This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," September 19, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, the president of Columbia last week; now the prime minister of Israel this week, Ariel Sharon. He sat down with me after his visit with the United Nations and that famous speech before the assembly.
ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I cannot say that the attitude of the United Nations always is for the Israeli attitude. Israel, I think, has been under severe attacks by members of the United Nations many times.
I think it was important to come and to bring forward the Israeli position.
CAVUTO: Now, we're told that a lot of top dignitaries met with you and actually liked you. Can you reveal any details, who talked to you, who shook your hand, that sort of thing?
SHARON: I think I met many people. I met, of course, President Bush and the American leadership. I met Prime Minister Blair.
CAVUTO: Well, all of those guys like you. Now, I guess what I'm asking...
CAVUTO: Musharraf of Pakistan, what was the reaction?
SHARON: And Putin, I met. I know him for many years.
SHARON: And heads of Muslim countries and...
CAVUTO: How did they treat you?
SHARON: In, I would say, a normal way. And they are not members of the Zionist movement.
CAVUTO: Right. Right.
SHARON: But I think they understand, also, there are changes and maybe time arrive to try and invite the relations and strengthen relations.
And Israel, being a tiny, small country, of course has interest to strengthen — we have interest to strengthen our relations with other countries, mostly countries that were hostile for many, many years. And, myself, I am going to make an effort to try and solve this problem.
I decided to make a real effort to move forward towards peace, not easy thing. It is very complicated. But I decide to do it. I know, when I announced that I am going to implement a disengagement plan, so many people did not believe that I am going to do it, because they understood it's a very, very hard thing.
And while they are not true that I am going to do it, I have said and I did it.
CAVUTO: But if there is renewed violence, sir — and your critics are instantly going to say, especially the more conservative members within your party, are going to say: We told you so. This was a mistake.
SHARON: Look, first, I don't think it was a mistake. I think it was very important. It was impossible to expect that 8,000 Jews will be living in an area where 1.2 million Palestinians live there. And I don't think we ever had a plan that the Gaza district will part of state of Israel.
But it's not so important what they are going to say, because they'll say many things, even now.
It's important, what we are going to do.
And once we left Gaza — we are not there anymore. Since last Monday morning, we are not there. So, nobody might have any complaints that we are holding their area. And I think our chief of staff said very clearly, that if terror will not stop, Israel will react in a very hard way. We are not going to...
CAVUTO: Ever in a reoccupy-Gaza way?
SHARON: No, I don't think that we have to...
CAVUTO: That's out?
SHARON: No, I think we have been there for a long time and I don't have any plans whatsoever to return there.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir, there have been concerns about Al Qaeda infiltrating that area. Do you have any truth to that?
SHARON: Look, Israel is a strong country, well-armed, courageous forces and courageous people altogether in Israel. And we will have an answer to that. We are not going to enable Al Qaeda country being on our border.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, sir, I watched your speech very closely. And I noticed that Nasser Al-Kidwa of the Palestinian Authority, foreign minister, didn't say boo. He sat, for the most part, with his arms crossed, emotionless. What did you read into that?
SHARON: I did not see that.
And I think that the Palestinians, mostly, when it comes to Mahmoud Abbas, I believe they understand that the time arrived to change the relations. And I believe that Mahmoud Abbas understands that most of the suffering that was caused to the Palestinians were a result of terror that was initiated by Yasser Arafat, who conducted almost 40 years a strategy of murder and terror. And they understood that.
It is not that he is a member of the Zionist movement. It is not that what he worries is about us. I think he worries about the Palestinians and he understands it should be a change.
The thing is that, in our part of the world, declarations, speeches, talks, promises are meaningless. Only one thing should be taken seriously. It is only acts. So, we are not going to take into consideration any promises. We are going to look for one thing, how they are going to act and take steps against terror and stop terror.
CAVUTO: But what if Abbas is telling you, sir, as I think he has in the past, that: I can't always control Hamas; I can't always control these groups that sometimes go off on their own?
What if we do have an incident from one of these extreme groups, despite what Abbas does?
SHARON: OK. We are not going to live and wait under terror. We will react and we will react in the hardest way, because there is no reason whatsoever to shoot at Israel or to launch rockets at Israel, what they are doing now.
We are not there anymore.
CAVUTO: All right.
Ariel Sharon, we are going to continue with this. Good news out of North Korea today, willing to work out their atomic ambitions. But do Iran's nuclear plans put Israel one step closer to the unthinkable? You won't believe what he has to say about that. More of Ariel Sharon.
CAVUTO: All right, continuing my exclusive chat with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The topic this time, Iran and its nuclear ambitions. As the president explains, it's not a problem Israel will have to deal with alone.
SHARON: No doubt that Iran makes every effort to possess a nuclear weapon. And they are working.
CAVUTO: How close are they?
SHARON: The issue there is not how many years it will take, but how they are going to solve — they have some technical problems. Once they solve these technical problems, we then will reach a point of no return.
And it doesn't make a difference if it will take three years, five years, eight years.
CAVUTO: Well, what is a point of no return? What does that mean?
SHARON: That they manage to solve the problems that they had and they can go ahead.
CAVUTO: But you have said in the past you cannot live with an Iran with nuclear technology, right?
SHARON: Yes. I believe that...
CAVUTO: So what would you do?
SHARON: I don't think that is the sole responsibility of Israel. I think this only can be an international pressure on Iran.
CAVUTO: Well, all the pressure in the world, sir, hasn't changed the fact they're going gung-ho on this.
SHARON: Yes. But the thing is that, when you think about what kind of pressure can be, first, only the United States can lead that. This is the only country in the world that can lead seriously anti-terrorism acts.
The United States should lead. I don't see anybody else that will lead it. But effort should be done in order to bring them, early as possible, to Security Council. They are afraid of Security Council meeting and sanctions that might be taken against them. And I know it is not easy thing, but I think that that should be done.
CAVUTO: But I wouldn't want to pin you in a corner, Mr. Prime Minister, but, assuming Security Council efforts fail, assuming the United States putting pressure on Iran, E.U. ministers putting pressure on Iran, assuming all of that fails, the last time a near neighbor tried to pull this on Israel, you wiped out, in this case, Iraq's nuclear capability. Would you entertain doing the same to Iran?
SHARON: So, first, I remember that. I was very active then on reaching that decision. And I think it was a very important thing, a very courageous operation, and very successful one.
We do not see ourselves as the spearhead of acts against Iran, not, I would say, not in any field, because I think that it's not a target of one country. Of course, we have to take precautions. We have to be able to defend ourselves, but we are not going to lead this effort. We have a very close cooperation, coordination with the United States, with European countries, with Russia, with many other countries.
But it is not for us to lead this effort.
CAVUTO: Sir, I think there's a perception that all things are going right for you, as far as, your popular support in Israel as a whole has improved since this event.
SHARON: Not within my own party.
CAVUTO: But that was my point.
SHARON: Yes. OK.
CAVUTO: Within your own party, you might lose control. How realistic is that?
SHARON: Look, the situation is that, as a result of the disengagement plan, I lost some internal ambitions. So, I lost the majority there. And I hope that I will be able to overcome these problems.
And, in any case, I am not going back now to the farm to ride the horses and to take the cattle to pasture.
CAVUTO: But Benjamin Netanyahu would probably like you to go back to the farm and ride the horses. And depending on the polls...
SHARON: First, I like to ride horses.
SHARON: I like farm.
CAVUTO: And depending on the polls, sir, he leads within your party. So, I guess the thing that Americans can't grasp is that you're a very popular leader in this country. You're widely admired, widely respected.
So, a lot of Americans have a tough time saying, hey, he could be out of a job.
SHARON: Oh, no, don't worry about that. I am one of the luckiest people that do not worry what will happen later, because...
CAVUTO: But this could happen soon. What's your own bet? What's your own bet?
SHARON: I will tell you, that is not my worry, that if I will have to go back to the farm to work in the fields. I like it. I love it.
I am one of the luckiest people that do not worry what will happen later, because I know where — I am going back to the farm. I like it. I was born on a farm. We are farmers. And that's something that I have...
CAVUTO: Well, well, no offense, Mr. Prime Minister, you seem to be planning your retirement. You don't think it's going to happen, do you?
SHARON: No, not at all.
I will tell you, if I were not worried about the situation, the problems that Israel is facing. Maybe a lack of leadership is — I believe that can deal and handle those complicated problems that we are facing. Israel is a wonderful country. It's a beautiful country. It is ours. But it is a country with 10,000 problems that we have to solve and deal.
And, for that, I would say you need the capability to decide decisions, to do it quietly. And that is what I know to do.
CAVUTO: Could I ask you a couple of very final quick personal questions?
SHARON: Of course you can.
CAVUTO: Benjamin Netanyahu, what do you think of him?
SHARON: Look, I don't deal with — I'm not giving him remarks to people.
I would say, to lead the nation, our nation, with the problems that we are facing, it should be somebody that can do it quietly, seriously, with self-restraint. And I don't think that is the case.
CAVUTO: He has those qualities?
SHARON: I will say, he is talented. But to lead the nation, to lead, to try and solve the problems and to stand firm and, on one hand, to be ready to make painful compromises. And I was ready to make painful compromises, but I made it very, very clear that I am not going to make any compromise when it comes to the security of Israeli citizens or the security of state of Israel.
CAVUTO: But if, sir, he became your party's leader, would you support him?
SHARON: Look, you speak about things that I don't think that will happen. And, altogether, one must remember always that Israel is a tiny, tiny, small country. It is a country with many talents, but it is a tiny, small country and a courageous nation, and that it is the only place in the world where the Jews are having the right and the power to defend themselves by themselves.
Myself, first of all, I am a Jew. And that is the most important thing for me. Therefore, I know that this responsibility is on my shoulders. And it is not enough that you have the right and the power. I know that it's our duty.
CAVUTO: All right. Ariel Sharon.
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