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Israel Retaliates to Suicide Bombing by Invading Arafat Compound

Aired June 5, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE, on the left James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the "Crossfire" tonight, friends, terrorists, non-countrymen lend us your fingerprints.

JOHN ASHCROFT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: It will provide a vital line of defense in the war against terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It offends me that the Department of Justice is losing its sense of justice.

ANNOUNCER: Could new Justice Department regulations leave a black mark on the constitution?

The pictures of what happened to him are too disturbing for television, but are only a Web click away. In the "Crossfire" the man behind a link to murder.

Dirty laundry at the White House, one of the president's closest aides go public about who's out and what it means.


From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

PAUL BEGALA, HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight we discuss what might be the ultimate crime at the White House. An insider who tells the truth about what really goes on behind W's closed doors.

Also the publisher of an online newspaper defends his decision to include a link to video of Daniel Pearl's beheading.

But first, welcome to the United States, smile for the camera, add your fingerprints to our database. Don't forget to check in regularly, that is of course if your nationality or religion are on John Ashcroft's list.

This afternoon the attorney general announced new regulations to force tens of thousands of visitors to register with the government. JOHN ASHCROFT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are an open country. We welcome people from around the world to visit a land, which we believe is a blessed land. We will continue to greet our international neighbors with goodwill. Asking some neighbors and visitors to verify their activities while they're here is fully consistent with that outlook.

BEGALA: Not all visitors to the United States, though, will have to be registered and photographed and fingerprinted, but thousands will, mostly people from Muslim or Middle Eastern countries and states suspected of supporting terrorism.

Are we saying that they're guilty until proven innocent, and what's next, maybe say internment camps? In the "Crossfire" tonight, Hussein Ibish, the director of communications for the American Arab anti-discrimination committee. And joining us from the congressional barbecue at the White House on the White House lawn, Representative Mark Foley, a Florida Republican.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pleasure. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, great to see you again.

CARLSON: I think you and I can agree on one thing right off the bat, and that is that the greatest threat to the United States faces is from Islamic terrorism. Why, given that fact, shouldn't the United States keep track of visitors from Islamic countries to the United States? What - I don't understand that the crime against nature being committed here.

HUSSEIN IBISH, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI DISCRIMINATION CMTE: I wouldn't call it a crime against nature, but I would say that it offends the sensibility of a lot of people. It offends the basic sense of justice to treat tens of thousands of people as if they were criminals, to photograph and take their fingerprints, make them report regularly to the police as if they were suspects.

But having said that, of course, the United States does have the right to require that of people who want to come and visit our country. What's really scandalous about this is the fact that it doesn't apply to all non-citizens or all immigrants or all people who are here on certain kind of visas. That it's based on a discrimination of national origin...

CARLSON: OK, but ...

IBISH: ...and that I think...

CARLSON: ...see but...

IBISH: highly problematic. CARLSON: ... here's where you're missing, I mean the ruling or the new plan does not treat everyone from an Islamic country as if he was a criminal, just as he were more likely to be a criminal or at least a terrorist, and I think you agree that that's true.

IBISH: Look here's -- no, I don't -- I don't agree that it's more likely that somebody from certain countries is more likely to be a criminal than...


CARLSON: Or a terrorist.

IBISH: No, I don't agree with that, but what I do think is that if we want to start requiring, putting these frankly onerous requirements on visitors to our country, we really have to do cross the board, otherwise we'll be creating two classes of people. We'll be having, you know, people from the Middle East or people from Arab and Muslim countries here and everybody else there, and we'll be treating them differently. We'll be introducing national origin discrimination systematically into our immigration law enforcement system, and I think that's a big mistake.

BEGALA: Congressman Foley, let me bring you into this to respond to that. It seems to me that the policy announced today by the attorney general is both over brought and under brought. It will drag in tens of thousands of perfectly innocent people and, of course, exempt the al Qaeda terrorists. You don't believe that the al Qaeda terrorists who we know are here in America today and hiding from justice are going to go and report for their fingerprinting with John Ashcroft. Do you?

REP. MARK FOLEY, (R), FLORIDA: They're not - in fact that's my biggest problem with the proposal. I'd rather do the fingerprinting and background checks before they come here during their visa application. I, as a member of Congress, if I go to Haiti, I have to get a visa application. So I think it's fair to fully examine before they set foot on American soil, then we don't have, if you will, this check in and reporting standard.

BEGALA: Well but this is profiling at its worst. Isn't it Congressman and you, at least, have been candid enough to say, let's go out and profile people based on their race and ethnicity. But the problem with it is well - actually let me -- if you can listen, I know you can't - you don't have a video monitor there, but I'd like to play you a clip from the executive director of the Council on American- Islamic Relations, a man named Nawad Awad, who, I think, hit the nail on the head of you're covering and who you're not. Just take a listen.

NIHAD AWAD, EXEC. DIR. COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Richard Reid will not fit the profile. John Walker will not fit the profile. And that tells us that terrorism comes in all colors and races and you should not just focus on one ethnicity and one race. It is -- it is pure form of racism and it is ineffective. BEGALA: And in fact Congressman, Richard Reid, the alleged shoe bomber was coming from England. John Walker, the alleged American Taliban was coming from Marin County. Should we also extend this to say Marin County and into England?

FOLEY: I would like to expand it to other places because there's no question, Mr. Moussaoui came from France. People can come from Latin America. People can come from all over. I do...

BEGALA: How about Marin County? How about -- let's -- how about Marin County? We -- you know in California we had a bunch of (UNITELLIGIBLE) we open them and take...


BEGALA: ...who from...

FOLEY: That's not at all ...

BEGALA: ...the right wing crazies there might be in California ...

FOLEY: Paul, that's not the proposal. That's not what we're talking about. But al Qaeda is not an equal opportunity employer. They basically recruit from seven countries. There are 290 countries in the globe. We think we need to focus on those who are most likely to commit the terrorist activities. But I do believe and I agree that we should expand and make it a little bit more difficult to come into the United States. These ...


FOLEY: ...people are our guests.


FOLEY: They are our guests and we should expect them not only to abide by the laws, but be fully prepared to at least explain themselves prior to their arrival in the United States of America.


CARLSON: Let's put this in some perspective.

IBISH: Go right ahead.

CARLSON: If I want to travel to many parts of Asia, I got to get a visa, I take an Aids test, a lot of countries I have to be fingerprinted. Now the country from which these people will be coming are almost to a country repressive authoritarian society, in which, for instance, practicing a religion apart from Islam is illegal. For instance, in Saudi Arabia you can beheaded for convincing a Muslim to convert to Christianity. So it's not exactly like these people are leaving...

IBISH: Well... CARLSON: ...a human rights paradise to come to the oppressive U.S. It's ridiculous.

IBISH: ...of course not, but that doesn't justify changing our laws and changing our standards.

CARLSON: It's not a change. This has been the law...

IBISH: No, no, no...

CARLSON: ...since 1952.


IBISH: I understand that. In fact, that's actually what sort of telling about it, is that it's a throw back to the thinking of the late '40s. It really is. And I think when it's going to be applied selectively on the basis of certain nationalities. You have to face the facts. We are reintroducing ethnic discrimination, national origin discrimination into our immigration policies.


IBISH: This is not the only example of that, and I think that ought to trouble people. You can say, yes, we have the right to ask (UNITELLIGIBLE), but when you start lotting (ph) people up into different classes who are going to be treated differently because of their ethnicity, not because of anything they've done...

CARLSON: No, it's ...

IBISH: ...but because of their national origin.

CARLSON: are missing it. No, it's actually ...


CARLSON: know that the bottom line issue here is not national origin. It's not ethnicity ...

IBISH: It is national origin.

CARLSON: It's religion.

IBISH: No...

CARLSON: That's exactly...

IBISH: ...I don't agree with that. No, no ...

CARLSON: You don't agree with the fact that...


CARLSON: ...every single hijacker on September 11 was a radical Muslim. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You know that that's...

IBISH: The list does not encompass the Muslim world. It's a small group of countries, many of which are not Muslim -- Cuba, North Korea, et cetera. And most Muslim countries in the world are not on that list and by the way, one-fifth of humanity is Muslim. So Muslims and people are almost synonymous, frankly.



FOLEY: If you look at all of the occasions of terrorism, if you look at the Olympics in the '80s, if you look at the World Trade Center in '93, if you look at the embassy bombings, if you look at all of the...

BEGALA: Oklahoma City.

FOLEY: Exactly.


FOLEY: Not Oklahoma City, but if you look at all that evidence...


BEGALA: Right wing, white guys.


BEGALA: How about we talk about our right wing white guys, Congressman?


IBISH: The congressman has total amnesia. He's -- exactly -- he's forgetting not only about Timothy McVeigh. Let's just look at the past...

FOLEY: I haven't forgotten Timothy McVeigh.


IBISH: Since September 11, let's look at the incidents of terrorism we've had in this country. We had the mailbox bombings. We've had the anthrax murders. We had Richard Reid. We've had...


IBISH: The point is racial profiling.

(CROSSTALK) IBISH: National origin profiling or discrimination would not have helped you in any of those cases.

CARLSON: Mr. Ibish, I -- let me just point out that it actually straddles the line of offensiveness, actually, to compare the JDL, whatever it is you're about to say...


CARLSON: ...which nobody was killed...


IBISH: Well -- that was stopped and nobody was hurt.


CARLSON: To compare that to September 11 is ludicrous.

IBISH: Look, look, an act of terrorism is an act of terrorism. If they're going to put a bomb in the office of a Republican congressman, I'd say that's a pretty heinous crime and I'm glad they were stopped before they could do it. And I'm glad that other...

FOLEY: And they were stopped.

IBISH: Well, that's wonderful. The point is, though, that measures like this, which basically reflect a sense of discrimination against people from certain countries rather than an overall system security that would keep everybody safe from everybody else. You know, it doesn't reflect that understanding. And by the way, Congressman, let me -- let me say -- you and I don't know each other, right?

You have the right to be safe from me. I have the right to be safe from you, and I don't pose a greater threat to you because I was born in Lebanon than you do because you were born wherever you were born.

FOLEY: Nobody suggested you did.

IBISH: Well...

FOLEY: Nobody suggested you did.


IBISH: Exactly. I think -- but I think that's the thinking that's being embodied here, sir.


FOLEY: But we have to remember 3,000 dead people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. We have a terrorist threat. We understand where they're located. We typically know where they arrived from. We do have to be somewhat careful and we do have to at least look more carefully at those that are most likely to be associated with terrorism. It's simple police work.

IBISH: Well...

BEGALA: But Congressman, see -- my problem with it is both on the liberties ground, but also let me move to this, on the ethicacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's another...

BEGALA: You're casting, I believe, far, far too broad a net. The problem, as we're beginning to learn from the investigations of what went wrong before September 11, is not that we didn't actually know...

IBISH: Exactly.

BEGALA: ...who the terrorists were, but in fact that we didn't analyze enough because there was so much -- so few analysts and so much information. It seems to me you're adding more hay to the haystack.

FOLEY: Well, we're trying to stop them before they come in the country. That would be a great start. What they're doing now, the INS is completely overwhelmed, and I think that's one reason the House passed a bill and it's laying on the Senate's desk hoping they're going to deal with that issue as well.


BEGALA: They're already overwhelmed and they have to track every single person whose name John Ashcroft doesn't like or whose religion John Ashcroft doesn't like -- that doesn't make it any easier for them, does it?

FOLEY: Well, we better start tracking everyone, and that's the point of this whole thing. This a good first step, but I do think we've got to go further. We have to be certain ...


FOLEY: ...that people coming to this country...


IBISH: We just allowed -- we just changed our rules to allow the government to start spying on anybody for no reason at all, just because they want to. Now we are starting ...

FOLEY: That's not correct.

IBISH: It certainly is.



CARLSON: Let me ask you a question, Mr. Ibish, very quickly here. And I think this will reveal that you're refusing to see what every other American recognizes as obviously true. Do you think a person visiting the United States from Saudi Arabia, on average, is more likely to be coming here to commit a terrorist act than someone, say, visiting from Sweden?

IBISH: I doubt it. I really doubt it.

CARLSON: Of course...

IBISH: I really doubt it...


CARLSON: The majority of the September 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

IBISH: Of course, of course. But I mean I think the threat...

CARLSON: Then what I am missing here?

IBISH: What you're missing is that if you look at the last 10 years, let alone the last 50 years, the threat can come from anywhere, frankly.

CARLSON: But it mostly comes from Saudi Arabia.

IBISH: I don't agree with that.

CARLSON: The facts support that.

IBISH: Only if you focus on the September 11 attacks.

CARLSON: Oh, is that it, just September 11? Oh, sorry.


IBISH: Well, but the point is there have been many other sources of danger and we need to be safe from everyone. My point is this, you can very well subject immigrants to this country to very strict scrutiny. No one's objecting to that. And in fact you can even make them all get photographed and fingerprinted and all this stuff, but it is really a huge mistake to differentiate between people on the basis of national origin, because, among other things, it sends a signal to the public that discrimination is OK.


FOLEY: But you agree to the background...

BEGALA: I want to get one last comment back from the Congressman and that is following up on that. The alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, came from France.

The alleged shoe bomber came from England.

When John Ashcroft and George Bush single people out from some countries and not others, that's called racism, is it not?

FOLEY: I don't think it's racism. No, I don't. I think they recognize...

BEGALA: What else could it be, sir, when they say British people, even though we know that some British people have come here allegedly to commit terrorism, but we're not going to check on them. What else could it possibly be?

FOLEY: Again, if you look at the people who committed the crimes on September 11, I think you have a fairly good profile on who did it.


FOLEY: You're at least intensifying the look-see of those that are coming across. You're not picking them out...


FOLEY: We're not putting them over in the streets of the United States. We're not putting them in internment camps. We're trying to deal with this rationally and calmly.

CARLSON: Unfortunately, Mr. Ibish, Congressman Foley, we have to go to a commercial. We appreciate both of you coming here tonight on CROSSFIRE.

Thank you.

FOLEY: Good to be with you. Thank you.

CARLSON: Next on this invasion of privacy edition of CROSSFIRE, the man who put Daniel Pearl's murder is a mouse click away.

Later, why this woman's departure from the White House will end the Bush administration as we know it. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: We are rolling with the news here on CROSSFIRE.

Joining us to talk about the latest siege of the Arafat compound is Hussein Ibish, who's the president of the American Arab Anti- discrimination League, the communications director. We've just given you a raise.


CARLSON: And also Cliff May, who's the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy.

Cliff May, let me ask you, as a strong Israel supporter. I'm a strong Israel supporter, but it does strike me that this may be more of the same. Look, if Israel wants to rush in and arrest Arafat, or execute Arafat, or take action against Arafat, that's one thing. But is it is helpful simply to create another siege and further humiliation and weakening of Arafat? Where does that get Israel?

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY: Look, first of all, we don't know exactly what's going on here, although obviously, there's a suspicion that what's going on is what Bibi Netanyahu, former prime minister, has talked about before, and others have, which is arresting Arafat and mostly likely giving him a ticket back to Tunis.

Don't forget it was the Israelis who brought him to the West Bank back about seven years - or nine years ago. They said we're going to put you in charge of the West Bank. In exchange for that, we ask one thing, an end to terrorism. It's your job to stop the terrorism.

After all of these years, after the Oslo process, which was a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in exchange for a promise of no terrorism, land for peace, he has failed over and over to deliver on that. They may be saying, you didn't live up to your part of the bargain. Therefore, you don't get our part of the bargain. We want you to leave.

Now the -- one more point. The Israelis really want an end to the terrorism. We can understand that. Most Israelis want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. I believe most Palestinians are willing to live side by side with Israel, but quite a few don't.

Hamas does not. Hezbollah does not. Islamic Jihad does not. In recent days, Arafat not only has turned a blind eye to the continuation of terrorism, he's offered posts in his cabinet to Hamas terrorists. I think that the thinking may be, may be, once Arafat's off the scene, we'll find leaders with whom we can actually sit down and make peace. Arafat is an obstacle to peace.

BEGALA: Hussein Ibish, let me bring you back in the discussion. First, thank you for joining us on this segment. None of us knew that this was going to happen today. Both of you are very good to be...

IBISH: Pleasure.

BEGALA: ...available to discuss it in further detail. We heard Saeb Erekat...

IBISH: Right.

BEGALA: ...from Ramallah. And our audience is watching the film from Ramallah, the video live from Ramallah right now.

IBISH: Right, I think he's probably in Jericho, but that's OK.

BEGALA: But we're watching Ramallah.

IBISH: Right.

BEGALA: He's telling us about the siege at the compound in Ramallah.

IBISH: Right.

BEGALA: Let's keep in mind, because we heard about a five or 10 minute diatribe from Mr. Erekat of the Palestinian party.

IBISH: We call it an interview.

BEGALA: Well, we should keep in mind, he's the man who wrongly told the world that there had been a massacre at Jericho, wrongly told the world...

IBISH: He said he couldn't confirm it.

BEGALA: ...wrongly told the world that...

IBISH: No, he didn't say that.

BEGALA: ...the Church of the Nativity in -- it was being torched by Israelis. So I take what he says with a great grain of salt, except this.

IBISH: Right.

BEGALA: He used a phrase, a "major, major escalation."


BEGALA: And he's right, but not about what Israel's doing. The major escalation was the murder of 17 innocents this morning by Palestinian terrorists yesterday in the north of Israel. Why should they put up with that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?


IBISH: It's a cycle of violence. Nobody should -- look, nobody should have to put up with anything egregious. And I certainly think that the attacks on Israeli civilians are despicable. But you know, I mean three or four times more Palestinian civilians have died in the past 19 months of fighting. So let's not pretend that there's only one side which is killing civilians here.


MAY: One point you have to recognize is that on the Israeli side...

IBISH: Right.

MAY: ...about 25 percent of those killed were women. And that is because these were terrorists acts. About two percent on the Palestinian side...


MAY: ...Because on the Palestinian side...

IBISH: No, no, no. MAY: ...the Israelis are going after the terrorists...

IBISH: That's absolutely untrue.

MAY: ...who lived among the civilian population. They shouldn't do that because they drew people from the civilian population.

IBISH: That's a complete fantasy.

MAY: You use civilians as shields, civilians will get killed.

IBISH: That's a complete fantasy.

MAY: That is not a fantasy. Those are the numbers.

IBISH: Every human rights group that has looked into this, including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights U.S.A., Human Rights Watch and the Israeli group, Betzelem, has found that Israeli forces have been targeting Palestinian civilians for death, which is why...

MAY: That is not true.

IBISH: ...which is why 1500...

MAY: That is -- you're making that absolutely up.

IBISH: The viewers can go to the Web sites of Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Betzelem and others. And they don't have to believe you or me. Let them go to the objective people who've looked into it.

MAY: I object to any acts of terrorism, but it is not true that the Israeli...

IBISH: It is true.

MAY: Look, let me tell you something - leaves it very clear.

IBISH: Viewers should go to those websites.

MAY: Yes, they can go. Very -- let's be very clear. If tomorrow, tomorrow, the Palestinian side...

CARLSON: Hold on for a second. We're getting tape directly from -- this is breaking news. We're hearing gunfire. You see Ramallah there.

BEGALA: Hussein?


BEGALA: Let me ask you about questions of strategy. Before Cliff was suggesting what the Israeli strategy might be. Clearly, the Palestinian strategy is to fund, encourage, reward and praise terrorism. That's clearly a fair strategy, isn't it?

IBISH: I don't think that's the strategy of the Palestinian Authority. I think it's the strategy.

BEGALA: There's no doubt that it is.

IBISH: No, there is a big doubt that it is.

BEGALA: There's documented proof.

IBISH: I think there's a big doubt. This proof, so-called, was dismissed by the State Department so that it absolutely amounted to nothing. And you know that.

There is no doubt that there are extremists in the Palestinian movement, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who actually have in a way a common cause with the Israeli government. Extremists like Sharon in thwarting any peace process.

And each time there's a moment where Americans arrive, one or the other engages in some kind of gigantic escalation. And the reason is, both the Israeli government under Sharon, and the Palestinian extremist groups believe in a military solution. And Sharon says it outrightly. He says we can crush the Palestinians with brute force...

BEGALA: Then why...

IBISH: ...and force them to our will, and make them live under our occupation, and not be independent.

CARLSON: Let me -- you may be able to answer this question. And I've long wanted to hear the answer. Not defending Yasser Arafat, of course, but he is at the end of the day, a secular leader. And he's certainly, as Mr. Ibish I think implied, a better alternative than a lot of the alternatives we're aware of. And I wonder if he is exiled, or put on trial, or executed, or taken away from the scene in some way, who next? Who is this next generation of reasonable Palestinian leadership?

MAY: It's a very good question. We don't know the answer to that question. And the reason we don't know is because Arafat has very cleverly and assiduously, made sure that there wouldn't be a next generation of moderate leaders who could succeed him.

In fact, one of the reasons they drag out into the street Palestinians who are accused of collaborating with Israel, who get no trial, and are shot in the head, and literally hang from posts, is that there shouldn't be anyone in that position.

CARLSON: Well, wait a second...

MAY: But Arafat is out of the way, I think there are people...


MAY: ...there are Palestinians who would rise up and say let's make peace with Israel.

CARLSON: Wait, but no, wait but Cliff, you're listening in the background right now to gunfire in Ramallah. For all we know, this could be the beginning of the end of Yasser Arafat. Obviously this is a move Israeli is taking. Don't you think it's Israel's obligation to have some sense of what comes next, if it's going to move against Yasser Arafat?

MAY: And I think they may. And I think we may not know it. I think what they will look for is say -- what they will say is...

IBISH: You know what they want.

MAY: ...we will -- they will say, we are ready to make peace with anyone who's willing to make peace with us.


MAY: And anyone who is willing to say that we will work with you to get rid of the terrorists that Arafat invited to take up arms and live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. More than 40,000 of them came from other places. They are all through the Gaza Strip, all through Hamas, they are all through the refugee camp in Jenean. And they are because of Arafat is there.


MAY: If Arafat would have cooperated with the Israelis to get rid of the terrorists...

IBISH: Look, we know what...

MAY: If they were inviting them to the cabinet, this would not be happening.

IBISH: We know what the Israeli ruling party wants. They just took a vote in which overwhelmingly passed a decision that will never be...

MAY: That's not true. That's not true.

IBISH: What do you mean it's not true.

MAY: That's not true. The 67 percent of the Israeli people, including most people in the Likud (ph) party...

IBISH: The ruling party...

MAY: ...favor us - party, side by side. You're making this up. The only thing Sharon has said is...

CARLSON: One at a time here.

IBISH: Of course, he can't dare to let me talk, because he'll lose the argument immediately.

MAY: You know it's not true.

IBISH: Look, the only thing standing between Palestinians and their independence...

CARLSON: I'm afraid Mr. Ibish...

IBISH: the Israeli army.

CARLSON: ...I'm afraid we're going to have interrupt.

IBISH: It's absurd.

CARLSON: We're going to go to John King at the White House.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Tucker. Just very limited reaction so far. U.S. officials, White House officials learning about all this as we provide live coverage of it. White House officials saying they're monitoring the developments. They saw our reports about the Israelis entering the Arafat compound. They say it does not come as a total surprise because they say in conversations earlier in the day, the Israeli government did tell Washington it would respond quickly and decisively.

Obviously, the Israeli troops went first went into Jenean, now again into the Ramallah compound. This - a sense of frustration already here at the White House. This comes, first the deadly bombing today. Now the Israeli response to it. Just as the president was once again was trying, against the odds, if you will, to reignite diplomacy.

The Egyptian president here this weekend. Prime Minister Sharon due in Washington early next week. The White House hoping out of that to make at least small steps forward.

But as to the point you were just discussing earlier today, this White House never a big fan of Yasser Arafat, using its most blunt language to date and making clear the president does not trust Mr. Arafat, that the administration is increasingly frustrated, that Mr. Arafat has not heeded its calls, in the White House view, to improve security. And the White House going out of its way to make clear that while just in the region, Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns spent a great deal of time with Palestinian legislators, moderates the White House says, who they believe could be the future generation of leadership.

The White House press secretary Ari Fleischer saying yes, the administration right now understands it has to deal with Chairman Arafat. But also making no secret the administration would not mind a change in leadership.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: From the president's point of view, it's not the business of the United States to pick the leaders of the Palestinian people. Chairman Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian Authority. The president is interested in its results from whatever corner they may come from. And if that's Chairman Arafat, that's fine with the president. If it's others, that's fine with the president.


KING: That line from the administration. Again, a reflection of the growing frustration, outright anger at the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. And again, what we were seeing in those pictures tonight, the tragic deadly bombing earlier today.

The Israeli response now, including a military presence once again at the Palestinian compound in Ramallah. A great sense of frustration here at the White House. Once again and a military response, just as the president had hoped to move diplomacy forward.

Tucker, Paul?

BEGALA: John, let me ask you, the president has been meeting with Prime Minister Sharon or was planning to in just a few days. Do you know that -- if anyone from the Sharon government has contacted anybody from the Bush government after this latest military incursion began?

KING: We don't know if there have been any contacts in the last hour or so, as the Israeli troops moved on into Ramallah. We do know there were some conversations earlier today when the Israeli troops moved into Jenean.

We do know the prime minister is due to be here at the White House on Monday. He was supposed to come to the United States and go to New York first over the weekend. We were told he had delayed his departure by one day. Still to be here on Monday, but less time in New York because he was directing the Israeli response.

The question here at the White House now is, will he come at all? Right now, that meeting is still scheduled. They have had no direct word from the Israeli government that the prime minister will not come. But remember, when he was here the last time, he cut the trip short to go home because of another suicide bombing.

CARLSON: John King that White House. Thank you, John.

Now Mr. Ibish, who are these fabled moderates waiting in the wing, if as looks as now possible, Mr. Arafat will soon be gone?

IBISH: I mean, I don't think there are fabled moderates waiting in the wings. I think there are lots of prominent Palestinians of different political stripes. But the point is there is a secular Palestinian leadership that commands the respect of the big majority of Palestinians.

Right now, it's led by Yasser Arafat. If he were to die tonight, you know, there would be more Palestinians to come forward. But you won't get much different out of them in terms of their fundamental demands. They want genuine, full fledged independence from Israel. And this is a conflict between Israeli society and Palestinian society. Two peoples - hold on. Two peoples who need to live together.

One side is dominating the other, forcing them to live under a military dictatorship, stealing their land, building settlements, and forcing them to live as noncitizens in their own country. And it's got to stop. That's going to be the bottom line no matter what Palestinian you deal with.

BEGALA: But Hussein, let me ask you -- Tucker was asking Cliff about what comes next for the Israelis.

IBISH: Yes, sure.

BEGALA: Let me ask you what comes next for the Palestinians?


BEGALA: I've always wanted to ask someone...


BEGALA: ...sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to this question, what sort of state will they have if it is conceived and born in terrorism?

IBISH: I agree.

BEGALA: There are no Patrick Henrys or Thomas Jeffersons working for the Palestinian Authority...

IBISH: Well...

BEGALA: And so, what Arab state would they model themselves on, for example?.

IBISH: That, I don't know.

BEGALA: What would they look like?

IBISH: Well, I mean, I think there are grounds to be concerned about what happens to a society that A, has to endure 35 years of military occupation, and b, that gets increasingly...

BEGALA: You know, the United States endured 100 years of military occupation.

IBISH: Let me finish my thought. Let me finish my thought. He's asked me a question. Let me answer him. Thank you.

I think there are general grounds to be concerned about what is happening to Palestinians, A, because of the brutality they're living under Israeli rule, but also B, because of the lack of putting restraints on what is permissible in pursuit of freedom. And I do worry about that. And I think it means... MAY: Terrorism is permissible if you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

IBISH: I just said is that...

MAY: Let me be very clear.

IBISH: No, let me clarify what I said.

MAY: No, let me say something in response to you.

IBISH: You are distorting my words beyond recognition and deliberately.

MAY: No.

IBISH: And it's despicable.

MAY: Let me say one word.

IBISH: It's despicable.

MAY: And that is that under Barak, the Palestinians were offered a stake in over...

IBISH: No, they were not.

MAY: You're going to let me finish, as I let you finish. Will you do that? Under Barak, they were offered a stake of more 95 percent of the land with the capital in Jerusalem and the dismantlement of the settlements. They said no to that. If there is to be a Palestinian state, and most Israelis would like to see that, it cannot be one more terrorist sponsoring state. It will be a terrorist sponsoring state if it is born of terrorism.

CARLSON: Let me ask you this question then. I mean, what is your position on the settlements? Even now, settlements are being expanded. Is it possible that there will be a Palestinian state if Israel continues to build settlements?

MAY: I think that the longer that the Palestinians take to find a way to come to terms with Israel, having turned down the offer before when it was given a couple of years ago, that hurts things. The longer you wait to make peace, the harder it's going to be.

CARLSON: By the way, the settlements may get practically impossible.

MAY: No, they do not.


MAY: They do not for two reasons. One is they take up less than 2 percent of the land of the West Bank. Second, the number of people there is about 225,000. That is very small. By contrast.

IBISH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Jerusalem. You're leaving them out of Jerusalem.

MAY: By contrast, if you look in Israel, you find that 20 percent of the population are Arab. And nobody talks of the Arab settlements in Israel. Why is it so crazy to think that there could be Jews living in Palestine, as there are Arabs, who live in Israel?

IBISH: Because the Israeli government maintains the position that they have to have control of all territories, whereas...

MAY: Not if there's not terrorism.

IBISH: ...Jewish settlers...

MAY: ...there's no terrorism, no one will mind.

IBISH: Look...

BEGALA: Isn't it because the Palestinian Authority has, in fact, turned to terrorism?


BEGALA: And for whatever problems there had been with the Israeli occupation because it is legitimate democracy defending itself militarily, as the United States did in Afghanistan.

IBISH: No, the United States is not occupying Afghanistan, stealing Afghan land, and giving them to Americans.

BEGALA: No, we just bombed it, as we should have.


IBISH: This analogy is ridiculous, because there has been a 35-year occupation of the Palestinian territories with hundreds of thousands of...

MAY: These territories belong to Egypt and they belong to Jordan.

IBISH: They belong to...

MAY: A war was launched from those places.

IBISH: They belong to the people who live there.

MAY: Jews used to live in those territories.

IBISH: Look...

MAY: It was ethnically cleansed of the Jewish communities.

IBISH: The overwhelming majority...


IBISH: Good grief.

BEGALA: Go ahead.

IBISH: Look, this is so absurd. I mean, I think the world is united in agreement that the easiest way for 4.8 million Jewish Israelis and 4.8 million Palestinians to live together in the same land, is to have two states, a Palestinian state and Israeli state.

The Israelis will not agree to it, because they want the land.

MAY: They did agree to it.

IBISH: They did not. This so-called Palestinian state would not have controlled its borders, its air space, its water supply would have been broken up in six pieces. It is a joke.

CARLSON: And as we're speaking now here on CROSSFIRE. You can hear in Ramallah very, very heavy gunfire.

Cliff, I wonder, do you think it's possible that Yasser Arafat could be killed tonight?

MAY: Well, of course, it's possible. I don't think that that would be the Israeli intention. I don't think...

CARLSON: But why not? Israel has said, and I don't disagree, that Yasser Arafat is directly responsible for acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians. Why in the world would killing him be off limits, if in fact he is this terrorist mastermind as Sharon often says?

MAY: There probably are Israelis who see Yasser Arafat exactly the way we see Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden, but I've never met one of them. Every Israeli that I've ever met has said that Arafat unfortunately turned out not to be a partner for peace.

We can't make peace with him. He is a terrorist who wants a state not next to Israel, but in place of Israel. But everyone says the only solution -- no matter how far, Bibi Netanyahu is has this view. Former prime minister, he says, I don't want him dead. I want him back in Tunis or back in Beirut or somewhere else. We made a mistake bringing him to the West Bank and putting him in charge.

IBISH: If they do kill Arafat, nothing will change. Everything will still by in place. 3.5 Palestinians living under Israeli military tyranny will be there. The Jewish settlements will be there. The Jewish-only roads will be there. The Israeli army will be there. And everything that has created this conflict and made it inevitable will be there.

MAY: Let me ask you...

IBISH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 1,000 Palestinians. It won't matter.

MAY: Just a quick question. If the terrorism stopped tomorrow and just stopped on the Palestinian side, do you not think that within a year there'd be a Palestinian state for sure?

IBISH: No, of course not. Definitely not.

MAY: The movement in Israel would be unstoppable.

IBISH: Absolutely not because there were seven years of negotiation -- eight years of negotiation. From 1993 to 2000, at which I not only was not a Palestinian state granted, but the Israelis doubled the number of settlers in the West Bank, doubled the number of settlers in east Jerusalem...

MAY: The Israelis never got...

IBISH: ...and were not -- there were seven years of quiet between 1993 and 2000.

MAY: Sharon asked for a week of quiet. Arafat refused to give it. He asked for one week.

IBISH: That's not true. From mid-December until the first week of January, there was one Israeli killed and 80 Palestinians.

MAY: You remember him asking for one week without terrorist bombings. You remember...

IBISH: They got three weeks of absolute Palestinian cease-fire between December 13 and January 5. Yes, we do.

BEGALA: Pictures from Ramallah. And we can hear in the audio coverage...


BEGALA: ...from CNN's live cameras that the fighting sounds very intense.

IBISH: Yes, it does.

BEGALA: And Hussein, I have to ask you though, I heard Saeb Erekat.


BEGALA: his interview with Jim Bitterman.

IBISH: Right.

BEGALA: ...saying that Mr. Arafat had in fact condemned the terrorist attack that killed 17 innocent Israelis.

IBISH: Right.

BEGALA: The question, it seems to me, is he sponsoring terrorism as many people believe or stopping incapable of stopping it, in which case he shouldn't run a state, right?

IBISH: Well, this clearly was not in the interests of the Palestinian Authority and committed by a group...

BEGALA: But he's not in control?

IBISH: No. And it seems...

BEGALA: So why give them the state?

IBISH: Because you cannot be in control when you haven't got the authority of the state.

MAY: Why did he invite Hamas into his cabinet?

IBISH: At its height of the -- I think in order to try to get some control over them. In the Israeli cabinet, you've got ethnic cleansers. You've got the far...

MAY: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) members of the Israeli cabinet.


MAY: Which has Arabs in it, to people like Hamas, who want to destroy the entire state of Israel and kill every Jew.

IBISH: Anyone who says I want to ethnically cleanse all Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza, 3.5 million people is advocating crimes against humanity.

MAY: We're talking (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cleansing Jews from the West Bank. Jews have been ethnically cleansed throughout the Middle East.

IBISH: Look...

BEGALA: It's certainly different from terrorist acts, right?

IBISH: Right, and three times...

BEGALA: And there may be people who advocate outrageous positions.

IBISH: Exactly. And the point is...

BEGALA: But they're not terrorists the way Hamas is.

IBISH: Right, three times as many -- yes they are. Three times as many Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli forces. And they have been deliberately targeting civilians for death. And all the human rights groups say so. Every human rights group says so.

MAY: You're talking about groups that are anti-Israeli and anti- American, by the way. The same ones that say the...


MAY: ...detainees in Guantanamo are being unfairly and brutally treated, which you probably agree with, don't you?

IBISH: Amnesty International is against human rights abusers. They're anti-human rights abusers.

MAY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is very left wing and very...

IBISH: That is what every dictatorship that criticizes says.

MAY: Oh.


MAY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You're saying America's a dictatorship?

IBISH: I'm not saying that. I'm saying that...

MAY: Then who's dictatorship are you talking about?

IBISH: I'm talking about the many dictators around the world, who've been criticized by Amnesty International and say, oh, they're just left-wing group and they don't have credibility...

CARLSON: Well, actually, Mr. Ibish...

IBISH: Now they're honest and you know it.

CARLSON: To set the record straight, they are a left wing group. But don't take my word.

IBISH: They are not a left wing group.

CARLSON: We have now a question, they are in fact, dishonest. As I think, Mr. Ibish, we established the other night on CROSSFIRE. I'm sorry you weren't watching.


CARLSON: But before we go on, before we go on, let's take a question from our audience. Sir, you have one?

GABRIEL WHITE: Yes, my name's Gabriel White. I'm from Logan, Utah. And I'd just like to -- we spent years dealing with this man. And he's had chance after chance after chance to make things good. And he's done nothing. Why in the world should we ever trust Yasser Arafat again?

IBISH: Well, you don't have to. And in fact, as I said, the Israelis could get rid of him. It won't change a damn thing. The Palestinians will be there, the Israeli Army will be there, the settlements will be there, the Jewish only roads will be there. The conflict will continue until there is an end to the occupation, this conflict will continue. Arafat or no Arafat, Sharon or no Sharon. This is not about personalities. We can reduce it to a Bugs Bunny version of reality and pretend it's about one man's malfeasance, rather than 35 years of occupation. But we're just kidding ourselves.

BEGALA: But Hussein, I used to work for President Clinton. He, with Arafat and Barak worked right the very brink of peace. And I know you don't maybe endorse fully the Clinton plan that was on the table, but what frosts a lot of Americans is that Arafat's response was not a counteroffer to an offer that wasn't good enough for him. It was terrorism. How can you defend that?

IBISH: Actually, that's not true at all.

BEGALA: Yes, it is. It certainly is.

IBISH: If you read the Mitchell commissioner report categorically states that the PA did not start deliberately the intifadah. And the negotiations continued until Tabah (ph) in January of 2001, where there were two proposals on the table.

President Clinton's, which was an interesting plan that could've been worked on, and a Palestinian one. It was the Israelis which walked away from the negotiations, because of the elections.

MAY: It's just rewriting history.

IBISH: It's absolutely true, because of the elections. And Sharon has said he will not negotiate.

MAY: Sharon was elected because Arafat turned down the offer...


MAY: He made no counteroffer...

IBISH: That's not true.

MAY: And started a campaign of terrorism.

IBISH: That is -- the Mitchell Commission, which looked into it, and everyone can read it on line says that's garbage.

CARLSON: Now let me just ask you, Cliff. Do you -- I think everyone here, though we're coming from obviously different perspectives, agrees that in the end there will be or needs to be, must be a political solution to all of this. Do you think Ariel Sharon believes that?

MAY: Yes, I do. I think at the end of the day, Sharon would like to finish his career with peace for Israel. And he's absolutely willing. He said this over and over again.

CARLSON: But through political means, rather than through security means?

MAY: You know what? I'm not sure if that's true. If you look at the conflicts that have taken place in the world, usually there is - usually, it is not a diplomatic solution that solves it. Think of...

IBISH: So you're in favor of a military victory? You want to threaten the Palestinians by brute force?

MAY: No, I want the Palestinians to understand... IBISH: You want to force them to submit.

MAY: I want the Palestinians to understand.

IBISH: You want to force them to submit.

MAY: I want the Palestinians to understand, I want you to understand, I want Arafat to understand that terrorism must never be allowed to achieve its aims. It must never be appeased. Whatever your grievance, killing other people's babies is not the way to express it.

IBISH: I agree.

MAY: When they do that, there will be a Palestinian state.

IBISH: I completely agree. What about the onus on Israel? What about occupying people's land? What about stealing their land? What about shooting their babies in three times the numbers?

MAY: All these grievances do not justify killing people's babies.

IBISH: I agree. Of course not. And the Israelis have done it three times as much as Palestinians.

MAY: And all you can say over and over again...

IBISH: It's true.

MAY: ...that they do it too. They do it, too. Stop the terrorism.

IBISH: They do it more.

MAY: Stop the terrorism.

CARLSON: Sadly, I'm afraid we're going to have to (UNINTELLGIBLE). That is the bell of silence, if you could just hold on for one moment.

IBISH: You got to be kidding.

BEGALA: Let's go to another question from our audience. Sir, tell us your name and your question?

ROBERT FAUCETT: All right, my name is Robert Faucett. I'm from Logan, Utah also. And my question is, why is it so bad for the Palestinians to live under Israeli rule, when if their state was legitimized, they'd be living under the Palestinian Authority, who spends their government money on supporting terror, as opposed to providing basic amenities to its citizens like garbage disposal or potable water? What's so wrong with them living under the Israelis? At least they have a legitimate government.

IBISH: Well, they don't, actually. CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I mean, surely, they have a better standard of living...

IBISH: No, no.

CARLSON: ...than many in the Arab world?

IBISH: Definitely not. Look, they are -- the people in Gaza are among the most poor and wretched people in the world. These are noncitizens. These are the only large group of people in the world who are noncitizens.

They have no rights whatsoever. They live surrounded, hold on, surrounded by a hostile and abusive foreign army. They have no rights. They can't move from a to b without the permission of a foreign soldier. Their land is taken away from them willy nilly and given to heavily armed settlers. They can't drive where want to go.

Every element of daily life in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep, is determined by whether you're Arab or Jewish. Where you can live, what roads you can drive on, whether you can be armed for self-defense, whether you vote for the government that rules you, how much water you can get, what kind of education, what laws.

MAY: I just want one second to every paragraph you get.

IBISH: This is the most radical situation of racial discrimination anywhere in the world. And that's a fact.


MAY: Very quickly, 20 percent of the Israeli population are Arabs. They have more rights, more freedoms than Arabs do in any Arab country in the world, including the right to newspapers, the right to speak freely...

IBISH: But we're talking about the occupied territories.

MAY: The right -- and what that gentleman was saying was very clear. If there would no terrorism to begin with, you would start to see the kinds of rights that Arabs have Israeli citizens.

IBISH: No, no.

MAY: ...and then they would get their own state.

IBISH: There's 35 years of...

MAY: The military is there to stop the violence. When the violence stops, the Israelis have no reason to want their military...

IBISH: Their Israeli military has been there for 35 years.

MAY: I have spoken with Israeli reservists. They do not want to leave their homes and go to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They want to stay at home. And the only reason they're there is because of the terrorism. Stop the terrorism.

IBISH: They've been there for 35 years. The Palestinians didn't even launch...

MAY: This was not a Palestinian state 35 years ago. You know that.

IBISH: The Palestinians have been living without rights as noncitizens for 35 years. Everything I described has been the case for 35 years. You're just hiding behind...


CARLSON: If I could punctuate this with an audience question. Yes, sir?

MATT BEEBER: Hi, there. My name's Matt Beeber. I'm from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And so far the discussion has been mostly about the onus on the Palestinians and the terrorism. But given that Sharon is largely responsible for settlements in the West Bank in his tenure earlier as a cabinet minister in the mid '80s, why shouldn't we be talking about Israel's burdens - to ease the burdens on the Palestinians?

CARLSON: In 30 seconds, Cliff May, can you tell us?

MAY: Yes, again, very similar. Prime Minister Barak, he offered the dismantlement of most of the settlements. It was turned down by Arafat.

IBISH: That's not true.

MAY: It is true.

IBISH: And he said 80 percent of the settlers would remain under Israeli rule.

MAY: Look, if you're going to have a Palestinian state, you obviously, well not obviously, the idea...

CARLSON: Wait, Cliff May, very quickly, shouldn't we stop building settlements?

IBISH: Of course.

MAY: I think it's part of the negotiations. Settlements should be on the table.

IBISH: They're illegal. Got to stop.

BEGALA: Cliff May, Hussein Ibish,

IBISH: They're illegal. Got to stop.

BEGALA: Cliff May, Hussein Ibish, both gentlemen, thank you for debating an important issue tonight on a very special live CROSSFIRE. Thank you very much. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Thursday night, for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.




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