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Powell to Go to Middle East

Aired April 4, 2002 - 10:58   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.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Bush is expected to come to the microphone any minute now to announce Secretary of State Colin Powell will head to Israel. We are going to bring you President Bush's comments live. While we stand by for the president, let's check in with our senior political analyst Bill Schneider, who will be watching those comments right along with us, and he is in our Washington bureau this morning.

Bill, good morning.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Daryn.

KAGAN: This, of course, a move that a lot of people, especially Arabs and European nations have been pushing for, for the Bush administration to step it up a notch, and get more involved in the situation in the Middle East.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. I think a lot of countries around the world -- Arab countries like Egypt, and its leader, President Mubarak, Europeans, people at the U.N., they are going to welcome this, they are going to breathe a sigh of relief, because, you know, Secretary Powell has a special status. He is not just the American emissary to the world, the rest of the world sees him as their emissary to the Bush administration, and they have been under an enormous amount of pressure lately.

It is not an uncontroversial move. Conservatives in the United States have been saying the Bush administration should not do anything to negotiate with the Palestinians, they shouldn't put anything political on the table until there is a cease-fire. So, this clearly is a set-back for American conservatives. But for the rest of the world, I think they are going to welcome the dispatching of Secretary Powell to the Middle East.

KAGAN: Even yesterday, we were hearing comments from Secretary Powell that -- was sounding like the Bush administration, or at least coming from the State Department, that the position was changing a bit, calling for a time frame for the operation that the military -- the Israeli military was doing against the Palestinians.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

KAGAN: Yes, go ahead. SCHNEIDER: Yes.

KAGAN: And also, he was even hinting yesterday that he could be heading to that region, so this doesn't come as a total surprise.

SCHNEIDER: No, it is not a total surprise, but the fact that he is going to be going there is a departure from where the United States was, even a few days ago when President Bush in Texas was very clear in saying we side with the Israelis, we support what they're doing. Essentially giving the indication that they were fighting the battle with terrorists just as we did within Afghanistan. Now, he is saying this process has to be brought to a close, and the first step is to dispatching Powell.

KAGAN: All right, Bill, we'll have you stand by and watch these comments with us, and come to you after we hear from the president. Our Kelly Wallace at the White House, standing by, waiting for the president to come out, and as we know with this president, Kelly, he's usually is right on time.

Kelly, can you hear me?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I can hear you, can you hear me?

KAGAN: Yes, we can. It looks like a door is opening, I don't know if that is the president who is coming out.

WALLACE: Yes. He is walking to the podium right now. You see Secretary Powell there alongside with him. Let's listen to the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning.

During the course of one week, the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated dramatically. Last Wednesday, my special envoy, Anthony Zinni, reported to me that we were on the verge of a cease- fire agreement that would have spared Palestinian and Israeli lives. That hope fell away when a terrorist attacked a group of innocent people at a Netanya hotel, killing many men and women in what is a mounting toll of terror.

In the days since, the world has watched with growing concern the horror of bombings and burials and the stark picture of tanks in the street. Across the world, people are grieving for Israelis and Palestinians who have lost their lives.

When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future itself is dying, the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people.

We mourn the dead, and we mourn the damage done to the hope of peace, the hope of Israeli's and the Israelis' desire for a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors. The hope of the Palestinian people to build their own independence state. Terror must be stopped. No nation can negotiate with terrorists, for there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.

This could be a hopeful moment in the Middle East. The proposal of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, supported by the Arab League, has put a number of countries in the Arab world closer than ever to recognizing Israel's right to exist.

The United States is on record supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a Palestinian state. Israel has recognized the goal of a Palestinian state.

The outlines of a just settlement are clear: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. This can be a time for hope, but it calls for leadership, not for terror.

Since September 11 I've delivered this message: Everyone must choose. You're either with the civilized world or you're with the terrorists. All in the Middle East also must choose and must move decisively in word and deed against terrorist acts.

The chairman of the Palestinian Authority has not consistently opposed or confronted terrorists. At Oslo and elsewhere, Chairman Arafat renounced terror as an instrument of his cause, and he agreed to control it. He's not done so.

The situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making. He's missed his opportunities and thereby betrayed the hopes of the people he's supposed to lead.

Given his failure, the Israel government feels it must strike at terrorist networks that are killing its citizens. Yet, Israel must understand that its response to these recent attacks is only a temporary measure. All parties have their own responsibilities, and all parties owe it to their own people to act.

We all know today's situation runs the risk of aggravating long- term bitterness and undermining relationships that are critical to any hope of peace.

I call on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority and our friends in the Arab world to join us in delivering a clear message to terrorists: Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause. To the contrary, suicide-bombing missions could well blow up the best and only hope for a Palestinian state.

All states must keep their promise, made in a vote in the United Nations, to actively oppose terror in all its forms. No nation can pick and choose its terrorist friends.

I call on the Palestinian Authority and all governments in the region to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities, to disrupt terrorist financing, and to stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned media or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs. They're not martyrs. They're murderers. And they undermine the cause of the Palestinian people.

Those governments, like Iraq, that reward parents for the sacrifice of their children are guilty of soliciting murder of the worst kind.

All who care about the Palestinian people should join in condemning and acting against groups like Al-Aqsa, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all groups which oppose the peace process and seek the destruction of Israel.

The recent Arab League support of Crown Prince Abdullah's initiative for peace is promising, is hopeful because it acknowledges Israel's right to exist. And it raises the hope of sustained, constructive Arab involvement in the search for peace.

This builds on a tradition of visionary leadership begun by President Sadat and King Hussein and carried forward by President Mubarak and King Abdullah. Now other Arab states must rise to this occasion and accept Israel as a nation and as a neighbor.

Peace with Israel is the only avenue to prosperity and success for a new Palestinian state. The Palestinian people deserve peace and an opportunity to better their lives.

They need their closest neighbor, Israel, to be an economic partner, not a mortal enemy. They deserve a government that respects human rights and a government that focuses on their needs, education and health care, rather than feeding their resentments.

It is not enough for Arab nations to defend the Palestinian cause. They must truly help the Palestinian people by seeking peace and fighting terror and promoting development.

Israel faces hard choices of its own. Its government has supported the creation of a Palestinian state that is not a haven for terrorism. Yet, Israel also must recognize that such a state needs to be politically and economically viable.

Consistent with the Mitchell plan, Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop, and the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. Ultimately, this approach should be the basis of agreements between Israel and Syria and Israel and Lebanon.

Israel should also show a respect -- a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors. It is crucial to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide for their own families. The Israeli government should be compassionate at checkpoints and border crossings, sparing innocent Palestinians daily humiliation. Israel should take immediate action to ease closures and allow peaceful people to go back to work.

Israel is facing a terrible and serious challenge. For seven days, it has acted to rout out terrorists' nests. America recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terror.

Yet, to lay the foundations of future peace, I ask Israel to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin the withdrawal from those cities it has recently occupied.

I speak as a committed friend of Israel. I speak out of a concern for its long-term security, the security that will come with a genuine peace.

As Israel steps back, responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors must step forward and show the world that they are truly on the side of peace. The choice and the burden will be theirs.

The world expects an immediate cease-fire, immediate resumption of security cooperation with Israel against terrorism, and an immediate order to crack down on terrorist networks. I expect better leadership, and I expect results.

These are the elements of peace in the Middle East, and now we must build the road to those goals. Decades of bitter experience teach a clear lesson: Progress is impossible when nations emphasize their grievances and ignore their opportunities. The storms of violence cannot go on. Enough is enough.

And to those who would try to use the current crisis as an opportunity to widen the conflict, stay out. Iran's arms shipments and support for terror fuel the fire of conflict in the Middle East, and it must stop. Syria has spoken out against Al Qaeda. We expect it to act against Hamas and Hezbollah, as well.

It's time for Iran to focus on meeting its own people's aspirations for freedom and for Syria to decide which side of the war against terror it is on. The world finds itself at a critical moment. This is a conflict that can widen or an opportunity we can seize.

And so, I've decided to send Secretary of State Powell to the region next week, to seek broad international support for the vision I've outlayed today.

As a step in this process, he will work to implement United Nations Resolution 1402 -- an immediate and meaningful cease-fire, an end to terror and violence and incitement; withdrawal of Israel troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah; implementation of the already-agreed-upon Tenet and Mitchell plans, which will lead to a political settlement.

I have no illusions -- we have no illusions -- about the difficulty of the issues that lay ahead. Yet our nation's resolve is strong. America is committed to ending this conflict and beginning an era of peace.

We know this is possible, because in our lifetimes, we have seen an end to conflicts that no one thought could end. We've seen fierce enemies let go of long histories of strife and anger. America itself counts former adversaries as trusted friends -- Germany and Japan and now Russia. Conflict is not inevitable. Distrust need not be permanent. Peace is possible when we break free of old patterns and habits of hatred. The violence and grief that trouble the holy land have been among the great tragedies of our time. The Middle East has often been left behind in the political and economic advancement of the world. That is the history of the region, but it need not -- and must not -- be its fate.

The Middle East could write a new story of trade and development and democracy. And we stand ready to help.

Yet this progress can only come in an atmosphere of peace. And the United States will work for all the children of Abraham to know the benefits of peace.

Thank you very much.

KAGAN: Looks like President Bush will not be answering any questions. Said all he had to say, and had quite a bit to say, in fact. Announcing that enough is enough. He believes what is taking place in the Middle East, saying that this conflict can widen, or this could be an opportunity that the U.S. and the world can seize. He has announced that, indeed, he is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to deal with the situation there, and when he is there he expects the Secretary of State to try to find a cease-fire. He also called for withdrawal of Israeli troops, also implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell plans, and also the end of terror in that region.

We have with us on the phone right now Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. Mr. Erakat, I assume you were listening in, and could hear the president's remarks. Could you let us know what your reaction is to this latest news from President Bush?

SAEB ERAKAT, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well, you know, I heard President Bush, and once again, we heard the president's vision of peace, vision of ending (AUDIO GAP), vision of the Palestinian state. We did not hear a road map for a realistic track. That's one.

KAGAN: No road map, Mr. Erakat, but this is a huge move in agreeing to send Secretary of State Powell to the region, would you not agree?

ERAKAT: I agree with that. No, I agree with that. But at the same time, I have to say that I cannot accept the comments concerning President Arafat. President Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinian people. President Arafat is the one who initiated the peace of the brave with the late Prime Minister Rabin. President Arafat became the first Palestinian leader in the last 53 years to recognize the state of Israel's right to exist, and I don't think that President Arafat's confinement and siege is of his own doing.

KAGAN: Which is a comment that the president made, said that basically Mr. Arafat, and they were tough words, Mr. Erakat, saying that the situation that he finds himself in right now is of his own making, but I would think, in listening to these comments, Mr. Erakat, that you would hear that he had the toughest comments that he has had for the Israelis to date. ERAKAT: Well, I'm not disputing that, I am not saying anything. I am saying that we need to finish this cycle. I hope that President Bush would recognize that the highest form of terrorism, in accordance with the American law, international law is occupation. I hope that President Bush would realize and to help put a realistic track to end this Israeli occupation so Israelis can live and let live. I believe...

KAGAN: So, Mr. Erakat, when you say finish this cycle, what does that mean? That Palestinians must implement even more terror before this is done?

ERAKAT: No, no, no. We don't...

KAGAN: What do you mean by "finish this cycle?"

ERAKAT: I said vicious cycle.

KAGAN: Vicious cycle. OK.

ERAKAT: Vicious cycle. This vicious cycle. You know, in the last seven days that President Bush mentioned, what we've been witnessing is a destruction of our schools, our farms, our economy. The total infrastructure that we built for the last 10 years in terms of water networks, sewage networks, electricity. Everything is destroyed. Our way of life is destroyed, and he cannot accept that Sharon is doing it as an act of self defense.

What Sharon committed against 3.3 million Palestinians people, aside from the disproportionate use of force, is really up to a war crime, and I hope that the American administration will carry out the vision and put it on track, and I hope that once Secretary Powell is in the region, he will immediately start reasoning with President Arafat in order to put the road map, to immediately implement resolution that mentioned by the president 1402, and then move directly to a political negotiation that can revive hope for Palestinians and Israelis, and that the shortest way is to end the Israeli occupation, to establish a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel.

KAGAN: Well, and in fact, you heard Mr. Bush. He did call for the Palestinian state, and for the first time, we heard him call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops in the last week. Are you not encouraged by those words, and would you not agree with what Mr. Bush had to say, and that there is work, and movement to come from both sides, Mr. Erakat?

ERAKAT: All I can tell you is that as Palestinian side, we are fully willing to work. (AUDIO GAP) a road map that embodies a cease- fire, embodies the withdrawal of Israeli forces, implementation of Tenet and Mitchell, and reviving a meaningful peace process that would lead to ending the Israeli occupation, and to establish a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel.

Once again, President Arafat is first Palestinian leader who have already organized the state of Israel's existence, and this recognition on 78 percent of historic Palestine stands, and we accept it to establish our own state on the remaining 22 percent of the land that is the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem.

So we hope that Secretary Powell can be coming here immediately, with no delays. The situation cannot wait any further delay. It is really deteriorating, and we get to business of the road map that the president mentioned about the implementation of 1402, Tenet, Mitchell, ending the Israeli occupation, establishing a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel.

KAGAN: Many things that President Bush called for. Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator joining us. Thank you so much for your comments, sir.

We will be talking with a representative from the Israeli government in just a moment. First though, as we know, ears all around the Middle East and the world were listening in to President Bush's comments. Let's check in with my colleague Bill Hemmer, reporting now from Jerusalem where many people must have been listening in to what President Bush just had to say, and look forward to the arrival next week of Secretary of State Colin Powell -- Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed you're right, Daryn. Thank you. First, an update on the ground right now. Want to take you to the town of Nablus. This is the most populated town in the entire West Bank. Under the cover of darkness, just about 24 hours ago, Israeli tanks, 200 strong, rolling into Nablus. The Israeli government saying right now they control that town despite the fact that various reports say gun battles do continue throughout that West Bank town. Over 100,000 people, as I mentioned, in the town of Nablus.

Meanwhile the situation in Bethlehem, Daryn, frankly no change just yet. We are told still about 200 Palestinian gunmen still inside the church of the Nativity. 1,000 Israeli troops sounding that church. In addition, we're told essentially a manhunt in -- underway for a number of gunmen running out through central Bethlehem at this point.

Also, in the town of Jenin, getting reports right now that shelling does continue there. And also, a piece of videotape from Hebron in the West Bank, too. Some aerial pictures taken from a helicopter from Dubai Television again showing, once again, the situation on the ground as it continues to unfold here, and some would say unravel throughout the Middle East.

Ariel Sharon earlier today did make comments saying that the process would not stop until the military operation is completed. As he was saying that though, later in the day, he did meet with the U.S. envoy, Anthony Zinni. Their meeting lasting well over two hours, in fact, here in Jerusalem. It is unclear right now what was accomplished in that. We do not know whether or not Zinni put in another request to meet with Yasser Arafat inside of his compound in Ramallah.

CNN has confirmed, Daryn, earlier in the week, there was a request through the U.S. to meet with Arafat, but since that time, that request has been denied. On the other diplomatic front, talks taking place in this very hotel. About 20 different individuals from all over the world -- the ambassador from Russia was here, Anthony Zinni was here as well.

Envoys from the United Nations, and so too was Javier Solana, the foreign relations envoy, or adviser you say, from the European Union. He was here as well, and right now he painted a very dim picture right now of the Middle East. He came here not only to meet with Israeli leaders, he will later go on to three other Arab countries in the region, but he told me that he is very disappointed that he will not be able to see Arafat or any diplomat for that matter. In fact, he says right now the situation is at a complete stand still. Here's Solana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAVIER SOLANA, EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: We have not made any progress that can be called miraculous. We would like to say that we have begun to have some positive steps, but I cannot say at this moment, to tell you that truth, that we are producing a miracle. Miracles will not be produced in this difficult crisis. The only thing we can do at this point is to try to bring a peace in a process. Now, we don't have peace, and we don't have a process. At least we have to start getting the process going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: That meeting now has ended, Javier Solana has left the hotel here. No telling, indeed, if they made any progress inside that meeting. Nothing revealed to us, anyway. It did not appear that there were any steps forward. Let's talk about, now, what President Bush was just addressing at the White House with the secretary of state, Colin Powell. More analysis on that with a man who knows the region quite well. Jamie (ph) Rubin, former assistant secretary of state with us now. James, good evening to you once again. All right, you heard the president. We were listening to it together. Good start at this point?

JAMES RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I think so. It is clearly a gamble by the Bush administration, because Powell's visit to the region will be of the highest possible stakes, and he has got some real, real big challenges ahead of him. The first and most important challenge is how is Secretary Powell going to meet with the...

HEMMER: For the sake of our viewing audience, I am going to give you a different microphone, OK? I apologize. It wasn't coming through. Let's start again now. Good start or not?

RUBIN: I think it's a very good start. The president has made a big gamble here, because the stakes couldn't be higher, and now Secretary Powell is coming to the region, and the key question is, who is he going to negotiate with on the Palestinian side? Is he going to be able to see Chairman Arafat? The Palestinians are going to be very reluctant to make any agreements, make any commitments without getting Secretary Powell to meet directly with Arafat, and the Israelis have turned down requests from the United States for Zinni to meet with him.

So, this is a very difficult problem. It is not just a substantive problem. It is a logistical problem. Are they going to pull out of Ramallah in time to allow Colin Powell, the secretary of state, to go in and meet with Chairman Arafat or not, and if they don't, Colin Powell is going to have a tough time getting anything done.

HEMMER: Three words struck me from President Bush's address. He said, "America is committed." Clearly, at this point, they have stepped up their level of engagement. You would agree with that?

RUBIN: Absolutely. For Secretary Powell to come here with -- unlikely any real guarantees that he can solve this problem, is a big gamble for an administration that's been extremely cautious about sending high-level officials to the region without some guarantee of success.

Now with the stakes as high as they are, the whole Middle East, the whole world watching, he is going to have to find a way to meet with Arafat and convince the Israelis to pull out immediately.

The good news is that Powell's visit will be backed up by the whole world's diplomacy. The U.N. resolution that President Bush referred to, which calls for a cease-fire, a pullout by the Israelis from these cities, and then working on the security and political processes is something everyone is agreed to, and hopefully everyone will give Powell the support and put pressure on both parties.

HEMMER: Another question here. I am going to shout just so folks can hear me over the microphone. The president to this point, seemed like he was in lockstep with Ariel Sharon's military operation. What now -- what signal does this send the Israeli government, now that the U.S. is essentially saying, Stop it.

RUBIN: Well I think what it signals is that whatever light you think the U.S. gave to the Israelis, an orange light, a green light, the light now is a red light. It's gone far enough.

A week's worth of attacks on Palestinian cities, the rather horrific scenes of people unable to get ambulances, the dangers that are spreading in the region of protests against the United States, and remember, whenever Arabs see the Israelis using American-made equipment to attack Palestinians, this causes real damage to America's interests in the region, and the president realized it has gone far enough.

HEMMER: Thank you very much. I am going to get this back from you, OK? James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state.

RUBIN: Nice to see you.

HEMMER: Nice to see you, too.

RUBIN: ...share mike with you.

HEMMER: You got it. The pleasure is mine, it is live TV. All right. Back to Atlanta now. Here's Daryn again -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Good audio work there, Bill. Appreciate it very much. Thank you to you and thank you to Jamie Rubin.

Before that conversation, we had a chance to talk with Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. We're working on getting Israeli response to President Bush's comments that he made. Also, the announcement that Secretary of State Colin Powell next week will head to the Middle East. Let's go to our State Department correspondent now, Andrea Koppel, with more on anything, Andrea, you can add to the secretary of state's trip.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, Daryn, if I could just pick up on what Jamie was saying, and what the president said just moments ago, this is a 180-degree shift from the message that President Bush sent out to the international community just last week. If some interpreted his remarks last week, as Jamie said, as a green light to the Israelis, this is line in the sand. It is unprecedented for secretary -- excuse me, for President Bush to call on the Israelis, not only to completely withdraw from the occupied territories, from the West Bank and Ramallah, but also to call for a halt in settlement activity. This has been a key concern of the Palestinians. The Israelis have continued to build new settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

It is also worthy of note that President Bush, while he didn't mention it last weekend, mentioned today the fact that this U.N. resolution is out there, that was passed last week, that U.S. signed on to, which calls for Israel to withdraw. He also humanized this entire situation, Daryn. There's been a lot of criticism of the Bush administration, we have been reporting on it, not only from within the Arab world, but from our European allies, of the fact that the U.S. has been too one-sided, and has not listened to the pleas of the Palestinian people. It is almost as if the Arab world wrote President Bush's talking points for the comments that he just delivered.

What really struck me was when he said, "when an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future itself is dying."

It is as if, the message from these various allies of the United States has finally gotten through to the Bush administration, Daryn, and President Bush left no doubt, in fact, he said enough is enough, that the United States is going to step up its diplomatic engagement by sending Secretary of State Powell to the region next week -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And other comments that shows that he realizes the potential of this, saying that the conflict can widen, or this is an opportunity that we can seize, and those comments that the conflict can widen, he realizes, once again, you are saying that -- hearing the voices from other countries, other leaders in that region.

KOPPEL: Exactly. We heard just yesterday from the Egyptian government, that they were down-grading their diplomatic relations with Israel. Privately, I was told by Arab diplomats that this was a shot across Israel's bow, and a message to the United States as well, that it better watch out because the demonstrations, these massive demonstrations in the Arab world, are putting so much pressure on U.S. allies in the region that they might be forced to sever diplomatic relations with Israel.

Not something likely to happen, U.S. officials say, but it certainly, at least, gives you a sense as to how angry and how frustrated the Arab world, Arab leaders are with the United States. These photos that -- the video that you are looking at right now comes from demonstrations that have taken place in recent days in Cairo. I was told that there were a million demonstrators across Egypt in the last couple of days, Daryn. And so I can say that while I haven't spoken with anyone in the Arab world yet, the reaction is likely to be very positive, and a sigh of relief almost, from many of these countries that the Bush administration, that the U.S., is going to do more than what it has thus far.

KAGAN: Well, Andrea, one criticism we heard, and I don't know if you could hear Saeb Erakat, as I had a chance to talk to him right as the President wrapped up, but a criticism -- why wait until next week? If the situation is so dire, why not put the secretary of state on a plane today and send him to the region?

KOPPEL: Yes. It certainly sound -- it is a little bit of a deja vu with what happened just a couple weeks ago when Vice President Dick Cheney was heading out to the region, and Anthony Zinni was supposed to head out as well, although his departure was pushed back for a week. And a lot of people were saying that if Zinni had gotten out there sooner, the Israelis might have withdrawn then. They had made a minor incursion into the West Bank, that they would withdraw sooner.

So, you're absolutely right. There are going to be people, Palestinians, Arabs and others alike who will be asking for Secretary Powell to go out sooner. My understanding is that because Secretary Powell was going to be traveling anyway next week to Europe, that this was the logical thing to do, to tack that on. It could also, Daryn, be a way for the Bush administration it give the Israelis a little bit of breathing room to withdraw all of their troops and tanks from the West Bank right now.

KAGAN: It gives them some room also to consider the Sabbath, just about 24 hours away. Not much will be happening in Israel about 24 hours from now. Andrea Koppel at the State Department. Andrea, thank you very much.

Want to get some more insight on this latest development, and joining us from Washington is former congressman and international policy expert Lee Hamilton. He is now president of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. Congressman, good morning. Thanks for joining us.

LEE HAMILTON, PRESIDENT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS: Good morning.

KAGAN: Your reaction to President Bush's announcement that he is indeed going to send Secretary of State Powell to the Middle East? HAMILTON: My reaction is that it's a good step, a positive step. I think the president has held back too long. He now will energize his administration to tackle these tough problems in the Middle East. He is shifting his position on a number of key issues. So, I look upon Secretary Powell's trip very positively. But, of course, it all depends on Powell's mandate. What can he do? What authority does he have, when he is in the region? And we don't know that yet.

KAGAN: Well, at this point, we don't even know if he will be able -- if the Israelis will allow him to meet with Yasser Arafat, since they have been holding Arafat back from meeting with any other diplomats that have come to the region.

HAMILTON: Well, that's correct. That would be a very important step, if Secretary Powell is able to do that, and I hope he will be able to do it. You're not going to get at the very tough problems that underlie this conflict without dialogue among the top leaders, and Sharon and Arafat are certainly two of them.

KAGAN: Some of the comments the president made, some of the harshest he has made against Israel to date in this conflict. Number one, calling for the withdrawal of their troops from Palestinian territories.

HAMILTON: That's a significant change by the president, and I think an important one. I don't think there is any doubt at all that the process of peace cannot go forward until you have that troop withdraw by Israel. So the fact that the president is weighing in on that very sensitive point, contrary to the position of the Israeli government, is highly significant and important.

KAGAN: And as we heard Jamie Rubin point out, this administration taking a chance by bringing this up a notch, a huge notch, and sending Secretary of State Powell there. A lot is on the line here, in terms of reputation and clout, not just in that region, but around the world.

HAMILTON: Well, the flip side of that is there is a big risk if you don't go out there.

KAGAN: Well, that's true.

HAMILTON: It is correct, of course, that you have no guarantee of success there. American secretaries of state have gone there for many, many years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But what's happened here is that the United States has come to a realization that our interests in the region are being threatened. You can see it in the stock market. You can see it in the price of oil. You can see it in those demonstrations that we saw just a moment ago on your channel, the Arab world demonstrating, and the possibility of instability there.

So the United States has come to a very solid assessment that our interests are being affected, that we had better get involved more deeply in that region, and we had better begin to push these parties towards negotiation and eventual settlement. KAGAN: And besides the stature of secretary of state, and just the respect that Colin Powell brings with him, what will he be able to do that Anthony Zinni has not been able to do in that area?

HAMILTON: Well, it depends on his mandate, but if the news reports today are correct, it is positive. General Zinni had too narrow a mandate. He could only negotiate with regard to a cease-fire and security. He could not negotiate beyond that to a political process.

The secretary said yesterday, you have to have a political component or dimension to this negotiation, that's exactly right. The Palestinians would never have agreed to a cease-fire without that component there.

If the secretary carries that mandate into the Middle East, not yet clear to me whether he will, but I presume he will, I hope he will, then, I think, there is an enhanced chance of getting these parties to agree to a cease-fire, and a process that will lead to political negotiations of a very serious nature.

KAGAN: Congressman Lee Hamilton. Thank you for your insights, sir, on today's breaking news. I appreciate your expertise. Once again, President Bush coming out live from the White House, saying that enough is enough. He is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to help calm tensions in that area. We have heard from the Palestinians. We are working on getting Israeli reaction, more on that.

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