OTR Interviews

Israeli Defense Minister Barak: Historic Shift in Arab World Bodes Well for All of Us

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: U.S. and European airstrikes in Libya trying to stop Moammar Qaddafi from massacring more of his own people. Libya's civil war, Egypt's revolution, and unrest in Yemen and Bahrain are all grave concern to Israel. And there's news tonight that Israel just suffered its worst rocket attack in two years this weekend with Hamas publicly claiming responsibility.

Israeli Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak joins us. Good evening, sir, and as I look at what is going on in Gaza with Hamas sending rockets into Israel, and now Israel striking back and their injuries. You've got Qaddafi who says the war there is in part because of oil and Zionists. You've got Syria siding with Qaddafi, and you have the referendum on Saturday in Egypt voting, which -- growing influence of Muslim Brotherhood. There's an awful lot going on, on your plate for your country. How do you respond to all this? What is your reaction to all these?

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: First of all, the Gaza events. We cannot accept these indiscriminate attacks on our citizenry with mortars. I believe no one would accept it. And we are responding. Basically it's the result of an extremely effective operation that we have along the Gaza border fence. Some four or five terrorists were killed in separate three incidents. That's regarding to Gaza. I hope it will not deteriorate, but I do not recommend to Hamas to put us to the test.

In regard to the overall historic earthquake in the Arab world, I believe in the long term it bodes well for all of us because it is a movement in the right direction.

But in the meantime, as you have mentioned, duly so, it is a lot of problems. It emphasizes the fact that Israel is living in a tough neighborhood, nothing like Western Europe or North America. We have to rely upon ourselves at any moment of truth and we have to be strong.

But fortunately enough, we are not at the center of the screen there. We are not part of the picture, in spite of all the remarks that you have made. It is up to the Arab people to struggle for their rights to change the regime or to impose corrections and new procedures in their internal political life. And I think that it is the right step by the free world to intervene in Libya in order to put an end to the massacre of his own citizens by their own leader.

VAN SUSTEREN: You may not be directly involved in the events in Libya and Egypt, like what's going on in the Gaza, but the problem is that Egypt is always, or at least in recent history, they've had a treaty, an agreement with your country. Now Mubarak is gone, and if the Muslim Brotherhood with great uncertainty rises to power, that could change the dynamic considerably for you and for many countries in the region. Isn't that not true?

BARAK: It could become. I hope it won't. I talked to Tantawi, field marshal Tantawi after he took office. We happened to face each on the battlefield as battalion commanders some 37 years ago. I talked to him and told him, you know, I recommended we will be responsible enough to avoid our successor from being involved in the same kind of struggle that we had. I believe the Egyptian new regime will have or take into account the interests that Egypt has in continuing this process with Israel, as well as other international commitments, among other things in order to keep -- make them capable of holding their head over water regarding to the economic situation and having of commodities in the world. So I believe there are many constraints on them not to deteriorate the commitments to the peace process.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is your plan, your current plan having to do with Hamas and Gaza? It does seem like it certainly has escalated. The rockets, now they claim 19 have been injured. It doesn't look like things are quieting down. It seems like they are escalating right now.

BARAK: I don't think that it is healthy to go into the details. As I've said, we have to respond, and we will respond when we have to respond. But basically I hope and wish that it will not deteriorate, and it is of course up to them as well as up to us.

But as you mentioned earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood is a major threat in Egypt, mainly for the Egyptian society more than probably for Israel. We have to take in the long term into account the fact that things could change and that the whole neighborhood is not exactly stable. At the same time, we cannot but admit that certain kinds of political reforms are urgently needed all around the region.

VAN SUSTEREN: Minister, thank you, sir.

BARAK: Thank you.