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Arafat and Barak: The Quest for PeaceAired September 10, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EHUD BARAK, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: If still is opportunity or chance for peace, I will leave no stone unturned.
YASSER ARAFAT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT: I'm not asking for the moon. I'm asking what has been signed, what has been agreed upon to be implemented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Two leaders facing their moment in history, but certainly not alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They need your support now more than ever.
CLANCY: Now more than ever. The religious, political and territorial conflict between Arabs and Jews dominated the last half century in the Middle East. In a new century, it is the quest for peace.
Hello, I'm Jim Clancy, and welcome to our special report: "Arafat and Barak: The Quest for Peace."
In the next hour, we are going to hear from protagonists themselves what obstacles must they still overcome to reach an enduring peace. We'll revisit the issues and assess the hopes for this peace process which has brought the two sides so much closer but not close enough to finalize an agreement.
Discussions about the Middle East peace process picked up steam this past week, largely because the three principles, Palestinian leader Arafat, Mr. Barak and Mr. Clinton all attended the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York.
CNN Jerusalem bureau chief Mike Hanna takes a look back at the week.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The largest gathering of world leaders in history discussing the course of the U.N., among them two men concentrating on a more immediate issue: the possibility of breaking the deadlock in the Middle East peace process.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak says he was committed to this goal.
BARAK: I do hope, and, may I say, pray, but I don't know.
HANNA: So, too, was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
ARAFAT: I am not asking for the moon. We are asking for the accurate and honest implementation to what has been agreed upon.
HANNA: And from U.S. President Bill Clinton, the message that time is running out.
CLINTON: Let me say to all of you, they need your support now more than ever to take the hard risks for peace. They have the chance to do it, but like all life's chances, it is fleeting and about to pass.
HANNA: The one thing that did not pass quickly in New York was the traffic. The heads of state were able to move freely amidst the gridlock, but as both the Israeli and Palestinians leaders went from meeting to meeting, it became apparent that the peace process, like the city's traffic, remained at a standstill.
At the heart of the deadlock, still disagreement over the future of Jerusalem, in particular arguments about who should control the holy sites.
ARAFAT (through translator): We have greed to share the city, eliminate boarders therein in contrast to attempts at monopolizing it as a response to exclusivity and rejection of our rights. At the same time, we remain committed to our natural rights over East Jerusalem, capital of our state, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of our sacred sites.
BARAK: Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, now calls for a peace honor, of courage and of brotherhood.
HANNA: The bottom line: Both sides they say they would allow free access to the holy sites to all, but each side insists the old city must be under it's sovereign control.
Behind the laughter, the awareness that at this stage the issue of Jerusalem threatens the entire process. And CNN understands a proposal has been made that negotiators concentrate on other issues in the weeks ahead, establishing points of agreement rather than points of difference.
HANNA: No breakthrough has been achieved, but Israelis and Palestinians will take one thing away with them from New York, and that is the knowledge that while the talks may be deadlocked, the peace process at least is still alive -- Jim.
CLANCY: All right, Mike Hanna. Mike, I'm going to ask you to stay right there. I'm going to come back to you, but I want to switch now to Gaza, where we're joined by Saeb Erekat, one of the lead negotiators for the Palestinians, someone who has been at an all- important meeting where the Palestinian leadership is determining if it will go ahead with its threat to declare a state unilaterally by this Wednesday, the 13th of September.
Saeb Erekat, what can you tell us?
SAEB EREKAT, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well I can tell you, Jim, that the Palestine Central Council just concluded its meeting five minutes ago, and the PCC addressed the Palestinian position for the strategic choice of peace. Hopefully, it will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the establishment of the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
They call upon the Israeli government to continue the implementation of the outstanding commitment of the interim agreements, they reiterate their commitment to a comprehensive peace and all issues (UNINTELLIGIBLE) permanent status without any fragmentation or delays, which will include Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, borders, water and other issues of common interest.
And they appoint the PLO executive committee, the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the executive committee to follow up the steps necessary for the establishment of the Palestinian state, and to submit a report on a special meeting to be convened before the 15th of November.
So all I can tell you, Jim, is that the Palestinian leadership decided to give the peace process the chance it deserves. This corresponds with what was agreed between President Arafat and President Clinton last Wednesday, to have an intensive negotiation over the next few weeks and to give us every possible chance in order to conclude an agreement on all permanent-status issues as soon as possible.
CLANCY: Saeb Erekat, we know that the next four weeks are going to be intensive negotiations. Some people have said negotiate on those areas where you can perhaps reach an agreement -- you mentioned some of them. Is it possible that there will be two tracks, one to deal with those stubborn issues of Jerusalem and the future of refugees outside of the Palestinian territories, while the other one negotiates on some of those issues that might be resolved?
EREKAT: Well I don't think it's the form, how you do it, in one track or two, it's the substance of the issues that need to be tackled now. And believe me, Mr. Barak and President Arafat do follow personally the negotiations on all these issues. And at the end of the day, what we need is to see the Israeli government committing itself to the implementation of the terms of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provided for unlimited peace conference. Now we have agreed, and we actually met the Israeli side today and we present to them our willingness to commence immediately the negotiations in terms of a few weeks to give every possible shot on all issues without, you know, delaying any of this, without fragmenting any of the issues.
Now as far as the leaders are concerned, there have been channels between them, and there could be many things that can work between the two sides. But at the end of the day, what we're talking about now is a substance. We have a major gap on all issues, but I think we should use the next five weeks and exert maximum efforts in order to produce the result satisfactory to both sides.
CLANCY: Saeb Erekat there giving us the latest from the Palestinian Central Council meetings that went on, deciding in those meetings to postpone the unilateral declaration of a state for now. There was a September 13th deadline.
Let's go back to CNN's Mike Hanna standing by in New York.
Mike, how are we to read this news? It has to be a positive sign for all sides?
HANNA: Very much so, Jim. Early on in this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said that a postponement on the decision to declare a unilateral statehood would be regarded very much as a positive sign by the Israelis, so certainly the Israelis are going to see this in a positive light, as to are the mediators, the United States.
The interesting thing that we heard from Saeb Erekat there is that the Palestinian council has referred the whole process of statehood back to the executive council. This is effectively putting it right back into Mr. Arafat's hands to decide how they're going to progress from here in terms of the statehood issue with the new deadline coming in here being 15th of November.
But certainly this has created a space. It had extending the window within which real negotiations can take place without the sword on the neck of some kind of deadline in the imminent future -- Jim.
CLANCY: Mike, I've got to ask you here, we talk so much about the leaders but how about the public, the Israeli public, the Palestinian public. What role do they have in all of this?
HANNA: They have the critical role. Both leader have said, should they reach an agreement, they will take that agreement and put it before their respective publics. This has colored the whole negotiation process, because the leaders and the negotiators are not only negotiating on what is right, on what is just, they are negotiating on the basis of what they can sell to their constituencies.
Now Ehud Barak has been absolutely adamant that if he comes to an agreement, he will be able to sell that. Some observers believe that this may be an example of Mr. Barak's political naivete. Yasser Arafat has not been quite as straightforward as that. However, he has appeared quietly confident that he would be able to sell it. However, his critics would say that this is a sign of his political arrogance.
The problem is that the leaders may not have a win-win situation. Ehud Barak summed it up when he said, we may not get 100 percent of our dreams. The leaders may find themselves in a situation where they are selling to their public a victory but a failure, and having to explain why their publics did not get everything that they hoped they would get, a very difficult process indeed, Jim.
CLANCY: All right, thanks to CNN's Mike Hanna.
One of the men who has felt that public pressure, a man who has led the Palestinian cause for 30 years, of course Yasser Arafat. Not for the first time, he brought his case for an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital to the United Nations headquarters last week. He also shared his thoughts and frustrations in an exclusive interview with CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Arafat, what are the chances that you will declare a state on September 13th?
YASSER ARAFAT, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: First of all, you have to remember it is not my decision. It is the decision of our center council, which will be held there within some days.
AMANPOUR: Would you say that the Palestinian leadership will declare a state on September 13th, or would you say you will defer it?
ARAFAT: Anything will be decided in the central council...
AMANPOUR: So you're not...
ARAFAT: Don't try to push me outside of our democracy.
AMANPOUR: Do you plan to meet with the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Barak, here in New York?
ARAFAT: I am meeting him every day.
AMANPOUR: Have you had a face-to-face meeting with him here?
ARAFAT: Yes, I...
AMANPOUR: Here in New York?
ARAFAT: Yes. Every day I am meeting him and shaking hands with him, every day.
AMANPOUR: Are you discussing? ARAFAT: No.
AMANPOUR: What are the chances, do you think, of reconvening a three-way summit any time soon?
ARAFAT: It depends not on me. It depends on what we agreed upon yesterday with President Clinton that negotiations will continue.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that Mr. Barak, as we've just discussed, has gone further than any other Israeli prime minister, has basically almost seen his government collapse...
AMANPOUR: ... and has seen his popularity...
ARAFAT: Who told you that he -- still (UNINTELLIGIBLE) voting for him can vote. The Arab -- the votes of the Arabian votes, 20 votes still in his pocket..
AMANPOUR: So you think he's in a secure position?
ARAFAT: I don't know. You have to ask him. You have to ask him. It is his policy.
AMANPOUR: The general consensus is that he has made steps that no Israeli leader has and he's suffered for it politically. My question to you is, do you think that you can get even more out of him, that you can outmaneuver him, outlast him politically? Is that why you're waiting, to get more out of an Israeli prime minister?
ARAFAT: First of all, I'm not asking for the moon. I'm asking what has been signed, what has been agreed upon to be implemented accurately and honestly. Not more, not less.
ARAFAT: Are you against this?
AMANPOUR: When Prime Minister...
ARAFAT: Are you against this?
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, though. When Prime Minister Netanyahu was prime minister, you used to say the same thing, I'm not asking for the moon...
AMANPOUR: ... and everybody agreed with you then. But now Prime Minister Barak is head of the Israeli government, and he has gone farther than any other Israeli leader.
ARAFAT: Not yet.
AMANPOUR: So he's given you... ARAFAT: For your information...
AMANPOUR: ... more, right?
ARAFAT: To speak frankly, for your information, you remember that we both, me and him, signed Sharm El-Sheikh agreement in Egypt under the supervision of President Mubarak, and also he signed the agreement, King Abdullah had signed the agreement, Mrs. Albright had signed the agreement. And we had two letters of guarantees, one American letter, one European Union letter.
And in spite of this, nothing of what had been signed in this agreement has been implemented. And you can ask him to give me one item who had been implemented by him in what he had changed in the Sharm El-Sheikh agreement.
AMANPOUR: There are those who've suggested shared sovereignty over Jerusalem, shared sovereignty.
ARAFAT: Over Jerusalem?
ARAFAT: Would you accept to share sovereignty of Washington?
AMANPOUR: So for you that's a nonstarter?
ARAFAT: Would you accept?
AMANPOUR: I'm not an American citizen.
ARAFAT: From where you are?
AMANPOUR: I'm from England.
ARAFAT: You accept London to being shared?
AMANPOUR: But London is not in dispute like Jerusalem is. Today is today. What if...
ARAFAT: Today is today. Rights are rights.
AMANPOUR: So, no, in other words?
ARAFAT: No doubt, I can't betray my people. I can't betray the Arabs. I can't betray the Christians. I can't betray the Moslems. And he has to respect all these items concerning the Christianity and the Islam.
AMANPOUR: You say you cannot betray the Arabs. Certainly you have been doing a lot of meetings recently with the Arab leaders. I want to know, are you seeking from your Arab partners room for maneuver and room for compromise, or are you seeking from them the permission to hold firm on all of this?
ARAFAT: You have to remember that recently we had a very important meeting in the Arab League on Syria for all the foreign -- Arab foreign ministers, and it had been called a session -- representative session.
AMANPOUR: But when you go see them...
ARAFAT: I am...
AMANPOUR: ... and President Mubarak and the other Arab leaders, are you hoping they say, Chairman Arafat, you do what you have to do, you go ahead and make the compromises that you think are right, or do you want them to tell you to hold firm?
ARAFAT: They used to tell me, we respect what you are decided -- what you are deciding. But I am respecting in the same time their decisions, and their participation with me...
AMANPOUR: You know...
ARAFAT: As I had mentioned, this problem with Jerusalem is not only a Palestinian question. It's not only concerning Palestinians. It is for the Arabs, for the Christians and for the Muslims. And at the same time, I said we can give the full freedom for the Israelis to go to pray in the Wailing Wall.
AMANPOUR: Have you concluded...
ARAFAT: ... because we are respecting also Judaism.
AMANPOUR: Have you concluded that the better -- that it would be safer and better for you to extend this state of affairs rather than sign an agreement that certain people might say was a sell out?
ARAFAT: First of all, I respect what I had mentioned and promised my people, my nation, my religions, the Christianity and the Islam, and I am not going to betray them. You have to remember with whom you are speaking. You are speaking with Yasser Arafat.
AMANPOUR: And Yasser Arafat has already partly liberated his people from Israeli occupation.
ARAFAT: And I would continue to liberate all the Islamic and Muslim holy places.
AMANPOUR: But right now, sir...
ARAFAT: It is clear and obvious.
AMANPOUR: OK. Right now, though...
ARAFAT: If not, another one will come to liberate it.
AMANPOUR: So this could go on for a long time?
ARAFAT: And this I had mentioned clearly and obviously in Camp David to Barak in front of President Clinton. It will be liberated sooner or later. AMANPOUR: Right now, though, there's no peace deal.
AMANPOUR: I'm just sort of stating it. I just want to ask you a question.
ARAFAT: What? You are stating -- you have to...
AMANPOUR: Is there?
ARAFAT: There is an agreement.
AMANPOUR: Right, right, but there's no -- you haven't signed the full deal yet.
ARAFAT: Yes, the final.
AMANPOUR: Right, so the question is, when you had the chance, for instance, at Camp David, from what we understand, from what we've been told, to either sign the deal which you decided not to or to sign a partial deal and defer Jerusalem for a long time, was that not OK?
ARAFAT: In spite of what you are mentioning, I am not in a situation to ask your advice. I have many advisers whom I am respecting their advice. I am following their advices, I'm not following your advice.
AMANPOUR: I'm sure you do. I want to know why you decided not to sign a partial deal. No, I'm not advising you to sign a partial deal.
ARAFAT: I had to -- you not to forget, I had to sign many partial deals. The last one was in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt with Barak himself, which has not been respected.
AMANPOUR: How do you feel about President Clinton publicly blaming Yasser Arafat for the failure of this summit?
ARAFAT: This is not in my mind. It is a part of the mass media propaganda.
AMANPOUR: So you're not angry?
ARAFAT: No, and as I have mentioned, I had -- I respect it completely what he's doing and thank him from my heart for pushing forward the peace process.
AMANPOUR: A lot has been made of Arab public opinion and, as you keep saying, I will not betray the people.
ARAFAT: Would you betray your people?
ARAFAT: Would you betray your people? AMANPOUR: I'm not in the same position you are.
ARAFAT: In your duty, in your position, are you ready to betray your people?
AMANPOUR: Well, then the question then is, the people want a future...
ARAFAT: You -- I am asking you clearly and obviously...
ARAFAT: ... do you accept to betray your people?
AMANPOUR: I don't have people to betray.
ARAFAT: You told me you are from Britain just now -- or you have no nationality?
AMANPOUR: But you know that many, many people would prefer...
ARAFAT: If you have no nationality...
AMANPOUR: ... to have food in their stomachs than talk about slogans. In other words, the people of Palestine, your people, want an economic future...
AMANPOUR: ... they want proper lives...
ARAFAT: No, no...
AMANPOUR: ... they want...
ARAFAT: You have to remember, we Palestinians, our first target is our land, the Palasanta (ph). Palestine means the Palasanta. You know what that means?
AMANPOUR: I don't, no. What is that?
ARAFAT: The holy places.
You are forgetting everything. Now it is enough.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you one thing? At Camp David, did you agree to the whole issue of Jewish settlements going to Israel on the West Bank...
ARAFAT: This has to be decided...
AMANPOUR: ... and the right...
ARAFAT: This has to be decided through the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
AMANPOUR: So do you think you can get more out of an Israeli prime minister?
ARAFAT: I am not asking...
AMANPOUR: Is that what you're waiting for?
ARAFAT: I am not asking more than what had been agreed upon.
AMANPOUR: Right, OK. Thank you for joining us.
ARAFAT: Thank you.
CLANCY: Ahead in this special report, "The Quest for Peace," decision on a deadline: Palestinian leaders put off a declaration of Palestinian statehood. We'll have a live report from Gaza.
CLANCY: As you have heard, the Palestinian Central Council decided to delay its declaration of statehood.
CNN's Jerrold Kessel is there. He joins us now with more -- Jerrold.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, just moments ago, literally, the Palestinian Central Council, the mini parliament of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, took this decision. They didn't actually mention the word "postponement" of the declaration of the statehood issue, but it is clear that that's what they have done.
They said they're strategically committed to peace, and the PCC, the Palestinian Central Council, will meet again on November 15th to consider measures which will be taken in the interim to putting statehood on the table in a way without declaring it. That would include constitutions, preparing for elections and also preparing for admission to the United Nations, once statehood has been declared.
But they don't say when precisely they will go ahead with the statehood declaration, because they say, they want to give peace a chance still in the next month of negotiations. But most Palestinians still believe, despite this delay in the pronouncement of the independent state, that they are on the right track.
(voice-over): (UNINTELLIGIBLE) among Palestinians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
KESSEL: "Palestine is Palestine," says this young man. And he adds, "It will always be Palestine."
Enduring plans also the business here, as Palestinian lawmakers convene to decide whether to defy their peace partners and the international community and to go ahead with a planned declaration of an independent state, irrespective of whether peace with Israel has run its course.
AHMED ABDEL RAHMAN, PALESTINIAN CABINET SECRETARY: We will not wait forever to declare our state.
KESSEL: But they are inclined to stop the clock on statehood for a time.
NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, CHIEF ARAFAT AIDE: Negotiations are going to resume for the coming four or five weeks, and this is an agreement between President Arafat and President Clinton, and President Arafat is in favor of giving this chance in order to save the peace process.
KESSEL: In that interim period, the lawmakers say they'll be pressing ahead, creating the infrastructure for the state to be.
ZIAD ABU AMR, PALESTINIAN COUNCIL MEMBER: The council is going to meet again on the 15th of November to study the issue again. And in the meantime, we will be doing stuff underground in order to continue with our process of the state building and sovereignty.
KESSEL: Israelis watching closely say what worries them now is whether the Palestinians are really committed to peace.
SHLOMO BEN AMI, ISRAELI CHIEF NEGOTIATOR: Sometimes one gets the impression that time is of no concern to the Palestinians. I hope I am wrong and that it is vital for them to have a deal within this framework of time.
KESSEL: Though the Palestinian Central Council will have the final vote, weighing the options depends on Yasser Arafat. A new poster dominating a central Gaza square, beneath the statue of the unknown Palestinian soldier, declares, "My dream will never be fulfilled without you, oh, Jerusalem."
BEN AMI: In order to assume a decision that coincides totally with the dream, you don't need leaders. You need leaders to come to their people and say, I didn't manage to bring you the full materialization of the dream. And this is exactly what I am not sure that Arafat has come to the point of decision.
MAHDI ABDEL HADI, PALESTINIAN ACADEMIC SOCIETY: He had a mini state in Jordan and he lost that. Then he had another mini state in Lebanon and he lost that. Then he went to exile in Tunis and he lost that. Today, he's back home. He's in his own home, in his own house, in his own territory. He has already a mini state within the state of Israel. It has to recognize that Israel cannot continuing containing Arafat forever.
KESSEL: But for now, the Palestinians seem ready to contain themselves, putting their statehood declaration on hold seven years after the start of the peace process, but also pointing out that the anniversary of that start of that peace process, next Wednesday, September 13th, will mark the end of the interim phase of peacemaking with Israel -- Jim. CLANCY: All right, CNN's Jerrold Kessel reporting to us there from Gaza.
Coming up in our special report, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak ignoring his critics and driving on toward a final settlement. But he warns it's a journey he cannot make alone.
"The prime minister moved forward more from his initial position than Chairman Arafat, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem."
Bill Clinton, July 25th, 2000
CLANCY: Those were the words of U.S. President Bill Clinton after the breakdown of the last peace talks.
Last week, CNN'S chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak about where Israel stance on the brink of further peace negotiations.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Prime Minister, is there any realistic chance of another three-way summit anytime soon?
BARAK: There's always a chance. We're realistic. There is a need for major effort, especially on behalf of Chairman Arafat, in order to give the kind of momentum that will make an accomplishment within weeks.
AMANPOUR: In the few days that you've been here at the UN, have you noticed any change, any flexibility in Chairman Arafat's position?
BARAK: I did not, I should admit, but it doesn't mean that the whole thing is closed. I believe that he felt very clearly that the free world and non-aligned, the world as a whole expects him to move and that somehow the time had come to put an end to the conflict of 100 years between us and the Palestinians and there will be no better opportunity.
There is a great opportunity, a great risk if we are heading to a total deadlock, and a very limited time. And I believe that if he will continue to feel that the approach of most of the world leaders is that somehow he should move, he would ultimately move.
AMANPOUR: He is obviously under the kind of pressure that you're talking about, in that world opinion is suggesting that he move ahead. But in an interview with us yesterday he seemed to stick very firmly to his position. When I asked Chairman Arafat whether he felt that you, as an Israeli prime minister, had gone further than any other Israeli prime minister on these issues of importance, he basically said, no, he didn't believe that.
BARAK: I believe that he will know (ph) and I believe -- I know that the Americans know that we were ready to contemplate ideas far reaching beyond anything that every previous -- any previous Israeli prime minister was ready to contemplate, and I believe that they have heard it even from Chairman Arafat. But it doesn't mean that we are going to make peace at any price or until certain day. We have our own vital interests and we have to take them into account.
AMANPOUR: You say and your ministers say that Chairman Arafat should seize the moment, there has never been a more opportune moment for him to make a deal. But if I was Yasser Arafat, why should I accept what you've put on the table, why should I not hang out and hold out for more, since the more he waits the more he seems to get from an Israeli prime minister?
BARAK: It's true when you look at the recent few weeks, he might develop a kind of illusion that the more he waits the more he gets, but it's basically an expression of our, and I believe also the American determination to make of sense sure that if there is a possibility we'll use it, and if there is no opportunity we will know it.
And so it gives him certain room for tactical maneuver, but ultimately, within five or six weeks, the Congress adjourns until after the election and in a few weeks later, the Israeli Knesset goes to its winter session when the budget should be decided.
BARAK: And we're just running out of time. And in a way, it's now or never -- not this weekend or never, but the next few weekends or not at this stage.
AMANPOUR: And there are, it seems, more and more of the key players who are beginning to privately think that it is never in the short term. Have you made that conclusion?
BARAK: I did not. I hope it is not the conclusion. We should be prepared for both alternatives as responsible leaders, but we should pursue the right way, which is to achieve an agreement.
You know, Chairman Arafat tends to complain with other world leaders that his people might kill him if he goes beyond certain points. And let me make a point here that I remember that President Sadat was assassinated as the result of his pursuit of peace; Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated as a result of his pursuit of peace. But I don't remember a single attempt on the life of Chairman Arafat, or any other Palestinian for that matter, as a result of their moving toward peace.
And I believe that their own people will support them and will back them if they move to peace, and that the Arab world will not set a standard for him, but rather will provide him with a safety net if he will dare to take the courageous and painful -- it's painful for me as well -- decisions that will lead us to peace rather than to a tragedy. AMANPOUR: Let's talk about your public opinion. Your popularity has plummeted in the polls. Leah Rabin, the widow of Yitzhak Rabin, said that Yitzhak would be spinning in his grave if he knew what you had proposed to give away on the key issues of Jerusalem and others. She seems to have withdrawn her support from you, Mr. Prime Minister. You've gone too far.
BARAK: I'm not working for the mood of the public in any given moment or even the mood of a person that I admire and love like Leah Rabin. I worked a lot with Yitzhak Rabin. Many times I'm asking myself what Yitzhak would do in my place, but ultimately I'm responsible for the future of the Jewish people in Israel. I will never give up something which is really essential for us, but I will be ready to contemplate quite far-reaching ideas if they can drive us, after generations of fighting, into a realistic peace in the Middle East.
AMANPOUR: Everything that you put on the table in Camp David, is it still on the table?
BARAK: Look, I didn't put it on the table. I was careful enough to let President Clinton raise his ideas. And I told President Clinton, "Some of your ideas are beyond what I can think of is acceptable back. If Chairman Arafat will be ready to take them as basis for negotiation, we will be ready as well."
AMANPOUR: What did President Clinton suggest that was beyond what you are willing to go?
BARAK: Oh, there are certain points, especially with regard to Jerusalem, which seems to be too painful to be accepted to us.
AMANPOUR: Can we be clear, where do you stand, what are you willing to negotiate when it comes to Jerusalem?
BARAK: We are open to negotiate Jerusalem, since it was announced at Camp David, original one, 22 years ago, by Menachem Begin, sitting with President Sadat, that when the time comes to permanent status negotiation, Jerusalem will be put on the table.
We don't love it, but it's part of our life. But I made it very clear, more than once, that no Israeli prime minister will ever be able to sign a document that conveys the sovereignty over Temple Mount to Chairman Arafat.
AMANPOUR: Do you agree to a Palestinian state?
BARAK: Now, I see it as inevitable without (inaudible) of the peace process if we are successful and we accomplish it.
AMANPOUR: Do you think Chairman Arafat will declare unilaterally on September 13?
BARAK: I hope he won't.
AMANPOUR: If he does, what will you do? BARAK: I think that the tone he has feel for the rest of the world, is a kind of strong recommendation to a delay. So I don't want to go into detail, but it's clear that if he breaks all the agreements and goes to unilateral declaration of independence, it will be met by unilateral steps of our own...
AMANPOUR: Annexing areas or what?
BARAK: I don't think that it's needed. Maybe if it becomes concrete I'll call you and we'll have another interview.
AMANPOUR: Chairman Arafat suggested that Jerusalem, as he put it, would be liberated, whether by him or by somebody else. Sooner or later, he said that it would be liberated for the Muslim people.
I got the impression that he seemed to be, like the Americans, concluding that perhaps at this moment a comprehensive peace deal was simply not within reach. Is that what you're concluding as well? Are you focusing now on other things, your own domestic situation, maybe?
BARAK: I always have to pay some attention to our domestic situation. I'm operating within a democratic society, open society. But basically I may tell you that, during Camp David, the Americans raised the idea of maybe deferring the whole issue of Jerusalem for two years or maybe deferring the Old City or the Temple Mount for some 15 years.
BARAK: We -- after a long hesitation, we answered positively. For some reason, Chairman Arafat refused it as well.
I don't think that it is a lost case, and I'm confident that within this time frame of some five weeks we should do whatever we can and we should avoid projecting sense of lost case, since it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We have to do our best. This is our responsibility. We don't have any other item on our agenda which is more important or urgent for this time.
AMANPOUR: When I asked him why he decided not to sign a partial agreement and defer Jerusalem, he said, "I have signed many interim agreements, even with Prime Minister Barak at Sharm el Sheikh, and nothing has been implemented." That's his position.
BARAK: Except for the end of the sentence, it's not true that it has not been implemented. We were fully, kind of, following very carefully every commitment ourself, but I agree with the rest of it. There is already enough of interim agreements. It's a time to put an end to the conflict. Even if we defer or delay certain elements, they should be confined in a way in terms of procedure and possible content so that we will be able to say, "This is the end of the conflict."
And if we get an end of the conflict, permanent borders for Israel, 80 percent of our settlers in seven blocks that might cover 11 or 12 percent of the overall area and a Jerusalem which is not ideal, but is wider and stronger and recognized by the whole world -- is something that Israelis are not aware of, that most of the world has not yet recognized Jerusalem as our capital.
But if we have this Jerusalem united under our sovereignty and the Palestinians will have their capital, Al-Quds, adjacent to it, with certain elements, the correct nature of which we cannot detail here in front of camera, I believe that we have changed the future of the Middle East and it's worth any effort that could be made by human beings as leaders in order to achieve.
AMANPOUR: When you came into power as prime minister, you had an ambitious agenda; there was Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians. You've achieved on Lebanon; you've failed on Syria and the Palestinian question is still open.
AMANPOUR: If you had to do this all again, what would you do differently?
BARAK: From the very first moment, I left no illusion. I said it takes two to tango, we cannot impose peace upon our neighbors, but it's our responsibility to do whatever we can to see whether it's possible to reach it; if it's not possible, to be deployed united and supported by at least honest governments in the rest of the world vis- a-vis the challenges that are still waiting us.
AMANPOUR: And on that note, thank you very much for joining us.
CLANCY: Some of the ideas that we heard there from Prime Minister Ehud Barak are considered to be scandalous in some quarters of Israel. Until recently, Natan Sharansky was an ally of Mr. Barak's, serving in his coalition government as the interior minister. But he and his party quit that government before the last Camp David summit, arguing that Mr. Barak was simply giving too much away.
Mr. Sharansky joins us now from New York.
Natan Sharansky, if you were the lead negotiator, how would you handle this situation now? Would you negotiate? What would you negotiate?
NATAN SHARANSKY, FORMER ISRAELI INTERIOR MINISTER: Well I believe that such important and fateful negotiations have to be done on the basis of very broad consensus among our people, because we are talking, in fact, about our identity. When we are talking about Jerusalem, which for thousands of years was the village which was uniting our people and saving our people and which returned us back to Zion; Jerusalem, which never was the capital of any other country in the world except Jewish state in the past and today.
All the negotiations about Jerusalem have to be done on the basis of broad consensus. And unfortunately, our prime minister -- and it's a sad fact -- is very alone in these negotiations, because he crossed all the red lines. He had no mandate from the people, from the parliament, from his own government, to agree to divide Jerusalem.
And unfortunately I cannot take comfort from the fact that the prime minister of the Jewish state puts us in this station, when it is Yasser Arafat who will have to decide whether Jerusalem will be divided or not.
CLANCY: I want to quote here. Jim Ron (ph), an Israeli writer, had this to say, and it's all about land and specifically about Jerusalem. He writes:
"Israeli Jews tacitly understand that these lands, including East Jerusalem, belong to another people. They rarely acknowledge so openly. Ever since the 1948 war, the subject of Palestinian land claims has been one of Jewish society's greatest taboos. Even Israel's most liberal leaders gingerly skirt the issue, fearing that acknowledgment of Palestinian rights will hurt them at the polls."
Is that a political reality?
SHARANSKY: I have to say that seven years ago we started Oslo agreement process, peace process, the base of which was that both sides, step by step, would come to the compromise. And in the meantime, they will be building confidence measures. What was demanded from Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to have the life of their own, to be the masters of their own fate? What was demanded from Yasser Arafat? To recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, not to challenge its existence.
Seven years after the fact, we transferred 40 percent of the Western Bank to Yasser Arafat. We returned now 98 percent -- I repeat, 98 percent of all Palestinian people are controlled now by Yasser Arafat. As the former interior minister, I can say that many of them don't like it. But that is a fact. They are not controlled by us anymore.
And what is the most important thing, Israel society went through the whole real mental revolution. Now we departed from the idea of the control of the land. We understand, that we done want and don't have to control with the great (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We understand that we don't want and don't have to control the lives of Palestinians, and we are trying to help them to build their lives.
What's happened to the other side? On the other side, Yasser Arafat, unfortunately, is misusing all the power which have to him to build a very non-democratic, ruthless, authoritarian regime. And what is most important is the new generation of Palestinian schoolchildren is starting schools by the maps where there is no Israel. They are learning in their summer camps...
CLANCY: Mr. Sharansky...
SHARANSKY: ... that Israel should be destroyed. And that is the sad fact. We have to go through changes...
CLANCY: Mr. Sharansky, that's a extreme view.
SHARANSKY: ... we have to accept, and they also have to accept...
CLANCY: That's a very liberal interpretation...
SHARANSKY: ... the facts of our existence.
CLANCY: ... of what's happened in the peace process. Do you think, though, that these negotiations, at least, Israel -- very briefly -- can Jerusalem be on the table, or you say no?
SHARANSKY: I think exactly as Ehud Barak said, no prime minister has the authority and mandate to divide Jerusalem. And that's why even though if you signed agreement about division of Jerusalem, about dividing the old city, about turning the Wailing Wall into the Berlin Wall of Middle East, this type of agreement, will never pass the referendum of Israel.
CLANCY: All right, Natan Sharansky, our thanks to you for being with us in our special report, "The Quest for Peace."
This report continues. Smiles and handshakes are plenty, but they fail to mask the divide. We're going to speak with an analyst who plans to meet Yasser Arafat later this week and try to find out more about the Palestinian leader's private thoughts on this peace process.
CLANCY: Welcome back to our special report.
With events warming up to another round of negotiations in the peace process, let's get a look at what has been happening.
Mark Perry is the author of a book called "A Fire in Zion." He's a longtime analyst of the Middle East, and he's going to be meeting with Yasser Arafat, as he regularly does, in the coming week. Also, we'll be talking with Peter Rodman. He was director -- He is director of national security programs at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C.
Mark Perry, I want to begin with you. We just heard from Natan Sharansky saying that the Palestinians have achieved what they really should expect, and that is rule over 98 percent of their own public. How much have the Palestinians really gotten out of this peace deal?
MARK PERRY, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: What Mr. Sharansky said would come as a surprise to Palestinians, and it's certainly a surprise to me. If you travel to the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli presence is still everywhere. It's certainly not 98 percent of the people, it's a much smaller percentage, 13 to 15 percent of the people in so-called "area A."
There's a long way to go in this peace process, and to make the kind of compromises that are necessary, Israel is really going to have to withdraw from the rest of the West Bank and agree to do what it said it would have done in prior agreements, and it simply has not done that.
CLANCY: Peter Rodman, as you look at the situation, now we hear talk about reaching some kind of end-of-conflict agreement that would put off a real final settlement on issues like refugees and Jerusalem. Will that work?
PETER RODMAN, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I think that the whole world has a right to expect closure here. And I think if you leave particularly an issue like Jerusalem still open, that could be a basis for radicals, for terrorists to say, why should we accept any agreement with Israel if they're still occupying Jerusalem. That's a loophole big enough to drive a truck bomb through.
CLANCY: Let me ask you both, Mark Perry and Peter Rodman, what now? What can President Clinton do to push this forward? We're looking at four weeks of intensive talks -- beginning with you, Mark Perry.
PERRY: They must be intensive talks, and they focus on Jerusalem, I think both sides know that there's a solution to the refugee problem and the borders problem, but the real talks and the real tough work that has to be done has to be done on Jerusalem. I think the solution is there. It's not a dual sovereignty. It's not, as Mr. Sharansky said, a new Berlin Wall. I don't think that will work. I think that both sides are ready to deal on Jerusalem, but it's going to have to include Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem or it's a non starter.
CLANCY: Peter Rodman?
RODMAN: I don't think these issues are ready for resolution, but I don't panic about that. I think the United States does not turn into a pumpkin on January 20th. I think it was a mistake to try to rush all these issues to a resolution during the course of this year when it's clear that the two sides are not ready yet. I think it needs to cook a little bit longer, maybe a matter of some more months. But I'm confident in the long run that there will be a deal, but I don't think it's going to happen during this calendar year.
CLANCY: Peter Rodman, let me follow that up and just ask you, how do you read the move by the Palestinian Central Council to postpone, at least, declaration of the Palestinian state unilateral?
RODMAN: Well that is good, because I think the September 13th deadline was totally unrealistic and totally artificial and, in fact, crazy. I mean, I never had the slightest thought that there would be a final settlement in one year's time. But I think a unilateral declaration is a suicidal for the Palestinians, no matter when they do it. Whether it's in November or early next year, I think there ought to be a negotiated resolution to this, or else the Palestinians are making a big, big mistake.
CLANCY: Mark Perry, we heard during the interview with Yasser Arafat the question of whether he was trying to ring yet more out of a man who had given up so much, more than perhaps any other Israeli leader had ever done in the past. But when you look at Yasser Arafat's situation, how do you read it?
PERRY: Oddly enough, after the breakdown of the Camp David talks, Mr. Arafat is in a very strong position. I think it was a terrible mistake for Mr. Clinton to criticize Arafat and praise Barak. He really weakened Barak in Israel. He strengthened Arafat in the Palestinian homeland.
I think Arafat is in a very strong position.
Having said that, now Mr. Arafat is a long ways away from getting what he wants in this, and he's going to have to negotiate very carefully, very diligently and very seriously in the weeks ahead if he wants to get it by, let's say, November 15th.
CLANCY: November 15th, Peter Rodman, that would seem absolutely out of the question, wouldn't it? For Mr. Clinton, this is a matter now of really passing this process on to his successor?
RODMAN: I think that's true, and it doesn't really bother me. The Arab-Israeli diplomacy has been a bipartisan policy in the United States since the early '70s. And there have been many changes of administration, including changes of party, and I think it's an insult to Mr. Gore as well as Mr. Bush to say that somehow all of this explode on January 20th.
I mean, I am confident that in the long run there will be a deal, maybe in the next several months or a few years, but it's not going to happen right now.
CLANCY: A final thought, Mark Perry, very briefly?
PERRY: I agree with Peter Rodman to an extent, but from Mr. Arafat's position, it's much better to negotiate with Mr. Barak then, say, with Ariel Sharon. And Mr. Barak might not be there too much longer.
CLANCY: Gentlemen, we thank you both for being with us in our special report and adding your perspective to it.
Obviously, many questions yet unanswered, much work to be done.
That concludes our special report for now, "Arafat and Barak: The Quest for Peace."
For all of us here at CNN Center, I'm Jim Clancy. Thank you for joining us.
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