the novichok nerve agent attack. the british prime minister theresa may says the attempted murder of a former russian spy and his daughter was almost certainly approved by the russian state. thousands of members of the religious minority the yazidis are still missing, four years after so—called islamic state attacked them in their ancestral home in iraq. and this video is trending on bbc.com: researchers are calling it a "major medical threat" after discovering a new superbug is spreading undetected in hospitals. the bacteria are resistant to all known antibiotics and may be increasing the risk of severe infections and even death. that's all. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur.
in the turbulent recent history of the middle east, has there ever been a time when israel has seemed more powerful — militarily, diplomatically and economically? israel has the fulsome support of the trump administration, and it has common strategic interests with saudi arabia, and arab nations preoccupied with perceived threats from iran. my guest is israel's ambassador to the un, danny danon. is israel making wise choices from its position of strength? ambassador danny danon, at un headquarters in new york,
welcome to hardtalk. thank you, stephen, for having me. well, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. i want to begin with what i found rather extraordinary remarks from your prime minister, benjamin netanyahu, just a few days ago when he was visiting the dimona nuclear plant, where he said this. he said, in the middle east, there is a simple truth. this is no place for the weak. the weak crumble, they are slaughtered and erased from history, while the strong, for good orfor ill, survive. that seems to be a message to the israeli people, to the world, that might is right. am i understanding him correctly? the prime minister was very clear. we live in a very tough neighbourhood. you just need to listen to our neighbours. you know, we can envy your
neighbours in the uk, but when you listen to our neighbours from the north, you listen to hezbollah, you listen to the iranians, to hamas, you understand that they really mean it when they say that they want to kill the jews, they want to destruct israel. it's not only cheap talk. they really mean it, and they have the capabilities of threatening israel. that's why we will continue to seek peace, but at the same time we'll continue to invest in our defence, in our security measures, to protect ourselves. we have no luxury to make a mistake on this issue. ok, but let's think about the context. there he is at the dimona nuclear plant. we know it's the repository of israel's nuclear weapons arsenal, an arsenal which you will never disclose in public, but we all know it exists. you are the only nuclear power in the region. you have the strongest military of all of your neighbours, and there is benjamin netanyahu, basically saying all that matters is military strength. stephen, israel is a peaceful
nation, and when you look at stability in the region, when you seek stability in the region, israel is a beacon of stability in the region. so we will continue to be a place where we seek peace. we have no — any intention to escalate anything in the middle east, and our neighbours know that. they should know, at the same time, that if they will try to pose a threat to our existence, we have the means to protect ourselves, and we'll do whatever is necessary to protect the jewish people in israel. yes, but of course, many of the engagements and conflicts that we see israel occupied with are actually not about israel in an existential struggle for survival. in fact, quite the contrary. since march of this year, we've seen five months of the israeli military lining up along the border with the gaza strip, using live—fire ammunition against palestinian protesters. more than 165 have been killed,
including 23 palestinians under the age of 18. i guess mr netanyahu just regards that as proof that the middle east is again, quote, no place for the weak. the weak crumble and are slaughtered, and that is what israel is doing. i beg to differ with you. firstly, when we speak about the threat, we speak about iran, which is a real threat to the middle east, not only to israel, but also to the saudis, jordanians, egyptians, you name it. no, my question is not about iran. my question is about civilian protesters in the gaza strip, who for many months have been protesting along that border fence. they do not carry guns. admittedly, some of them throw stones. they even fly kites with flaming torches on them at times. but what they do not have is guns, and the israeli military responds with live fire. i will get to that in a minute. when the prime minister
spoke about the threat, he spoke about iran. let's make it clear. now, regarding your questions, nobody was lining up at the border to harm peaceful civilians. that is not the fact. the fact is that you had a 14,000 violent mob coming to the fence, with one intention — to bring down the fence, and then to march into thejewish communities next to our border. it was not a peaceful demonstration. that is a lie, if you call it a peaceful demonstration, because in a peaceful demonstration, you don't come with guns, you don't come with molotov cocktails. you come and you have a peaceful protest. this is not the case. it was orchestrated by hamas, and we did exactly what every other nation would do. we protected our border. you are sitting in new york, i am sitting in london. i'm inclined to take the word of a very experienced israeli human rights lawyer, michael sfa rd, who has looked at cases where the israeli military opened fire in the last five months, and he says it's quite clear lethal force against unarmed civilians who do not pose a danger is illegal, and this is the crux of many cases there on the gaza border.
he is an israeli lawyer, one of half a dozen human rights campaign groups who have filed cases against the idf in your country. with all due respect to all of those lawyers you just quoted, i care about the rights of the israelis who live in israel. and when you have 14,000 people marching to the fence, and they are saying, we will come and we will take the house of the jews, they are saying it, you have reports of hamas sending people to the fence and paying them to crash the fence, we cannot take any chances. let me ask you, what would you do if you had 14,000 of your enemy coming to your fence? what would you do then? you would protect your border. so we have no intention to harm anyone. we seek peace.
and i want to remind you that, 12 years ago, we pulled out from gaza completely. we took out all the so—called settlements out of gaza. we don't have occupation today in gaza. we don't have settlers in gaza. we don't have israeli troops in gaza. we pulled out. we demolished the houses. we even took the dead people out of the cemeteries. and instead of building a society that will thrive for our coexistence, that will build their economy, unfortunately hamas took over. and we see the results today, when they are digging tunnels and they are firing rockets into our civilian cities. ambassador, you sit there at the united nations, representing israel. and you know, of course, the un general assembly voted, i think it was 120—8, to condemn israel for its use of excessive force in the clashes we have seen in recent months. we've had the international criminal court saying that it wants a preliminary examination of what israel has been doing. we've had widespread condemnation from european leaders, many of whom regard themselves as close friends and partners of israel.
what would you say, given all of that condemnation, what would you say that israel has achieved in those five months, in which 170 palestinians have been killed ? well, you can speak about achievements. we had no intentions to see the escalation of this. we said that very clearly. we seek peace, period. we protected our border. we had no intention to kill anyone, and you should ask the hamas what they achieved by sending innocent people — some of them were innocent, but most of them were members of hamas, and they claimed it themselves, that they sent them to the border. what did they achieve? and by the way, let's not forget the context, stephen. it all happened after the us administration decided to move the american embassy from tel aviv to jerusalem. and the hamas leadership decided to contort the narrative, and instead of you covering
the opening of the new embassy, everybody in the world covered the riots on the fence. so it was orchestrated. they planned it, and it's a pity that they used people's life in order to get broad attention. getting back to the question of what was the point, i mean, i'm very mindful that in recent days your defence minister, avigdor lieberman, has in essence been having de facto negotiation with hamas, admittedly through a third party, the egyptians, looking for some sort of long—term truce arrangement, which according to the hebrew press could involve the wider reopening of the border crossings, we've seen some of that already, a resolution of the important issue of captive soldiers and missing people that israel wants returned, and then a wider agreement on infrastructure in gaza, foreign funding of sea ports and shipping lanes, and all sorts of things. basically you describe, on the one hand, hamas as an intolerable terrorist organisation intent on your destruction, and then,
after a flareup of violence, you end up talking to them and looking to do some sort of truce arrangement with them. it doesn't make sense. well, first of all, i invite you to the middle east. you will understand that many things don't make sense in our region. that's unfortunate, because you cannot predict everything that will happen with those people. if you've got an elected government, that's elected every four years, you can have negotiations with them. you're dealing with a terrorist organisation. they have a hidden agenda, and sometimes you don't know what will happen tomorrow morning. no, but you do acknowledge, then, that all of this rhetoric around them being terrorist organisation that you will never talk to, and all of that, it's basically nonsense. after all of the violence we've seen in recent months, you are talking to them,
and there is an effort to get a long—term truce with hamas. so when you look at the region, not only about hamas, but we say very clearly, it will be peaceful in israel, it will be peaceful in gaza. the same goes for lebanon. if hezbollah will try to check our capabilities, it will not be peaceful in lebanon, as well. but we have no reason to engage with hezbollah, or with hamas. but they are the ones who are trying to send rockets, to dig tunnels. and we say this very clearly to our people who are in the area. if it will be quiet in israel, it will be quiet in gaza. and, by the way, we encourage humanitarian projects in gaza. we work with the eu, we work with the un, about those projects. we have our humanitarian needs, as well, and you refer to the israeli boys who are being held by hamas. two israeli citizens, and two israeli bodies of foreign soldiers. you havejust made a point of saying israel cares about the humanitarian situation. if that is true, why has israel
and your prime minister, mr netanyahu, been so fulsome in support of the trump administration's decision to cut $350 million worth of assistance per year, that was channelled to the un relief and works agency, unrwa, that specifically provides assistance to palestinian refugees? you in israel have been delighted by that, so where is your concern for palestinians‘ humanitarian needs in that case? first of all, we have to acknowledge the decision made by the us. they are the ones who are giving the funds, and i have heard ambassador haley speaking here in the un security council a few weeks ago about unrwa, and she said, why are we paying so much money when all those countries who criticise the us don't give much money as well? it was a us decision, we respect it. we think it was the right decision for the...
what do you mean you respect it? you were thrilled by it. mr netanyahu said this. let me finish, let me finish. we think it was the right decision because unrwa, instead of supporting the palestinians, they did something else. they kept in the same situation. they are not resettling the palestinians. they are not helping them. the, for example — you know, millions of palestinians who live today under the palestinian control. why unrwa should take care of those palestinians? why can't the us, the uk, the eu, the gulf countries? why can't they give money to the palestinian authority, and they should take care of the palestinians who live there? these are internationally recognised refugees, as the descendants of the original refugees. they have the same sorts of rights that would be given under international law to afghan or burmese or somali or other refugees. and the truth is, as a member of unrwa, christopher gunness, has said in recent days, what you are trying to do
in your support of this us decision, you are trying to airbrush out of history and out of the discourse more than 5 million individuals who, according to gunness, have inalienable rights, but rights you don't want to recognise. first, we can argue about those numbers. unrwa has a tendency to expand the number of refugees so they can get more funding from the international community. but the main point is where they are heading. in unrwa schools they teach their children they should go back to their homes in tel aviv and jerusalem, they are not helping the palestinians. we know that it won't happen. instead of settling them, instead of teaching them a profession and helping them build a better future for their own people, they are actually helping the palestinians to continue with their victimhood approach. an approach that didn't bring them anywhere.
you cannot stay victims for centuries. there are times we have to say let's move on, let's build our future. when mr gunness talked about you wanting to airbrush the palestinian refugees out of history and out of the discourse, that sounds pretty much like what you just said to me. but i would say to you, the american phrase, i am sure you do in new york city, "be careful what you wish for." it could lead to massive new problems for israel, if all of the humanitarian assistance, education that was provided by unrwa to palestinians, if this is jeopardised as a result of this, in the words of lara friedman of the foundation of middle east peace, she says "it is very clear that the overarching goal is to eliminate palestinian refugees as an issue, but this will not make peace any easier, it will actually make it even more difficult." so, i want to surprise you that we encourage countries to support humanitarian projects in somalia and in gaza.
we work in many countries on those projects. it doesn't have to go through unrwa. you have other agencies, you have other means to support palestinians, we encourage it, but when you look at unrwa, about the incitement in schools, about the work they are doing there, we think it is about time to find another way that will actually help the palestinians and will not leave them where they are. i asked you about how you regard israel's standing in the world, as you sit there representing israel at the united nations. another area of deep concern for many both inside and outside israel in recent weeks has been the passage in the knesset of what is called by many the nation's state law, which enshrines the special status of israel as the historic homeland of the jewish people in your basic law. the european union foreign affairs representative has expressed her deep concern. amnesty international has said
that it has entrenched and exacerbated 70 years of inequality and discrimination. do you care? sure, we care. but stephen, i am amazed, at the un i see so many resolutions and so much talk about israel, i don't recall in the un anybody discussing legislation in other countries. internal legislation, not the us, the uk not even the eu. when it comes to israel, people have an obsession with every single thing that happens in israel. ambassador, surely you don't have such a short memory? surely you remember during the apartheid years in south africa, the international community was very preoccupied for the fight as what was widely regarded as justice in south africa. it is notjust israel that is put under international scrutiny. you cannot compare south africa to israel, even though our adversaries that is
what they want to do. if you look at the arab israelis that live in israel, they are equal citizens. this law doesn't change it at all. israel is a strong democracy, it will continue to be a strong democracy and those arab members of the knesset who criticised the law, by the way, some of them even travelled to the un and the eu to criticise the legislation. can you imagine another democracy that would allow a member of parliament to come to the un and criticise the work of its own parliament, of its own government? it only shows how strong a democracy we are... laughter ..even if you don't like it, it the strongest democracy. it is even stronger than the democracies in europe who criticise us! i believe we are a stronger democracy than those who criticise israel. it depends if you are listening to the substance of what these people are saying and how seriously do you take it. and frankly, it isn't just arab—israeli mks,
politicians, who are accusing the israeli government of racism. the leader, one of the leading figures in meretz, tamar zandberg, she said quite crudely and bluntly that this is a racist law. there are many israelis, we have seen them demonstrating in tel aviv and elsewhere who support that view. i was a member of parliament and i'm used to those arguments. let's speak about the legislation itself, which speaks about the character of israel as a jewish nation, our flag, our language, it allows minorities the same rights as everyone else. so yes, israel is ajewish democracy. you can have that, there is no contradiction between a jewish and a democracy and everybody should respect that... there are 1.8 million arabs in israel, roughly 20% of the population, isn't it? and when they read in your nation's
state law, which is now basic law, that "the state views of the development ofjewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote it's establishment", there is no doubt, surely in anybody‘s mind, that that creates two classes of citizen. jewish citizens and the rest. no, that is not the case. the same in minorities when they read the word of the national anthem of israel, it speaks about the jewish nation. when they open their passport or id cards, they will see the symbol of the menorah, a jewish symbol. they live in a jewish nation, they know that, but in thisjewish nation they have full rights, they will get elected to the knesset, they will sit in our supreme court, they will get the same education as my children get in israel. that is the meaning of equality, but it is equality in ajewish nation. yes, israel is the homeland of thejewish people and it can be a jewish nation and a democracy.
there is no contradiction. some people want to change the character of israel as a jewish nation, but for us, since 1948, we decided that israel will be ajewish democracy. a final point, ambassador, we don't have much time. it strikes me in your three years or so in the un, you have been very quick to accuse many critics of israel of being racist. you said it, i think, about the motivations of the un humans rights chief who hasjust left, that is zeid raad al hussein. you have said it about other critics of israel. you even once said at about the obama administration. do you think it devalues notions of anti—semitism and racism, to accuse those who simply oppose your government policies, of being racist? first of all stephen, we are open for criticism. as a strong democracy we criticise one another all day long in israel, it is part of our life, and we welcome cirticism.
but when you responded to the obama administration, when they were putting heavy pressure on the israeli administration, i think it was in 2009, to stop putting newjewish settlements and housing in eastjerusalem, you responded by saying "president obama should not interfere with the rights of the jewish people to live in jerusalem, this is a — quote — racist demand." do you think president barack obama was a racist, anti—semite? no, your quote is not accurate. when president obama criticised the rights ofjews to build injerusalem in the neighbourhood of gilo, which is part ofjerusalem and said thatjews should not be able to build in gilo, in southern jerusalem, that was not acceptable by the majority of israelis. do you think barack obama was, is a racist against israel? no. i think he made a mistake, a major one when he allowed
the resolution to pass in december 2016 in the security council. it was a crucial mistake, it was a shameful resolution that they actually denied the connection betweenjewish people and jerusalem and i said quite clearly it was a shameful resolution. but when i blame people of anti—semitism here at the un, i do it when they are using different language, when they speak about israel. different criterias when they deal with israel. we can criticise israel, absolutely, but criticise only israel. when you look at the human rights council, when you speak about human rights violations in israel and spend only a few minutes talking about human rights violations around the world, it doesn't make any sense. this obsession, it comes from somewhere, and when i see anti—semitism, i will call it. we have to end it there. but danny danon in new york city, i think it much forjoining me joining me on hardtalk.
thank you very much stephen. hello there. we're ending this week on something a lot more unsettled than how we started it, that's because we're replacing high pressure with an area of low pressure. at the moment we're still in between systems. there is a developing area of low pressure out across the north sea. but we've got high pressure dominating, i think, for much of thursday morning, a couple of weather fronts around too. they are going to bring outbreaks of rain to the northern isles, this weather front trailing down
into northern england, north—west england, parts of north wales. barely anything on it, a line of cloud, the odd spot of rain. we could see further showers returning to western scotland, too, first thing this morning. where we have the cloud, tempertaures starting in double figures, otherwise clear skies is a single figure values on the chilly side. in fact, today will be feeling cooler right the border, especially across the north. and we're starting the morning off with a good deal of sunshine around. showers will start to get going across scotland and then we will see feature, another weather front moving out of ireland across the irish sea into wales and the midlands and south—west england, as we head on into the afternoon. so conditions go downhill for many central and southern parts of england and wales. could see still a little bit of sunshine across the south—east, where we could make 20 or 21 degrees. a lot more cloud further north, outbreaks of rain, temperatures in the high teens celsius. but it's going to feel cooler than that further north.
for the far north of england, northern ireland and scotland, sunny spells and scattered showers, some even thundery across scotland. now, as we head on in towards friday, we start to see this area of low pressure develop. most of the very heavy rain will stay offshore, but as we head through friday it looks like it could be quite wet across parts of scotland and north—east england. now, some of this rain could be quite heavy for time through friday morning across eastern scotland, north—east england, with another spell of rain pushing into northern scotland. but further south and west that you are, it should be generally drier and brighter. north, north—west winds, on the cooler side, temperatures ranging from 15—19 degrees. and those winds quite a feature, i think, as they move across the east side of the country. that area of low pressure continues to spin around, moving further eastwards into the north sea. we see another feature run into wales and the south—west of england as we head on into saturday. a bit of uncertainty to this, but this is the feature i'm talking about, could bring some wet weather to england and wales through the day.
meanwhile, low pressure to the north of the country continues to bring showers to the north of scotland. saturday, we will see that rain spreading eastwards, and then on sunday, probably the better day, the drier and slightly brighter day. i'm rico hizon in singapore, the headlines: britain names two russian intelligence officers as suspects in the novichok nerve agent attack — and says moscow must be held to account. should either of these individuals ever again travel outside of russia we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the united kingdom. a daughter enslaved by islamic state is freed. we report on the plight of the yazidi community in iraq. i was scared to come back.