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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Secretary of Defense WilliamJ. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
April 28, 1996 1:00 PM EDT

Sunday, April 28, 1996 - 1 p.m.

[This is a Special DOD News Briefing conducted by Secretary Perry and IsraeliPrime Minister Shimon Peres following the signing of a joint Statement ofIntent on theater missile defense cooperation at the Pentagon; alsoparticipating: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (Public Affairs)]

Secretary Perry: I am delighted to welcome Prime Minister Peres here at thestart of his three-day visit. I'd also like to take the opportunity to offermy personal appreciation and gratitude to Secretary Christopher for theoutstanding work he has done for the country, our country, for Israel, andindeed for world peace by the very capable and very dedicated work he did tomediate that cease fire agreement.

I have said before, and I would like to say again, to this group and publicly,that I am committed to maintaining the qualitative edge of the Israeli DefenseForces. The President is committed to that and all of our programs arededicated to be sure that edge is maintained.

The Prime Minister's visit today has been dedicated to our reviewing theprograms necessary to make that happen. We have focused our discussions onthree particular programs, one of them having to do with ballistic missiledefense. We have agreed on extending the cooperation in that area to includeenhanced early warning for the ballistic missile defense systems. We've alsohad significant discussions about providing defense against Katyusha rockets.We have agreed on a joint program called the Nautilus wherein we will provide aprototype development -- joint prototype development, which will be availablefor tests in Israel by the end of `97.

We will have a team going over to Israel next week to work jointly with themto get this program established. This team will also be looking at ways ofproviding an interim capability -- a near-term capability to defend againstKatyusha rockets, until such time as the Nautilus system is deployed. And wealso discussed today, the anti-terrorist program for which funding was recentlyapproved and we have programs underway to work out the details of how thatprogram is to be conducted.

Prime Minister Peres and I have agreed that we would work together jointly,and even more cooperatively than in the past, to accelerate and ensure thesuccess of these programs; and the teams we have going over there next week --well, over the period of the next month or two -- [will] put together thespecifics -- the details, by which these programs will be successful. I'd liketo turn the microphone over to the Prime Minister, now. Shimon?

Prime Minister Peres: Thank you very much, Bill. May I say that therelations between the United States and Israel are their best and thecooperation between the defense establishment of the United States and Israelare as good as one can hope for or think of. I'd like to thank wholeheartedlySecretary Perry for really trying not only to meet our demands but coming withsome suggestions to intercept the danger of terror.

Let's face it, fighting terror means enabling the peace process to go ahead;it's two sides of the same coin.

And, I think some of the thoughtfulness of Secretary Perry and his staffsurprised us in a very welcome way, because we can really shorten the time ofbeing terrorized, or the scope of the terrorists endangering the peace process.So, I'd like to offer my thanks to you, a dear friend, and to your staff and tothe Army, the Air Force, the Navy; and may I say that I shall go back homereassured that the rest of the world is not in the hands of the ones who wantto stop the peace process in the Middle East.

The visit of Secretary Christopher during the last week to our region, and themeeting today in the Pentagon, are really opening again the road to peace andthe friendship between the United States and Israel is, among other things, areal attempt to promise peace to the whole region and to stop the attempt tostop it by minorities in the region. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

Secretary Perry: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

Q: Are you getting closer to the day when you will have to consider apre-emptive strike on nuclear, biological, or chemical sites in Libya, Iran, orIraq? And is it a clear and present danger even today?

Prime Minister Peres: Well, I hope that this day will not come. I think anydanger, the earlier that you omit it, the least effort you have to make to stopit. I don't want to make any comparisons, but, for example, if the danger ofHitler would be realized at the early stages, millions of lives would be saved.And, I think the same is in our region. The best way to handle a danger isbefore it becomes a greater danger. And, that is what we are trying to do, Ibelieve, together.

Q: I wonder if I might ask, will this increased intelligence cooperation thatyou're talking about -- including satellites -- will that include instant,real-time warning for Israel of rocket and missile attacks against the Jewishstate?

Secretary Perry: Yes.

Q: In what way, could you elaborate a little more?

Secretary Perry: During DESERT STORM, Charlie, we had a provisionalarrangement we put together for relaying data from our early warning satellites-- whose purpose it is to detect ballistic missiles as they are launched -- torelay those data to Israel so that they could be an input both to the defensivesystems that were there and to the civil defense. And, that worked very wellduring the time of DESERT STORM.

What we are planning to put together here is a way of making that informationavailable in a systematic and a timely basis. And, so, warning will be givenin a matter of seconds to any ballistic missile launch that in any way wouldthreaten Israel. And, over the weeks ahead, we will work out the specifics ofhow we're going to do that.

Q: What is the impact of this agreement and the other one between Israel andTurkey on the strategic plans of the Middle East and how those two agreementsare going to affect aggressive countries like Iraq? Thank you. Secretary Perry: I think it should be clear to all countries that a provisionto provide warning data and provision to provide for the defense of the countryis not an aggressive action. It's an action to help provide defense. Itshould, therefore, be stabilizing on the one hand. On the other hand it shouldreduce any incentive of any country to launch a missile because they would seeit would be ineffective. Mr. Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Peres: I would like to add to it. I think, basically, we aregoing to go from a world of enemies to a world of dangers. Enemies are,basically, national, territorial; they have borders; they have flags; they havearmies; they have fronts. Dangers don't have any of those indications. Forthat reason, we have to over from a world of nations to a world of coalitions,as there is a coalition that produces dangers, we need a coalition that willcounteract the dangers.

So, I mean, the problem is not Turkey or Israel or Egypt or Jordan. In theMiddle East, they see two camps only, more than nationalities: a camp forpeace; and a camp against peace. So, whoever joins in the camp of peace iswelcome. It is not against anybody, it is against any danger.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, many of the Lebanese civilians are returning to theirhomes and villages and seeing the damage that has been done. Are you notconcerned about how much sympathy might end up being generated for Hezbollahamong people who would otherwise not support their cause?

A: Prime Minister Peres: Why sympathy, not anger? If it wouldn't be for theHezbollah nothing would be damaged. We didn't wake up one morning and startedto attack Lebanon; Israel was attacked day-after-day, without any provocation.And the Hezbollah was hiding among civilians, something that forced us toseparate between the two of them so not to hit civilian people as much as wecould. So, if they have an address for their danger, then I think it would beright to say that this is the Hezbollah.

Q: For both gentleman. A senior U.S. military official confirmed toJane's, earlier this week, that you now have evidence Iran is buildingtunnels along its Gulf coast for the emplacement of ballistic missiles. And heconfirmed this on the record. I'd like to ask both of you whether or not youfeel these tunnels are a threat to Israel and what you think the United Statesought to do about them?

Secretary Perry: I will not confirm the report which you've given, Barbara.I will say that we take very seriously the fact that Iran already hasshort-range ballistic missiles and already poses a threat with thoseshort-range ballistic missiles and we believe that they are trying to developlong-range ballistic missiles.

We take that threat very seriously and our program for dealing with thosethreats is complex -- and I don't have time to go into it in detail, now -- butthe first phase of it is preventive action. The second phase of it, the secondline of defense is deterrence, that is, having means that we can retaliate andstrike back. And the third line of defense is defensive systems. And, indeed,we were discussing with the Prime Minister this morning all of those phases,but in particular, we were discussing the defensive systems that might be used.

Q: May I ask the Prime Minister, sir, do you feel these tunnels pose a threatto Israel?

Prime Minister Peres: More than the tunnels and more than the missiles, it isthe fundamentalism which endangers not only Israel, but many Arab countries.It is an evil movement following the old Machiavellian story that goals justifymeans, so the Iranians permit themselves to cheat, to finance, arm, and pressterrorist groups to cause troubles wherever they can, to try and acquirenonconventional weapons... You know, there are two problems: the nature of theweapons; and the nature of the holders of the weapons. The nature of theholders of the weapon is the real story that worries us about Iran.

Q: North Korea is selling SCUD-Cs to Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; and alonger-range NODONG missile is even being sold or will soon be sold. What isthe weapon system, specifically, that poses the greatest danger to Israel'ssecurity? And, the follow-up to that is, will what you and Secretary Perry aredoing -- and have done today -- be a giant step towards solving that threat?

Prime Minister Peres: Again, I would repeat that the greatest danger arepolicies even more than weapons; but belligerent policies combined withlong-range missiles and non-conventional weapons is a terrible combination thathuman experiences hardly know in the past. And, there were always evil orextreme movements, but never did they possess either missiles ornonconventional weapons.

 

And, I personally feel, if I may say so, that we are at the race toward theend of this century in the coming four years. Who will win? The convoy offundamentalism? Or the convoy of peace? We feel ourselves as participating inthe convoy of peace, which is being led by the United States of America.

Q: But, today, just specifically, what you're doing with the antiballisticmissile systems, will this, as you see it, solve your problem against thelong-range missiles -- the ARROW and the Nautilus?

Prime Minister Peres: It's always good to have a defense weapon, not just apressure against armed policies -- and I think it will surely help, to a verygreat extent, to defend ourselves against those threats.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, would you mind for a moment -- I know Israel iswatching the American elections with great interest -- assess how these aregoing and how your own campaign at home is going, just briefly, please?

Prime Minister Peres: You know, a campaign is like a weather forecast: it'sgood just for 24-hours. Until now, we have the fair weather in Israel, from anelectoral point of view. Before the bomb explosions in Israel I have had avery impressive edge and, clearly, there is an intervention from outside andnow the elections -- I am referring to the terrorist organizations

-- but we have recovered and the plan that I have is to win the elections inclear terms.

Q: And, the United States?

Prime Minister Peres: I'm not so sure that I am the man, holding anon-American passport, to refer to American elections.

Q: [in Hebrew -- no translation]

Prime Minister Peres: [in Hebrew -- no translation].

Mr. Bacon: We have time for two more questions.

Q: Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, you noted your fear of outside intervention in theelections, Israel Army radio today reported that suspected Hezbollah guerrillaswere apprehended on the border between Paraguay and Argentina. I was wonderingif you could comment: one, on this incident, since it would seem to be relatedto the attacks and to the peace agreement, seem to come after the peaceagreement; and two, there are also, in the last two weeks -- twice -- suspectedsuicide bombers in East Jerusalem, I believe, blown up, planting bombs, policesaid. Do you expect more suicide attacks inside Israel as well?

Prime Minister Peres: On the first question, we got some information that theHezbollah and the Iranians were planning to attack Israeli or Jewish targets,abroad, outside Israel. In our judgment, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy inArgentina and the Jewish Center in Argentina was done by the Hezbollah. So, weare not surprised that a group like it was arrested in Latin America.

As another group was arrested, apparently, in Europe as well. We got manywarnings of an attempt to send more suicidical terrorists inside Israel. Ibegin my breakfast with a warning, almost daily, about such an attempt. But Ido believe that we are, today, much better organized than ever before, becauseIsrael took the precautionary measures and because the Palestinian Authoritystarted really to stop terrorists from continuing their hostile acts. And,also very much because of the initiatives taken by President Clinton in havingthe anti-terror conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. These are three attempts inorder to reach the same goal, namely to stop the killing of innocent people.

 

You know, I think we were attacked in two fronts: in the south by the Hamasand the Jihad; and in the north by the Hezbollah. And, I believe the visit ofthe Secretary of State helped us also to stop -- at least, for the time being-- the intervention of the Hezbollah in the Israeli attempt to make peace.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, what do you believe are the chances that the truce thatyou have signed, that the truce will hold? And are you concerned about how anyrenewed violence might affect your chances of election?

Prime Minister Peres: I would rather have my elections without violence, totell the truth. I don't need it for my campaign. I think there is a fairchance that the truce will hold on for the following reasons: the Lebanesegovernment has expressed a clear will to bring an end to these attacks because,finally, the real victims are the Lebanese. The Hezbollah launches theKatyushas, but the Lebanese people are losing their normal lives. It's not ourinterest at all.

 

And, then, also because, for the first time, the Syrians drawing in theunderstanding -- that Secretary Christopher has introduced... May I say oneword about the Syrians, in that case: it is extremely difficult to reach withthem an agreement, but one may say, once they reach an agreement, they usuallyrespect it.

Secretary Perry: Thank you, very much.

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