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Powell, Sharon Wrap Up Meeting, Prepare for Press Conference

Aired April 12, 2002 - 06:27   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And we are still awaiting Secretary of State Colin Powell and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel to come out of that building to hold a new conference. Reporters are standing by eagerly awaiting. As you might guess, security is quite intense outside of that compound. We expected them to come out a long time ago, but they're really controlling the agenda and we have nothing to say about it.

We've been talking to two guests this morning, David Horowitz and our own Jerrold Kessel who have been informing us of what Colin Powell is expected to say in his meetings with Ariel Sharon. Those meetings have been going on for about three hours now, although we don't know if they've officially ended after two-and-a-half hours and they're just getting ready for this news conference or not. But what Colin Powell was expected to say is he was expected to ask for more of a pullback of the Israeli military and a commitment to think about a Palestinian state.

Let's go to David Horowitz once again. What do you think is taking them so long, David?

DAVID HOROWITZ (ph): Well I would guess -- I mean he's had really two kinds of meetings here. He had, first of all, a one-on- one, as far as I know, with the -- with the Prime Minister -- with Ariel Sharon. And then he met with the -- with some of the leading members of the Israeli Cabinet, not all of them. The Cabinet is a vast group of more than two dozen ministers, but he met with most of the key players.

And what we understand is he did some fair amount of listening. The Defense Minister, for example, who is the leader of the Labor Party, the moderate component in the coalition, apparently set out for the Secretary the army's discovery, as he was putting it, of how deep this terrorist infrastructure was within the Palestinian Authority. The reports that we heard was that the Israeli Defense Minister was characterizing the army as having been surprised at quite how much explosive material they found, how many people they have arrested who they believe were very deeply involved in organizing and orchestrating attacks. The Israeli message of course being that they are, as Prime Minister Sharon has been saying day after day after day, combating a coalition of terrorism, that Yasser Arafat, far from being a peace partner, is someone who's created an entity to fight against Israel.

I'm sure that Secretary Powell will have been telling the Israelis why he needs them to pull back, talking about the American intentions, vis-a-vis Iraq, other things of Israeli interest. And really these are the allied parties here, the Israelis and the Americans. Just in the very fact of those very differing agendas, you recognize and you understand how difficult this challenge is. The Israelis are mistrustful of Powell, the Palestinians are mistrustful of Powell and both sides are utterly mistrustful and really, they've had it with each other.


HOROWITZ: This makes this mission -- this is why this mission is being turned to such a mission impossible.

COSTELLO: Well, let me ask you about some documents that were apparently found in a Palestinian-occupied area, and the documents supposedly say that Yasser Arafat sponsored these terrorist activities. Can you tell us more about that?

HOROWITZ (ph): Well, yes. The Israeli government set up a media center, and every day it gives briefings to local and foreign journalists. And in recent days, they have been giving briefings by military intelligence officials and government spokespeople, who have cited documents, some of them seized in Mr. Arafat's Ramallah headquarters and other places, some with his signature on, which they say prove that Yasser Arafat directly actually made payments to people who have themselves been very publicly acknowledging that they are killers.

There was a guy, Rahid Karmhi (ph), who admitted last year that he pulled two Israelis out of a restaurant in Tulkarem in the West Bank and killed them. And the Israeli government says that it has documents showing Yasser Arafat approving payments to Karmhi (ph), who was subsequently killed by the Israelis.

Again, this is the point that the Israeli government has been making. We have been taking on, they say, terrorists, the very terrorists who Yasser Arafat was armed by us, by previous governments, to confront. Rather than doing that, he was actually paying them to attack us.

COSTELLO: Back to this meeting between Colin Powell and Ariel Sharon, it's taking place in the prime minister's house. Is there any significance to that?

HOROWITZ (ph): I am not sure that there is, but the prime minister's house, perhaps it's worth pointing out, is literally across the road from a cafe, or you now have to say a former cafe (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which was blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber just a couple of weeks ago. There may be some significance to that. Perhaps the very proximity to acts of terrorism is significant that Mr. Sharon wanted to perhaps show to Colin Powell how close to even the prime minister's home this terrorism has come.

COSTELLO: Other American officials have been to Israel to try to calm things down, including Vice President Dick Cheney. He had no success. What might Colin Powell do that's different than Cheney did to achieve some sort of halting to the violence there?

HOROWITZ (ph): Well, there are a couple of things that he is really bringing fresh to the region, and one of them you talked about earlier in this program, the fact that he didn't just come straight there. He stopped off on the way. He consulted with Saudi and Egyptian and Jordanian leaders. He is involving them very integrally into this process, and that's a big contrast to President Clinton, for example, who in July, 2000 really went it alone with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat with no great success.

So I think Colin Powell is trying to create a kind of wider international and Arab coalition to try and achieve some progress. He has also got both sides to agree in principle to the notion of there being American observers deployed here to monitor any kind of cease- fire that he can achieve. Now, of course, Israelis and Palestinians have very different views of what those monitors would be charged with doing. But again, that's some kind of progress, but it's a very tough uphill struggle.

COSTELLO: Yes, you bring up the monitors, and this morning, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the situation in the Middle East is so serious that the sending of an international force into the occupied territories cannot be put off. In fact, he wants to send them in right now. Is that possible?

HOROWITZ (ph): It's something that I would imagine the Israeli government would resist most strongly, because the Israeli government feels that international as opposed to American monitors and observers cannot be trusted. While the Israeli government, it seems, has now backed away from earlier opposition even to American observers, I would be very surprised if Ariel Sharon wanted the international community involved.

There is a very strong feeling in the Israeli government that the international community is not fair-minded towards Israel. Take the European Union, for example. The Israeli government officials have been saying in the last few days, it's all very well for the E.U. now to be complaining about Israeli military policy and the numbers of Palestinians that are being affected, but where were the historical telephone calls of complaints when Israeli civilians were being blown up last month? Why didn't Yasser Arafat come under the same kind of economic pressure that the Israeli government is now coming under from the European Union, just for example?

So that would explain, you know, the misgivings I would have thought on the Israeli part.

COSTELLO: Understand...

HOROWITZ (ph): Added of course to the similarity with Lebanon. The fact that the international guarantees there are proved valueless, and that Israel is being attacked across the Lebanon border every day.

COSTELLO: OK, David. We're going to take a break right now. We'll get back live to Jerusalem right after this -- stick around.





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