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Sharon Says No to Withdrawal

Aired April 8, 2002 - 04:05   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE, KNESSET SPEAKER (through translator): ...government, but before that, I'd like to say a few words as speaker.

In the former session that we had during the Knesset recess, I was unfortunately not there, there were many members who were not there, one of the Knesset members expressed his opinion in rather vial words about what is going on. I think that what happened there was very deplorable, one of the most deplorable things that happened in the Knesset ever. Any sense of injustice cannot be accompanied with emotional and symbolic -- an emotional and symbolic offense against anyone else. I hope that that Knesset member, in addition to the discussions that are now being held in the Knesset's ethics committee, I hope that that Knesset member will find it suitable to apologize here before the Knesset.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Mr. Knesset speaker, my fellow Knesset members, we see our dead people, women, children, lying before us, young people, old people, and we have to face this void that they have left and we are speechless.

In the last seder, the first evening of the Passover, as I was sitting to have the festive dinner with my family, I got news of the terrible thing that happened, the terrible slaughter that occurred in Netanya. There is no moment in the career of a prime minister that is more damned than this moment in which the telephone rings or a piece of paper is slipped before him telling him this terrible news. And then you see the pictures and you hear the sounds, you see the visions of destruction, you hear the screams of anguish, you hear the sirens and after that that terrible silence of the funerals, the faces and the human stories that we see in the newspapers.

The face of Al-Hai Quin (ph) whose husband and two boys were being buried in one day, one next to the other. And not very far away, the face of Kamito Own (ph) who has to say the final goodbye to her husband, to her 21-year-old daughter, to her 17-year-old son. The face of Adisha Ran (ph), may she rest in peace, who is being buried as her two parents lay unconscious fighting for their lives in the hospital. The face of Zahafa Videl (ph), a true hero of the people of Israel, who this last seder lost her husband, her daughter and her brother-in-law. And as we grieve and mourn, she agreed to donate her husband's organs in order to save the life of a Palestinian woman from Shuifat (ph) as a symbol that even in the most terrible moment of all, we are not willing to lose our humanness.

The victims of coexistence, those who have lost everything, when they stop (ph) to die in an Arab restaurant in Haifa, their blood was mixed with the one -- with the blood of Israeli Arabs with whom they dined. Entire families, Jewish families, Arab families are being killed in this madness that has possessed our Palestinian neighbors. This is how the murderers and their senders want to kill the hope for peace, the hope for the future, the hope for normalcy, for a normal life under the sun.

It is not incidental, members of the Knesset, it is not some fate from above, these murderous gangs have a leader, they have an objective and they have senders. Their mission is one, to drive us out of here, to drive us out of everywhere. From our homes in Ilanmoway (ph) and from the supermarket in Jerusalem, from the coffee shop in Tel Aviv and from the restaurant in Haifa, from the synagogue in Metsariv (ph) where the killers butchered two people who were praying and who were both over 70 years old. One of them was 79 years old. They were wearing the challis, the Jewish prayer shawl for the prayer of the morning. And they also wanted to drive us away from the seder table in Netanya. And there is one sender who sent them all, that is the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. This is the man who in a series of agreements has committed to abandon the route of terrorism, to refrain from murder and to prevent murders and he has betrayed all of his promises.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I thank the Knesset members.

Taleb a-Sana'a, called, what about the occupation?

Knesset speaker says thank you for the comments. The prime minister will now continue.

The Knesset speaker is calling Knesset member Aton (ph) to order.

He's called Knesset member Basana to order.

SHARON (through translator): It is because of these promises Arafat has made that Israel agreed to establish a Palestinian Authority. It is because of these promises that Israel agreed to hand over the responsibility for taking care of security in these territories. This is why Israel agreed to the establishment of security agencies, Palestinian security agencies. We hoped that the Palestinian would understand, as they had committed, that sovereignty doesn't mean a license to kill but rather assuming responsibility to prevent killing.

But what started as a concern and then became suspicion now became a solid fact that no one can dispute, Arafat set up in his territories a regime of terror that in an organized fashion trains terrorists, incites funds, equips the terrorists and sends them on missions of murder in Israel. Testimonies of this are countless, and every serious agency all around the world accepts them as true. For example, in a very terrible document that was seized in Arafat's chambers, we see what terrorism costs, so much for a suicide mission. This is what a suicide missions costs. And for those of you who didn't see these documents, here I have them before me. These are the documents. You can see them here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset members, the prime minister can manage quite well without you, the speaker said.

Health Minister, please let the prime minister continue.

Abd al-Malik Dahamshah, thank you for your comments.

Mr. Prime Minister, please continue.

Taleb a-Sana'a, please be quiet. We have a long day ahead.

Mr. Speaker.

SHARON (through translator): Indeed on any ordinary day documents should not be presented here on this podium, but the horror and maliciousness and cruelty and deceitfulness that are revealed here in this document. I confess what I did here is not commonly done in the Knesset, it is not standard protocol. I will not show you the document now, but as I understand, Mr. Speaker, it is allowed to read documents from this podium so I'll read it.

There's a letter here addressed -- signed by Yasser Arafat. It is his signature here. It is addressed to the fighting brother Agui Ma (ph), may God help him. I would kindly ask you to allocate financial assistance of $2,500 for the following brethren: Radal Kami (ph), hope you still remember who that is, Ziad Muhammed Us (ph), Amal Kardan (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Taleb a-Sana'a, please be quiet, the speaker said.

SHARON (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, we also have documents from the same murderous terrorists. We have the documents. Some of these documents -- some of these terrorists, thanks to our defense agencies, are harmless now. There is a letter here signed by Amel Juan Baguti (ph) addressed to the president brother Abu Amal (ph), may God help him and preserve him. Dear sir, kindly instruct the allocation of $1,000 to each of the fighting brethren. It's the same people here who are listed -- the same list of names as I mentioned before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mr. Prime Minister will continue. We hear your comments, the speaker says.

Knesset member Balika (ph), the Prime Minister heard your question and I am sure that he will respond to it.

The Prime Minister will respond shortly.

CNN ANCHOR: We're watching the Israeli Knesset here, a speech by the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Knesset. That speech being interrupted on several occasions by interjections from Knesset members. One member asking what about the occupation while the Prime Minister was talking. He again accused Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, of being behind the suicide bombings in Israel.

Let's return now to that speech at the Knesset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset member Balika, I'm calling you to order for the first time.

SHARON (through translator): And there's one more interesting document that shows how much it costs to get one Jewish person killed. We have a financial report from the Al Aqsa brigades. It's addressed to the person who was behind the conspiracy between Arafat and the Iranians, Fouad Shoubaki is his name. He received a report from the Al Aqsa brigades and this financial report explains that every bomb built costs 700 shekels. And they say that every week they need five to nine such explosive built for their teams in the various regions. And there's full detail here about the cost of every such weapon that is designed to kill in cold blood innocent civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset member Balika, this is not an investigative committee. Do you want to argue, you can wait for your turn.

Ashama Hameed (ph), I can't even hear what you're saying. I'm calling you to order. I can't even hear what you're saying.

Mr. Prime Minister, please continue.

SHARON (through translator): This is the price tag on a suicide mission for a suicide bomber. This is the price tag on a bomb. And the document is written and composed by Arafat's treasurer. This is the man who paid for the attempt to smuggle Katyusha rockets and missiles into the Palestinian Authority. This is the man who is now sitting together with Arafat in Ramallah, sponsored personally by Arafat. This is the total cost of a Jewish life, the price tags put on it by Arafat's bureaucracy of murder.

Knesset members, for a year and a half now Israel has been under a very vial, murderous attack that was launched by our Palestinian neighbors. We have paid and we still are paying a high cost of blood simply because of our honest wish to live here in peace alongside them and our belief that they want peace as much as we do. The terrorist campaign against Israel...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset member Abd al- Malik Dahamshah, we hear your call. Thank you.

We shall now continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You're constantly interrupting, please be quiet.

SHARON (through translator): The terrorist campaign against Israel started even before this government came to power. The objective of the unity government was to obtain a stoppage to violence, to incitement as an imperative prerequisite to renew the efforts to reach a peace agreement for this region. This is the essence of the national agreement that underlies the existence of this government.

From my first day in office, I already sent a personal message to Arafat in response to his letter congratulating me for becoming Prime Minister. I made practical suggestions to stop violence, I explained how much we want peace and I promised that we have no intention to cause any harm to Palestinian civilians and I suggested ways how to make it easier for them. I reached out my hand in peace, but my hand was returned empty.

We have made numerous attempts to stop terrorism. We tried to make it easier for the Palestinian civilians, but whenever we opened roadblocks, we opened encirclements over towns, immediately the response was more terror attacks. We accepted the Mitchell plan, which included hard concessions for Israel. We accepted the Tenet plan. We even...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Taleb a-Sana'a, I'm calling you to order for the second time now.

Taleb a-Sana'a, Taleb a-Sana'a.

Knesset member Taleb a-Sana'a, this is the second time I am calling you to order.

SHARON (through translator): We even gave up the elementary requirement of seven days of quiet, but we didn't even get even seven hours without an attempt to launch murderous terror attacks. We cooperated with General Zinni. And I would like to thank him from this podium for his ongoing efforts. But Arafat rejected all of his proposals and continued with terror attacks.

We were very patient and very moderate, even when one horror came after the other, even though we knew full well that we had the power to operate. But we were constantly hoping that we wouldn't have to resort to using that power and we rejected extreme proposals from all directions. We gave leaders of the world ample opportunity, those who ambushed us -- sorry, those who committed to us that they would be able through political pressure on Arafat to get peace to get calm. We did not despair, and we continue to try to have direct communication that would lead to the end of violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Shali Alome (ph), you're interrupting.

Mr. Prime Minister.

Knesset member Aton (ph), you are interrupting.

SHARON (through translator): Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spared no effort in his attempt to find a partner for talks. I personally hosted in my home several of the Palestinian leaders more than once and I repeated our proposals to stop terror and to resume negotiations. In talks with various leaders around the world, I explained our concepts about the political arrangement that would be made possible once terror stops. We explained to Israel's honest desire for peace that will lead to honor, prosperity and security for both people, but Arafat chose a different route. We know what his route is. This man thought and still does think that he can overcome Israel and break our spirit. He views our sensitivity to the sacredness of human life and in our openness to political debate he sees these things as fundamental weaknesses.

He wants by means of blood and horror to lead Israel to withdrawal unilaterally to the borders of 1967, including Jerusalem, and thus to obtain his goals through violent measures. And he finds no measure too despicable in his way to obtaining his goals. Therefore, as Israel's government has decided to instruct the IDFs and the other defense agencies to launch the Defensive Shield Operation whose objective is one, to disassemble the terrorist infrastructure that Arafat has built in order to go on hurting us. IDF soldiers and IDF commanders were given clear instructions to enter the cities and villages that have become shelters for terrorists, to apprehend terrorists and mainly their senders and those who fund them and sponsor them, to seize weapons and arms that are designed to hit Israel, to expose and to destroy terror laboratories, shelters and places where terror weapons are being manufactured. The objective is clear, to paralyze anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taleb a-Sana'a, I'll have you leave the room.

SHARON (through translator): To apprehend anybody who tries to danger -- endanger the IDF forces and, at the same time, the IDF was instructed to avoid casualties to civil population. All of those things should have been done by the Palestinian Authority. They should have done so because they are committed to do so under the agreements with Israel, and all of the responsible leaders in the world demanded that Arafat do this.

Only when it transpired that this authority is unwilling to meet its commitments, but it is infested with terrorism and that it has become a terror regime that is actively involved in terror, only then we had no choice but to operate in full force.

Until this day, the IDF has had a lot of success thanks to the courage and intelligence of the leaders and thanks to the perseverance of the soldiers. The IDF has occupied the territories as planned. More than 1,500 people that were wanted were apprehended, including more than 500 people who were involved in terror attacks that have shed blood, terrorist leaders and terrorist perpetrators that have caused some of the most cruel and vicious terror attacks. Many dozens of terror facilities were exposed and destroys. The terror organizations have for now been paralyzed and the activists are for now running for their lives. I'm saying for the moment because this is as long as the IDF is present in these territories, but we'll take care of it even when the IDF will withdrawal. They are now being -- now they are being pursued.

We have curbed plans to launch more terror attacks that were in the making and we prevented many, many more casualties in Israel. These days, Israel is seen at its best, a proud people that will not allow anybody to break its spirit, a people that is determined to protect its home even when reaching out for peace. Every day, we see new manifestations of courage. Civilians volunteer and help each other.

I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude, my deepest gratitude to the soldiers and commanders, both the enlisted man and the reserve services, to all the other defense agencies, to the border police, to the Israel police, to the civil rescue forces, to the paramedics, to the fire department, to the people who take care of the bodies and to each and every one of us who go -- all of us that go on despite the concerns and continue living as normally as possible. My heart goes out to you all, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Knesset members, the IDF operation was planned from the start as a temporary operation only for the time that it will take to complete the missions that I describe before you. These missions have still not been completed and the IDF...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will make historic bookkeeping in another -- on another occasion, the speaker says.

SHARON (through translator): These missions have still not been completed, and the IDF will continue with the operation as quickly as possible until the mission is completed, until Arafat's terrorist infrastructure is disassembled and until the killers that are hiding in various places, like in the Church of the -- Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, until they are captured.

Since we do not intend to desecrate these holy places, as has done by the killers who took the clergy as hostages, we do not intend to that. We expect the Palestinian Authority to tell them to lay down their arms and to leave that holy place. Until then, the IDF will stay in its positions and will prevent them from escaping the arms of justice. It was never our intention to reoccupy the Palestinian cities for good. Once the IDF completes its missions, the IDF will withdrawal, as instructed by the government, to other areas that are defined as safe and secure.

In my talks with President Bush, and since I know his genuine aspirations for peace in this region, I promised that we are doing every possible effort in order to accelerate the military operation and to withdrawal our forces from wherever the mission is completed. Our forces will remobilize in other regions in order to serve as a buffer between the Palestinian territory and our territory in order to prevent any infiltrations into Israeli territory and terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

Concurrently, our forces will be prepared to hit anyone who will try to continue the campaign of war against us, and it doesn't matter who that person would be or what his role or position is. The IDF will carry out its missions from these security zones in a genuine attempt to serve as a buffer between the terrorists and the civilian authority -- sorry, the intention will be to hit only terrorists and not civil population. We have no war against this Palestinian civilians, and we would like to see the Palestinians live alongside us in prosperity, security and honor. Alongside us, but this peace is contingent...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask questions after the Prime Minister finishes his speech please, the speaker said.

SHARON (through translator): Knesset member Raz (ph), thank you very much.

This peace will only happen if in those regions from which we withdrawal we find responsible Palestinian leadership that will assume the responsibility the primary responsibly of any governing authority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We'll give you 30 seconds to yell and shout, the speaker says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Thank you, Sahava Galon (ph). Thank you very much. This is the end of the 30 seconds. The Prime Minister will now continue.

SHARON (through translator): This governing authority will have to assume the primary responsibility of any governing authority to prevent the use of its territory in order to murder its neighbors. Negotiations for peace can only start and move ahead after terrorism stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset member Balaki (ph), I can't even hear what you're saying so please stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If I want to remove you from the room, I will do so. I have the power to do that. Knesset member Hameed (ph), I'm calling you to order for the first time.

SHARON (through translator): Israel is thus responding to the important initiative of the president of the United States, George Bush, and Israel accepts this initiative and embraces it. Ever since the terrible bloody attack in September in New York, exactly one year after the Palestinian terror attack was launched against Israel, the United States is leading the entire world in a heroic battle to uproot terrorism and to uproot the regimes that sponsor and harbor terrorism. Israel is proud of its friendship with the United States and of the fact that the United States is leading this historic political and military campaign against the evil forces that have launched an attack against the civilized world. Ever since that terrible September, Israel's -- Israeli's partnership...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Hashima Hameed (ph), I am calling you to order for the second time today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset members, please calm down. This is not an easy session. We have comments from both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Hashima Hameed, I am calling you to order for the third time and you are please requested to leave the room. Hashima Hameed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The usher is now asking Knesset member Hashima Hameed, the Knesset member on behalf of the Arab party Raham (ph), to leave the room. CNN ANCHOR: We're watching proceedings here at the Israeli Knesset where the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, is addressing members there. The speech being interrupted frequently by some fierce interjections by Knesset members.

SHARON (through translator): We share the principle coined by President Bush in his most recent address when he said that terror must stop. No nation can negotiate with terrorists because you cannot make peace with those whose only objective is to wreak death. If such a responsible Palestinian leadership will be formed, they will find Israeli leaders willing to reach out, negotiate and make peace.

I, of all people, who went through all the horrors of war, I am not willing to kill the hope for peace and to kill the faith (ph) that the Palestinian side will wake up from this myth of blood forced on us by its current leaders. And I hope that the Palestinians will find their way to good friendly relations and peace.

Peace is important to Israel, but not only to Israel, peace is important to the Palestinians because only if they have peace will they be able to have a national existence with honor and prosperity. Peace is important for all of the nations in the Middle East because the continuance of violence encourages extremists and extreme regimes to try and obtain their means -- obtain their goals through violent means. Israel will do whatever it can in order to curb these threats, in order to prevent an escalation and in order to maintain stability in the region.

We see the first signs in the Arab world. The Arab world is withdrawing from its longstanding denial of Israel's existence and Israel's right to exist. Despite the extreme decisions adopted in the summit in Beirut, I am very happy about the fact that such an important leader like Prince Abdullah from Saudi Arabia has for the first time acknowledged the right of Israel to exist within safe, secure and acknowledged borders. The Saudi initiative...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset member a-Sana'a, I'm calling you to order. You're interrupting. This is the third time I'm calling you to order and thus you're instructed to leave the room.

SHARON (through translator): The Saudi initiative includes a positive component, but the details have to be discussed between the parties themselves. In negotiations for peace there are no dictates. Negotiations must be based on mutual respect and on a genuine attempt to reach compromise. This initiative will stay empty of any true content if there is no genuine communication between the parties about the details. Neither of the parties can force unilateral conditions on the other.

U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 (ph) determine Israel's right to live in peace, just like any other country in the region, within secure and acknowledged borders, free of any military threats. These borders and the ways to secure Israel's safety against any terrorist or military threat, there must be direct negotiations about these issues between the parties. Israel is not ready to allow or discuss the return of refugees into its boundaries, refugees who had to escape because of a war that was forced in Israel, because what would -- that would mean is the end of Israel as a Jewish state. That's why I suggest that to go to Beirut and meet there with Arab leaders. There is no meaning to a willingness to peace without a willingness to meet, negotiate, talk.

From this podium I renew my call for such a meeting to be held immediately between myself and the moderate and responsible leaders in the Middle East. I would be willing to go anywhere without any condition from any side and to talk peace. The United States can and should be a leader in this kind of initiative just as it led the negotiations before the peace conference in Madrid about 10 years ago. This week, Secretary of State Colin Powell will be coming to the region. I intend to discuss with him the ways to lead to the stop of terror and to push ahead the initiative that I'm presented here for a meeting with leaders of the region in order to restart a process of discussing peace in the Middle East.

What is the alignment with which we can move ahead towards comprehensive peace in the Middle East? I, myself, doubt that there is any chance that jump directly from this violent conflict that we have today could jump directly to a permanent settlement that will end the conflict totally and finally. This kind of an approach could send us back very fast to a dead end. After all, the Palestinians have rejected proposals from the previous government that included far reaching concessions. They have refused to discuss these concessions and instead, decided to try and force their will on Israel through terrorism.

Only once it is clear to them that this attempt has failed, can we reach a true cease-fire. And from then -- from there I propose to move on to a long-term interim agreement that will define the neighborly relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Then the Palestinians will be able to build their society that will be independent and free of any occupation and the signs of occupation. They will be able to rehabilitate their destroyed economy and we will be willing to help a lot in these efforts. They will be able to prepare their people for a life of peace and good neighborly relations. Such an interim agreement will end the ongoing suffering experienced by the Palestinian population, that same population that wants to live in peace and to prosper.

The more advanced the relations between Israel and the Palestinians are, the deeper the coexistence. And the more we push aside the fanatic -- fanatics that wants to destroy this coexistence, the faster will we reach a situation in which we will be able to determine and define the permanent borders between us and them and to find a compromise that will be agreed by both parties, a compromise on all the open issues.

The history of the political relations between us and the Arab countries has proved the advantage of this tiered approach. We had a very hard war with Egypt. We had five terrible wars with Egypt. The war ended with a cease-fire based on Resolutions 338 and 339, which were agreed by both parties. Since that cease-fire, there was not a single bullet that was fired between Israel and Egypt. From there we moved on to interim agreements, long-term interim agreements that eventually led to the beginning of direct communications and negotiations and to permanent settlements between the parties. The peace with Egypt has been kept because it is based on stable foundations of security, alongside painful concessions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Knesset members Balika (ph) and Kujohnsky (ph), listen, it's interesting, the speaker says.

SHARON (through translator): The situation between us and the Palestinians is more complicated and the open issues are more challenging and the bitterness caused by the bloodshed is greater, but together we can create a vision of a better future for both our people.

Knesset members, I am calling on the Palestinian people as a whole, on all the Palestinians wherever they are, on behalf of the entire people of Israel, I say to you we have no war against you, we do not want to control you, we do not want to dictate your faith -- your fate. We want to live in peace with you side by side as good neighbors with respect and mutual help. But in order to do that, you can and should take your fate in your own hands. If you want to take your place in the community of nations, you have to condemn terrorism, to condemn the murder of old people and children, to condemn incitement and hate. Don't cave in to those within you who have brought one disaster after the other upon you over the last 55 years because those forces, those evil forces, it is them and not us that will wreak destruction on you and that will lead to the next disaster that you will befall.

I call from here to the leaders of the Middle East and say, terror is not only a threat to us but also to you. It does not lead to peace. Terror is the enemy of peace and stability. I implore you to accept my calling for a meeting, just as I see the positive aspect in your recent resolutions and I don't see only the negative aspects in those decisions.

I call on the leaders of the free world. You have to remember that condoning any terrorist activity will lead to disasters because terrorists have already proven that they do not extinguish between Jewish blood and other blood. You cannot fight terrorism on the one hand and in one place and condone terrorism in another place. In the war against terrorism, those who send terrorists to kill innocent people cannot be equated with those who fight against terrorism. Only imposing -- only by imposing true sanctions against the terrorist perpetrators and the Palestinian Authority led by Arafat will enable you to make a true contribution to peace in the Middle East.

I would like to call from here on the people of Israel and say to them that the campaign that we are facing now will not be easy. Unfortunately, I cannot promise that we will have no more victims, that we will know no sorrow or grieving here anymore. But we will be able to face this challenge and we will face it, first of all, because we have a long-standing history as a nation, we have known much trials and tribulations and we have overcome the greatest tragedies, and we will also overcome it because we are united and stand together. We are one nation, one people. Yes, we have different opinions...


As you can see, it's already a busy morning. Ariel Sharon addressing the Israeli parliament this morning, he was saying a lot of interesting things as it applies to Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East.

We want to join Jerrold Kessel live on the phone, who's been listening to Ariel Sharon, so he can tell us what he had to say -- good morning, Jerrold.


This is a very, very defiant Ariel Sharon, laying out what he saw as the future of this relationship, and I dare say it will not be -- with the Palestinians, it will not be music to the ears of the people in Washington or of Secretary of State Colin Powell as he heads here because there were clearly very few doors left open for Mr. Sharon about the possibility of a mediation effort with the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat.

Very specifically, although he did not refer to President Bush's call for the Israeli Army to wind up its military offensive against the Palestinians, having laid out that this was a response to stop the terror attacks within inside Israel, Mr. Sharon said that the Israeli Army would continue its offensive in the West Bank until it achieves its goals, though he did say it would try to finish it off as soon as possible.

But then he said that the military, once that mission was completed, would also, would withdraw from the towns, but would return to what he called buffer zones, presumably within the West Bank, from which, he said, they would prevent the renewal of terror attacks against Israeli cities.

On the third point, which perhaps will be the most ominous of any would be U.S. initiative, he did not say explicitly that he would not meet or talk possibly, even a cease-fire or negotiate with the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, but that was very implicit. He had called Mr. Arafat the head of a regime of terror that he had established and he said time and again there can be no negotiations with terrorists.

The only perhaps glimmer of hope that came so far in the speech -- it's been on for almost an hour now from Mr. Sharon, was that he did give a fairly warm welcome to the Saudi peace proposal that had been muted and then adopted in a different form at the recent Arab League summit, and he said that this does have a very positive element in it, but he said it could only go forward if there were real negotiations.

And what he said he would propose to Mr. Powell when he came here was that there should be full negotiations. He was ready to go anywhere, said Mr. Sharon, to meet with all those Arab leaders, including responsible Palestinian leaders who would try to reach new agreements with Israel. But then again, he shot that down, saying he did not believe that there was the possibility of real peace at this stage and it first would require some kind of interim agreements with the Palestinians.

So, all told, a very firm Mr. Sharon this morning.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Jerrold, we're watching pictures from the Israeli parliament. We can see people laughing in the audience, some members of parliament heckling Mr. Sharon. Does that happen often or is this unusual?

KESSEL: It's been a very stormy session. Now it is tied down with these few smiles and giggles. But really before this, there have been some angry accusations and charges leveled at the Israeli prime minister, primarily from the left-wing benches, but primarily from the Arab-Israeli Knesset members, of parliament, two of whom have been ejected for constantly heckling the Israeli prime minister. They said the real root cause of the problem is the occupation, you are not addressing that, and charging Mr. Sharon with an unrealistic policy.

They were ejected. The debate goes on. Mr. Sharon's speech goes on. He's been at it now for almost an hour and he is laying down what seems to be his vision of how things will go forward. And it does seem as if it is Israel laying down the policy which he says is the only way that it will be able to combat terror.

COSTELLO: Jerrold, did he talk about goals at all? I mean what's the final goal here for Ariel Sharon and the Israeli military?

KESSEL: In terms of the Israeli military, he did say that the eradication of the terror infrastructure. He said that was what they had gone in there to do, to wipe out literally the terrorists, as he said, in there with their infrastructure, to destroy them, to kill, to hunt down, to capture, to capture their weapons. And he said that was, they would complete that mission. That had been laid down as their primary objective and they will continue to do it, although he did say that given the United States' -- he did not refer directly to the demands by President Bush and from the Security Council that the troops be withdrawn without delay, but he said they would operate with as much speed as possible until those goals are achieved.

COSTELLO: Jerrold, we have a little sound bite from Ariel Sharon right now. Why don't you listen with me and then we'll comment afterwards.

Ariel Sharon now.


SHARON: These missions have still not been completed and the IDF will continue with the operation as quickly as possible until mission is completed, until Arafat's terrorist infrastructure is disassembled and until the killers that are hiding in various places, like in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: Yes, Jerrold, he was going on to talk about the Church of the Nativity. He said the Israeli Army will continue to surround it until the gunmen inside give up. And he also said, well, it doesn't sound like there's going to be any immediately stop, it doesn't sound like the violence there is going to stop immediately.

KESSEL: No, not in any way. I think Mr. Sharon was very, very strident in effecting that that was one example that he gave, and I think it was a very telling one, about the Church of the Nativity, which, of course, has caused a lot of international concern, particularly in the Vatican and elsewhere, that there is this stand- off that is continuing now at the Church of the Nativity.

Mr. Sharon said bluntly we will not give up the siege around that church until the gunmen are brought out. And he appealed to the international community to put pressure on the gunmen that they give themselves up and surrender.

He seemed to have no, show no way of giving any leeway on that specific stand-off at the Church of the Nativity. And I think that was representative, that was the one example he gave, but that would seem to be representative of the fact of how he means to [pursue this whole mission throughout the West Bank.

COSTELLO: And we can see from the pictures that I'm seeing, Jerrold, that Ariel Sharon is wrapping up now. He is done speaking. Colin Powell is set to arrive in the area, I guess, Friday, at the end of the week some time. I mean what are his chances to come up with any sort of peace deal, having heard the speech by Ariel Sharon this morning?

KESSEL: I think it will be a very -- unless Mr. Powell is coming with some kind of new direction and thinking of how to get out of this morass and how to reshape the entire structure of the Israeli- Palestinian relationship, the Israeli-Arab relationship, I think he'll be in for a very tough, tough mission. It is a Herculean task. And I think what the new element that we heard here, apart from this question of the time frame, which was always hovering as a problematic element over the last several days, the new element that we heard from Mr. Sharon was once the Israeli Army had completed its mission, as he said, within the Palestinian towns, then it would create what he called buffer zones and that this was a new, this is certainly a new development.

Now, presumably, he didn't spell this out, but presumably these buffer zones would be within the West Bank to keep, as he said, the terrorists away from attacking, continuing or resuming suicide bombing attacks in Israel. Well, this quite clearly indicates that Mr. Sharon doesn't believe that a cease-fire with the Palestinians is possible in the near future. That must be a complicating factor in Mr. Powell's mind as he begins to arrive in the area.

COSTELLO: Lots of complicating factors.

Thank you, Jerrold Kessel, reporting live for us from Israel this morning. A little later on in this hour we're going to hear from Saeb Erakat, who is the chief Palestinian negotiator, and we'll hear how he is reacting to Ariel Sharon's speech this morning.




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