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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Sharon Refuses to Heed U.S. Call for Pullout

Aired October 23, 2001 - 06:28   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: That's right, Peres claims that Arafat is not making good on his promises to arrest terrorists.

And our Jerrold Kessell, joins us now from Jerusalem to give us the latest on this, and just how the U.S. is reacting to all of it. Jerrold, hello.

JERROLD KESSELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Leon. And you find a defiant Israel this morning, a defiant Ariel Sharon in the wake of the stinging rebuke from the United States. A call for Israel to pull out of the Palestinian towns into which Mr. Sharon has sent tanks and other forces over the last week since the assassination of Rehavam Ze'evi, last Wednesday. And Israel saying that it will not withdraw -- not heed that call from the United States forthwith.

Saying that the forces won't be there permanently, but they'll need to be there until their mission is achieved. The mission to ensure that there are no further attacks from in those towns, against Israelis.

While that's the position. Preparing for a standoff perhaps, with the United States, the Israelis this morning. To help analyze just what position Mr. Sharon and the Israelis are in, facing that stringent U.S. position, we're joined here, in our Jerusalem bureau by the editor of the "Jerusalem Report Magazine" David Horozitz. Thanks very much David for joining us.

Tough position for Ariel Sharon this morning, do you think?

DAVID HOROZITZ, EDITOR OF THE JERUSALEM REPORT MAGAZINE: Yes, he's in a very difficult position. I think he may have expected something from the America - not a reaction this harsh. He's evidently failed to convince them really that the Arafat regime in the Palestinian territory is equivalent to the Taliban - that Arafat is allowing terrorism to flourish.

He wants the Americans on his side. He wants the Americans to condition Palestinian participation in this anti terror coalition on a crackdown by Arafat on his militants. None of that has happened. Instead he is under tremendous pressure from the Americans.

At the same time though, of course, his own right-wing supporters and a lot of mainstream Israel support a tougher position against Arafat. They've lost all faith in Yasser Arafat. So really he's very torn, and I have to imagine that his sense of where the interest of his electorate will take place. And he will tough it out against the Americans.

KESSEL: Let's go back for a minute to why Mr. Sharon acted in the way he did after the assassination of the cabinet minister last Wednesday. The Israelis have been saying that they went in there to make sure that they would be safer, go after the militants and also to pressure Yasser Arafat to change his policy and to act against the militants on the Palestinian side.

Was there any kind of broad or strategic objective? Some are saying that at least a part of Ariel Sharon doesn't want to see Yasser Arafat around all together or at least the Palestinian authorities any kind of effective partner for Israel.

HOROZITZ: I think it's absolutely plain that Sharon has never had the slightest bit of faith in Yasser Arafat and doesn't believe there's any substantive difference between Arafat and the other hard line organizations because for months Sharon has been saying to Arafat arrest the militants, arrest the people who are orchestrating suicide bombings. Put these people in jail.

None of this has happened. He sees the assassination of an Israeli minister in Jerusalem as the culmination of that failure to act by Arafat and therefore, he's really taken over responsibility for Israel's security. He said after the assassination, "nothing will be the same again."

In other words, he's not prepared to place any reliance, trust on Yasser Arafat in the future, whether that means that because Israel is doing so much more overt military action that Arafat will fall, things will unfold. But I don't think Sharon would be troubled by that.

KESSEL: But if Mr. Sharon is -- hasn't been able to convince the United States or at least the State Department -- from what we're hearing -- of this equation between Yasser Arafat or the Palestinian authority and the Taliban -- and that means go after Yasser Arafat to curve the militants the Israel's bin Laden as Mr. Sharon has said. He has been unable to do that. Does that mean he's prepared to rock the coalition boat to the United States has so assiduously set up for its war -- global war in terror.

HOROZITZ: I think he plainly is already rocking the coalition boat. I think he feels it's incomprehensible, why don't the Americans understand the way they're setting up this coalition and some of the moral positions that they are adopting are wrong.

That's the way Sharon sees it. Why haven't the Americans instead of reaching out to Iran and Syria and the Palestinian authority made as a condition to these regimes that they crack down on terrorism, that they stop fostering encouraging terrorism.

There's people out there, not very many minutes from where we sit now. Arafat has more security personnel per head of population than any regime anywhere in the world. He does nothing. He makes cosmetic arrests of unimportant people. He doesn't arrest the true dangerous people.

This is the Sharon mindset. He doesn't understand why the Americans who are suppose to be Israel's allies don't read the picture the way that he does. He thinks the coalition will fail, that you can't tackle terrorism in one place and whitewash it somewhere else. And he, I think, will continue trying to get his message over to the Americans while continuing to act in Israel's defense in the best way that he sees possible.

KESSEL: Even at the risk of a showdown with President Bush?

HOROZITZ: I'd be surprised if it came to that kind of a showdown because I don't think either side would want that. But even at the risk of very, very difficulty exchanges of condemnations, defenses and so on between here and Washington -- yes.

KESSEL: David, thank you very much.

Well there Leon, you have some of the very tough assessment of just perhaps the tough position that Ariel Sharon is in, but given that tough position, his willingness, at least in that assessment, to perhaps try to convince the Americans again that there is an equation between Mr. Sharon's battle against the Palestinian militants and the U.S. global war on terror.

If the United States hasn't accepted that equation, according to this assessment we've just heard, well Israel will keep on trying to make it understand that -- difficult times ahead possibly.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's putting it mildly there Jerrold. Jerrold Kessell reporting live this morning from Jerusalem -- very nice job with that interview there. Thank you very much.

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