist without the other. So I've devoted my life to that. And I hope that in my time on this earth and in my years in office, I'd have contributed to that. Well, you had one heck of a life. Starting from MIT to six terms as Prime Minister, thank you for this stroll through human history and for this conversation. It was an honor. - Thank you. And I hope you come back to us so many times. It's, remember, it's the innovation nation. It's a robust democracy. Don't believe all the stuff that you're being told. It'll remain that it kind of be any other way. And I'll tell you the other thing. It's the best ally of the United States. And its importance is growing by the day because there are capacities in the information world that growing by the day. We need a coalition of the like-minded smarts. This is a smart nation. And we share the basic values of freedom and liberty with the United States. So the coalition of the smarts means Israel is the sixth eye and America has no better ally. - All right, now off Mike, I'm gonna force you to finally tell me who we're gonna win Neil on Moscow, Mark Zuckerberg, but that's a good time, man. We ran out of time here. - I'll tell you outside. - Thanks for listening to this conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now let me leave you with some words from a hot Mccondie. An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.

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