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Sharif: Self-defense is law; Regev: Time for deeds

Regev and Abu Sharif
Regev and Abu Sharif  

(CNN) -- Anchor Judy Woodruff spoke with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's special adviser Bassam Abu Sharif in Ramallah and Israeli embassy spokesman Mark Regev in Washington following Israel's retaliation for the terror attacks that killed 25 Israelis over the weekend.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Abu Sharif, a senior U.S. official [was quoted Monday] as saying time is running out for Chairman Arafat, that he needs to produce, to do something with the people behind these terror attacks. Will he be able to do that?

ABU SHARIF: Well, President Arafat is very serious about the cease-fire and arresting all those who carry terrorist operations against civilians. But at the time, [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and [the] Israeli occupation army make their incursions into our areas, destroy and demolish houses, turn people into refugees in their own land, uproot trees, kill children like the five children who were killed in front of the United Nations schools, destroy the American school in Gaza for no provocation -- kill people and assassinate using the Apaches.

Arafat cannot ask people not to defend themselves. Self-defense is a law. It is a rule. It is legal. It is even acknowledged by the United Nations chapter. But when it comes to killing civilians in Israel, we condemn it and he is clamping down on the Hamas and Jihad for doing that. We condemn Israelis for killing our children, our civilians. They do that everyday.

President Bush calls for action from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after terrorist suicide bombings kill 25 Israelis. CNN's John King reports (December 3)

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Israeli helicopters attack Arafat's heliport and guard barracks in Gaza City. CNN's Matthew Chance reports (December 3)

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As Israel retaliates over weekend suicide bombings, talk of war takes center stage. CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports (December 3)

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CNN's James Martone says Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak are intensifying peace efforts (December 3)

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Watch Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's comments on the recent violence in the Middle East (December 3)

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But at the same time, we do condemn killing Israeli civilians. To kill a civilian is to kill a civilian. But what is really astonishing to Palestinians and puzzling is that when five kids going to school are blown up by Israeli explosives, we don't hear from the United States ... condemning and requesting Sharon to take and arrest those who are responsible and put them to court. But we do always hear that request [to] Arafat. So now he is arresting them. ... Nevertheless, Sharon ... bombarded Gaza today [Monday] and destroyed Arafat's office, his house, and other places in Gaza. He used the F-16 in Jenin against civilian targets.

WOODRUFF: Now I want it turn to Mark Regev, who is a spokesman for the Israeli embassy here in Washington.

Mr. Regev, you hear what he is saying, that yes, they condemn attacks on civilians on anyone's part, but they are saying, in effect, there's nothing wrong with self-defense after the Israelis have killed Palestinian children, among others.

REGEV: Judy, how could any logical person, any civilized human being, say that going into a crowded mall where people are eating in a restaurant and just trying to have a good time on a Saturday night, how could anyone really say that's self-defense?

You know, yesterday [Sunday] at the White House, we had a meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush. And both leaders said this is not the time for words. This is the time for deeds. Unfortunately, Chairman Arafat has been saying over the last few months, every second day, I'm against violence; I am doing my best against violence. But all the experts say, the American experts, the Israeli experts, say Chairman Arafat is not doing anything to stop the violence, to stop the terrorism.

Even the White House officially talked about a policy today of a revolving door where people are put into jail and let out the next day. There is no excuse for terrorism. There is no reason for terrorism.

WOODRUFF: When your prime minister accuses Mr. Arafat of being responsible for all the terror that has happened, in particular, the terror over the weekend, how can he continue to do business with Mr. Arafat? Is this a point at which your government will say, we will not deal with Yasser Arafat any more?

REGEV: Well, I think we could be getting very close to that point. And, as you know, the government of Israel now is meeting with all of the different parties make up the National Unity Coalition and there will be a decision taken probably in the next hour or two.

But you are right, Israelis cannot go on. We can't have business as usual, that Arafat says that he is committed to peace and at the same time he is acquiescing and supporting terrorism. They don't go together.

You know, President Bush said something very important. He said he who houses a terrorist is a terrorist. He who funds terrorist is a terrorist. He who acquiesces to terrorism is a terrorist. Arafat, on all points -- I just don't say so; I think any objective watcher [would agree] -- Arafat has been supporting terrorism. And if he does so, he can't be considered a legitimate partner in negotiations.


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