the us supreme court has ruled that prosecutors in new york can see donald trump's tax returns. he's the first president since richard nixon in the 1970s not to publish details of his finances. mr trump dismissed the investigation as a political witch—hunt. police in south korea say the mayor of seoul has been found dead, hours after his family reported him missing. park won—soon appears to have killed himself. police say that a female employee filed a sexual harassment claim against mr park shortly before his disappearance. people in singapore are voting in a general election which is partly being seen as a referendum on the government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. the city state has recorded only 26 deaths from covid—19 but is facing its deepest economic recession. now on bbc news, hardtalk with stephen sackur.
welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. just days ago, the israeli—palestinian conflict appeared to be on the brink of a major shift. israel's prime minister benjamin netanyahu seemed intent on annexing a major chunk of the occupied west bank, but palestinians and many beyond the region warned of dire consequences. but it hasn't happened — yet. my guest is the outgoing israeli ambassador at the united nations, danny danon. did mr netanyahu blink in the face of international condemnation?
ambassador danny danon in new york, welcome to hardtalk. thank you very much for having me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show, ambassador. let's begin with what appears to be a real sense of confusion at the top of your government in israel. the world was expecting a formal declaration from the netanyahu government of annexation of territory in the occupied west bank. they were expecting it days ago, and it never happened. why? so i'm sure we will discuss it a little bit more. i don't call it "annexation", i call it applying sovereignty over judea and samaria, not occupied and not the west bank, but we will get to that ina minute. regarding your question, if you read the agreement between our coalition parties, they agreed that the discussion will begin in july 1st. so actually, now we are starting the month ofjuly and the government
can start to discuss it. so there was no decision made to announce anything onjuly 1st. the only thing in the agreement was that any discussions will not happen before july 1st. well, there are many israelis who do appear to be confused. a poll just released by the israel democracy organisation shows 55% of israelis no longer believe that annexation will happen and it's clear that the so—called alternate prime minister, benny gantz from the blue and white party, is saying that he doesn't believe it will or should happen. so there is confusion. so i will correct you again. i will refer to our applying sovereignty. you cannot annex something that belongs to you. and when you annex something, you will do it from a foreign territory, so i don't know from whom we are annexing it. we did it actually in 1967 in jerusalem, we applied sovereignty overjerusalem.
in 1981, we applied sovereignty over the golan heights. and now there is a discussion — not a decision yet, but a discussion — about applying sovereignty over parts ofjudea and samaria. but to your question, we are a strong democracy — one of the strongest democracies in the world. we have a parliament, we have a government and at the end of the day, the decision will be made by the israeli government, the elected government, whether we like it or we don't like it. and i want to bring you back to 2005, exactly 15 years ago, when the government decided to pull out from gaza and to uphold the jewish communities. many israelis were not happy about this decision but once the government reaches a decision, we implement it. this is a democracy. mr netanyahu's message throughout the election was that if he became prime minister, he would deliver on this promise to — and i'll use the word one more time, and we can discuss in a moment
whether it's legitimate — but he promised, as far as the international community is concerned, to annex 30% of the territory of the west bank and pretty much all of the jewish settlements. the bottom line is it is no longer clear that is going to happen. he has blinked. i don't agree with that. it is a unity government, but in the coalition agreement on this issue, the prime minister does not need the approval of mr benny gantz and his party. unlike any other issue in the unity government, actually, they have to decide about every decision, every agenda item in the government, but on this particular decision, the prime minister can bring it to the government. i agree with you — he will need to gather a majority in order to pass a resolution in the government. and we have to remember another point — the prime minister said it many times — that we will co—ordinate it with the us. because it all started from the peace plan that president trump presented. and we were willing to negotiate on this plan to start
to implement it. so any decision that will be made, it will be coordinated with our allies in washington. well, we'll talk at length about your allies in washington in a moment. but now, let's get to your point about legitimacy and the law. you say you reject the word "annexation" because you cannot annex what is yours. do you believe in international law, ambassador? absolutely. and i explained to my colleagues in the security council about our rights to the land. with the greatest of respect, ambassador, this notion that the land, the occupied west bank, is yours is not in any accordance with international law, as defined by independentjurors right across the world, and you know it. i beg to differ with you and i will explain to you. but before we speak about the legal issues, let's speak about the biblical rights that we have to the land. you know... hang on, hang on, hang on.
we're talking international law — why are you introducing the bible or, indeed, ancestral history? this has nothing to do with the bible or ancestral history. this is about international law. and under that law, your notion that this disputed territory that was conquered in war by israel in 1967 — your notion that it is yours simply flouts international law and convention. so you will have to allow me to explain my point, and i will get to the international law in a minute. but we do have biblical rights to the land. whether you are christian, muslim, orjewish, you read the bible, you read the stories of the bible, it's all there. is the bible a legal document, ambassador? this is our deed to the land. that's biblical. we have historical rights to the land. it has nothing to do with the law. i will get to the international law in a minute. we have historical rights to the land — you just need to read a history book.
you go to see the arch of titles and you will see evidence for our connection to the land. and now i'm getting to international law. i want to go back to 1917 — the declaration for providing a homeland for the jewish state in palestine. then from 1917, you go to 1920, to the san remo conference. again, jewish homeland for the jewish people. and then, when you go to the charter of the un, for the un itself, it says specifically that it will adapt any previous agreement. so basically adapted the san remo conference. so we do have legal rights to the land. frankly, ambassador, there isn't an independent legal mind in the world who thinks that would stand up in any court of law. but i understand your position is not going to change. ijust wonder — this is a genuine question for you — do you see yourself as the ambassador representing benjamin netanyahu, the likud party, and thejewish settlement movement, or do you actually see yourself as the ambassador of the nation of israel?
which is it? so i am concluding five intensive years in my profession and i can —— so i am concluding five intensive years in my position and i can attest that it was a challenging task and i represent not only the people of israel, i represented thejewish people in the un... crosstalk. i asked if you actually feel you've represented mr neta nyahu and the likud and the ideological settler movement. but it seems that's who you've been representing. you haven't been representing the israeli nation as a whole because you know better than i do — and i'll quote you — three previous israeli prime ministers, two idf chiefs of staff who happened to be prime minister, justice and foreign ministers who all have concluded that this — and they use the word, they use the word annexation — is entirely against israel's interests, and wrong. so i want to go back with you to the basics. we have a democracy in the state of israel. i represent the elected government.
and in the last five years, the prime minister of the government was prime minister benjamin netanyahu. and he was elected over and over by the israeli public with those ideas that i represented at the un. maybe you don't like them. maybe some of these valleys didn't like it. but that's a democracy. if they were not happy with the policy of the government, they would've elected another government. but that is not the case. prime minister netanyahu was elected again to run the country and to lead the country, according to our ideology. but ambassador, you're the man who just told me that i need to respect history and have a real sense of the past. and in the immediate past, we have three different israelie —— and in the immediate past, we have three different israeli former israeli prime ministers who are saying this is entirely wrong, and at least two of them, to my knowledge, because they've spoken to me personally, used the word "apartheid" about what israel would be if it proceeded with this annexation.
tzipi livni, who i'm sure you know well and we've interviewed on hardtalk many times, recently said, "annexation" — her word — "would fundamentally jeopardise the nature of israel as a jewish democratic state". do none of these people and their words give you for thought? —— you pause for thought? absolutely not. and i would ask them, if you were in those positions as prime ministers or ministers of foreign affairs, why you didn't sign any agreement with the palestinians? why, in the last 72 years, we couldn't actually have a deal with the palestinians? because they rejected everything whenever we had a prime minister who was willing to negotiate. whether it was ruben, about, all merchant. —— whether it was ruben, rabat, 0lmert. they always rejected negotiation, and that's what's happening today. they chose rejectionism over realism. and unfortunately, you look at the shape of the palestinians today in gaza, in the west — in judea and samaria,
and you understand that they don't have real leadership. you've painted out that bit of history where benjamin netanyahu, for the last few years, has made it plain that he absolutely rejects the notion of a two—state solution, which was the very foundation of the oslo peace process. you know that as well as i do. prime minister netanyahu said very clearly that he's willing to negotiate everything. no. no, no! if i may say so, he made it very clear that he rejected — and he still rejects — any idea of a meaningful two—state solution. no, so there's a difference between deciding the outcome of the negotiations before entering the negotiations. that's not how you conduct any negotiations. prime minister netanyahu is willing to come to the room and negotiate. yes, he has maybe a different agenda than the leader of the palestinians, but that's why you sit together and negotiate. i approached president abbas in the un, and i asked him, "why do you come to new york all the time? why you cannot actually sit
with prime minister netanyahu in ramala, in jerusalem? why do you come to the un security council, the un general assembly? you don't gain much out of it." and unfortunately, they are not willing, even today, when we have new ideas coming from washington, they're not willing to sit down and negotiate with us. well, you talk about these new ideas from washington. let's talk about that in a bit more detail. isn't it the truth that the window of opportunity that you and mr netanyahu have to complete this — let's call it annexation, at least i'm going to — the window of opportunity is closing. donald trump faces re—election in november, you've gotjust four months, and the polls suggest donald trump may well struggle to win that election. joe biden has already said, quote, "i do not support annexation. the fact is," he said, "i will reverse donald trump's undercutting of peace. " your window of opportunity is about to close. so we respect every administration, and i worked with the previous administration, and i've worked with this administration.
at the end of the day, the government of israel will decide about the future of israel. but ambassador, you've spent five years in new york and in washington, too. you know the fundamental importance of the israel—us relationship. you know that ifjoe biden wins the white house, this policy of mr netanyahu's is dead in the water. so you know, i heard similar things about moving the embassy in 2018. the us decided to move its embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem and the same about recognising our sovereignty over the golan heights. we don't run our policy according to elections in other countries. and at the end of the day, we respect our allies, we respect our friends, but we take the decisions that are importantand crucial to our future. what about american jews? the part of your mission,
and other diplomats‘ missions in the united states, is to make sure that you have open channels of communication with the very important american jewish community. here's the words of rabbi eric yoffie, who was president of the union for reform judaism, which represents roughly 1.5 million american jewish people. he says, on this annexation issue, "americanjews are deeply unhappy. the monumental stupidity of this entire annexation enterprise has left american jews shocked and panicked, not to mention puzzled and confused and, above all, angry." do you care about that? so stephen, i can give you quotes from jewish leaders in the us and the uk and all around the world who support applying sovereignty, and actually pushing prime minister netanyahu to take up bold decisions. yes, we listen to them, we talk with them, we are like family.
but at the end of the day, the government of israel will actually have to decide about it. they will have to take into consideration the relationships we have with the us, with the uk, with the eu, with our neighbouring arab countries. and i spoke with many arab leaders from around the world and we listen to them, we'll have to take into consideration all aspects to reach a decision... ambassador, patently, you are not taking any of those voices and opinions into consideration if you even think annexation should be on the table. you're patently not listening to any of them. for example, look at the wave of condemnation of the concept of annexation that has come from — i'm going to quote borisjohnson, who says that these proposals will not secure israel's borders and will be contrary to israel's long—term interests, to european nations, including your great allies in germany, who have made it plain that if you go ahead with this, they will take serious measures in response because they think it is entirely
the wrong thing to do. the un secretary—general — leave alone the region with the arab league, thejordanian and egyptian governments, saying it will have very serious consequences. you don't listen to any of these voices. so first, i would advise you and all the distinguished leaders that you mentioned to be patient, to wait for the decision. how can you criticise a decision without actually knowing what will be the decision itself? take the golan heights, for example. when we applied sovereignty — just a minute, stephen — in 1981, when the prime minister applied sovereignty over the golan heights, the us opposed this decision. president reagan actually punished israel, and he held an important agreement that we had at that time. so we went on with that decision, and today the golan heights is a very important buffer between us and the radicals taking over syria today.
i'm just interested, ambassador, in a degree of reflection from you. because you are about to leave your post, you've been in the post in the united states, in new york at the un for five years. do you not care about the looming isolation that israel will face if mr netanyahu makes good on his promises? i mean, you're a diplomat, do you not care at all? do you not see that there is a grave danger here for israel? i care about that. and today, with isolation, we have diplomatic relations with more than 160 nations. we work with many of the arab countries in the region. but i don't think that strategy of threats is working on our decision—makers. and that's what i told my colleagues — don't threaten us, don't tell us that if you do that, we'll do that. is that simply because israel is currently in the hands of extremists? is that why these words from the international community have no real import injerusalem? because frankly, the government right now is on an extreme course.
absolutely not. again, you have to look at the facts. when you look at the coalition today, the right—wing party in our parliament is not part of the government. they are in the opposition. actually, two of them. you have a unity government, so you cannot call it an extremist government. it is not the reality today. but the israelis chose the prime minister and my colleagues in the government to represent their ideas. it's legitimate. let's talk about the context. i think this week, you saw one day a spike of 1,000 covid infections. your economy is in grave trouble. there's talk of 18% unemployment. but there's also talk, if you go ahead with the plan that we have discussed today, of sanctions being imposed in europe and possibly elsewhere on israel, in terms of elements of trade and things that could damage tourism in your economy. is now a time when israel is strong enough to withstand that kind of economic isolation?
so, i think it's legitimate to speak about the timing. it's always an issue whether it's the right timing or not. but let's not speak about threats again of sanctions and boycotts. that's not how you run diplomacy. and we don't expect our friends or allies threaten us or apply sanctions on us. yes, we have a huge issue with the covid—19. unfortunately, we are facing what looks like a second wave. we dealt with the first wave very good, but today we have to come back and actually apply more restrictions and asked the israelis to work and to follow the guidelines so we can overcome this wave again. a quick thought on more context — you just the other day, said that you regarded your most important
mission over the five years to prevent the iranian government from becoming a promoter of instability — ie, iran was front and centre of your diplomatic campaign, your efforts to do down the nuclear deal struck by president barack 0bama and other big powers with iran. you achieved that, but now we see more instability — for example, a bomb going off at the netan nuclear site inside iranjust the other day with sources suggesting it was israel that did it. is that true? you don't expect me to answer that question, but i will say that whenever you see instability in the region, you will find the fingerprints of the iranians. no, i'm talking about the fingerprints of israeli operatives or agents working for israel. did you launch an attack inside the plant? again, you don't expect me to address this issue. but i will say that, regarding the nuclear capabilities,
our policy has been very clear. we will not allow the iranians to reach the point where they can actually threaten israel, europe, the us and the entire world. look what they are doing today with their limited capabilities today. just imagine what they will do in the future if, god forbid, they will reach nuclear capability. and in a few weeks... but surely the point, ambassador, is that your government lobbied very hard to end the nuclear agreement that saw real kerbs being put on the iran nuclear programme. i'm reminded of that old phrase, "be careful what you wish for." so we were and still are against this agreement. many flaws were in that agreement, and today, some european countries are acknowledging it. you should read the report of the un by the agreement — not ours, but the un. and i think in a few weeks, the security council will have to decide whether to continue
with the arms embargo on iran, or to actually allow them to start to import weapons all around the middle east. that is a dangerous provision, and i hope the security council will actually continue with this important arms embargo. final thought, ambassador — during your five—year term, you've seen american politics lurch to the donald trump direction. he's been in the white house and he's been a "very close friend", as he would put it, and you would put it, of israel. you said recently, "as long as we have the support of the us and the un security council, we can be relaxed." but i put it to you that american power and influence in the world is perhaps on the wane, and the next us president may be much less keen on being your loyal supporter than donald trump. maybe, maybe you have been a little bit too complacent? i think that we have a bipartisan support for the state of israel today.
when you look at the congress today, you see it. yes, there are some extremists who call to boycott israel, but the majority, when you look at the leaders of the parties, stand with israel. they understand the importance of the connection with the only democracy in the middle east. so i don't get involved with the politics in the us, but regardless of the results of the elections, we will have the support in the un, in the security council, and i have no doubts about it. ambassador danny danon, i thank you very much indeed forjoining me from new york. thank you very much. i hope next time, we'll be able to do it in your studio face—to—face. thank you very much, stephen.
hello. we've had a real mix of weather across the uk so far this week, but things are now beginning to settle down. and certainly by the time we get to the weekend, it should be dry for the vast majority, with some spells of sunshine, because high pressure is going to build its way in. now, that area of high pressure is currently down to the south—west of the british isles. and for friday, well, we've still got low pressure fairly close by, so that means we have got one more showery day to contend with in many areas. now, those showers could crop up just about anywhere. they're most likely across northern and eastern areas, so through parts of scotland, northern england, down the eastern side of england as well. some of the showers here could be heavy and thundery, some being blown into northern ireland on this north—westerly breeze. for parts of wales and the south—west, yes, one or two showers, but most places here should be dry,
with some spells of sunshine. but i mentioned the north—westerly breeze. that's going to make it feel fairly cool, 15—20 degrees. now, some of those showers will continue during friday evening. into the night, while northern scotland will continue to see some, most other areas will turn dry, with some clear spells, light winds as well. it's going to turn into a rather cool night for the time of year. temperatures for many spots getting down into single digits — seven or eight degrees quite likely. but, as we head into saturday, here comes our area of high pressure building its way in. now, notice the way in which the high pressure is focusing itself to the south of the uk, so that's where we're going to see the best of the sunshine. the further north you are, there will be more cloud, and perhaps just one or two showers. north—west england, northern ireland, particularly scotland, you could catch a shower. but most places won't, most places will be dry. i think by the afternoon, we'll see a fair amount of cloud bubbling up in the sky, and temperatures, if anything, still just a touch below par for this point injuly —16—21 degrees. now, on sunday, temperatures are set to climb, particularly across england and wales,
where we'll see long spells of sunshine through the day. dry to start for northern ireland and scotland, but cloud and rain will then spread from the west. temperatures — 18 degrees in glasgow, but 211—25 possibly down towards the south—east. and monday is going to be another dry and warm day the further south you are across the uk. some rain further north and west, and it looks rather cloudy for most of us on tuesday.
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