CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interviews with Shimon Peres, Richard Armitage, Nabil Sha'ath
Aired April 14, 2002 - 12:00 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.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 6:00 p.m. in Ramallah on the West Bank; and 7:00 p.m. here in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special Late Edition live from Jerusalem.
We'll get to my interview with the foreign minister of Israel, Shimon Peres in a moment, but first this news alert.
BLITZER: Earlier today, just a short while ago, I spent some time interviewing Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres.
BLITZER: Mr. Minister, thanks so much for joining us.
After you and your late colleague, the then-prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, signed that Oslo Agreement on the South Lawn of the White House September of 1993, you, Rabin and Yasser Arafat all won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Do you still believe that, when all is said and done, that Yasser Arafat is a legitimate peace partner for Israel right now?
SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: He is legitimate in the sense that he was elected by the Palestinian people. And we cannot replace the Palestinian people. We cannot elect their leaders or fire them. But I think Arafat has to do some -- has to take some proposals to become a leader.
The most important one, I would say, is to establish a single authority among the Palestinians over the arms, the carriers of arms and the use of it. Otherwise, he will be hitting (ph) a chaotic situation.
BLITZER: So do you believe that the secretary of state of the United States, Colin Powell, did the right thing today when he went to Ramallah and sat down with Yasser Arafat for three hours?
PERES: I think that if he want to talk with the Palestinians, Arafat remains the address of talking with them. I don't see anybody else that the secretary could have approached in order to have a meaningful dialogue.
BLITZER: Are you encouraged, Mr. Minister, that, following that three-hour meeting, the secretary announced there would be continued talks, lower-level talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, that possibly a second round of talks with Yasser Arafat on Tuesday?
PERES: I think that, on the one hand, we have to settle some complicated issues, like, for example, when will our army redeploy itself to the previous positions before the present operations started? Initially, we said it will take four weeks. Well, two weeks already have passed. So it's another matter maybe of 10 days or two weeks unless there will be some unexpected events.
So, when the Palestinians are saying they want us to go out, we never intended to remain there. And it can be relatively in a short while.
On the other hand, we have to give birth to some new ideas. The old ideas, the previous ideas were aged and overused. I think one of the important ideas that came over the table is to have original conference, with all the parties concerned coming together, and try to lay out an agenda like it was done 10 years ago in Madrid.
BLITZER: Some Palestinians, Mr. Minister, say that's simply a stalling tactic on the part of your government, the Israeli government, that there's no need for this kind of Madrid-like international conference at this point. The immediate need, these Palestinians say, is for Israel simply to withdraw from the territories.
PERES: Well, the Palestinians who say it must show that they control the situation. As long as there are more bombs and more terror and more violence -- so you cannot use only your lips to re- create a situation. You have to use your imagination and the control of the events.
So either we'd say, well, we can control it -- I would say, you know, point blank, if you can stop terror, there is no sense to wait. But if you cannot stop terror, and unfortunately, that is the present situation, we have to look for bridges to cross the very big outrage that exists among the people on our side and on their side.
BLITZER: Mr. Minister, correct me if I'm wrong, but I sense some differences within your National Unity government. Some of your colleagues, Likud members in particular, say they've written off Yasser Arafat. They say he's a terrorist and should not be even considered in negotiations.
You've not written him off by any means, have you?
PERES: We have differences. It's a coalition government. It's not a secret. We have different parties, and clearly the party I represent does not agree with the Likud Party. We don't make any secrets about it.
Now, when it comes to Arafat, I'm really trying to see or think who should, in the eyes of the other people, replace him. I mean, maybe there are other candidates to succeed him, but I don't think they will be better or more promising.
We cannot force the Palestinians to change their leaders, but we have to press upon the Palestinians to change their policies, namely to stop terror and enter into a meaningful negotiation.
BLITZER: How concerned are you, Mr. Minister, about the tensions along the border between Israel and Lebanon? As you know, the secretary of state will be going to Beirut tomorrow, Monday, for meetings with Lebanese officials, to try to urge calm along Israel's border with Lebanon and indeed with Syria as well. PERES: I'm very much concerned, because the Hezbollah are spoilers, and the Lebanese don't have really a control over them.
And the Syrians are putting on a face that they can control -- they cannot control. Let's not forget that in Damascus itself there are 10 headquarters of different terroristic organizations. And yet Syria is a member of the Security Council.
PERES: It's absurd. The Syrians must decide if they belong to the security of the world or the insecurity of the world of terror. They cannot go on like it.
And I think the visit of Secretary Powell to Syria is of great importance. He has to tell them the naked truth.
BLITZER: You have information that he's going to be going to Syria as well as Beirut, Lebanon? Because so far, we've only heard official confirmation that he is going to Beirut. Do you know that he'll be meeting with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus as well?
PERES: Well, clearly, the Lebanese, too, must play a role in their own integrity and their own independence. Today they're becoming more and more submitted to the whims of the Hezbollah, which is a terroristic group that takes orders from Iran. So I think to talk with the Lebanese is important at this point.
You know, the Syrians are interested in a way to be respected and appear as responsible country. If they want to be respected and responsible, they have to take measures to stop the deterioration in Lebanon.
Now the Lebanese government is asking for help. And may I say also, in favor of the Lebanese government, they have developed the southern part of Lebanon quite impressively. If troubles will begin there, the first victims will be those farmers and businessmen that develop the southern part of Lebanon, and for us, the northern part of Israel.
Here, really, is a crazy group of people with a religious clock, trying to put an end to any effort to make peace.
BLITZER: That sounds to me, Mr. Minister, and correct me if I'm wrong, like you're threatening to retaliate against positions in southern Lebanon, including presumably Syrian positions, if these mortar attacks against Israeli troops within the so-called Shebah Fahms (ph) area, if they continue.
PERES: No, I am not threatening. On the contrary, I think Israel has shown a great deal of restraint. But if we shall be -- if they will be fire against us, what do you expect us to do? I mean, I know that Hezbollah wants to provoke Israel.
BLITZER: Will you hold Syria directly responsible?
PERES: We shall hold Syria directly responsible for trying seriously to prevent this outburst of fire.
BLITZER: More of my interview with the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, when we come back. I'll ask him whether Israel will support the introduction of U.S. military personnel, U.S. troops to separate Israeli and Palestinian forces.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem.
Now more of my conversation earlier today with the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres.
BLITZER: What about the situation in Bethlehem? Toady is Sunday. The situation in Bethlehem remains as it's been, a standoff, a serious standoff; some 200 Palestinian gunmen inside the Church of the Nativity.
We've now heard from a spokesman for your government saying Israel has come up with a proposal to let them to let them leave, those 200 gunmen, to get safe passage and leave this area forever, in effect, although it is doubtful that Palestinians necessarily will support that.
Do you have any other way of trying to ease that situation?
PERES: No. They're armed people. They are people who should be blamed for many acts of terror and violence. We have reported to (ph) the Vatican. We told them that we want to respect the holiness of the church. We don't want our forces in any way to penetrate the church, the position of this church as it is being accepted by (inaudible). And for that reason, we told the Vatican that we are ready to let the people who are in the church to go abroad and bring an end to the story.
For us it's quite a difficult situation, because among the people who are there, there are real murderers. There are real people that are to be blamed for many acts of terror and violence. But since we want to bring a peaceful end to this story -- and by the way, the Vatican says that the Palestinians were the ones who violated the holiness of the church -- we are proposing what we did propose.
BLITZER: You know, your government is also being severely criticized by the Palestinians and elsewhere around the world for what's happened over these past few days in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, on the West Bank, accusations of an Israeli massacre against Palestinians. Are you now prepared to allow independent observers from the Red Cross, from the U.N., journalists to go into that camp and see first- hand what may have occurred?
PERES: It is our intention, once the fire will be stopped. But I want to tell you about Jenin, there are rumors and there are facts. What we are now dealing and facing is more rumors than facts.
I would like to mention two points. One, most of the buildings that we have destroyed were trapped by mines, and they became, you know, a living bomb. And also, many of the people -- the ones who even surrendered became a human mine. They carried explosives on their body.
I must say, it was a bitter struggle, a bitter fight in Jenin. We have lost 23 soldiers. It's not an easy proposition for any of us. And I know the army was given orders not to hit any civilians, and to the best of my knowledge, the army took it very seriously.
The man who went there are people of reserve (ph), (inaudible) people with experience. (inaudible) could have listened to their reports and attitudes, and we didn't want to create anything that looks like or is a massacre.
BLITZER: If you have, Mr. Minister, nothing to hide, why not simply let those independent outside observers into Jenin?
PERES: I'm telling you now, there is still an exchange of fire in Jenin, and it can be caught by a cross-fire. But I think the army is thinking of opening up Jenin for the visitors, and eventually it will be open. I don't know if it will take a day or less than that or more than that, but within a very short period of time, Jenin will be opened.
BLITZER: As you know, there's been a proposal now floated out there of having some sort of international presence, international force, perhaps including U.S. troops, separate Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank. Is this an idea that your government is ready to accept?
PERES: No. We think that before you have observers, you have to decide what are they going to observe. Namely, you have to have an agreement. If you don't have an agreement, what will observers going to do? What can they do?
PERES: So the first step before we talk about observers is really to decide where are the lines, who is in charge, and then discuss the possibility of observers.
We have agreed, by the way, to have American observers, already a few month ago, in Gaza in order to supervise a very complicated point in the southern part of Gaza in Rafah. It didn't materialize for different reasons.
But I believe that what is really needed is an agreement before any observations.
BLITZER: The foreign minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, thanks so much for joining us today from Tel Aviv. We appreciate it.
BLITZER: And also in Tel Aviv, at this moment, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is meeting with the visiting secretary of state, Colin Powell. And we'll be checking in later with our Andrea Koppel. She's there, she's on the scene. She'll be telling us what's going on.
When we come back, we'll get the Palestinian view. I'll speak live with Nabil Sha'ath, the Palestinian cabinet minister.
Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
Joining me now is the Palestinian cabinet minister, Nabil Sha'ath. He joins me live from Cairo.
Minister Sha'ath, thanks so much for joining us.
I assume you've been briefed by your Palestinian colleagues on the meeting, the three-hour meeting that Yasser Arafat had with Colin Powell. What is your assessment? What, if anything, was achieved?
NABIL SHA'ATH, PALESTINIAN CABINET MINISTER: Well, I think the meeting has many positive aspects to it. Mr. Powell is highly knowledgeable person who is delegated authority by the president of the United States and support by all the Arabs and Europeans, Russians and the U.N. that he met.
He came to talk about ending this situation. And we told him very clearly we would like to see the incursions, the invasion by Israel end immediately and Israelis pull out their troops, exactly what President Bush had been saying, right now and not any later. We told him -- and that is really compliance with the Security Council resolution.
We told him we would like to see peacekeepers come as soon as possible to allow for a period of rebuilding the Palestinian police force, which has been shattered by the Israelis, and to allow protections for Palestinians and Israelis as well. And we'd like to see our heading toward a political solution based on Security Council resolutions and the Arab plan, which all the Arabs have supported.
Mr. Powell and his group were positive about what we said, but had very little to say about what the Israelis have committed themselves to do.
BLITZER: We heard earlier this from Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security advisor, say they want the Palestinians, you, the Palestinian Authority, to back up the words, the words condemning terrorism, with deeds, with specific actions, specifically calling on Palestinian suicide bombers to cease and desist, to no longer engage in this kind of terrorism.
Will Yasser Arafat back up those words with deeds?
SHA'ATH: Well, that is really the irony of the situation. The Israelis did away with most of our ability to achieve deeds. They not only destroyed every single security office, but they have arrested, sometimes summarily executed and deported Palestinians, decommissioning them and sending back to their villages, warning them that if they ever come back to the security forces, they would be considered as terrorists and would be shot.
And, therefore, the Israelis, in their last incursions, did everything possible to make it impossible for President Arafat to have any security capability.
What was left to President Arafat is to make statements to his people. And he did yesterday. These statements will only have a persuasive ability if the Israelis pull out.
BLITZER: Let me -- excuse me for interrupting, but what about a direct statement from Yasser Arafat on video, on television, in Arabic, to all of his own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is affiliated with the Fatah movement, or Hamas or Islamic Jihad, "No more suicide bombers"?
SHA'ATH: None of these people are his own affiliated organizations. Even Al-Aqsa Brigades, which has Fatah people in it, is highly decentralized, totally separate from the central organization of Fatah. It was never formed by Fatah orders.
And therefore, these are people who have been in great despair and agony at the height of the Israeli massacres, particularly in this invasion but all through the intifada and the escalation of the Israelis in the intifada, who have really been willing to die for what really they see as the only way to go against an invasion.
They are not part of a hierarchy that Mr. Arafat leads, despite all the public relation that the Israelis have tried to do to pin that to President Arafat. President Arafat, in his statement condemning terror coming both from Israelis and Palestinians, did exactly that.
BLITZER: But can there be, Mr. Sha'ath, can there be any justification whatsoever for suicide bombers going into a pizzeria or a hotel or a marketplace and just attempting to kill as many civilians, innocent young children, elderly people, just random people? Can there be any justification for that whatsoever?
SHA'ATH: There can be no justification to killing civilians, whether by Arabs or by Israelis, by Palestinians or by Israelis. Nobody is justifying anything.
But you've just asked Mr. Peres about the cover-up of the massacres of mostly women and children, and not only fighters, as the Israelis claim. There has been a cover-up, and bodies have been taken away to clean up. The six days since Jenin massacre have been just a clean-up attempt, to cover up the massacres.
There have been civilians killed by Palestinians on checkpoints everywhere. We would like to see an end of killings, of civilians or anybody, by Israelis and Palestinians.
And absolutely, if the Israelis will pull out and end their incursions, the Palestinians would do everything possible to comply to a cease-fire on their own.
BLITZER: And of course, as you know, of course, as the foreign minister of Israel just said to me, Mr. Peres, they categorically deny there were any massacres, any cover-up in Jenin.
Let's move on, though, and I just want to ask one final question on these suicide bombers. Earlier in the week, the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, speaking on behalf of President Bush, forcefully condemned these suicide bombers. I want you to listen to what Mr. Fleischer had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are not suicide bombings. These are not people who just kill themselves. These are people who deliberately go to murder others, with no regard to the values of their own life. These are murderers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's why President Bush wants Yasser Arafat to take greater steps, greater actions to try to do whatever he can -- and there may be limited capabilities that he has, but to take greater steps to end these suicide bombers. Do you understand where the White House is coming from?
SHA'ATH: I understand where the White House is coming from, and it's a very one-sided place he is coming from. We have yet to hear one condemnation of the massacre in Jenin or in any other place, and yet I understand where he's coming from.
And we told Mr. Powell, not only have we yesterday made the statement by President Arafat about terrorism in general, but President Arafat, with whatever limited means he has, is not going to only do his best to rein in people who are not part of his organization, but he will do everything possible to stop all violence.
Once a cease-fire is agreed, once the Israelis for once comply with what President Bush has been telling them, "Get out now" -- I don't understand how the word "now" gets translated by Mr. Peres into "two more weeks," unless really the Americans are willing to give a totally closed eyes and shut ears to what the Israelis do and will only look at what the victim is doing, in this case the Palestinians.
BLITZER: What is your reaction to the Israeli government's proposal now that they're floating, one that the foreign minister, Mr. Peres, just confirmed to me, of this idea for another Madrid-like international conference to take up these very, very delicate issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
SHA'ATH: We have never really objected to any internationalization of that problem. On the contrary, we think that bringing in an international presence is extremely important, on the ground, on the table and in every other way. And we were absolutely delighted to see Mr. Powell consult with the quartet of the Russians, the Europeans, the United Nations, and the Americans.
The question is, we have to really get the Israelis to comply of whatever agreements there has been made and whatever international resolutions have been made. And then going to another international gathering must be really for the permanent settlement, in which we feel we have today in the Saudi plan that has become an Arab plan, and in the latest Security Council resolutions, a very good terms of reference for any such meetings.
BLITZER: Nabil Sha'ath, Palestinian cabinet minister, thanks so much for joining us live from Cairo. Always good to have you on Late Edition.
When we come back, we'll get the view from the Bush administration. I'll speak with the number-two official at the U.S. State Department, the deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage.
This special Late Edition from Jerusalem will be right back.
BLITZER: Secretary of State Colin Powell is meeting now with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in Tel Aviv. You are looking at pictures that we just received from the beginning of that meeting. Secretary Powell and Ariel Sharon, about to continue their second meeting since the U.S. Secretary of State arrived here in Jerusalem Thursday night. They spent 4.5 hours together on Friday. Earlier today, the secretary spent three hours with Yasser Arafat. Now he is reporting and meeting with Ariel Sharon.
Earlier today, I had a chance to speak to Secretary Powell's top deputy, the number-two man at the U.S. State Department, the deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. I assume you have been briefed on the talks that the secretary had with Yasser Arafat. What have you heard?
RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I had the opportunity to speak to Secretary Powell several times as he left the Mukatah (ph) compound and headed back to Jerusalem. He also described the talks to me as useful and constructive and indicated that our two sides, that is the staffs of Secretary Powell and Chairman Arafat, will get together tomorrow not to negotiate but to find a way forward. That is, to realize the words that Chairman Arafat uttered in Arabic yesterday.
BLITZER: And you just heard Saeb Erekat tell us that he assumed that will in turn result in a second round of direct talks between Colin Powell and Yasser Arafat. Is that your understanding as well, Mr. Secretary?
ARMITAGE: My understanding is only that we will have the staffs meet tomorrow. Secretary Powell this evening, your time, will meet with probably the President Katzav of Israel and, laterally, Prime Minister Sharon, and after that we'll see what happens.
BLITZER: So everything still is very much up in the air. That meeting tomorrow between the staffs of the Palestinian and the U.S. delegations, the U.S. delegation, I assume -- correct me if I'm wrong -- will be led by General Zinni, the special U.S. envoy.
ARMITAGE: Yes, I assume General Zinni will lead it and probably assisted by either Mr. Burns or Mr. Satterfield who are with the secretary.
BLITZER: What's the difference between negotiations -- you say there won't be negotiations tomorrow, but they will continue discussions to implement, to follow up on some of the issues that were dealt with today in Ramallah. Walk us through precisely what you hope will be achieved tomorrow by the staffs.
ARMITAGE: I certainly hope they'll be able to flesh out the words that Chairman Arafat mentioned yesterday about the reduction in violence. I think they'll be looking for ways for Chairman Arafat to actually use the bully pulpit of his leadership, as required and called upon by our president, to bring clearly home to his people that violence to accomplish political ends is not going to be effective. I think we have to find the way forward with that.
Equally, the secretary will be working with our friends in Israel to try the affect even further withdrawals, as the president has called for.
BLITZER: You heard Saeb Erekat suggest that perhaps by Tuesday he was hoping the Israelis will withdraw from Ramallah, from the area around Yasser Arafat's headquarters. Is that realistic?
ARMITAGE: Look, Mr. Blitzer, you're an expert on the Middle East. I would assume nothing. The president has called for the Israelis to withdraw without delay. There have been substantial withdrawals. We expect more. I wouldn't put the timetable on it for fear that I might be found out to be misinformed.
BLITZER: Is there any way the Israelis can withdraw? Here's the question -- the Israelis can withdraw while there's no guarantee the suicide bombings won't resume? In other words, the Palestinians say they can't make any security assurances until the Israelis withdraw. The Israelis say they can't withdraw until they have hard commitments that there will be an end to the suicide bombings.
How do you, the United States, the honest broker in this effort, get around that dilemma?
ARMITAGE: That's why you have our top diplomat in the region, to try to find the way forward. Every night that goes by without a suicide bombing means many more families in Israel will be able to live and realize their dreams. Every moment that an Israeli tank pulls out of a West Bank town you have Palestinians who can resume their lives.
This is what he's seeking, this is what he's working for. And I believe the necessary angle is to get enough confidence on both sides to be able to take mutual steps.
BLITZER: Is it fair to say -- would it be fair to say that the secretary's return to Washington is now open-ended, given what's happened, the meeting with Ariel Sharon on Friday, the meeting today, Sunday, with Yasser Arafat?
ARMITAGE: I think it's fair to say that the secretary will be consulting with the president, with the senior members of the president's administration, and determining the way forward and just how long he may stay in the region. And where he may go elsewhere is something that the president will decide.
BLITZER: From here, where else might he go? Because there's been a lot of concern, and maybe you can help us better understand that concern, about a second front, perhaps, opening up between the Israeli and Lebanese border, with the Syrians, of course, very much involved as well.
How concerned are you about that nightmare, potential nightmare scenario?
ARMITAGE: We're very concerned with that, and that's why Secretary Powell went to the Northern Command headquarters, saw the shelling of Chebaa Farms area by Hezbollah. It's why the United States has exerted tremendous pressure on Iran and Syria to refrain Hezbollah from these actions. Whether the secretary goes there or not is still up in the air, but we've exerted enormous pressure on the Syrians and the Iranians.
BLITZER: There's some speculation, as you well know, Mr. Secretary, that from here the secretary might go to Damascus to meet with President Bashar Assad to directly underline that high-level U.S. concern about potential trouble along the Israeli-Lebanese border. ARMITAGE: Yes, I've seen that speculation, and there has been some discussion. But I think the first order of business is for Secretary Powell to meet with Prime Minister Sharon, to debrief Prime Minister Sharon on the content of the meeting today with Chairman Arafat and to see if we can't find a way forward with the Israelis.
BLITZER: Is there a receptivity on the U.S. side to this Israeli proposal? We heard Raanan Gissin, the adviser, the spokesman to Ariel Sharon, say here on CNN live earlier today that the Israelis are now interested in another Madrid-like international conference to consider some steps to end this, to move forward the peace process. Is the U.S. open to that?
ARMITAGE: We're open to all sorts of good ideas, Mr. Blitzer. We're open to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's vision for the future. We're open to any ideas our Israeli friends, or anyone else in the region, have. And we're open to ideas from Chairman Arafat, and those are among the things that Secretary Powell discussed with the chairman today.
BLITZER: Are you open to the idea of introducing U.S. military troops into the West Bank to separate, in effect, Israelis and Palestinians to help monitor some sort of cease-fire?
ARMITAGE: Well, we've certainly talked about the idea of monitors of some sort as we move forward to Tenet/Mitchell -- or through Tenet/Mitchell. We've also seen calls from the United Nations for the introduction of certain monitors.
Again, we're interested in any ideas anyone has. We'll look at them all. There have been no in-depth discussion about the use of U.S. forces for this method -- for this problem. BLITZER: But it sounds to me you're certainly not ruling that out, even if the discussions have not been all that intensive back in Washington. That's an idea that's potentially useful?
ARMITAGE: Well, I don't think, Mr. Blitzer, you ought to put words in my mouth. We're not ruling anything in, and we're not ruling anything out. We're looking for ideas to move forward. If there are ideas that everyone can agree upon as a useful way to move forward, then of course we would.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, I've known you now for many years, going back to when you were at the Pentagon. You know that there's still some concern at the Pentagon about introducing U.S. military personnel in what would be an extremely volatile situation here in the Middle East. And there's a lot of recollection of what happened in 1983 with those 241 Marines at the barracks outside Beirut, when a suicide truck bomber killed them.
How concerned should Pentagon personnel be about a repeat of that kind of tragedy?
ARMITAGE: Any time any of our sons and daughters is put in harm's way, we all ought to be mighty concerned. But I think it's a mighty leap of faith to bring forward a discussion about American armed peacekeepers in the territories or in Israel at this point.
BLITZER: What do you think about this latest Israeli proposal to end the standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, to give those 200 Palestinian gunmen two options basically, either surrender to Israeli troops and face a military trial here in Israel or safe passage conducted by the Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross, to leave this area once and forever, never be allowed to return to this part of the world? What do you think of that Israeli proposal?
ARMITAGE: Mr. Blitzer, what it shows me is that Israel realizes that there is a general problem in Bethlehem and that the whole world community is looking at it. And they're searching for a way to resolve it without further bloodshed and without further damage. And in that regard, I find it positive.
BLITZER: And what about the situation in Jenin, the refugee camp, the Palestinian refugee camp? A lot of wild rumors, a lot of accusations. The Palestinians accusing the Israelis of having engaged in a massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Jenin over these past few days during fierce fighting that waged there.
What does the U.S. government specifically know about what happened in Jenin?
ARMITAGE: Mr. Blitzer, Jenin is on the verge of assuming mythical proportions. It's why Secretary Powell met with the international aid community yesterday in Israel. It's why he issued a very strong call for Israel to allow the international humanitarian organizations to enter Jenin, so we can find out just what did or didn't happen and hopefully put to rest these rumors. So I think it's very incumbent upon Israel to open up Jenin as soon as possible.
The United States information on Jenin is relatively limited, as well. We have not had access.
BLITZER: But you do have ways of finding out. And as we've been speaking, Mr. Secretary, we've been showing our viewers some picture, some still photos of that meeting between Chairman Arafat and the secretary of state in Ramallah, a three-hour meeting.
The Israeli cabinet also announced today that, with the exception of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the situation in Jenin at that refugee camp, and the military -- the political headquarters of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, they will be easing restrictions, opening up the rest of the West Bank. I take it you believe that's a positive development?
ARMITAGE: Well, I spoke to Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, our ambassador in Israel, a few moments before coming down here, Mr. Blitzer. We've not yet been able to confirm that that was a cabinet discussion. I've seen the news tickers reporting that, and if that's the case, it's a very positive development and further, I think, proof that the Israelis are heeding the call of President Bush.
BLITZER: And so, before I let you go, Mr. Secretary, one final question. You have no regrets whatsoever, despite the criticism you've been receiving, the Bush administration is receiving, for having this meeting with Yasser Arafat? You think it was a good idea?
ARMITAGE: Well, look, I've seen people who have accused the administration of miscalculation. We have a president who's a man of peace, president at a time of war for our nation. He is exerting every effort he can to try to bring peace to the region. And if that's a miscalculation or a mistake, then you can put my name down in that column. I think that we'll continue to exert every effort for peace, and that's in keeping with our national character.
BLITZER: All right, Richard Armitage, he's the number-two man at the State Department, the deputy secretary of state, joining us for a candid conversation on what has happened here, as the secretary of state continues his search for a cease-fire and, presumably, following that, a resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
BLITZER: And this note, tomorrow, Monday, I'll have an exclusive interview here in Jerusalem with the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. That will be tomorrow on Wolf Blitzer Reports, a special edition.
Still to come, much more on this edition of Late Edition. I'll speak with the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, Trent Lott, and the top two members of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos.
We'll also get perspective from Saudi Arabia. I'll speak to that country's foreign policy adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir.
Much more coming up on our special Late Edition from Jerusalem. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: And joining us now from Washington, D.C., is the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott.
Mr. Leader, thanks so much for joining us.
You're watching from afar these dramatic developments unfolding here in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, as well as in Ramallah, on the West Bank.
Was this a good idea, for the secretary of state, Colin Powell, to sit down with Yasser Arafat?
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I think it had to be done. I think the president made the right decision, to send Secretary of State Colin Powell into the region. He's one of the most respected leaders, diplomatic leaders, in the world, and of course this follows a trip by the vice president. If you're going to be in the region, you've got to have some principles you're pursuing, and you've got to talk to all of the interested parties, including some of the leaders of the surrounding Arab countries. And Secretary of State Colin Powell did that before he came to Jerusalem and met with Arafat.
I think he made the right decision to postpone the meeting after you had another bombing. I think he was right to insist that Arafat say in Arabic that the terrorist bombings must stop, the suicide bombings must stop. But once that was done, I do think you have to at least communicate with all the parties to try to find a way to stop the violence, stop the terrorism, and try to find a way to move back to a peace process.
BLITZER: It would appear, Senator Lott, that the secretary of state is now finding himself on familiar turf, at least as far as his predecessors were concerned, getting deeply involved in this Middle East crisis situation.
Some of your colleagues, including Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are suggesting some concerns about how intimately, how deeply Colin Powell is getting involved. Listen to what Senator Biden said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Were I president of the United States, I wouldn't be putting my prestige on the line, betting on telling the foreign minister and/or the prime minister of another country, "Get out by such and such a moment." It's squandering, in my view. It runs the risk of squandering U.S. prestige and power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Biden specifically referring to what President Bush had urged the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to do, to immediately, right away, "without delay," in his words, get out of those territories in the West Bank which the Israeli military recently reoccupied.
Do you agree with Senator Biden?
LOTT: Well, it's never easy when you become involved in the Middle East. Every word matters, and every action has a reactive effect.
I think that the Congress, both the House and the Senate, generally has been very responsible in what it has said or what the members have been saying. I think most of them realize that it's important right now that we give Secretary of State Powell the maximum latitude to try to bring about peace.
I think the president and Secretary Colin Powell and America really, you know, has no choice. We've got to be involved. We've got to try to find a way to stop the violence and the killing, and try to bring it back to a condition where we can begin to carry out the resolution that the United Nations passed. We've had the very best involved. Former Senator Mitchell's been involved, CIA Director Tenet's been involved, the vice president's there. Everybody's trying their best.
We would like to find a way to help the two peoples to separate from the killing and try to begin to negotiate again in a way that would lead to a secure peace for Israel, but a state for the Palestinians to be in, in peace, hopefully with development in the process.
BLITZER: You know, there's an interesting phenomenon, I'm sure you're sensitive to it, Senator Lott, that's unfolding in Washington. Several of your conservative Republican colleagues in the Senate, as well as outside of the Senate, are criticizing the administration for even sitting down with Yasser Arafat. And they're specifically pointing to what President Bush himself said immediately after the attack against the United States on September 11. Listen to what the president said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: They argue that Yasser Arafat is either a terrorist or is harboring terrorists. Do you believe he is?
LOTT: I'm sorry. Do I believe he's a terrorist?
BLITZER: Do you believe Yasser Arafat is either a terrorist or is harboring terrorists?
LOTT: It appears that obviously he has not provided leadership, he has not done what was necessary to stop the terrorism and the killing, you know. And there now seems to be evidence that perhaps he had been authorizing payments to the families of these suicide bombers, or terrorist bombers, I call them.
Obviously he's been a failure. Obviously, you know, the United States and the world's disappointed in the leadership that he is not providing.
LOTT: And there's no question that in the Congress the support for Israel is wide and deep, and there's concern about, how do we bring about negotiations and stop the violence and move toward peace negotiations?
Having said all of that, you know, we have to negotiate and talk to the parties that are involved. Arafat is the head of the Palestinian people. He could do more. If he would -- the president has made it clear that he has been very disappointed in him.
And I do think this is his last chance. He has got to step up to the situation. He has got to put pressure on all of the Palestinians to stop the suicide bombings that kill innocent men, women and children, so that we can stop the ratcheting up on both sides of the violence that makes it impossible for people to live in security and in peace.
This is volatile part of the world. When you look at what Iraq is doing, what Saddam Hussein is saying, what's happening in the Middle East and what's happening in Venezuela, and then you realize we don't have a national energy policy, that we're dependent on oil from those countries, all the more important for the Congress to act to make sure we have a national energy policy. Also, all the more importance to why we need to try and find a way to get the parties to at least talk and stop the killing.
BLITZER: As you probably know, Senator Lott, later this week the administration in the State Department is going to have to certify, according to U.S. law, whether or not Yasser Arafat and the PLO are a terrorist. And if they do certify that they are terrorists, that would have dramatic implications as far as U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority is concerned.
Some of your colleagues want the United States right now, on the basis of what they say is evidence that the Palestinian Authority is supporting terrorism, to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority. Would that be a good idea?
LOTT: Well, I think we ought give Secretary Powell every opportunity, without threats or suggestions of what we might do, to negotiate, to talk to the various parties.
Quite frankly, while I don't want to exaggerate expectations, I'm very hopeful and think maybe Secretary Powell may come to some sort of agreement that will cool the situation down. But I do think this is the last chance for Arafat. He has got to do more than he's been doing. He's got to do everything to stop the bombings. And if he doesn't, we're going to have to be prepared to take a additional actions.
BLITZER: Senator Lott, while I have you, let's switch gears briefly and talk about domestic political issues. Over the weekend, the former vice president, Al Gore, made a very fiery political speech in Florida in which he condemned a lot of the positions that some of the conservative Republicans have been taking. I want you to listen to this brief excerpt of what Al Gore had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I'm tired of this right- wing side wind. I've had it. America's economy is suffering unnecessarily. Important American values are being trampled. Special interests are calling the shots...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Does it appear to you that Al Gore is trying to make a political come back right now? LOTT: Well, he seems to be trying and trying again and trying several times. He has shaven his whiskers off his face. I need to work with him on his selection of shirts in hot auditoriums.
But you know what struck me was that, here we are dealing with a very critical situations around the world and fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, the delicate situation in the Middle East, the turmoil in Venezuela, the need for the United States Senate, which has become a cesspool of inactivity, to move on energy legislation, trade legislation, on the budget, and his comments didn't seem to be connected with anything that's going on.
The American people support this president and what he's doing in fighting terrorism. Our economy is beginning to recover. We have a lot of work we need to do, but to be saying the things he said, just didn't seem to connect with what was going on with the American people today.
BLITZER: All right. On that note, Senator Lott, always good to have you.
LOTT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Normally, I like to be sitting face to face with you. Right now I'm about 6,000 miles away from. The next time we'll be seeing each other in person. Always good to have...
LOTT: And you've been doing a good job, Wolf. I've watched you. I watched you all day yesterday. Get some rest.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Senator. Rest is for the young. We've got a lot of work to do over here in the Middle East. Appreciate it very much. We'll have you back on the program.
LOTT: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the Arab perspective on the crisis in the Middle East. I'll speak live with a Saudi national security adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir. Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition live from Jerusalem. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem.
Joining us now in Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir. He's a foreign policy adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Adel Al-Jubeir, welcome back to Late Edition. Always good to have you on our program.
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER, SAUDI ARABIA: Thank you.
BLITZER: And I wonder what your immediate reaction is to this Israeli proposal we're hearing today from the foreign minister, Shimon Peres, from a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Raanan Gissin, supporting an international conference along the lines of Madrid some 10 years ago, and specifically saying that the proposal put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, backed by the Arab League, that's a basis upon which to negotiate. What's your reaction to that?
AL-JUBEIR: I think that would be a positive step if the Israelis were serious about a total withdrawal from the territories. I believe that the Palestinian Authority has made it very clear that they would support such an effort. Anything that can lead to a reduction in violence and to an end to the senseless killings should be welcomed by the international community.
BLITZER: As you know, before coming here, the secretary of state met with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco to build up some momentum to try to get them to weigh in and encourage Yasser Arafat to condemn terrorism and backed it up with some specific deeds.
Did Crown Prince Abdullah do what the secretary asked him to do?
AL-JUBEIR: I believe that the proof is in pudding. Yasser Arafat condemned terrorism. He has condemned it all along. He condemned the latest attacks against Israelis, as well as the attacks by Israelis against Palestinians.
The important thing here is deeds rather than words. We need a commitment from Israel to implement U.N. Resolution 1402, which is an immediate cease fire and withdrawal from the territories. We have that commitment from the Palestinians, but we don't have it from Mr. Sharon. BLITZER: You heard Foreign Minister Peres today say it might take another 10 days or two weeks for the Israeli military to completely withdraw from those areas in the West Bank which they recently reoccupied.
Is that acceptable, do you think, to the Palestinian people as well as the mainstream Arab community out there?
AL-JUBEIR: I believe that the U.N. resolution was very clear. It called for an immediate cease fire and an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian towns and villages. I believe that the president's statement about an immediate Israeli withdrawal was also clear.
And I believe that this extending of the period of military operations by the Israelis goes against the grain of the desires of the world community or the resolutions of the United Nations.
BLITZER: What else would you expect the Israelis to do in the face of the numerous suicide bombing attacks that have occurred, most recently here in Jerusalem on Friday?
AL-JUBEIR: I believe, Wolf, that the problem needs a political solution, not a military one. Every time you had violence, violence begets more violence, and more innocent people die on both sides. We have to break the cycle of violence. We have the U.N. Resolution 1402. Let's implement it. The Palestinians agreed to do so; the Israeli prime minister has not. We have a Tenet and Mitchell plans that call for increased security cooperation and movements toward a political process. Let's implement those. The Palestinians have agreed to that; Israeli prime minister has not.
We need to have also a political track simultaneously with that, that will lead to a Palestinian state and withdrawal of Israel from all of the occupied territories and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world. That's embodied in the peace initiative put forward by the Arab League at the Beirut summit. We have acceptance by the Arab world of this. We still don't have acceptance of this by Israeli.
So I think the -- it's very clear where the onus lies here.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to what the former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said earlier this week, as far as what he thinks about Yasser Arafat. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: There is no political solution to terror. You have to defeat terror militarily in order to have a political process. Yasser Arafat's terrorist regime must be toppled, not courted.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Seems to be a significant difference between what Netanyahu and some other Likud members of the current Israeli government, like Sharon, are saying as opposed to what you heard Shimon Peres, a Labor Party leader, a member of this National Unity government here in Israel, are saying.
Which version of what Israel's saying do you accept?
AL-JUBEIR: Oh, I heard Mr. Netanyahu's statements. That's his opinion. He is certainly entitled to his opinion. But his opinion is dead wrong.
President Arafat is the elected leader of Palestinian people. They are the ones who choose their leader. He is recognized as such by virtually the whole world. And it is not up to Mr. Netanyahu to decide who and who should or should not be the leader of the Israeli -- of the Palestinian public, just like the Palestinians cannot tell the Israelis who their leader should be.
So it is obvious to me that the view that was articulated by former Prime Minister Peres is more reflective of reality than what we heard from Mr. Netanyahu.
BLITZER: I want you to give our viewers, in the United States and around the world, Adel Al-Jubeir, a chance to get the official Saudi explanation. There has been a lot of suggestions that on the Saudi embassy web site in Washington there is support going for what they call the suicide bombing -- the martyrs, the Palestinian martyrs who go into restaurants or pizzerias or open-air markets and kill themselves and try to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible; and are indeed having a telethon to raise money for what they call the Palestinian martyrs.
Explain to our viewers precisely what is going on in Saudi Arabia.
AL-JUBEIR: We in Saudi Arabia are very upset by the violence that has taken place in the Palestinian territories. We are very concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people. Fifty percent of them now live below the poverty line. Thousands of them have been imprisoned. Sixteen hundred of them have died at the hands of Israeli forces. There are no food supplies in grocery stores. There are no medical supplies at hospitals. Homes are being demolished. Areas are being encircled and closed.
So we step in and we provide assistance to the Palestinians, in order to take care of their basic needs. It's a purely humanitarian effort. Your own government has increased the assistance it provides to Palestinians for humanitarian purposes from $80 million to $120 million.
The telethon in Saudi Arabia was held to raise money for the Palestinians, and it goes to provide humanitarian assistance. It does not go to provide funding for suicide bombers. And the term "martyr" was never...
BLITZER: All right, so just to be precise on this point -- because I know you are a very precise, diplomat -- the Pentagon, the Bush administration has condemned Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime for providing some $25,000 to the family members of those suicide bombers who go into Israel and kill themselves, as well as Israeli civilians.
Is the Saudi government, or Saudis in general, are they providing this kind of life-insurance policy to the families of the so-called suicide bombers?
AL-JUBEIR: That is not policy of our government. The policy of our government is to provide purely humanitarian assistance to people who have suffered as a consequence of this Israeli aggression.
Your own secretary of defense, when asked this question, said no, Saudi Arabia does not provide money for suicide bombers. And your own official spokespersons in the U.S. government in the last few days have also reiterated that. So I don't know where this confusion comes from.
BLITZER: Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign policy adviser to the Crown Prince Abdullah, always good to have you on Late Edition.
AL-JUBEIR: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it very much. When we come back, much more on the situation, the crisis in the Middle East. I'll speak with the top two members of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos. They'll be joining me live when Late Edition resumes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): We need to stand with Israel, and we will stand with Israel.
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL): I think we stand very much in solidarity with Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: A bipartisan expression of support for Israel coming from the top leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
Joining me now are the two top members of the House International Relations Committee: in Chicago, the chairman of that powerful committee, Henry Hyde; and in Los Angeles, the ranking Democrat, Tom Lantos.
Congressmen, thanks for joining us very much.
And, Mr. Chairman, let me begin with you. Your reaction, first of all, to what's happened here in Israel and in the West Bank earlier today. Secretary of State Powell emerging from that three-hour meeting with Yasser Arafat, saying it was useful and constructive and worthy of follow-up talks.
REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: Well, I'm encouraged because that is a happy result. I didn't expect the Middle East problems to be solved as a result of this meeting, but it was productive enough, it was useful enough so that they're going to have another meeting and continue the discussion.
The meeting apparently lasted about three hours. And I'm always encouraged adversaries are talking to each other.
BLITZER: Tom Lantos, I know that you were skeptical about this meeting and probably were not even sure that it was a good idea for the U.S. secretary of state to meet with Yasser Arafat.
Are you as encouraged as the chairman is?
REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me first say how pleased I was to see our Republican speaker, Speaker Hastert, and the Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt, express the solidarity and support of the Congress for the people of Israel in these difficult times.
And early next week I will be introducing a resolution, a bipartisan resolution, expressing the support of the American Congress and the American people for the people of Israel in these difficult times.
We have been engaged now since September 11 in a global war on terrorism, and Israel is in the front line of that global war. And it is only appropriate that we support our friends and allies.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence, Congressman Lantos, in Secretary Powell and his decision to go forward with this meeting and to continue meetings with the Palestinian Authority?
LANTOS: Secretary Powell is an enormously capable diplomat. I think at a time when the United States is at war, it is inappropriate publicly to criticize our president or our secretary of state. I think the secretary of state is doing his utmost de-escalate the violence, to place the onus of responsibility where it belongs, on Yasser Arafat, and he has my support.
BLITZER: What about, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Hyde, the whole notion of U.S. aid to the Palestinians? Several of your colleagues in the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans, are moving to cut off that aid.
At this delicate moment, when the secretary of state is attempting to achieve a cease-fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in your opinion, would that be a good idea?
HYDE: No, I think it would be a terrific mistake for us to cut off humanitarian aid. It's important to know the aid that we provide goes to feed people and house people and clothe people who are living in crushing poverty. One of the problems is the poverty of the Palestinians.
I would hope, frankly, when we get to discussing a comprehensive settlement that some sort of Marshall Plan can be devised for that part of the world so that some hope, in terms of a job and occupation and schools and housing, can be had. Whereas, right now it's pretty hopeless on the Palestinian side.
But I think as long as it's understood that the money goes for humanitarian reasons, it's important we keep it coming.
BLITZER: Is that your position as well, Congressman Lantos?
LANTOS: I fully agree with my friend, Henry Hyde.
What I think is important to understand, that 18 months ago, Arafat had an opportunity to having an independent and prosperous Palestinian state. Had he not walked away from that incredibly generous, broad offer, we would now be discussing the Marshall Plan that Henry is talking about. Arafat is clearly responsible for having denied his own people the opportunity of living in peace and prosperity. And in recent weeks, he walked away from the responsibility he clearly has, under Oslo and under all agreements, to put an end to terrorism. He has failed that effort also. But I fully support humanitarian aid to the long-suffering Palestinian people. There is no moral equivalence in the struggle, but there is an equivalency of suffering. And I think the American people are strongly in support of providing aid to the Palestinian people.
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde, as we're speaking right now, the president of the United States has just returned to the White House from Camp David.
BLITZER: He's going to be walking into the White House momentarily. If he stops and talks to reporters, we'll bring you his remarks live.
But as we continue our conversation, is it a good idea right now for the U.S. to make a formal determination, as the State Department of the Bush administration must do according to U.S. law later this week, to determine whether or not the Palestinian Authority is a terrorist organization, whether Yasser Arafat is a terrorist or not?
HYDE: I don't think that's helpful. I think, when we're trying to get people together to negotiate on the terms of a lasting cease- fire, as well as a comprehensive settlement, to be calling each other names, even if they're accurate names, is not psychologically helpful.
So I think, if that could be deferred or avoided, it doesn't mean that you're surrendering to terrorists or mollifying them, but it means you understand the realities of how to get from here to there. And this is a very important negotiation.
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde and Congressman Lantos, we're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about, including viewer phone calls, for the two top leaders of the House International Relations Committee. Our special coverage of the crisis in the Middle East will continue on this special Late Edition.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem.
This just in, the meeting between the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in Tel Aviv is now over with. The two men met for the second time since the secretary arrived here in Jerusalem Thursday night.
Today's meeting with Prime Minister Sharon follows three hours of talks that the secretary of state had with Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, earlier today in Ramallah on the West Bank.
Once again, joining us in Washington, the two top members of the House International Relations Committee, the chairman, Henry Hyde, and the ranking Democrat, Tom Lantos. Congressmen, we have a caller from New York who has a question. Go ahead, New York.
CALLER: I want to know if Colin Powell's mission will be successful.
BLITZER: What about that, Henry Hyde? What do you think?
HYDE: So do we all. So do we all want to know that.
LANTOS: I certainly hope it will be successful.
HYDE: That's right, we hope so.
LANTOS: We are wishing him the very best.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think, Congressman Hyde? I'll put you on the spot. Will it be successful?
HYDE: Well, it depends on how you measure success. I think it already is successful, in the sense that whatever message Colin Powell had to deliver, he delivered. I'm sure he did. I'm sure he impressed Chairman Arafat with the seriousness with which we view the continued homicide bombings, and I'm sure that that was useful.
We really don't know until we get a full report from Secretary Powell as to the terms and conditions and matters discussed in the second meeting. But we look forward to that as soon as possible.
BLITZER: I'm sure the secretary will be briefing you and the other ranking members of the committee once he gets back to Washington. None of us, of course, knows how long that will be. He could be staying here in the region at least for a few more days.
Congressman Lantos, I want you to listen to what the king of Jordan, King Abdullah, said earlier today on ABC's This Week. Listen to what King Abdullah said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN: I don't know why people in the administration would be annoyed that what I said is true. I mean, whether they like it or not, Arafat has become the most popular figure in the Arab streets. And I am sure they may be equally annoyed to find out that Prime Minister Sharon, I'm sure, in front of his public, is also extremely popular. But through that popularity gives the chance for both leaders to take stronger positions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On that point, Congressman Lantos, isn't the king right, that both Arafat and Sharon are popular among their respective constituencies and neither side can afford not to deal with the other?
LANTOS: Well, those popularities are predicated on very different policies. Arafat apparently is popular because he is supporting terrorism, he is financing terrorism, members of his own organization are participating in terrorism. And in the frenzied climate of the Arab street, that makes for popularity.
Prime Minister Sharon's popularity stems from the fact that the Israeli people are united in fighting terrorism and see a government which is dedicated to eradicating the terrorist infrastructure.
So I think the two situations are totally non-comparable.
BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, is the U.S. Congress, in your opinion, open to the notion of introducing U.S. military personnel in some capacity as observers or monitors or peacekeepers, to separate Israeli and Palestinian forces on the West Bank?
HYDE: That's a question we may have to face in the future, but not the immediate future. There is no point in considering peacekeepers until there is peace. Now, once there is peace, that question will rise.
I don't think it would be very popular with the American people to send troops over there, although I heard Condoleezza Rice talk about monitors this morning, and that might be something where we could be useful. But right now I don't -- I think it's very premature until we have peace.
BLITZER: Are you open to that notion, Congressman Lantos? LANTOS: I fully share Henry's view. I don't think American troops at this stage would be helpful. I think the American troops would be involved in hostilities that would not be productive in any sense.
The Israeli defense forces are fully capable of defending Israel. We are not equipped to deal with suicide terrorists any more than are the Israelis. They probably are better equipped to deal with that than we are.
BLITZER: All right. Congressmen, stand by. We have more to talk about, including more viewer phone calls from the United States and from around the world.
We'll be right back with the two top members of the House International Relations Committee.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
We have some additional information on this second meeting between the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and the visiting secretary of state, Colin Powell. We are now told that, following this second meeting, an Israeli official telling us that there's been no official Israeli timetable for a withdrawal from those parts of the West Bank recently reoccupied by the Israeli military, no official timetable made available to the secretary of state. Although earlier, on this program, we did hear from the foreign minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, say that that withdrawal is now expected to be completed within 10 days to two weeks.
Let's bring back our two guests, the two top members of the House International Relations Committee, the chairman, Henry Hyde, and the ranking Democrat, Tom Lantos.
Gentlemen, we have another caller, this one from Kentucky. Kentucky, go ahead.
CALLER: How you doing? I'd like to know why the Israels objects to the United Nations coming in to set up a buffer zone between the Palestinians and the Israels. The Palestinians have agreed to it.
LANTOS: The United Nations...
BLITZER: That's a fair question, and let me point out to both of you, Congressmen, that Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, spoke on this very issue earlier this week. Listen to what Kofi Annan had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I think the parties, left to themselves, cannot resolve this conflict. We've seen what has happened in the past 18 months. They do need third-party assistance. And I think we should press ahead and provide that assistance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, are you on board with the U.N. secretary general on that very sensitive point? HYDE: Well, I hadn't thought about this at all. If it involves military personnel of the United States, I'm not for it at this time. There has to be a lot of reconciliation and peacekeeping and the desire to solve this problem, before we get into buffer zones.
I'd be interested in my colleague Tom's reaction.
LANTOS: Well, thank you, Henry.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman Lantos, go ahead.
LANTOS: Well, Kofi Annan is a very well-meaning international diplomat, but the facts are the facts. The United Nations, throughout almost its entire history, has been pathologically anti-Israel, and to have a United Nations military presence in the area would, first of all, be unacceptable to Israel, secondly would be fully counterproductive.
If I may add one thing to an earlier point, under many American presidents for the last 60 years, Republicans and Democrats, we learned that we cannot appease dictators, whether they are called Hitler or Stalin or by any other name. We now have to learn, under President Bush, that we cannot appease terrorism.
One of the reasons why the president had such tremendous support early on, when he spoke with such force and eloquence to a joint session of Congress, was that he had moral clarity. I think it's extremely critical, in our own best national interests, that we do not lose that moral clarity. There is no moral equivalence between a nation defending itself and terrorist groups attempting to kill innocent civilians, to terrorize the rest of the population.
With respect to this question of the timetable, Mr. Blitzer, let me just say the obvious. The president is on record saying, "We will carry on the global war against terrorism as long as it takes."
Now, we have been in Afghanistan now for over six months. The Israelis have been attempting to destroy the terrorist infrastructure for two weeks. Whether it takes another 10 days or two weeks, in the scheme of things, it's immaterial. Terrorism cannot be negotiated, it has to be defeated.
BLITZER: Congressman Tom Lantos of California and the chairman, Henry Hyde of Illinois, unfortunately, gentlemen, we are all out of time. We'll have to continue this conversation on another occasion. But thanks so much for joining us on Late Edition. Appreciate it very much.
And when we return, Bruce Morton's essay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON: Pedophilia is shocking, is, to use the word the president uses, "evil," evil beyond most other kinds of crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Struggling to overcome the world's tragedies. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for Bruce Morton's essay.
MORTON: (inaudible) in Jerusalem where violence is visible in the street every day. Americans are following that story, but they're also following another one of secret violence, secret bad things done by priests to children.
It is especially anguishing for Roman Catholics, but it affects everyone because pedophilia is not, of course, limited to priests. In fact, is probably rarer among priests than among the rest of the population.
It is special kind of tragedy. The child hit by a bomb somehow affects us more than an adult victim. And the child abused by someone he trusts -- priests, imam, philosophy teacher, football coach, whomever -- is more affecting than an adult who is the victim of sexual abuse.
Pedophilia is shocking. It is, to use a word the president uses, evil, evil beyond most other kinds of crimes. The kids carry the effects of the abuse for use, so it is a crime which echoes down the generations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): The Archdiocese of Boston has failed to protect one of our most precious gifts, our children.
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MORTON: And it is particularly awful when church leaders cover it up.
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(UNKNOWN): Even one case of this is a disaster for the church.
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MORTON: It is fair to note, as Washington's Archbishop, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick does, that more is known about pedophilia now than was 25 years ago. It is fair to note, as he also does, that priests are held to higher standard than other people. But as the cardinal adds, of course they should be.
But having said all that, it is hard to ignore the reports of cover-ups of priests with histories of sexual abuse being shuttled from parish to parish with no one in the new place warned of what these sick priests were.
It is tragic when a trust figure -- a teacher, a priest -- preys on a child. It is even more tragic when a religious leader knowingly conceals such sins, and that seems to have happened.
You can argue about blame in the Middle East -- Israelis, Palestinians -- there may be enough to go around. You could argue that pedophile priests are sick, not wicked. But covering up what they did? Hard not say that's evil.
So a week of violence in Israel, of guilty secrets and muddled standards here. But also in London the funeral of a small woman who lived in a time when many people seem to know what the right thing to do was and mostly did it. The greatest generation? Maybe.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
And our coverage of the crisis in the Middle East on this special Late Edition will continue when we come back. We'll have a news alert. We'll update you on all the dramatic developments that have occurred here during the course of the past several hours.
We'll also speak with Israeli and Palestinian doctors about how all of these tragedies, the terrorism, the warfare is effecting real people in Israel and the West Bank as well as Gaza. Our special Late Edition will continue, right after this.
BLITZER: The psychological impact of all the terrorism is having a devastating toll on Israelis, left and right, across the board.
Joining me now is an Isreali psychologist, Dr. Danny Brom, who has been watching all of this impact very, very closely.
Dr. Brom, thank you for joining us.
I've been a frequent visitor to Israel. I've covered this story for many years. I have to tell you that, even in the few days that I've been here, Israelis are basically scared to leave their apartments and their homes. It must be a traumatic psychological toll that's being affected right now.
DANIEL BROM, ISRAELI PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, well, terror, we know -- half of the world nowadays knows terror terrorizes, so we get very afraid.
At the same time, I see that when there is a few days without terror, people get back and they cope and they go back to town and wherever they want to go.
So you see fear, but what you see also a lot is a lot of anger, a lot of anger toward people who do this. And that is the cycle in which we are entangled at this moment.
BLITZER: And so what's the impact of this anger on average Israelis? You have been talking to a lot of them over these past few weeks.
BROM: Well, in a strange way, I don't think that our, let's say, enemies want to do this, but it unites us. It brings us all together, and you see that people say, "We have to do something." And when people are very afraid, they say, "You know, how can it be that someone sends us people to blow us up and then is indignant to us sending or hating back?" So people are much more united than they might have been a year ago.
BLITZER: It is having a toll on young people, on kids, on teenagers, the entire sequence of these suicide bombing attacks?
BROM: Of course it has. People cannot go and cannot do what they want to do. They cannot go out and enjoy themselves in cafes until this is over. And in general, people think, well, at some point, this will be over.
The kids are really disturbed by this, and you see more violence also in the schools. And you see people are angry and agitated, and they need a lot of services in order to get that contained.
BLITZER: So is it translating into real psychological problems for these young people at school or in their homes? How is it being translated?
BROM: For some. For some it means that they have difficulties concentrating, difficulties to go on with their lives. But for most it doesn't. For most people do cope and are very strong.
The people who are more affected, they shown signs of post- traumatic stress disorder. They have signs of depression. And they need to be treated, and that's what we try to do.
BLITZER: You are a clinical psychologist.
BLITZER: So, the clients that you have, the patients that come to see you, what are the symptoms, what are the problems that they're manifesting?
BROM: What basically -- we see kids who have seen a suicide bomber blow himself up, even a lot of kids who saw a suicide bomber who did not succeed and they saw his head rolling on. Of course this is an image that you get stuck with, or you can get stuck with. And that is what a lot of kids say, that they need something in order to get rid of that picture.
BLITZER: So what advice are you giving parents to help them cope with the potential psychological problems their kids are going to have?
BROM: The first thing is information. People need to know what is a normal coping process. They have to know that you can help yourself and help your children by relaxing, by exactly what people are doing. When something is really dangerous, you don't go there. When you suffer from images that are very frightening, you have to let it go and accept it and accept the feeling in your body, and then you get rid of it.
BLITZER: Israel has been at war on and off almost from the day it began in 1948, nearly 54 years ago. On Wednesday, the Israelis will be celebrating their independence day.
What's different about this crisis right now as opposed to all the previous crises Israel has faced?
BROM: Well, I do think that most people when they are in crisis, when they experience existential threat, they feel it's never been this bad. And that's what you hear from a lot of people. And if you ask them, "Well, have you had this feeling that it's never been that bad, have you had that before?" They said, "Oh, yes, I've had that many times."
So it's very difficult to know. But there is an existential threat and people are both afraid and angry, and they don't know what to do. Because a few years ago we knew what to do -- we thought we knew what to do -- and it didn't work. So now we have to think of another way. BLITZER: We are standing by. We want to bring in a Palestinian psychiatrist, Dr. Ayad Serag (ph). He's going to be joining us, hopefully, from Gaza shortly.
But I don't know if you deal with Palestinians yourself as part of your practice. I'm wondering what kind of psychological effect they have had -- if you've had a chance to study this -- as a result of the Israeli military occupation that's continuing in the West Bank?
BROM: Well, it's a very strange thing that I have a colleague who works in similar field in the West Bank and is doing similar things, going into schools, helping the teachers cope with the children and helping the parents cope with their children, and we are doing that on this side. And at the same time, it's going on and on and on. And we see very similar things.
BLITZER: The Palestinian kids must be psychologically traumatized as well.
BROM: Well, yes, that is true. At the same time, they might have a frame of mind -- and being taught that this is a holy war frames it in a, what I see as a very difficult and maybe dangerous thing. But you see that a lot, you hear that a lot. If you reframe it in a way, "This is what we have to do and we have to blow up all the Jews," then that gives a different meaning to your whole coping process.
BLITZER: Is there any dialogue that you see -- we know an organization, Seeds of Peace, that tries to bring young Israelis and young Palestinians together to talk to each other to try to establish a dialogue at a very human level. Is there anything that's unfolding like that right now?
BROM: There was a lot going on. At this moment, I'm not sure. There are some almost secret organizations that try to do that, because it's the only way. Well, it's my profession is to talk, so that's where I see the solution. But at the same time, at this moment, it's hardly possible to meet.
BLITZER: All right, Dr. Brom, stand by. I want to continue this conversation. Hopefully, we'll bring in your Palestinian counterpart, Dr. Ayad Serag (ph), from Gaza.
We're going to take a quick break. We'll be standing by for your phone calls as well. Late Edition will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem. We're continuing our conversation with Dr. Danny Brom. He's an Israeli clinical psychologist.
We're also attempting to get on the line Dr. Ayad Serag (ph). He's a Palestinian psychiatrist who's been studying the effect of all of this warfare on young Palestinians. And Dr. Brom is studying the effect on Israelis across the board. We were talking about the impact on young people. But there has to be an enormous impact on older people as well.
BROM: Of course there is. There are all kinds of groups who are especially vulnerable. There is a group of new immigrants, a lot of them from the former Soviet Union who came here in the past 15 years and don't have their support system so much in place. And when they go through such events, they're, of course, extra vulnerable. The same is true for elderly who are maybe more lonely than other members of society. So there are all kinds of groups that are more vulnerable.
BLITZER: The stereotype, as you well know, around the world is of Israelis as tough, hardened fighters who have dealt with these kinds of problems enormously and shouldn't necessarily have these kinds of psychological fall-offs, psychological problems that we've been talking about. That stereotype is clearly not correct.
BROM: Well, when you are -- when you experience an existential threat, then you don't allow yourself to be weak. So, that's what's happening. When our children go out and fight, they cannot say, "I'm afraid." Yes, they are afraid, but they will be tough.
BLITZER: This society doesn't let them say they're afraid? Can people just acknowledge, "I'm scared out of mind. I don't want to go to a restaurant or a supermarket"?
BROM: No, they can, they can say they're afraid, and people do say it. But at the same time, there is also this feeling of anger, and that is "We won't let someone take away our lives."
And at the same time, we also say -- we also feel that something has to be done. We cannot just let this go and let suicide bombers come in.
So, there is some toughness in there, in this anger and this feeling that something has to be done. We can't let this happen.
BLITZER: So terrorists who want to terrorize, they've been successful, when all is said and done, in terrorizing a lot of people here.
BROM: Short run. I think it's successful short run. Of course, when you see someone blow himself up or when you're physically hurt, of course you're afraid and everyone is afraid seeing these things.
At the same time, I'm not sure that, in long run, you see that. A few days without a terrorist attack and people do come back and they bounce back into a normal life.
BLITZER: OK. Dr. Danny Brom, I want to thank you very much.
And I want to apologize to our viewers. We had hoped to bring you Dr. Ayad Serag (ph), a Palestinian psychiatrist who was supposed to join us from Gaza. There has been technical problems. Unfortunately we have not been able to bring him to you. Hopefully we'll get him on CNN later today or tomorrow at some point, get the Palestinian perspective on the psychological impact of the Israeli military occupation, the Israeli military campaign that continues in the West Bank.
We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, Late Edition's Final Round.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
We'll be getting to our Late Edition Final Round shortly, but we've managed to fix our technical problems, and I'd like to welcome now to Late Edition Dr. Ayad Serag. He's a psychiatrist, a Palestinian psychiatrist. He joins us now live from Gaza.
Dr. Serag, sorry for the technical problems. Good to see you on Late Edition. Welcome to our program.
We were talking with your Israeli colleague, Dr. Danny Brom, about the psychological stress that Israelis are facing as a result of the terrorist attacks. Talk to us about the psychological impact on Palestinians, both young and old, as a result of this most recent flare-up of tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
AYAD SERAG, PALESTINIAN PSYCHIATRIST: Well, I want to, first, to thank you for this occasion.
And second, I would like to begin by telling the whole world, particularly the American administration, that our Israeli and Palestinian children deserve better, and much better. There has been so much suffering. And both need now peace, dignity and freedom.
The question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resulted in generations of traumatized children. Today's suicide bombers are the children of the first intifada, who witnessed so much of suffering, so much of trauma, including destruction of their homes, beating of their fathers, humiliation, plus the number of stories of torture and so on.
So, it has resulted in a kind of intense feeling of indignation and the desire for revenge on personal and on national level.
Children normally need security...
BLITZER: Dr. Serag, tell us...
SERAG: ... they need warmth.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Dr. Serag (ph).
SERAG: Yes? Yes, I can hear you.
BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, Dr. Serag, you say a whole generation of young Palestinian children have been raised under this Israeli military occupation that's been going on now for some 35 years. But you obviously can't condone these suicide bombers.
What motivates them to go ahead and kill as many Israeli civilians as possible?
SERAG: Well, I am totally and categorically against the suicide bombing and the injury of civilians in Israel or elsewhere. I believe that this is counterproductive, and I believe that it is contrary to what I commit myself to the basic principles of human rights and the dignity of human beings, anywhere.
So I, as much as I condemn the Israeli atrocities, I do the same when it comes to Palestinian violence attacking civilians.
BLITZER: How, Dr. Serag, have the young Palestinians -- obviously, there's only a small number that have decided to become so- called martyrs or shahids (ph) and go ahead and willing to blow themselves up in order to kill Israelis. But by and large, the overwhelming -- most of the young Palestinians have no such desire. They want to live.
But what kind of psychological impact has this most recent Israeli military assault had on these young Palestinians?
SERAG: Well, if Mr. Sharon has succeeded in something now, these last two weeks, he has succeeded in making both the Israelis and the Palestinians believe that there is no hope for peace. He has managed to put new seeds of hatred in the hearts and in the soil of the Palestinian areas, by the way he treated our president, by the way he treated our infrastructure, by the way he treated our civilians and also forces.
And the images on the Palestinian and Arab satellite TV channels are so horrific, so frightening that it has a serious impact on every children in Gaza. Today, for instance, in Gaza, the incidence of bed- wetting at night up to the age of 15 is 35 percent of our children. Normally, it is 7 percent. Every child now doesn't like to sleep alone. They like to sleep with the parents, and even sometimes in the same bed, because they are so terrified.
SERAG: I went home a few weeks ago, and my little niece, who is 4 years old, told me, she was sitting on the stairs, "My uncle, today we are all going to die." I said, "Why?" And she said, "Because the Israelis will send their bombs."
This kind of effect on the children is horrific, and it has an impact on them. They are -- in the past, and you know, ironically, during the first intifada, children liked to identify with symbols of power.
At that time, when we allowed them to express their feelings by play, there was a very popular game called Arabs and Jews. And many of our Palestinian children preferred to play the role of the Jew, the Israeli, because for them, the Israeli soldier was a representation of power. But that was very traumatic for them, because how could they allow themselves to identify with what is known as the enemy? And that was resulting in behavioral problems, school problems, et cetera, et cetera. Today, the model is the fighter, the Palestinian militant, the Palestinian martyr who wants to sacrifice himself for the sake of the nation.
But my point of view is that we should protect our children from violence...
BLITZER: Dr. Serag, is that Palestinian martyr or suicide bomber, is that Palestinian admired by and large by young Palestinians? And do they want to emulate that suicide bomber, whether male or female?
SERAG: Well, the martyr today is highly respected in our culture, because it is a glorified form of people who are ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of nation, for the sake of the country and for the sake of freedom. You can compare them with the unknown soldier. When America, or any country, goes into war, even if it is a dirty war, people will still glorify their soldiers.
These are considered by this environment as our only soldiers, since we don't have Phantom 16 or Apaches or tanks or whatever. The only bomb we have, sadly and tragically, is a human bomb. And now this bomb has become the model.
And I hope that with the new process of resuming talks now with direct involvement of the Americans, we can stop all this cycle of violence and bring some peace and security and dignity to both the Israeli and the Palestinian children.
BLITZER: Dr. Ayad Serag, thanks so much for joining us from Gaza. Let's hope that that hope that you have will be materialized and this cycle of violence come to an end. The traumatic impact on both Palestinians and Israelis clearly very, very deep. We appreciate your joining us today.
Our Late Edition Final Round is coming up.
I'll be back later this hour with the latest on the crisis on the Middle East.
This additional note, tomorrow, Monday, I'll have an exclusive interview with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, on our special edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports, tomorrow, Monday.
In the meantime, stay with us. We'll be right back with Late Edition's Final Round.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to the Washington leg of Late Edition. I'm Candy Crowley. Wolf will be back with some closing thoughts in just about 30 minutes.
Now welcome to the Final Round. Joining me, Donna Brazile, Democratic political strategist; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the New York Post. We begin with Secretary of State Colin Powell's meeting with Yasser Arafat. Earlier today, national security advisor Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. held firm with the Palestinian chairman, and she insisted that President Bush is consistent in his Middle East policy.
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CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The secretary went in to deliver a very strong message to Chairman Arafat that the president and all are watching to make certain that he follows up on some of the very positive statements that the Palestinian Authority made yesterday about denouncing the bombing that took place in Jerusalem, about denouncing terrorism against citizens and that now it is time to follow those words with action.
The president could not have been clearer. It is not that Israel does not have the right to defend itself, but it is that, in taking certain actions, Israel needs to be cognizant of the fact that it will never solve this problem by military power alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Peter, how are we going to figure out, when Powell does come home, whether his trip was a success or not?
PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, in the short term, he needs a cease-fire, which means no more suicide bombings, and a real Israeli withdrawal. But I think, in the longer term, he needs the reestablishment of a political process. And that can't take place until the Bush administration makes it clear that our war on terrorism and Israel's war on terrorism are fundamentally different.
Israel, although they have the right to self-defense, is a fighting a people. You can't defeat a people militarily, and that means we have to go to a political process.
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: I mean, I think Peter is partly right that there is, obviously, there is this dynamic between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
However, I mean it's going to be a success for Powell if he gets home, because part of the problem we've got here is that Powell -- we don't know when he's coming home, and the United States' broader war on terrorism has become bogged down in the context of the Middle East policy.
CROWLEY: But look beyond that, does it matter -- I mean, should we be stuck on this? Is this a success, is it not a success? Isn't it enough just to have tried?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I agree. That's not the question. The question is whether or not the Bush administration finally has a Middle East policy that Secretary Powell can bring to both parties and say, "Here's our plan. Here's what we think you all should be doing," and then stick with it, versus this inconsistent policy from one day to the next. I think that's what we need to have on the table.
JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": And Candy, when you ask, "Isn't it enough to be trying," we've been trying for depending on how many years you count, 35 years, 50 years, 60 years. Trying clearly isn't the measure of things. It's results at this point.
GOLDBERG: And while I agree with Peter that, in one sense, that the war that the Israelis are having is different than the war we're having, the real problem with framing this is you cannot be consistent and be against terrorism and, at the same time, have a consistent Middle East policy. One has to give, because Israel indisputably is fighting terrorism. And if we're at war with terrorism, then Israel is on our side.
Now, if you want to say -- if you want to split hairs about what terrorism means or declare that this is a different kind of war and it's not against terrorism, which is a tactic, that's fine. But as it stands now, Israel is at war with terrorism and so are we. And no matter what, it's going to make Bush look inconsistent.
CROWLEY: Let me move us on to another define-your-terms sort of question.
The Bush administration says the term "suicide bomber" is a mischaracterization of the Palestinians who have killed Israeli civilians and themselves. In our quote of the week, White House secretary, Ari Fleischer, called them "homicide bombers."
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ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are not suicide bombings. These are not people who just kill themselves. These are people who deliberately go to murder others with no regard to the values of their own life. These are murderers.
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CROWLEY: So, Jonah, you're over there trying to make peace between, you know, the Palestinians and Israel. Is this sort of comment -- is that helpful to Colin Powell as he's over there?
GOLDBERG: As far as I'm concerned, I really don't care. Worrying about the self-esteem of murderers is not the position that the United States should be worrying about. If they find it offensive that we're calling them homicide bombers instead of suicide bombers, so be it.
People have been killing themselves in protest since the dawn of mankind. But these people aren't killing themselves in protest, they're killing other people in protest.
BRAZILE: They are murderers. They're just simply murderers. I don't think we should try to figure out the strategy by calling them murderers or suicide bombers. They are murderers.
But the most important objective right now is that Secretary Powell put something on the table to get these sides back to the negotiating table soon.
CROWLEY: Well, wait a minute. While we're trying to get some sort of traction in the Palestinian community, is it helpful to say, "Your method of fighting back, you're just a bunch of murderers"? That's the question, isn't it?
GEORGE: It's an interesting flip, but I think it's, in a sense, trying to reestablish some moral ground here.
And actually, I don't think that this was as much directed at the Palestinians or the Arabs as it was to Europe. Because I think he's trying to once again force Europe, that has been incredibly, harshly critical of Israel's position, making them realize that Israel is being targeted by murderers. And at least try and make them recognize the position that Israel is in.
CROWLEY: Peter, I want to give you the next at-bat. But let me just -- we've got a phone call from California and a question. So let me -- go ahead, California, with your question.
CALLER: Hi, this is California.
CALLER: And I wonder why President Bush thinks it's necessary for the Israelis to negotiate with terrorists like Yasser Arafat via the Secretary of State Colin Powell, when President Bush had a perfect opportunity to negotiate with the Taliban and they agreed to hand over to him Osama bin Laden and he refused to negotiate with the Taliban. It seems like an extreme double standard to me.
CROWLEY: This is back, sort of, to the first question.
BEINART: That's right. I mean, I really think is one of the basic problems here, is there's a fundamental difference. You can hate Yasser Arafat as much as you want, and I do. But there is a fundamental difference between him and Osama bin Laden, because he is the legitimate, in the sense of most Palestinians support him, leader of a national liberation movement. You cannot militarily crush a national liberation movement, be it in Palestine or anywhere else. You ultimately have to come to a political settlement.
GEORGE: So if you kill people over a course of many years, as Yasser Arafat has done, but then you get elected, you suddenly become legitimate?
BEINART: No, you don't all of a suddenly become legitimate. But as a question of real politique, you can't -- you can occupy the Palestinian people, but ultimately the only way to fundamentally solve the problem will be a Palestinian state, and you can't choose the Palestinian leaders for them. I think they've made a very bad decision choosing Arafat, but we can't choose that leader for them.
GEORGE: No, look, even Shimon Peres on CNN today. He admitted that Arafat has been elected. But at the same time...
BEINART: The Israelis will not talk to him. They keep on saying, "We're waiting for the next leader." There is no next leader. GOLDBERG: Well, they're hopefully there will be unless he's immortal and you know something I don't know.
BEINART: But the next -- if Israel tries to dictate...
CROWLEY: Be careful what you wish for.
BRAZILE: We're talking about right-now time, and right-now time is Yasser Arafat, perhaps evil or whatever, necessary. But Secretary Powell had to meet with someone, and he's the elected representative of the Palestinian people.
GOLDBERG: The word "elected" is...
GOLDBERG: ... people has chosen him. Basically what Yasser Arafat has done for decades is kill anybody who would challenge him. The idea that somehow that's a way -- or that his people would choose him is a bit of a stolen base.
BEINART: But there's no question that most Palestinians see Arafat as their leader, better for worse. And there are many, many awful guerrilla leaders in the world, who governments have had to sit down with and make peace deals with because you have to deal with them.
GOLDBERG: And that's what did in Oslo, and the one thing -- the one thing that the Palestinians swore that they would do was they would reject violence. It was the one thing -- they were totally beaten. They sided with Saddam Hussein. And we said, look; the Israelis said, look; the Americans said, look, we will talk to you about giving you state. We don't have to. The Americans didn't have to do any of that, and they said all you have to do is give up violence. Yasser Arafat said no. And he didn't give up violence.
CROWLEY: Time, time, time, got to call time.
We have to take a short break. Your phone calls and e-mails for our panel when we come back.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to the Final Round.
Later this week, Secretary Powell heads to neighboring Syria. Earlier today, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Wolf Blitzer that Syria is a major part of this problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERES: Let's not forget that in Damascus itself, there are 10 headquarters of different terroristic organizations. And yet Syria is a member of the Security Council. It's absurd. The Syrians must decide if they belong to the security of the world or the insecurity of the world of terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So, Donna, is Syria more dangerous, more volatile, that area?
BRAZILE: Oh, no question. I mean, since January, Candy, Hezbollah and some of those other radical groups have lobbed 23 attacks over the northern border of Israel. Everyone knows that Syria gives tactical, if not military, support to Hezbollah.
And so I think it's important that Secretary Powell not only go over to Lebanon but also to Syria and just say, "Look, you guys, this is it. You are not going to engage Israel in this war." And I think it's important for Israel to support Secretary Powell on his mission now to those two countries.
GEORGE: I think of Bashar Assad is up to some mischief that I think he -- I think he wants to show the rest of the Arab League that he can be just as vicious as his late father is. And so I think that's one of the reasons why he has been supporting Hezbollah even more overtly than in previous times.
CROWLEY: But is what we're talking about a wider war? And what's in it for Syria? I mean, Syria doesn't want a wider war.
BEINART: Yes, I think -- my guess would be that they're bluffing, that they're not really willing to push this to the point of Israeli retaliation.
Particularly because Sharon, I think, has been very smart. I'll give him credit here. He has not retaliated against Lebanon, which past Israeli prime ministers have done. He's focusing on Syria, which is actually the real cause.
And the interesting thing is the Bush administration, more and more, itself talks about Syria instead of North Korea as the third leg of the international axis of terrorism. And I think that there's a real showdown coming.
CROWLEY: And, Jonah, isn't this sort of why you do need a broader Arab support, you know, for anything that happens between the Palestinians and Israel? Because it's like whackaball. I mean, you hit something over here and it pops up over here.
GOLDBERG: You know, I think that's right to an extent, but you got to remember that the Syrians have been fomenting unrest in the Middle East for all of these years. They have a vested interest, as they see it, in not having a peace process and in not having peace with the Palestinians. And so, I mean, the question at the top was, is it more volatile and more dangerous than the West Bank? I think it's more dangerous, but it's not more volatile, because Syria actually is a classical dictatorship. And they're playing real games, and they know how to play these games, and they will back off short of war.
GEORGE: And this is the essence of state-sponsored terrorism.
CROWLEY: Right. Because they don't want the broader war, right? It's just...
BRAZILE: But it's going to be difficult for Israel to fight a two-front war at this time, given the enormous war that they're fighting right now on the West Bank.
BEINART: There will not be peace between Israel and Syria, because Israel will never give back the Golan Heights. And what America should do is exclude the Syrians and try to make a peace deal with the other Arab states, because Israel should never, and will never, give back the Golan Heights.
CROWLEY: Let's switch gears here and move on to some domestic politics, my forte here.
CROWLEY: After more than a year of laying low, in one way or another, former Vice President Al Gore has re-emerged this weekend at Florida's state Democratic convention. Gore blasted President Bush and the Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: I'm tired of this right-wing side wind. I've had it. America's economy is suffering unnecessarily. Important American values are being trampled. Special interests are calling the shots.
And it sometimes seems as if, in the words of the poet, "The best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity." If you agree with me, then stand up with conviction for what we believe in and fight for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Well, poetry and red meat all in one thing. You got to love it.
Robert, I'm not really sure, is this Gore 2000? Is this Gore 2004? Who is that?
GEORGE: I was a little bit confused. I wasn't sure if he was the best but he just happened to lack conviction, or if he was just the worst and had a lot of passion and intensity.
I mean, there's a little bit of confusion there.
Well, look, this was actually a nice, good old fiery Al Gore, circa the convention of 2000. And you know, obviously for a red-meat Democrat crowd, I think his words, you know, certainly carried the day.
But the thing is, the context is changed now. You know, I don't think, you know, the world -- he can't turn off 9/11 at all. And I think everybody filters domestic politics, even that, in the context of the larger world events. CROWLEY: Donna, I mean, was there sort of an atonal effect of this? You know, the whole word sort of riveted on one part of the world and now we're back...
BRAZILE: Look, Al Gore made it very clear that he supports the commander in chief in the war on terrorism, and the Democratic Party will remain firm on that issue.
But on the other had, we have an election in 205 days. And Al Gore is still one of the most credible, effective messengers for the Democratic Party, and he delivered a very strong message. It was music to the ears of the 2,500 delegates. I was in attendance. And I must tell you, that was vintage Gore. And I hope Al Gore continues to stand up and fight.
BRAZILE: And former chairwoman of his campaign.
So, Peter, what's your view?
BEINART: Yes, I think you see here why Gore is such a formidable candidate. I mean, he really sucked all the oxygen. No one talked about the fact that John Edwards gave a speech that same day. The only -- and he has a lot of institutional support. He'll raise a lot of money.
Another Democrat will have to take him on on the issues. I think another Democrat will have to actually break with him and actually attack Bush on the war, and then I think you'll see an interesting debate.
CROWLEY: Jonah, 15 seconds, be the shortest but the best.
GOLDBERG: Well, OK, well, first of all, he was clearly sweating like a fat man at an all-you-can-eat pasta bar.
Second of all...
BEINART: Keeping this on a high plane.
GOLDBERG: ... it was nothing but -- I mean, I'm one of the guys -- I'm one of the worst, full of passion and intensity, according to Al Gore. And I would say that it was a lot of boilerplate for the rank and file. The worst thing that happened to him was that it was broadcast on C-SPAN for normal Americans to see.
BRAZILE: He finally got the 2000 campaign off his chest. That's what he was sweating out.
GOLDBERG: Fair enough.
CROWLEY: These views are their own.
We have to take another quick break. Our lightning round is just ahead. Stay with us.
CROWLEY: Time now for our lightning round.
Cardinal Bernard Law said he will continue to serve as archbishop of Boston, defying those who have criticized his actions in the clergy sexual-abuse scandal. Can he be an effective shepherd to his flock?
I'm flanked by two Catholics. We're going to let you handle this.
GEORGE: It's absolutely repugnant. We talked about this a little bit before, when the earlier revelations came out. We found out this week that Law protected this one priest, Shanley, who had multiple child-molestation cases, and then sent him, you know, and then transferred him to California and other states.
Both the liberal Boston Globe and the conservative Manchester Union-Leader called for his resignation. And I think he should resign, and I think the Vatican, frankly, should step in and insist upon it.
CROWLEY: Donna, this is one of the closest to the Vatican, Cardinal Law, right? I mean, he's their man here.
BRAZILE: The Vatican has been totally detached from this situation. They basically say, you all do it on your own over in America.
And I think that Bishop Gregory, the head of all of the bishops, should really pull together the Church in June, when they meet in Dallas, and shake up the leadership of the Church. And this has not shaken the faith of devout Catholics, but it is shaking up the institution across the board, and we should have a zero tolerance on sexual predators.
CROWLEY: We're going to move on. Flamboyant Democratic Congressman James Traficant was convicted on Friday of racketeering and corruption charges. He can lose his congressional seat if two-thirds of the House members approve a move to expel him.
Will they beam him up? And will he run again this time as an independent?
Go ahead, you predict what James Traficant's going to do, Peter.
BEINART: That's right. I hope he runs and he gets crushed, because, you know, he represents Youngstown, which is a very depressed district. They deserve a real congressman who will help them, not this -- a corrupt lunatic like Traficant. Good riddance.
CROWLEY: Whoa, Jonah...
GOLDBERG: I don't have much to add to that. I mean, we now know why that hair is like that, he's got a nail-file in there.
But I don't think anyone's going to expel him from Congress before this election, just because it's going to be so tight, and you need two-thirds to do it, but who knows?
BRAZILE: I think the voters will expel him, this time.
GEORGE: Actually, what I think is going to happen is that, if he does run as an independent, I think it's likely a Republican will replace him, because he'll split the Democratic vote.
CROWLEY: And we're going to move on to another congressperson in trouble. Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia is questioning whether the Bush administration had advance warning of the September 11 attacks but did nothing to prevent them. Is this just another conspiracy theory?
Donna, this, you know, she's been -- we should add that both Democratic senators from Georgia have said, whoa.
BRAZILE: I don't she'll get a chorus in the Congress or among the American people on what she said. It was -- I don't know the context, but I don't agree with her statements at all.
CROWLEY: Well, where did this come from? Where does -- I mean, you know, sometimes you can always see where someone comes from. What is this...
GOLDBERG: She has a known track record of saying things that are both pugnaciously stupid and pugnaciously evil.
And to go around saying, basically for political gain, that the president of the United States and his entire administration allowed the murder -- consciously allowed the murder of thousands of Americans so they could line their pockets would be, from a politician taken more seriously, would be a scandal of unbelievable proportions.
GOLDBERG: It just shows how loony and out there she is. And regardless, I think the Democratic Party should come down on her like a ton of bricks. It is outrageous.
CROWLEY: Well, OK, but what's the political upside? That's what I'm trying to figure out. She is a smart woman, yes? I mean, she should know what this is...
GEORGE: I don't think she is particularly smart. Earlier on, she asked a Saudi prince to give the $10 million that Rudy Giuliani had rejected, to give it to some foundation to help racism in America. She's just out of it.
Actually I think -- I don't think this is actually Cynthia McKinney. I think Cynthia McKinney has obviously been kidnapped by space aliens and has in fact...
... been replaced by a clone that is saying these outrageous things.
CROWLEY: And, Peter, your theory...
BEINART: Well, how could you disagree with that?
No, I think Jonah is absolutely right. The Democratic Party, I think the Congressional Black Caucus, I think it's an important moment. She is a terrible, terrible congresswoman, as bad as Jim Traficant. She's been on the verge of anti-semitism. They should run a challenger against her. Her district deserves a lot better.
GEORGE: In fact, I think she is being challenged in the primary.
BEINART: Well, I will support whoever it is.
CROWLEY: Tomorrow is April 15. Have you done your taxes? We do know that President and Mrs. Bush have paid their taxes, a return of $50,000. Your taxes done?
GOLDBERG: I'm filing an extension, and I know that the kind, brilliant, patriotic people at the IRS will approve it and have no problem with it.
BRAZILE: I paid and filed my taxes last month, and I'm applying my refund until next year.
And I think the president should check off that $3.00 presidential line on his tax form.
CROWLEY: Ten seconds, I need a yes or no. Are they done?
BEINHART: The accountants have taken a lot of lumps, but I got a little help from an accountant on doing this, and so I'm indebted to them.
CROWLEY: OK, mine are filed.
Thank you all very much, as always. It's been great. Thanks very much.
We're going to go back now to Jerusalem and Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Candy Crowley, and our entire Final Round panel.
Just to recap, a dramatic day here in Jerusalem as well as in Ramallah on the West Bank. Secretary of State Colin Powell had a three hour meeting with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. He emerged saying it was useful and constructive, enough positive movement to justify more talks tomorrow between U.S. and Palestinian officials.
Later, the secretary drove to Tel Aviv for a meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. They met tonight in Tel Aviv, a meeting that has now wrapped up. The secretary continuing a private dinner at the U.S. embassy residence before coming back to Jerusalem for the night.
Tomorrow, Secretary Powell will be heading to Beirut for talks with the Lebanese government officials to discuss the tension between Israel and Lebanon as a result of tensions along the border. We will have complete coverage of that.
A couple programing notes. Tomorrow, I'll have an exclusive interview with Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon. That will be seen here on CNN, including in our special edition of Wolf Blizter Reports live from Jerusalem tomorrow.
In addition, I will be back in two hours for another special edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Later tonight, Bill Hemmer will have two Live From Jerusalem special reports at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Eastern in the United States. Bill Hemmer will be coming up right after me at the top of the hour for our viewers in the United states and around the world. One final note, I want to thank Howie Lutt (ph), my long time director in Washington, D.C., for doing an excellent job over these past few years. He's moving on to Crossfire.
Good luck, Howie. We appreciate all of your good work.
Until then, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. Good night.
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