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Israelis, Palestinians Face Two Key Issues in Quest for PeaceAired September 16, 2000 - 6:07 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: East Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees are two major issues complicating the peace process.
Fawaz Gerges is joining us now from New York for a closer look at these issues. He holds the Christian A. Johnson chair in international affairs and Middle East studies at Sarah Lawrence College.
He is also the author of several books, including "America and Political Islam," and we thank you for joining us here on WORLDVIEW.
FAWAZ GERGES, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: Pleasure.
HALL: We just noted the two most sensitive issues in finding a solution to the conflict; but if both Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak are saying, on these issues the other must give, which is what reports are indicating, in your opinion, how much room does that leave for forward movement?
GERGES: Well, at the onset, let's say that the Palestinians and the Israelis have made some major advances in their peace talks. But they have been unable to surmount two major obstacles, as you said, who has sovereignty over Jerusalem and, of course, the tragic plight of millions of Palestinian refugees.
While, Israel, for example -- I mean, as you well know, the city of Jerusalem is the divided into western and eastern section. While the Palestinians and the Arabs do not contest Israel's exclusive sovereignty over the western, Jewish part, Israel refuses and does not accept Israel's sovereignty over the eastern, Arab part and, as well know, this is a very explosive issue.
The second difficult and explosive issue is, of course, the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees scattered all over the Arab lands and beyond. What do you do with them? Of course, while the Palestinians insist on the legal and moral rights of the -- some or most or all Palestinian refugees to return home, Israel does not accept any moral or legal responsibility for the displacement of Palestinian refugees and, of course, refuses to accept and, of course, fears the security implications of the return of millions of Palestinian refugees into the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem proper.
HALL: Sir, you used word "explosive" several times and I do believe that, when you look at the conviction and the emotion of those individuals back home that these two men await and have to answer to, you realize that for those people, the issue is very, very black and white, not necessarily gray. Who has the heaviest weight in terms of answering to the people, public opinion back home?
GERGES: Well, I mean, let me make a differentiation between the position of Prime Minister Barak and the position of President Arafat.
Of course, I mean, I think the heaviest weight is held by President Arafat, because his hands are very much fettered, not only by public opinion inside Palestinian territories, but also by Arab and Muslim public opinion that's really -- does not accept any compromise on the minimal fundamental rights; particularly on the right to Palestinian to east Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Of course, I mean, Prime Minister Barak is under tremendous pressure by certain elements, right wing elements, and of course, some orthodox elements. Let's remember that Prime Minister Barak knows full well that a good segment of the Israeli public appreciates that the city of Jerusalem is truly divided between the western, Jewish part and the eastern, Arab part.
And Prime Minister Barak knows fully well that ending the 100- year conflict requires coming to terms with the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians and, of course, coming to terms with a settlement that's based on a sense of justice and historical reconciliation, and that really means, at least accepting the minimal, fundamental rights of the Palestinians.
HALL: Fawaz Gerges, from Sarah Lawrence College, we thank you for joining us, thank you for your perspective on WORLDVIEW.
GERGES: Thank you.
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