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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Addresses Israel

Aired December 3, 2001 - 12:35   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: As we wait for Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, to speak to his nation, joining me is former United States Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Secretary Eagleburger, what is Israel accomplishing with these strikes on Yasser Arafat's helicopters, and a police station in Jenin?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: Well, they're not accomplishing much. Let's not forget that this back and forth between the Palestinians doing something and then the Israelis responding has gone on for years. This appears to be a particularly strenuous within. But what's it going to accomplish? Not much.

The only thing I can say, though, is that if they did not do it, it would probably be worse, believe it or not, because it they retaliate, as they have done, at least some people on the other side have to think twice before they do it again, and that does leave immediately to the question of whether Arafat runs things or not, and if he does, maybe this would make a difference.

I will tell you what else will make a difference, is the fact that this time the U.S. government for the first time in a long time said that the Israelis have the right to retaliate, that they are to take care of their own security. We have in the past constantly lectured them about, don't respond, cool it off, and I think it's more than time we say what we did, and that may make a impact on Arafat as well, and on the other hand, nothing may work.

WOODRUFF: But going after, and we don't know yet obviously whether this was a deliberate target or not, but going after a jail that the Palestinian security forces would use, isn't that part of apparatus that they would use to round up some of these extremists?

EAGLEBURGER: I mean, again, when you ask specifically an individual targets, assuming they wanted to get to jail, and did not hit it by mistake, you have you to and yourself why? And why his helicopter, and why all around his headquarters? I suppose it's giving him a message, but if you -- well, the whole thing is futile on both sides, that's my point.

WOODRUFF: Do you think it's likely to make him want to cooperate more?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, he can cooperate less than he has done, so I don't know, we will see.

WOODRUFF: What about this whole question of whether Arafat should remain where he is. I heard Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister of Israel, saying he should not be in that position anymore, they need to get rid -- they, the Palestinians, need to get rid of him. Somebody else should step in.

EAGLEBURGER: Well, I can imagine that they will not pay much attention to Mr. Netanyahu's recommendation. And my answer to that question is, again, I hate to say this, but I don't know, who replaces him? What is the quality of the person who will replace him? How much does Arafat really run things in the first place? So to get rid of him without being able to answer any of the questions doesn't to me seal very sensible.

WOODRUFF: You have been dealing with the issues, Secretary Eagleburger, for years and years, and I'm sure in many ways in your mind longer than you care to remember. How much control does he have over these extremists groups? The thought occurred to me last night, as we were reporting on some of this, that for every crackdown, to every step he takes to crackdown on these extremists, there are a dozen or more, or if not hundreds more, young Palestinian men who would be perfectly happy to blow themselves up for this cause.

EAGLEBURGER: A very good question for which there is, again, no clear answer. If you talk to the real experts on the Middle East, you get all sorts of answers -- yes he really runs things and he does not want peace with Israel, or, no, he can't run things, or if he tries to crackdown, they will overthrow him. My own personal view, and that's all it is, is that he does not really run things, at least not very effectively, but probably in part because he really doesn't want an agreement, for reasons that go back to if he had a separate state, could he run it? It's already bankrupt? What -- how would he run the thing? And I am not sure if Arafat does not think in the back of his mind, if I had a real state, I would be out of my rear in no time flat, and somebody would have to take it over.

WOODRUFF: If that's the case, what's to be done? What's to be done by the United States? What's to be done by Israel?

EAGLEBURGER: Judy, 40 years ago, people asked that question, and my answer to you is, there is nothing we can do, but continue the efforts that have gone on for 40 years, and maybe at some point maybe we will find some mature people who can make it work.

I thought at the end of the Clinton administration when the negotiations were going on, I thought, well, maybe for the first time, there is some hope. Well, it turned out that Arafat either would not or could not accept when Barak was ready to give him half the store. So at this stage all I can say is that if you were silly enough to invite me back this time next year, we would probably be having the same conversation, and probably three or four years down the line. I am not pessimistic, but I am certainly not optimistic.

WOODRUFF: We would only be smart to invite you back, but I want to you to you stay with us right now, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger in the first Bush administration.

Joining us now on the telephone from Jerusalem for an update from there, is CNN's Mike Hanna.

Mike, what are you learning about these other strikes that we are just hearing about in the last hour.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a series of strikes under way in various parts of the Palestinian territory. Shortly before sunset, the first of the strikes, this was carried out in Gaza City by Israeli assault helicopters using missiles. The apparent targets of that attack, facilities near compounds of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, and severely damaged in that attack were two helicopters belonging to Mr. Arafat that was used to ferry him around the Palestinian areas between Gaza City and the West Bank. Also, in that attack, 30 people were wounded according to Palestinian hospital sources the 15 were Palestinian civilians and 17, according to the hospital sources, were Palestinian security of officers.

That's the first strike, and then an hour later, F-16 fighters, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses, carried out a strike from the West Bank city of Jenin. The talk in that city, according to people in the area, was a Palestinian police station right in the middle of Jenin, which was totally destroyed in the strike by F-16s using missiles. The Israeli army confirmed that it has taken some action in Jenin, but will not confirm exactly what the methods in terms of the operations there, and also within the past few, minutes reports of a explosion in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. No full details about what has happened there, but now at the moment, we have Ariel Sharon about to address the Israeli people.

WOODRUFF: Mike Hanna reporting on strikes in the -- that Israel has taken in the West Bank and Gaza. I believe that the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is just about to begin his address to the nation. Are we getting that signal in?

The Israeli prime minister.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... we continue with this every single day. And we will never, ever stop doing all of this.

A war has been imposed upon us, a war of terrorism, a war that every day strikes down the victims, a war of terrorism that is being pursued methodically in an organized fashion and in a directed way. If you ask what is the goal of this war, I will tell you. The goal of this war of terrorism, the goal of the terrorists, those who send them, those who help them, the goal of those who allow them to act without any interference and quietly, is to drive us out of here. Their goal is to make us desperate, to make us lose hope, to make us lose the national vision that leads us, that motivates us to be a free people in our land, our land of Zion, the country of Israel.

This will never happen.

There is no people in the world which has such steadfastness and tenacity and maturity as we do. I'm proud of being part of this people. I'm aware of that fact that in other areas in our lives, too, we are facing difficulties and hereto we are showing, demonstrating strength and tenacity.

They've already understood that they will not succeed. They've understood that the people here are stronger and that their steadfastness is greater. They are more tenacious than they ever imagined. And that is why they are continuing to blow up children, adolescents, men, women, the young and the old alike, citizens of Israel and the citizens of other countries; people just for the sake of killing just in order to murder people.

And I say to you here from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel, Jerusalem which is undivided, I say this to you and to everyone who hears me today throughout the world, those who rise up against us to kill us are responsible for their own destruction, as has been done in the world under the courageous leadership of President Bush, acting forcefully against terrorism, so we will act with all our force, with all our determination, with all our means that we have used to date and also in using new means that are available to us.

Do not listen to false prophecy. Do not be mislead by the promise of immediate results. This will not be an easy war. This war will not be a short war. But we shall win. Israel doesn't open wars. This war of terrorism, like wars of the past, is being imposed upon us. We know who has brought it on us. We know who is responsible. Arafat is responsible for everything that is happening here. Arafat made his strategic choice; choosing a strategy of terrorism, choosing to achieve political goals through murder by slaughtering innocent citizens.

In doing this, Arafat has opted for terrorism. It is a long time now that the world has not realized what Arafat's nature is, but recently a significant change has occurred. There is more understanding for our position, and the real Arafat is showing himself.

We want peace and stability; this is something we've seen in the past, we want this for the present. For the future, we want this, but unfortunately we will not have this for a while. Arafat will not manage to topple this government that I head; this time Arafat will not manage to mislead us.

We have to realize that the current situation that Arafat has led us into first and foremost is hurting them. I say to you now that we shall pursue those who is responsible for terrorism, those who carry it out, those who order it. We shall pursue them until we capture them, and they will pay the price.

Today, as soon as I returned, I called an urgent meeting of the heads of all of the security system, and very shortly the government will hold a special session. The government will meet in order to take decisions about how to deal further with terrorism.

This is not the place to talk about the ways that we will be discussing. I simply think that the decisions we will have to take today constitute a special coming together of the entire government. The government that I head is a government of unity. We are now in a situation of emergency, and the need for unity during this time is vital. The government represents practically the whole of the Israeli public, and we have this paramount goal and need for unity in order to cope with all of the challenges facing us.

Thank you very much.

Question?

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The minister of defense says has said that he doesn't want to bring down the Palestinian Authority and he's asking, given everything that you've said, why don't you totally eradicate Arafat?

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The government of National Unity is a very, very important issue now. We have to have unity in order to be able to carry out a consistent war against terrorism and also so that we can look forward into the future when the day will come when we will have peace and tranquility, and then we will be able to conduct political, diplomatic negotiations.

I don't want to relate to particular statements by anyone. I'm not sure that you actually were quoting from the exact situation.

We will, today, take clear cut decisions on these issues, clearly in a broad-based meeting of the government. We will not go into all the details. We will concentrate mainly on the principles, but there is something -- there is nothing that will be left untouched, unclear after the meeting of the government.

Perhaps you could speak up a bit madam?

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): You are attacking Arafat. You're saying he's responsible for everything, for the whole war. But, in fact, the conclusion of everything you said is that Arafat is the central foe of the state of issue of the day. If Arafat is the enemy, do you think that Israel should implement the cabinet decision taken after the assassination of Ghandi, saying that if Arafat doesn't condemn this and act against the terrorism, then he would be -- he'd have the authority to be as the enemy?

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority with Yasser Arafat as its head, because basically the Palestinian Authority is Arafat, they then are responsible directly for the really serious situation that exists -- directly responsible.

They're the ones that have allowed the terrorist organizations to act, and they must have given them refuge and financial resources, some of them. They've allowed them to carry out exercises in the territory, and so some of them have got resources under the auspices of Arafat's authority, headquarters and so on.

They have taken no steps against them whatsoever, and consequently we consider Arafat to be directly responsible for what has happened.

QUESTION: Follow-up question. You didn't answer my question. Since you see him as responsible, has the time not come to declare him an enemy, and to act against him as an enemy, or is that a decision that goes too far for Israel and will hurt it rather than harming it?

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We take all our decisions in the appropriate fashion than today, I say, in a very clear-cut fashion, that the person who is directly responsible for everything that is happening, both for the attacks on Israeli citizens and for the major suffering suffered now by the Palestinian population, the person who is directly responsible for all of this is Arafat. And in the light of this, we will know how to act, and this is how we will proceed.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We will take the necessary measures, as long as the terror exists. We, as a matter of fact, have been acting all the time, but I think that Arafat brought to a situation.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... the result (inaudible) coalition of terror to Israel. The situation became worse now, and we will be acting until we will see an end to terror. And Arafat, no doubt, he's the one responsible for the terror, and we (ph) will have to take the necessary steps which will decide the results (ph).

QUESTION: We won't challenge the idea of Arafat being responsible and so on, but where have you been all this time, whenever he's been getting worse?

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, one day, we will finish the war on terrorism. And when we get to a peace or a diplomatic settlement, this is something to which I'm committed, and I wish to achieve.

At that time, I would suggest that it would be the right time to talk about whose made a mistake, over what, where and so on. I don't think this is the time to talk about this.

I think we have taken the correct steps. But in the light of the deterioration, the way that terrorism has peaked, we have to take other measures.

Last question?

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In the light of your criticism, Prime Minister, and the criticism of the attack on the helicopters, was this a pointless exercise that was just directed at pleasing the Israeli public? This was Minister -- Prime Sneh, who criticized this, a member of the Cabinet.

SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I want to say something to you. Unfortunately, I've been involved in all of Israel's wars or the battles -- bloodstained battles. There's one thing that I've learned and also I try to teach: In other words, when you're in a war everyone has to stand shoulder-by-shoulder, together, close ranks.

I think it's really not very fitting at a time like this, even before we really started to do what we intend to do, is we already have critical voices raised which sometimes are the result of the fact that someone wishes to make an appearance and come out and say something.

In the government, as in the security discussion today, every single member had a complete opportunity to express their opinion, everyone who was present, and once a decision has been taken, then that is a government decision, and every individual who doesn't like the decisions, well, they can object. But if they feel they can't go along with the decisions, they can vacate their seat.

There are decisions in the government which are taken, and those decisions are binding on everyone. And at such times, the worst thing is when people turn into interpreters of decisions rather than going along with everybody and standing shoulder-by-shoulder in this war which has been imposed upon us.

As head of this government of unity, I attach great importance to unity from every point of view, and I make every single effort to ensure that the government will speak with a single voice. If you want to win, you have to stand together. If you wish to win, you can express an opinion in the course of discussions, but you also have to know how to speak with a single voice. I've been in the U.S. now, and I must say I am full envy. I'm absolutely envious when I see how a whole people -- there are differences here -- but how this entire people stand shoulder-by-shoulder when you're talking about fighting an enemy, a cruel enemy. The whole people there in the U.S. is standing together.

And ladies and gentlemen, you really should learn from others as well. I believe this is the most wonderful example that we could possibly see of a people standing together.

Thank you everyone. Thank you. Despite the fact that some of you have been very tired and tired out by the trip, you agreed to come here.

Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon speaking to the people from Jerusalem, speaking over state television, saying we know who is responsible, Arafat, Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Authority, he said, is responsible for everything happening here. He says he chose the strategy of terrorism. He chose the political goal that would be achieved through the murder of innocent people, he has opted for terrorism.

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