CNN BREAKING NEWS
Explosions in Jerusalem Kill Eight, Injure Over 130
Aired December 1, 2001 - 18:28 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: Welcome back. We continue our coverage now of this terrorist act in the downtown streets of Jerusalem. We want you to show you what happened there just within about an hour and a half ago.
That was the third of three explosions that occurred there this evening just before midnight local time in this area, which is described as an area that is quite popular to teens on such a late Saturday night. This happened just before midnight there in Jerusalem, on Bena Houda (ph) Street in Zion Square.
Again, we heard that's sort of a open pedestrian mall, which is frequented by many young people who want to get out in the late evenings. And as a matter of fact, we've gotten word on numbers of casualties there, and one report I saw coming in from Reuters did mention that most of the casualties were teens, or people in their 20s and 30s.
So we're going to get the latest on this now from our Jerrold Kessel who has been with us now for the past hour or so covering this. Jerrold was there at the scene or by the scene moments before all of this happened, and he's been with us covering it throughout the evening -- Jerrold.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, and the latest casualty figures, as they announced, according to Israeli television, this not confirmed yet by the police, six people killed in addition to the two suicide bombers.
Now that's not confirmed, as I say, but rescue officials of the Red Mogen David organization -- that's the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, telling us that 11 people who were taken to hospitals were in absolutely critical condition.
Now that could be a euphemism for saying that they were literally fighting for their lives.
Those are the numbers given by the rescue services, by the hospitals, and the total number of wounded that have arrived in the four or five hospitals in and around Jerusalem, 153. That's after these three explosions, as you say, two the police confirming of suicide bombings, blew themselves up at that intersection just at the beginning of the pedestrian mall, the Ben Yehuda Open Air Mall, crowded with people who are sitting at restaurants and cafes and, as you say, late night and after the Saturday, the Sabbath break, many young people in particular, but other people too go down there and spend some time at cafes, and that's where the explosions took place.
And just within a short time, possibly 10 or 15 minutes after those first two explosions, that other horrific explosion which caused less casualties, it seems, just around 10 people we were told originally. But that horrific explosion of apparently, according to the Israeli police, a car bomb, set off just as the rescue work was underway and the people had come in to ferry away the wounded and the casualties from the first strike, the double strike, of the suicide bombers.
So, continuing scenes of mayhem. These are not live pictures now. These are the scenes earlier, just before midnight, when the two apparent suicide bombers, it seems, let off those explosions in downtown Jerusalem. Leon.
HARRIS: Jerrold, again, for those who are just joining us now, we want to mention that we have been, we have been speaking with Israeli authorities on this incident and we have not heard yet anything from the Palestinian Authority. Nor have we hard anyone claiming responsibility.
However, in the pass week or so we have had some sort of threats coming from the group Hamas and from Islamic Jihad, have we not?
KESSEL: Indeed. The Islamic Jihad, more than threats. They had actually carried out, or claimed responsibility for two attacks they carried out inside Israel, one in an Israeli city, a double barrelled attack by gunmen who fired off their automatic weapons in a northern Israeli town and killed a number of people before they were shot dead themselves.
Those two gunmen then put out a video that was -- put out that they had recorded apparently the night before, showed one to be a member of Islamic Jihad, the radical Islamic group. Another of Yasser Arafat's own Fatah movement. And then on Thursday, a bomb inside a bus in central Israel killing three people there, and that again the responsibility claimed by Islamic Jihad.
But both Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the two radical groups, have been making very strong statements that they'll go on attacking Israel and they won't be put off at all by these attempts by the United States to get a solid and workable cease fire in place.
And while those radical Palestinian groups not only staged the attacks, but warn that they'll attack more, attack further, both the Israelis and the Palestinians charging that the other, the Palestinian Authority, that is, charging that the other side is trying deliberately to shoot down, to sabotage, the Zinni mediation mission to bring about a cease fire.
The Palestinians were saying that even as General Zinni arrived on the scene, saying that Israel was taking aggressive moves vis-a-vis the Palestinians, targeting the militants, continuing the attacks. The Israelis now saying that this has proven that the Palestinians are out to stop the Zinni mission succeeding and that Yasser Arafat has not really done anything tangible to get the militants in check.
But I am bound to report that this evening the Palestinian security officials were telling us that they had detained only today, only this afternoon, at least a dozen, was what they said, members of the Islamic Jihad group. But the Israeli authorities are saying that that's just part of what they call Yasser Arafat's revolving door policy; sometimes he arrests the militants, often he just lets them out of his prisons.
HARRIS: And perhaps we will see in the hours to come whether or not those moves by the Palestinian Authority were just too little too late.
Now, in those other incidents in recent note that you mentioned moments ago, we have seen Israeli responses all the way up to military incursion into Palestinian areas to crack down on them and have they done so despite getting withering criticism from the world community for doing so. Is that likely to happen in this case?
KESSEL: Well, I think it might -- it had happened in a sense already. You need to set this all into perspective. Let's go back about a month or six weeks ago, when Palestinian militants, radicals, not an Islamic group, assassinated an Israeli minister, the right-wing tourism minister, in east Jerusalem.
In the wake of that, Israeli tanks went in and took up positions in, on the fringes of and inside six Palestinian towns on the West Bank. The -- for a time there was some acquiescence of the international community in the Israeli reaction to that assassination of the minister, but over time the pressure built and Israel withdrew its tanks from all of those towns, including the last town, Janin, which it did just on the eve of General Zinni, the start of General Zinni's mission, last Sunday night. The Israeli tanks went out of Janin.
In the wake of that, they have these two attacks inside Israel during the week, and only this morning Israeli tanks were back on the fringes of three Palestinian towns on the West Bank, the Israelis saying this was to thwart the possibility, and they say they had intelligence information which said that there were more attacks planned from those areas.
And, indeed, while we had those reports that I've just been telling you about, the Palestinian Authority saying they had arrested a number of Islamic Jihad members this afternoon and this evening. The Israeli government in Foreign Prime Minister Sharon's office put out a statement saying that in capturing a cell, a number of members of the Hamas radical Islamic group, one of the members of that group had confessed, the Israelis say, that that cell intended to kill, to assassinate, Israel's defense minister at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
That was the Israeli statement. We haven't had any details further than that other than saying that that was the confession of one of the members of the Hamas group, which Israel said it had captured in recent weeks. So, they have had this ongoing pattern, if you like, of the Palestinians striking, Israel moving in to the Palestinian towns, have now withdrawn, but have now gone in again. And we heard only a short while ago a government spokesman, Avi Pazner, in the CNN bureau in response to this attack saying he doesn't know precisely what Israel will do, but Israel, make no mistake, will react, was his statement.
We heard a short while ago, speaking on Israeli television, Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Mr. Sharon of course is away in the United States. He was due, he is due, until plans are changed, to meet with the president, President Bush, at the White House on Monday. Mr. Peres saying no reaction yet in terms of deciding exactly what Israel will do. All details need to be amassed and assessed exactly who is responsible, Mr. Peres said.
But then you heard from the government spokesman, Mr. Pazner, saying he didn't need to know who precisely was responsible. He was pointing the finger indeed as Ariel Sharon did on the eve of his departure from the United States directly at Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, saying they haven't done enough, they've done virtually nothing to curb the militants, to curb the terrorists from the Islamic, the radical Islamic groups. And that, Israel says, is an order to scoffer the mission of General Zinni.
HARRIS: Well, Jerrold, let's see if we can get some response to those words that you just mentioned there from the Israeli authorities. We're joined now on the telephone by Saeb Erakat, who is the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority.
And, Mr. Erakat, I'm sure that you've been listening to these words that we've gotten from the Israeli authorities, who have put the responsibility for this, these terrorists acts that have taken place this evening in Jerusalem, squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinian Authority.
SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well, first of all, Leon, I have just spoken to President Arafat just a minute ago and had been on the phone with Secretary Powell and General Zinni. President Arafat absolutely in the strongest possible terms condemns this attack and we have been trying out best to sustain the cease fire and we don't condone the killing of Israelis of Palestinian civilians, but we all know that violence breeds violence, assassinations breed assassinations, and bullets breed bullets.
We need immediately to get back to the political track. That's the more reason why we should give General Zinni every possible chance in order to make his endeavor a success. I know that the time for people like me to speak and to say that this is the only way for Palestinians and Israelis may sound like wishful thinking, but listen, as long as Palestinians and Israelis living here, they need this more than anybody else.
I hope that we can immediately resume the permanent status negotiations. I hope that we can see an immediate timeline, an immediate beginning to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and monitors see to it that the Mitchell recommendations and the Tenet plan are immediately implemented.
And as far as Mr. Pazner's statement, this cannot be acceptable. Just hours ago two Palestinian children, 11 and 16, were killed in Janin. We have been swimming in our blood. But, nevertheless, we don't condone these attacks. We condemn them. And we don't condone the killing of Israeli civilians, or for Palestinian civilians. And the only way to save Palestinian and Israeli lives is through reviving the peace process.
And we appreciate very much the efforts being exerted by the American administration, by the European union, by the United Nations, by the Russian Federation, and we hope that these efforts will culminate in Palestinians and Israelis coming back to the negotiating table immediately and without conditions and with no further delays.
HARRIS: Mr. Erakat, can we ask you, can you tell us, what did General Zinni and Secretary Powell have to say to Yasser Arafat? We've gotten words and we've seen General Zinni's words printed in publications around the world today condemning the Palestinian groups that have been conducting these terrorist acts throughout the past weeks, saying that they were trying to thwart his mission, which he would not allow them to do.
ERAKAT: There are many, many forces here which try to sabotage General Zinni's mission, and President Arafat reassured mister -- General Zinni and Secretary Powell that he would continue exerting every possibility in order to sustain the cease fire, to continue obliged and committed to all our security obligations emanating from the agreement signed. And we want to continue cooperating with Mr. Zinni and the American delegation and the other envoys in order to bring about revival of the peace process, because this is the only way out for both of us.
HARRIS: Mr. Erakat, you, moments ago, you said that the Palestinian Authority is doing all that it can in putting forth a 100 percent effort, I think that was the term that you used, to keep these kinds of terrorist activities from actually happening. However, how can you prove that that is the case, that you are exerting 100 percent effort in this case when they still keep happening?
ERAKAT: That's the key question, Leon. Who's my judge? Sharon? Avi Pazner? They will never give me the credit for doing anything. That's why we have been inviting American and European observers to come here and work with us in full partnership on the security committee, to see whether we are doing this or not.
You know, there is a total siege and closure imposed in every Palestinian town, village and refugee camp, and these things still happen. I believe that the shortest way to security dependability is for Palestinians and Israelis to gather their courage, to gather their wisdom, to gather their sanity (ph), and say only by peace shall we resolve our problems. Only by coming back to the negotiating table.
And regardless of the frustration we may face at the negotiating table, it's much cheaper to negotiate in frustration for five years to exchange bullets for five minutes. I say again, Leon, that violence will breed violence, assassinations will breed assassinations, tanks incursion will bring anger and frustration. What we need to do now is to give the Zinni mission every possible effort in order to make sure that hope can be revived in the minds of Palestinians and Israelis. And maybe after this suffering, maybe after these killing fields out there, maybe we can come back and bring back the hope to the minds of Israelis and Palestinians that this is doable. And it is true, it is doable.
HARRIS: Let me ask you, do you, do you know or have any idea who or which group is responsible for this terrorist act? We have not heard any claim of responsibility as of this point?
ERAKAT: Honestly, nobody claimed anything. I don't know anything about it. All I can tell you is that President Arafat personally and the Palestinian Authority, we condemn this attack and we don't condone the killing of civilians, whether Israeli or Palestinian, and we are fully committed to the Zinni mission and to all our security obligations from agreements signed.
HARRIS: Let me -- I must ask you this, because in the past whenever something like this has happened, we've had these conversations with people on both sides, and invariably what we have heard from the Israelis and from some other neutral observers, is that whenever pressure has been applied on Yasser Arafat, the terrorism stops. And every time that does happen, it proves that he does have some authority, does have power to do that. What is it that Yasser Arafat has not done that he could do to stop this?
ERAKAT: Leon, if you see the situation, I don't want to score points for finger pointing now. I think it's time to say to everyone that President Arafat is willing immediately to resume the negotiation unconditionally. President Arafat is willing to work through the Americans, the Europeans, and with the Israelis in order to revive the peace process and all sorts of cooperation.
But the situation is, what do you -- I don't know if people know that Palestinians have lost five children, seven, eight, nine, 10, 12. I don't say that this explains what happens tonight. I don't think this should leave to such things like happened tonight, but also Palestinians have been suffocated, have been suffering, have been seeing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) activities and the bombardment of their residential areas and the killing of their children and the destruction of their economy.
And as long as the sun will shine, Palestinians and Israelis have one way and only one way to go, and that is the peace process. So we urge the Israeli government, we urge those Israelis who have been accusing us and finger pointing at us and doubting us, to please come back to the political negotiations. And through this means, and I think this is the only means for Palestinians and Israelis, the shortest way to see security and stability is the revival of this peace process. I don't know of any other way.
HARRIS: Can you give us any idea right now of what the Palestinian Authority is doing right now in these late hours at this particular moment to track down who is responsible for this?
ERAKAT: First of all, nobody claimed any responsibility. Nobody knows who is behind this, but I know that now, at this hour, President Arafat has convened an emergency meeting for security people. And as I said, President Arafat is fully committed to all our security obligations emanating from agreements signed. And we will be working very, very closely with the Americans and with the Europeans and with others, and maybe with the Israelis, in order to see who is behind this attack.
HARRIS: Can you say that this will not happen again?
ERAKAT: I wish I can say that. I really want to see that, to show Palestinians and Israelis that this is not the way. The way to peace and security is through the peace process, through the negotiations, and I think every (UNINTELLIGIBLE) should be examples in that field (ph).
HARRIS: So, do you condemn this act as an act of terror?
ERAKAT: We condemn this act, yes. We condemn the killing of Israelis and civilians and we don't condone it at all.
HARRIS: Saeb Erakat, we thank you very much for your time, even though this is a very difficult evening for all concerned here. And we will be continuing to standby and watch the developments here and will be bringing folks all the news that we get from this scene.
This again is tape -- we now, as a matter of fact are having some -- have another voice joining our conversation this evening. We are now joined by the former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is joining us now on the telephone.
Mr. Netanyahu, I'm not sure exactly where you are right now. Can you tell us?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Yes, I'm in New York City.
HARRIS: You're in New York City. And yet, no doubt, you have been watching these pictures that we have been brining in here from Jerusalem. I'd like your thoughts.
NETANYAHU: Well, I think that having just heard the Palestinian spokesman, I can say that I've seldom heard so much drivel and so much demonstrable lies. Yasser Arafat has done damn all, damn all to stop this terrorism.
There are Hamas offices. There are Islamic Jihad offices. He hasn't shut them down. He hasn't cracked down on them. He hasn't taken in thousands and thousands of operatives who are there, just roaming the streets of Gaza, Ramallah, elsewhere, who have Kalashnikov rifles. His police don't do a damned thing.
Further more, his own Fatah movement just two days ago openly took responsibility for a terrorist attack inside Israel, and his other -- the other groups that are directly subordinate to him are perpetrating daily terrorist acts.
So, Yasser Arafat is both a harborer of terrorist groups and a perpetrator of terrorist groups through his own people -- terrorist acts, through his own people. And therefore, what is said by his spokesman in the West in English is meaningless. What counts is what he says in Arabic to his own people, where he openly says that their goal is to destroy Israel, and what he does, which is to perpetrate terrorism. And what he doesn't do, which is to stop terrorism.
So, I think he's squarely responsible. I think it's time to unmask this fraud and to tell Arafat what you are telling the Taliban in Afghanistan: surrender terrorism or surrender power. And no amount of public relations is going to change that. Surrender terrorism or surrender power. The Taliban don't surrender terrorism, out they go. Arafat, you have one chance to stop it, or out you go.
HARRIS: Let me ask you a question that I just spoke with Mr. Erakat about; you know, many times when we talk to you or another voice from the Israeli government about things like this, they always say that when pressure has been put on Yasser Arafat in the past, big terrorism has stopped. What -- after now, considering how much pressure has been put on Yasser Arafat by General Zinni and others who have been recently there to try to put some sort of a cease fire in place, and this terrorist event still happens tonight. What makes you still continue to think that Yasser Arafat can 100 percent stop the terrorism?
NETANYAHU: Well, I think he can stop it to a great extent, because we've shown it. The pressure is not put on him. The pressure most recently has been put on the terror organizations, whose operatives are a target, and correctly so, by Israel.
But targeting terrorists, like targeting bin Laden, is never enough. You have to go to the base states or the regime from which a terrorist operates. And in this case, the only way to stop terrorism was to target the regime. In fact, in the three years that my government served, we targeted Arafat's regime and we said very clearly if you continue this, your regime will be toppled. And not surprisingly, the terror rate dropped precipitously, by close to 90 percent.
Two hundred Israelis had been killed in the three years before we took office, and about 200 Israelis have been killed in the two years, two-and-a-half years, since we've left office. But during the three years when we applied this policy on Arafat directly, low and behold, the terrorism dropped enormously.
And it's not because Arafat cares about Israel. He doesn't care a damned not about Israel and not about his own people, on whom he's visited one catastrophe after another. But Arafat deeply cares about the survival of his own regime, and once he's confronted with a knowledge that his regime will be in danger, and that all his protestations to the West and these ridiculous statements given for PR purposes by his henchmen in the West, will serve for nothing.
And that the U.S. will come down on him and in fact support strong Israeli action against Arafat's regime, not only against the terrorist harbored by his regimen, but against Arafatistan, as you are doing in Afghanistan. Then, from experience, we have seen that then and only then terrorism will decline and, in fact, decline dramatically.
HARRIS: I must say to you that we've just have learned as you were speaking that Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator that we were speaking with, has not dropped off the line. Mr. Erakat...
NETANYAHU: Oh, I'm not going to engage in any dialogue with Mr. Erakat. When you have a representative government in the Palestinian area as opposed to the farcical dictatorship that you have there now, like the farcical parliaments in Tripoli and Libya or Damascus, when you have a genuine one, I will be happy to debate him. But I don't speak to henchmen who are basically representatives of a dictatorial regime such as Yasser Arafat.
HARRIS: Well, I will be going back to him momentarily. I would like to have his comments in response to what you've had to say, but let me ask you this: you are here in the United States, so is Ariel Sharon, the current prime minister. What would you suggest that he do when he speaks with President Bush? And I don't know if he's doing so right now or not, he could very well be.
NETANYAHU: Well, I think what the prime minister will say and that the overwhelming majority of Israelis would expect him to say, is to say to the United States apply the same rules you apply in Afghanistan to the terrorism that emanates from Yasser Arafat's dictatorship.
HARRIS: But there's a full-blown war going on there. You're not suggesting the same thing take place in, there in Israel?
NETANYAHU: Frankly, I don't think it will be required. I think the minute Arafat realized the jig is up and that all the PR and the false propaganda that he's throwing at you in the West will be stopped, then it will not be continence. Then I think he'll stop.
You know, what you don't read and what you don't hear from Mr. Erakat and the others is that Arafat's official mouthpiece, all the newspapers there are controlled by him. They're all his mouthpieces, but he has an official mouthpiece called al Hayat al Jadida. The day that the two suicide planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Twin Towers, this mouthpiece of Yasser Arafat said the suicide bombers are the engines are history, they're the salt of the earth. They're the most honorable men among us.
This is the truth of what the Palestinians hear in Arabic, not what they hear, not what is said in English for CNN consumption or for U.S. consumption. Yasser Arafat espouses terrorism and the destruction of Israel in Arabic to his own people. He refuses to take any serious action against the terrorist organizations that operate in broad daylight.
Why doesn't he close the Hamas offices in Gaza and Ramallah? Why doesn't he jail hundreds, indeed thousands of their operatives? Why doesn't he give instructions to his own Fatah group that just announced and took credit for terrorist action? Why doesn't he jail them? And the answer is, he won't lift a finger because he wants to continue to play this double game: talk about peace vis-a-vis- the United States and conduct terrorism and warfare against Israel. That game has to stop. It has to stop right now.
HARRIS: Can you give us an idea of what immediate response you expect to see from Israel in the hours to come?
NETANYAHU: Well, I think that is probably being discussed right now and I don't want to second guess the government. I mean, they have immediate tactical information. But under no circumstances should we award this terrorism, as some suggest. I think what is important is to say to the Palestinians this: the only way we can have peace is if you change the policy of your leadership. That may require a leadership change, or change of policy by the regime.
And what it says is, you will now start cracking down on those terrorists. Stop giving excuses about a false cycle of violence. There is no cycle of violence. In fact, Arafat started this violence after he was offered unbelievable concessions by the for Prime Minister Ehud Barak. And he has refused to stop it since then.
Stop talking about a false cycle of violence. Start acting against the violence, which is directed and initiated from your side against Israel. And, further, change the message, internal message, not the one in English, not the one in CNN, not the one you're about to hear and have just heard from his henchmen and spokesmen. But the one that his own people hear in his state controlled press. Start talking about reconciliation and peace with Israel, and not about doing away with Israel in phases or in one fell swoop.
And if that is heard, a sincere change of message, a message of peace sent to the Palestinian people from its leadership and a message of cracking down on terrorism in practice, then I think we have a chance for peace. But as long as Arafat refuses to do both, as long as he continues to harbor terrorists, dispatch terrorists, and talk war to his people, then I think the prospects for peace are very bleak indeed.
HARRIS: Do I hear you saying, then, that perhaps the next arena in this worldwide war against terrorism should not be a place like Iraq but should rather be there in Israel with the Palestinians and what's been happening there?
NETANYAHU: I think there are about six regimes that form the core of the, of the terror network. Afghanistan is one of them. Iraq and Iran are another two. Arafat's dictatorship is the fourth, and there are one or two other terror regimes in the Middle East around which harbor about 24 terrorists groups.
It's possible to go after one of the groups again and again. We could go after Hamas and you could go after al Qaeda, but you have figured it out, that the only way that you're going to get bin Laden's al Qaeda is to get at his home base, the state, terrorist state that harbors him. And, indeed, the same thing has to be done vis-a-vis the other states. They don't necessarily all have to be toppled, but they have to be deterred and punished. And in any case, the message should be sent to all of them: surrender terrorism or surrender power.
Arafat thinks he can go on with this terrorism by shedding alligator tears here on CNN or having a spokesman condemn this. He doesn't condemn it, really. He doesn't go out and round up these killers. He doesn't make it impossible to have pro-Hamas and Islamic Jihad demonstrations by the thousands in his streets. His press continues, his official press continues to call for the armed struggled, which is a thinly veiled word for terrorism, glorifying these terrorists, calling streets, squares, after them. Glorifying them as martyrs for the cause.
That's what he really does in Arabic. And no amount of officiation and deception on the Western press should obscure that. I think the important thing is to get a unified message from Washington and from Jerusalem saying, basically Washington saying to Arafat, look, if you keep this up, then, if you continue to allow suicide kindergarten camps, suicide kindergarten camps in Gaza, under Arafat's regime, if you continue to have that, we won't tolerate this double game. Israel will be expected to act in its own self-defense just as the United States did.
HARRIS: You no doubt are not disappointed to know that Saeb Erakat just dropped off the phone, so we do not have him here. I would have loved to have asked him about your suggestion, or your ascertain that...
NETANYAHU: I have, Leon, I have a better suggestion for you. You know what my suggestion is?
HARRIS: And that would be?
NETANYAHU: You have your correspondent just pick up the daily slew of broadcasts and papers in Arabic in the Palestinian community, in the Palestinian areas, that are controlled, every world is controlled by Arafat. Every image is controlled by Arafat's censors. And what you want to do is translate that into Arabic, and that will give your viewers an idea of what the truth is.
The truth is not what Arafat or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or all these others are saying to you is the truth. They just, you know, they just represent a dictatorial regime and they can send to the outside any message they want. The truth is what they say inside. Because in the case of Israel, we're an open society. Anything we say on the inside is immediately broadcast on the outside and vice versa. But Arafat's dictatorship is not an open society, so the Palestinian public is exposed almost overwhelmingly to that other message, the double message, that Arafat is giving to his own people in Arabic. It's a message of war, of terrorism, not of reconciliation or peace.
And you know, I think if you started showing that on CNN, you'd be applying enormous pressure for peace. Enormous pressure. HARRIS: Well, that was precisely the question I was going to pose to him first off, but unfortunately we can't do that at this particular time.
NETANYAHU: Oh, I'm sure you'll have other opportunities.
HARRIS: No doubt. No doubt. But I have this opportunity now, I want to ask you something about a comment you made moments ago. You said something about, saying that Saeb Erakat's assertion that this is a part of a cycle of violence, you say there is no cycle of violence. How can you say that?
NETANYAHU: Well, because in fact what has happened is that the Palestinians are repeatedly attacking and Israel is responding. They're not attacking Israeli soldiers. They're attacking Israeli civilians, right in the heart of Jerusalem as you see here, or in a discotheque in Tel Aviv, and Israel is doing what you would do. It's trying to target the killers and occasionally it succeeds in knocking out the killers.
By the way, we're not saying, it's not our view that they're killers, we have hard evidence and these killers themselves boast of the fact that they are -- they have been doing all of these terrorist actions. So, Israel is merely responding to this campaign.
But I guess the larger issue that you have to ask is, why is there any violence in the first place? After all, Arafat has been saying on CNN for years, he said give me a West Bank state with half of Jerusalem as its capital, I'll give you peace. And over a year ago, at Camp David, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered him exactly that. He said, here, take a West Bank state, take east Jerusalem. Not only was he willing to free settlements, he was willing to approve dozens of settlements.
All these bogus issues, these false issues that Arafat and his spokesmen lays ad nauseam in the West. And Arafat having been offered everything he says in the West in English that he wants refused to take it. And all of a sudden it turns out that what really wants is not the state next to Israel in the West Bank but a state instead of Israel, including everything that now is Israel, West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and so on.
And it's then, only then that he began this campaign of violence, completely organized and orchestrated by him, and that's what we've been experiencing since then. So Arafat does not want peace, and the real cause of the problem here is not the settlements or territories. We've had war with the Palestinians and the Arab world for years before we even had a single soldier in the West Bank. The real reason is the refusal of a radical Palestinian leadership for many, many decades to make any peace whatsoever with Israel, regardless of its borders.
HARRIS: Well, it's clear this leadership that you would like to see changed is not going to change, and this is the leadership with which the Israelis are going to have to negotiate any kind of peace that does take place. NETANYAHU: Well, look, first of all, I'm not suggesting a leadership change. I'm not also suggesting that we topple that regime. That is not my goal. My goal is to stop the violence so we have a chance for peace. And what I would like to tell Arafat is this: If you persist in attacking us and doing something as criminal as these terrorist attacks that you see before your eyes, if you persist in this terrorism, then the inevitable result will be that we will do to you what the Americans are doing to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
HARRIS: Well, listen, we have heard that Palestinian Authority figures like Yasser Arafat have been saying of late that actions like these, terrorist acts like these are in the Palestinians' interest. They have been saying that publicly. It would seem then that there's some sort of a schism there amongst these different factions, and that they may be acting on their own.
NETANYAHU: Not quite. What you are hearing are the official spokesmen of Yasser Arafat in the West, but in the Palestinian areas that's seldom said, and if it's said at all it is said by someone who's -- someone, for example, like the newly appointed official in Jerusalem, who is -- I'll get his name in a minute -- who is widely known to be a dissenter and a deviator. I don't want to hurt his chances, by the way, because -- Sarin Husseiba (ph) -- but it's true that there are obviously more moderate forces, but they are drowned out by Yasser Arafat's extremism, which is again is always supported and defended on CNN by his various spokesmen.
HARRIS: But is it not impossible at any point to think that perhaps these factions are acting on their own?
NETANYAHU: No of course they're acting out of their own, but the real test you have is whether Arafat is taking any action to stop them. First of all, often they are acting with his encouragement. But let's say that right now because you have a war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Arafat, who has pioneered all this terrorism, pioneered the art of hijacking and bombing of supermarkets and the kidnapping and murder of diplomats, by the way including of American diplomats -- he understands now that to be identified openly with terrorism is dangerous, so he plays this double game. We understand that.
But nevertheless, what we really want him to do is not merely to condemn terrorism in the West, but to act against terrorism in the East, specifically in the Middle East, and more specifically terrorism that emanates from his own areas. And he doesn't do that. He has 50,000 armed men. He's got more police per square inch than any other regime in the world, bar none, I think including North Korea. He has got all that power, but you never or almost never see him use that power against the Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
What good are these tepid condemnations here on American television? Which, by the way, always make that false equation that Israel is also engaged in terrorism. What good is that? What you really want to do is what you wanted the Taliban to do. If you're really against bin Laden, go ahead, smoke him out. Give us Osama bin Laden. Crush al Qaeda, destroy its infrastructure. That's what you asked of the Taliban, and you were right. You didn't care if they said, oh, well, we are sorry that the World Trade Center was hurt, and we condemn any killings of American and Afghan civilians. You would have laughed at that, and correctly so. You said we want to see real action.
In the case of Arafat, there is no action. It's all fake. It's all deception. And what we need to do is to see -- and need to ask to have Arafat go after these people, lock them up en masse. What he's doing is he locked up -- I don't know -- half a dozen, two dozen, and has this revolving door system that is almost comical, you know. As soon as they get in, they are already out.
Some of them -- we gave them a list, the Israeli government gave them a list of 103 such terrorists, which were a list that was confirmed by the United States. He said, oh sure. OK? You know how many of those were actually jailed in practice? One. And you know what happened with this one? He got out through the revolving door. Zero. So, that's what Arafat is doing vis a vis terrorism, zero.
HARRIS: At this point, if you can just hang on for just a second, if you don't mind. Please stand by, Mr. Netanyahu.
I'd like to recap for people, because we've just crossed the top of the hour, and a lot of people may be just now tuning in to check on the news and want an update. What we have right now is our breaking story of the evening, this development coming out of Jerusalem, word of three explosions of at least two suicide bombers who took bombs into a crowded pedestrian mall area in the Benia Huda (ph) Street, we believe, in the Zion Square of Jerusalem, an area that was packed this evening with young folks who were hanging out on a late Saturday night. This happened just around about a little over two hours ago, we understand.
The latest casualty figures that we've got here are at least 100 to 130 casualties. We know that perhaps one to five people being declared dead at this particular point, we know there are a number of people who are in the hospital right now in critical conditions, perhaps barely hanging on to their lives, and this act has been condemned as a terrorist act already this evening by Israeli authorities.
We also did get a condemnation of this act by Saeb Erakat, who is the Palestinian Authority, and we do not have at this point any claim of responsibility for this bombing, this terrorist act in Jerusalem this evening.
And we are still talking on the phone right now with the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is here in New York, he's stateside here in the U.S., in New York. And what I'd like to ask is one more question about Yasser Arafat, because you say that he is so shrewd with PR that he does -- he says one thing in English and says another thing in Arabic to the street there. And if he's that shrewd, how in the world does it make sense for him to conscience any better or leave the table so that an event like this can happen, in this climate where we've got this worldwide effort to stamp out terrorism? That doesn't seem to be very shrewd. NETANYAHU: Well, what it required from him is action, and if he takes action against the Hamas, there will be repercussions. Obviously, he has to take physical action against Hamas and Islamic Jihad and reign in his own people who are carrying out terrorist attacks as well -- 50 percent of the attacks we've had in the last year were carried out by Yasser Arafat's own forces, forces that are directly subordinate to him.
So he would have to do something that is distinctly unpopular, and he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want to expend any political capital by taking physical action inside the Palestinian areas, especially if he can get away with all these apologies in the West. So, explaining how it's not in his interest and explaining how he's really doing things, or giving these empty words of false condemnation and shedding these crocodile tears.
My God, this man, after he glorified suicide bombers in his own official (UNINTELLIGIBLE), went and the next day donated blood for the victims of the suicide bombers. So he thinks he can get away with this double game, and I must say that the world press has been largely deficient and negligent in showing what is really happening inside the Palestinian areas, what he's really saying to the Palestinian people in Arabic, and the action -- and I might say the inaction -- the complete inaction on his part against the Palestinian terrorist groups, both the ones he harbors and those who are under his control.
So as long as he doesn't have to pay a price and as long as he can get away by saying, well, this doesn't serve my interest, in fact he can have it both ways. He can have the terrorists continue to attack Israel, and he can explain in the West that it's all right, it's not in his interests to have the terrorists attack Israel. So he can continue to shed blood without taking any action to stop the shedding of blood.
HARRIS: Benjamin Netanyahu, we thank you very much for your time this evening. You've given us a considerable amount of it, and we sure thank you for your insight, and we will continue to follow this story.
And as a matter of fact, we are joined once again, we do have the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. We have him back on the phone, and I don't believe we'll be able to get him on with Benjamin Netanyahu, but Mr. Erakat, were you able to hear the bulk of the comments from Benjamin Netanyahu?
ERAKAT: Yes, unfortunately, I did, and I wished that Mr. Netanyahu would stay on the line and face me mouth to mouth, because I still remember the first time Mr. Netanyahu met President Arafat. In 1996, he entered the room and he said to President Arafat, shook his hand strongly, and he said, "Chairman Arafat, we should have done this a long time ago. We will make peace together. We will make peace together."
And then he ran for three years in Israel and destroyed the peace process, and unfortunately he chose tonight, at this moment of sorrow, to use election campaigning to say about this period and so on, and forgetting that he was kicked out of office by the Israelis simply for one thing: He never kept a word. He's the one who speaks in English one thing and gives his orders in Hebrew for another thing.
Unfortunately, Leon, I don't want to go into every point. President Arafat was elected by an official election supervised by the international community. I'm an elected member, I represent my constituency, Jericho, and Ashrawi represents the constituency of Ramallah. We were elected in an election sponsored and helped by the Americans and the Europeans, and unfortunately, instead of replying to us we are reaching out to the Israeli government, telling them, please, come back to the negotiating table, unconditionally.
With all this venom -- I didn't know that the Americans were doing settlements in Afghanistan or killing people in Afghanistan, or besieging Afghanistan. Americans were attacked, and we were the first to tell bin Laden, don't associate your injustices with our just cause. President Arafat was the first to do that.
So unfortunately, it's this kind of lies, it's this kind of lying about what we heard from Mr. Netanyahu tonight that really complicates matters and that really encourages extremists on both sides -- and we have an abundance of extremists of both sides who want to sabotage this peace process -- and I believe Mr. Netanyahu belonged to the camp who really did everything in its power in three years, 1996-1999, to set us back and destroy everything we worked for since 1991.
Unfortunately, I didn't want to go out finger-pointing, because my job is to save lives, Israeli and Palestinian. And Mr. Netanyahu, we say, as Palestinians, President Arafat is the first Palestinian leader to have recognized the state of Israel in 78 percent of historic Palestine. We have officially recognized Israel, and we want to establish our independent state on the remaining 22 percent of the land.
Yet, he has talked about Camp David -- yes, true, in Camp David, we came a long way. We came a long way, both came a long way. We needed more time, and that's why we are telling the Israeli government, come back to the negotiating table. Let's resume the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) negotiations -- on Jerusalem, on settlements, on borders, on everything, and we can do it.
ERAKAT: ... this is absolutely outrageous.
HARRIS: But Mr. Erakat, I want to ask you about that specifically, because I must say that I have spoken with many other people. I've spoken with neutral observers, I've spoken with experts on the region, and they have also reported to us the same thing, that they have seen and heard different kinds of statements out in the Arabic press, whether they be radio or local printed press there, versus what they've heard coming from the leadership over there. I've heard that myself before, from talking face to face with people who have been experts on that region.
And to hear Benjamin Netanyahu say that this evening and allege that that's what happening with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, it has something of a ring of truth to those of us who have been covering the region for a while.
ERAKAT: No, Leon. As a matter of fact, before you spoke to me tonight, President Arafat had issued a statement in Arabic condemning these attacks tonight. And no, Leon, we don't have controlled newspapers here. No, Leon, Arafat is not a dictatorship (sic). We have been an elected authority -- and by the way, we are people under Israeli occupation.
That's a fact that people tend to forget. Thirty-four years of Israeli occupation. President Arafat controls half of the West Bank today, 18 percent, and every Palestinian town, village and refugee camp is under total siege. There are thanks surrounding all the West Bank and Gaza. And yet, these attacks happen, and that's why we tell the Israelis, let us come back to the negotiations. As I said to you, we may score points off each other, we may assign blame at each other, we may stand to accuse each other, but as long as we live next to each other, we need to make peace with each other.
We should reach out for each other when Palestinians are killed and Israelis are killed. Those of us who want to make peace should reach out to each other and speak loudly in all languages -- in Hebrew, Arabic and English -- and that's what we do. Come back to the negotiating table! Unconditionally! This is the only way out for both of us.
HARRIS: Mr. Erakat, I must ask you about this, because many people have said and we have heard Benjamin Netanyahu say it tonight, that before you can go back to the negotiating table there are couple of things that have got to be addressed, and one of them is what has been called this revolving door system you have got there -- or what is being alleged to be a revolving door system of arresting or bringing in people for interrogation or whatever, and then releasing them, and then later having them participate in these terrorist acts.
We have heard this accusation made a number of times, and we have seen reports of people there going in but not saying in jail for very long under the Palestinian Authority. What do you say to these charges?
ERAKAT: Leon, I think Mr. Netanyahu invented this revolving door story. But today, I think Mr. Netanyahu is unlucky, because we have Europeans who are verifying our situation, and that's why President Arafat has been telling the Americans and the Europeans, please, why don't you dispatch monitors who can come to any area they choose to come in the West Bank and Gaza -- our jails, or whatever -- and see for themselves. Because if you tell me that I do my obligations in accordance with Palestinian laws, and it is in accordance with Palestinian laws -- and that's why I said what happened tonight is a flagrant violation of the cease-fire declared by President Arafat.
And if Mr. Netanyahu stands to be my judge, and Sharon stands to be my judge, what do I stand a chance? How can they be fair and just? They refused some elementary accommodation. They refused to implement Mitchell. They refused to have international observers, or American observers or European observers on the ground so they can't tell the world what's going on. If the Palestinians make mistakes, they should tell the world that, yes, the Palestinians did this or did not do that, but the same should be applicable to Israel.
But for them to stand as our judge and to say that they dictate on us, and they want us to do this and this and then to -- tell you what, Mr. Netanyahu, this is absurd and cannot be sustained.
Now, we want to see mechanisms to implement Mitchell. Sharon said he accepted Mitchell. Arafat said they accepted Mitchell. What delays are from implementing Mitchell immediately through a very pacified timeline? What does Israel have to hide by refusing the idea of having American and European monitors on the ground in every Palestinian town, village and refugee camp, in all friction points? To tell the world out of the miseries that are happening to Palestinians and Israelis, out of these deaths of Palestinians and Israelis, we call on the Israeli government...
HARRIS: But Mr. Erakat...
ERAKAT: ... to go back to the negotiating table, and that's what needs to be done now.
HARRIS: But Mr. Erakat, every time that point is brought up, we always hear the response being that a cease-fire must be put in place and must stay in place before any discussions can take place, and we have not seen that happen.
ERAKAT: How can you have a cease-fire without sitting down? How can you have a cease-fire without your commanders, security commanders, sitting down, dividing the labor, agreeing on a plan? This is what we have been calling for! This is what we have been calling for, and as I said (AUDIO AND VIDEO GAP) percent only of the West Bank and Gaza.
And I'm not going to go into (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because I don't think scoring points or finger-pointing can save on Israeli life, or one Palestinian life. Let us -- we have the Americans here, we have the Europeans here, let's have a meeting tonight. Security people, political people. We can meet and begin immediately with the Americans monitoring every step of the way.
HARRIS: Well, we'll be monitoring from our position. Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, we thank you very much for your time. You've given us again a substantial amount of your time this evening on a very busy night. We thank you very much for bearing with us and for showing the patience. We appreciate it.
And for those who are just now joining us, we have been covering this evening now for a little over two hours this story, this breaking story of a multiple explosions in Jerusalem. We have at least two suicide bombers and a car bomb, we understand now, that have been detonated in a very populous area in downtown Jerusalem.
See here, this was the third explosion, this was the car bomb that went off just outside of the cafe in a pedestrian mall. Our Jerrold Kessel has been covering this entire evening for us, and he joins us now once again live with another recap -- Jerrold.
KESSEL: Leon, well, just while you've been talking to Benjamin Netanyahu and Saeb Erakat there, and they've been engaging in what we have heard so much of over the last 14 months, charge-countercharge, who is responsible for the violence, how to stop the violence, how the violence can never be stopped.
We've had a very, very strong statement and demand for action from the United States, and that is from the special envoy of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reserve Marine General Anthony Zinni. And if my speed writing is accurate as I took this down on the phone from the U.S. embassy of General Zinni's statement, this is more or less exactly what General Zinni has said in the wake of this terror outrage in the heart of Jerusalem tonight.
He said: "I condemn in the strongest possible terms the vicious and evil terrorist attacks in Jerusalem." And after wishing the wounded well and expressing heartfelt sympathy for the dead in this attack by the terrorists in the heart of Jerusalem, General Zinni goes on to say: "I spoke with Chairman Arafat tonight, and made absolutely clear that those responsible for planning and carrying out these attacks must be found and brought to justice. This is something that is an urgent task," General Zinni says, "there can be no delay, no excuses nor not acting right way."
"These despicable actions can only be prevented," says the U.S. mediator, "if the Palestinians act in a comprehensive and sustained manner to root out terrorism and the terrorists and bring them to justice." And he says: "This can be only be done only if there's a comprehensive and sustained effort by the Palestinian Authority to do so, to find those responsible for these acts and to root out the infrastructure of the terrorist groups that support these actions, as well as," he concludes, "effective cooperation between the Palestinian security forces and the Israeli security forces."
Well, no mincing of words there from the U.S. envoy, saying the onus is now squarely on the Palestinian Authority -- it couldn't be clearer -- not just to find those who might have been responsible for the planning, the dispatch of the suicide bombers this evening, but for the rooting out, as he says, of the infrastructure of those who support the terror groups, and that is a very categoric statement indeed, which the Palestinians clearly will have to respond to in one form or another, and more even going beyond that exchange that you had of the charge and countercharge with the -- between the Israeli and Palestinian side.
Now we are being joined here by a leading confidant of Prime Minister Sharon who is now in the United States and may still be meeting the president either tomorrow, we've heard reports that he may be trying to advance that meeting with President Bush to tomorrow, and then to return urgently home. And we're joined now by a leading confident and a member of Mr. Sharon's cabinet, Dan Meridor. Thanks very much, Dan, for joining us.
Your response just to what General Zinni had to say in the statement demanding action, very firm action, from Yasser Arafat? DAN MERIDOR, ISRAELI CABINET MEMBER: General Zinni came here and learned very quickly, in a very difficult way, the realities of the Middle East. It is up to Mr. Arafat not to talk, not to apologize. They mean nothing. They're worth nothing. They need to act just in the opposite direction of what they've been doing so far.
So far, Arafat has led this terror campaign. He's released all those people of Islamic Jihad and Hamas from jail. His own people, Fatah people are carrying out these attacks. We are tired of words, we don't want to listen to them anymore. Not to him, nor to Mr. Erakat. They need to take action if they want to be relevant to peace in the Middle East. They haven't done so; they need to do it now, and as General Zinni said, in a comprehensive, sustained manner.
Those people, hundreds of thousands of them, who carry out these attacks of Mr. Arafat's own organization should be put immediately behind bars.
KESSEL: Isn't there a case to be made for the argument that irrespective of who is right and who is wrong of whether Yasser Arafat hasn't done enough in the past, that now is the time to test him, to give him the opportunity to act? Now this evening we heard -- it may be accurate, it may not be, they may be released, as you say -- but the Palestinian security officials said that only this evening they arrested more than a dozen members of the Islamic Jihad.
Shouldn't the onus be put on Yasser Arafat, but to give him a chance, rather than to say Yasser Arafat is not, as was implied by Benjamin Netanyahu, as you yourself in a sense have implied, he cannot be, he is not a partner for peace in any way or form?
MERIDOR: Hasn't he been given a chance for the last year? He's been given a chance, he took it in the opposite directions. He leads this terror campaign. He has two arms, one arm for television, to explain, to apologize, to talk nice English, like Mr. Erakat. The other arm is Mr. Barguti, is the Islamic Jihad, is the Fatah people, his own people.
One thing I know, the people who carried out this attack -- I don't know who they are -- they see Mr. Arafat as their president. Another thing I know. They think they know that he doesn't want them to stop. They know that he's happy with what they're doing, otherwise they would not have done it.
KESSEL: How do you know he doesn't want them to stop?
MERIDOR: Because he doesn't stop them. He put them out of jail. For a year, he doesn't stop them. They come out and say we know that what we do is to please him. They know that he wants it. He never does it. He never goes on television and says stop it. Never so far.
He has the arms. He got thousands of guns from us, to be able to control the violence. If he does not control the violence, is he a partner? For what? If we have an agreement with him tomorrow morning, if he cannot carry it out, why should we talk to him? He is the guy. He is the guy to take the responsibility. He was there. He's the leader. It's his responsibility, and we are tired of his words. He should take action immediately. People get killed in the streets. It will not go on like this forever.
KESSEL: Thank you very much, Dan Meridor. Statement there, it will not go on like this forever, in other words, Israel -- I dare say contemplating reaction. We understand that Mr. Sharon, Prime Minister Sharon is convening a meeting with the two ministers who are with him in the United States, and the question then whether there will be action, how soon. There are already demands from the right wing of the Israeli political spectrum that he return right away and prepare a military campaign, as it was demanded of him from the Israeli right, against the Palestinians. There will be a lot of Israelis who will support that.
At the same time, there are those who say while there will be very few who will believe in any way or form that Yasser Arafat has done enough, there are some who will say that he has to be a political component, and that debate goes on in Israel despite this terrible incident this evening.
And we now have confirmation, Leon, that the number of dead are eight dead, in addition to the two Palestinian suicide bombers. That's the reports from Israeli television. With over 160 injured in that dual suicide bombing, followed by that explosion in a car around the corner as the rescue squads arrived to try to salvage the situation as a result of the meeting -- of the incident in downtown Jerusalem.
And we've just been told now that, in fact, we are hearing, and I dare say you'll have this confirmed shortly from the White House, that that meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush looks like it will take place tomorrow morning, that's Sunday morning in Washington, to enable the Israeli prime minister to rush home soon after that and advance his return home from tomorrow afternoon rather than as had been scheduled on Wednesday -- Leon.
HARRIS: All of which leads me to believe, Jerrold, that as busy as this night has been thus far it's about to get even busier for some others.
Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem, thank you very much, and we will be getting back to you later on. It's been quite an evening. Lots of breaking news that we've been covering here. We will take a break right now, and we'll be back in just a moment. Don't go away.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com