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Special Event

President Clinton Delivers His Opening Remarks at Emergency Mideast Summit

Aired October 16, 2000 - 7:32 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... to find a peaceful future together and resolve their differences peacefully on the lawn of the White House. We shouldn't give it all up for what has happened in the last few weeks. And what has happened in these last few weeks reminds us of the terrible alternative to continuing to live in peace and to continuing the peace process.

President Mubarak, I am grateful to you again that we can, if we will look to the future and proceed in a fair and balanced way, we can do what we have to do here, and we must do that.

Thank you.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening as President Clinton is making what apparently is his opening remarks at the Mideast peace summit that is under way -- actually, not a peace summit, but the summit that is under way to address the aggression that's under way right now in Israel. We see that he has been speaking there to the panel of leaders who have assembled in Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt. Among those leaders there is the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, who are going to be getting quite a bit of attention and quite a bit of pressure placed on them to end the violence that we have been seeing for the past two-and-a-half weeks in the Middle East and Israel and Gaza specifically.

Let's go now and talk some more about what is happening over there. Just what do the Israeli people expect to come of this summit?

Here now to answer that and some other questions, we hope, this morning is analyst Chemi Shalev. He joins us this morning from Israel.

And Mr. Shalev, I hope you were able to hear President Clinton's comments just moments ago. I'd like to have your comment to his words.

CHEMI SHALEV, ISRAELI POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, President Clinton seemed, at least by his expression, seemed to be expressing the gloom and the pessimism which abounds at the summit on all sides. And I think he was also expressing the fear felt by many people who support these that the events of the past two weeks may cause everything that has been gained in the past seven years of peacemaking since the Oslo agreements were signed to go down the drain.

HARRIS: Even though this, as you say, gloom, has been expressed on all sides going into this meeting, what is it, really, that Mr. Barak expects to be able to get accomplished while he is there in Egypt?

SHALEV: Mr. Barak has very low expectations from this summit, first of all because of the breakdown of trust which he has towards Chairman Arafat. And I assume it's true vice versa as well. So he doesn't expect much. At best, he expects an agreement on a cease-fire which will cause hostilities to lessen, and perhaps somewhere down the line allow peace negotiations to resume.

But his expectations are very low, and he's been telling this to the Israeli public, and therefore I assume that the expectations of the Israeli public are also very low. No one in Israel at least is talking about a resumption of the peace process anytime in the near future.

HARRIS: Well, if these -- those with lower expectations are rewarded by that. if they are actually correct, what happens if nothing is accomplished here? Can Mr. Barak afford to leave Sharm el- Sheikh with nothing?

SHALEV: Politically and ironically he can, because if he leaves Sharm el-Sheikh with nothing, then the road is paved for him to set up a -- what's called a national emergency government with Likud leader Ariel Sharon which will, in fact, save him politically. And he will have the parliamentary majority which he needs to keep his government intact when the Knesset reconvenes in two weeks time.

HARRIS: But if the...

SHALEV: On the...

HARRIS: I'm sorry to cut you off, but I have to ask you something, because what has been said in the media repeatedly now by Saeb Erakat, who, as you know, is a negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, he has been saying all long that if Sharon is included in this emergency government, then the peace process itself is now dead.

SHALEV: Well, we're going to have an argument going on about who exactly killed the peace process and when was it dead. I'm sure that Mr. Barak will reply that the peace process died not when Mr. Sharon entered the government, but rather when these hostilities broke out and when, from his point of view, Chairman Arafat did not halt them, and many cases, from the Israeli standpoint, instigated them and egged them on.

HARRIS: Chemi Shalev, we thank you very much for your time and your insight this morning. There are many who are hoping that these negative expectations are wrong and will not be rewarded. Thank you much for your time this morning.

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