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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's New War: Palestians Make Argument for Statehood

Aired September 27, 2001 - 05:42   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: More bloodshed in the Middle East to report. This, despite tentative truce talks between Arab and Muslim leaders. Three Palestinians are dead and 22 others wounded after Israeli forces converged on a Palestinian refugee camp. The fighting came on the heels of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat coming to an agreement on what's been called a shaky cease-fire.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: This is all the more critical, Leon, because the tone set between the Israelis and the Palestinians will affect any Arab coalition that will cooperate or not cooperate with the United States' war against terrorism.

So we are going to try to figure out what's at stake here as we keep a close eye on that relationship. We're going to turn to Amir Taheri. He is a Mideast analyst. Due to his years as a freelance journalist, he has written for "Arab News" as well as the "International Herald Tribune" and several other noted publications.

Good morning, Mr. Taheri.

AMIR TAHERI, MIDEAST ANALYST: Good morning.

LIN: Well, first I want to -- I want to get your reaction to these latest strikes in Gaza. Israeli forces moved in, demolished several buildings, a gunfight broke out between Israelis and Palestinians and three Palestinians were killed. What sort of tone does that set as the United States tries to put pressure on both sides to get back to peace talks so that it can build this anti-terror coalition in the Gulf region?

TAHERI: It sets a bad tone but is not as bad as one might have expected. We are close to the anniversary of the current Palestinian uprising, and frankly, I'd expected much worse. You know this situation has been heated up for a year, more than a year, in fact, and to heat it down, to coin a phrase, is not easy.

The fact is that, dialog has been reestablished between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government. Both sides can live with a certain level of violence, but as long as there are no spectacular, big attacks like the attacks on the Israeli pizzeria, for example, or on school buses and things like that and as long as there are no massive entries by the Israeli army to Palestinian cities, this could be manageable. LIN: That's interesting.

TAHERI: Of course this is a critical issue for any future U.S. action in the region.

LIN: That's interesting that you not only look at the nature of the violence but the nature of the targets.

Then let me ask you this, it has taken pressure by the United States, and not so subtle pressure, to get Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat to sit down yesterday to actually talk about security cooperation. Is this the kind of atmosphere as the United States tries to wage this so-called war against terrorism, is this the kind of atmosphere that it's going to take to get Israelis and Palestinians to cooperate with one another?

TAHERI: Rightly or wrongly, most Muslims think that the United States is the only power capable of persuading the Israelis to accept the creation of the Palestinian state. The Palestinian cause is really the only cause that unites all Muslims, because they say that all nations have their own state, they are represented in the United Nations. There is no reason why the Palestinians should be an exception.

Also, the United States has been on the side of the Muslims, ironically, in many conflicts. The Americans helped the Muslims in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Azerbaijan, even in Chechnya there was American sympathy. So the only exception is Israel and the Muslim see it as a result of the powerful Jewish presence in the United States. They say that the U.S. should look at its own national interest.

The Palestinians are not demanding the destruction of Israel. They will accept Israel as a state next to them, but they want to have their own state. And the United States independently of all these terror organizations and all these recent troubles would have to address that Palestinian issue somewhere down the road in its own long-term national interest and in the interest of a relationship between the rest and the Muslim world as a whole.

LIN: And perhaps I misheard you there, it's not so much a Jewish presence in the United States but the support as it's seen in the Arab world for the Jewish state in Israel?

TAHERI: Yes, rightly or wrongly, and I'm not -- I'm not saying that, you know, as you know some radicals in the Muslim world say the Jewish lobby is running the United States, that's pure nonsense. But the perception is that the United States, which has supported Muslims in many causes in the past 10 years, including Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, is making an exception in the case of Israel, and what the Palestinians want is just their own state next to Israel.

LIN: Well all of this intricately tied now into this coalition building that will be critical to any action by the United States.

Thank you very much, Amir Taheri, for joining us this morning. TAHERI: Thank you.

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