Niv Raskin: Mr. President, I would like to introduce a very important friend of yours who is on the line with us right now who wants to congratulate you and wish you a happy birthday. I am speaking of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Hello, sir.
PM Netanyahu: Hello, good morning. Shimon, congratulations, from the bottom of not only my heart, but the heart of the entire nation.
Raskin: Mr. Netanyahu, can you share with us a shared moment in your biography and that of President Peres that brought you together?
PM: I met Shimon during one of the most difficult moments in my life, when my brother Yoni was killed during the Entebbe Operation, and in fact my first meeting with Shimon was when he gave that wonderful eulogy – there is no other word for it – the wonderful and moving eulogy for my brother at Mount Herzl. That was our first meeting.
After that, in his numerous meetings with my father and my family, including my brother, I was profoundly impressed by the way that he treated us and how he referred to Yoni, and that created a bond that – believe it or not – was stronger over the years than the ups and downs of politics. It was so and it remains so because at that moment, I realized that Shimon Peres’s commitment to the State of Israel, to its existence, its future, its security, to achieving peace with its neighbors – these were things that were pronounced then and they have accompanied his vast activities over the years. His work on behalf of the State of Israel illustrates the revival of our people in the new era. I think that his integration of the human with the national is one of the wonderful things that lead to the great appreciation and love that I, and many others, have for him.
Raskin: Mr. Peres, do you remember meeting with the Netanyahu family, with Bibi, with Yoni?
President Peres: I certainly do remember. I knew Yoni before, of course, when he was still alive. I met Bibi as he described it. It was truly a very, very moving meeting for all of us, as Yoni was a special person, and as Bibi can also move people, and I thank him for his words.
Raskin: Mr. Netanyahu, these very strong emotions that you mentioned in your bond through Yoni actually takes me back to perhaps another time, to 1996. You mentioned the ups and downs of politics – that was a difficult election, very close and dramatic. During that election campaign, was there a moment when you thought, “I’m actually running against, I want to defeat, I want to win against a man that I actually love and very much appreciate”?
PM: Yes, I must admit that I thought about that quite a bit and I at least tried, on a human level, to avoid certain things, those things that are a part of politics and which are not necessary – and those are statements about a person’s character. I always thought that Shimon’s goals, his way of thinking, his intentions were always for the benefit of the State of Israel. There can always be disagreements, and by the way, those disagreements can be overcome and we can try to unite the people around a broad point of view to achieve peace and security, something we are doing now, together.
Raskin: Did you have a conversation after that dramatic election where you discussed these things?
PM: Do you think we only had one conversation? We had many.
Raskin: Tell us about them, we’re on tenterhooks.
PM: There were many conversations, and we have met many times since I was elected in 1996, and I discussed things with Shimon because I invited him, I asked to hear from him then as I want to hear his opinions today. Shimon is a world leader; he is a tremendous asset for the State of Israel; he holds within him experience that is very important for our nation; and he is one of the most well-known, if not the most well-known figure in the world, certainly the most well-known Israeli on five continents. I think he has a wonderful ability to open doors. I certainly wanted to consult with him then, and did so – and I do so today. I must say that the State only benefits from this.
Raskin: Mr. Peres, I’m blushing for you.
President: Good that you are, I don’t have the cheeks for it. I thank the Prime Minister for his moving and beautiful words.
PM: Thank you, Shimon.
Raskin: Mr. Netanyahu, one more thing, with your permission, before we finish. I know this is a festive interview, but in any event, could you please share what you’re thinking after the horrifying murder in Tel Aviv, the brutal attack on Rrik Carp?
PM: You said the key word. It is horrifying. A man leaves his house with his wife and daughter and his life ends at the hands of violent and brutal hooliganism. When I heard about this case, I immediately called the Minister of Internal Security, Aharonovitz. He told me the details of how the investigation has progressed since then, and I think that, in this case, the police acted quickly, and that is good. However, we agreed, also in light of this horrifying incident and in light of other incidents, that we will intensify the steps that have long been planned, and we made some preliminary decisions, including bolstering urban policing, the urban police force, because the ability to carry out these crimes against the citizens of Israel will significantly decrease if there are more police officers spread out in the field, operating in ways in which crime was reduced overseas that we can learn from.
This is the main thing that we must do. I think that our commitment, as a government, is to provide the citizens and State of Israel with security, including personal security. Personal security is not only vis-à-vis terrorists, it also refers to the domestic terror or crime, and we will act determinedly, and I hope also successfully, against it.
Raskin: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thank you.
PM: Shimon, with all my heart, congratulations.
President: Bibi, you truly are one of a kind. Thank you, and I know that your words were from the heart and very moving. It’s good that we have birthdays so that we can hear such things. You also deserve a great deal of gratitude and appreciation.
PM: Thank you, Shimon, and all the best.