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Middle East Summit Draws Israeli Protest, Tentative Plans for Hamas Cease-fire

Aired June 4, 2003 - 19:20   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Let's talk about the Middle East briefly.
President Bush says he thinks Middle East peace has a chance because both sides are, quote, "sick and tired of death."

The president met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas today. And those two leaders shaking hands in public for the first time, you just saw right there. But there is strong reaction to both the Israeli pledge to uproot some West Bank settlements and the Palestinian call for an end to armed struggle.

Kelly Wallace has those details.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tens of thousands of Jewish settlers and their supporters gathered in a downtown Jerusalem square, angry and stunned. Charging the Middle East road map is nothing more than a reward for Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worry that they're going to give a mistake. These people are terrorists.

WALLACE: He's been a settler for 15 years.

Many here express disbelief that Ariel Sharon, who only years ago rejected the creation of a Palestinian state, now is backing one. Especially after the violence which followed the last major Mideast summit, the Camp David talks in 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty years of terror. We know who our neighbors are. Barak almost gave them everything and they said no and they don't want real peace.

WALLACE: Some settlers say they are shocked that the man nicknamed "the bulldozer" for his support of settlement building is now calling for the dismantling of some settlement outposts and worry this could pave the way to attempts to remove the long-standing Jewish settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it comes to that, this is a civil war.

WALLACE: Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, faces a challenge of his own. At the Aqaba summit, he called for an end to the armed intifada against Israel. It was immediately rejected by Palestinian groups like Hamas.

"There is also a demand for Abu Mazen to stop the armed resistance. This is the road map, a way to stop the resistance," Hamas leader Abdullah Zi Montissi (ph) said.

But in interviews earlier this week, Hamas leaders did acknowledge they are considering a cease-fire, a halt in suicide bombings against Israelis, a response, it appears, to pressure from moderate Arab leaders and from many Palestinians who are urging the radical Palestinian groups to give Mr. Abbas a chance.


WALLACE: Right now both sides are facing pressure from the U.S. to take immediate steps, which means overcoming strong political opposition. One long-time player in the region put it this way, no one said this was going to be easy -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, I think that's one think just about everybody in the region can agree on. Kelly Wallace, thanks very much, reporting from Jerusalem tonight.

Now the divisions in the Middle East are getting some company with the push of the U.S.-led road map to peace. New camps are forming, some for the map, others dead set against it. That includes tens of thousands in Jerusalem today, as Kelly Wallace showed in that report, rallying against the road map plan.

The agreement will call for major changes from people in the region. To find out if those changes are even possible, earlier I was joined by a spokesman from Hamas, as well as the settlers. Israeli settler Shaul Goldstein and first Ismail Abu Shanab, a spokesman for Hamas.


COOPER: Mr. Shanab, thanks for being with us. I want to play you something that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said today in Aqaba. Let's roll the sound bite.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are ready to do our part. Let me be very clear, there will be no military solution to this conflict, so we repeat our renunciation and renunciation of terrorism against the Israelis, whatever they might be.

COOPER: My question, is your organization Hamas ready for violence against Israelis?

ISMAIL ABU SHANAB, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: First of all, we want to see Israeli willingness to withdraw. We want to see and discuss with Abu Mazen and discuss with him what assurances and guarantees that, in his hands, to go to the next step. COOPER: What will it take? What do you need to hear from Abu Mazen? He has said that he believes he can get some sort of cease- fire agreement from Hamas, from some of the other militant groups. How will that be possible? What do you need to hear from him?

SHANAB: We suffer from 35 years of Israeli occupation. We have 5.5 million Palestinian refugees. We have 7,000 Palestinian prisoners inside the Israeli prisons. All of those issues are important issues to be discussed, we want real steps towards peace. We want Israeli withdrawal. We want to have a Palestinian dependent state, that's what we want to discuss with Abu Mazen.

COOPER: Sir, those are obviously end results that at the end of the process you would like to have achieved. In order to get the process moving, though, are you willing to make concessions, are you willing to take steps, the first step being, according to Abbas, stop the violence?

SHANAB: We are ready to stop martyrdom operations inside Israel in return of avoiding Palestinian citizens and to avoid Palestinian or Israeli citizens and save Israeli citizens and Palestinian citizens from war damages.

COOPER: Ismail Abu Shanab, thank you for joining us.

We are now joined by Shaul Goldstein, an Israeli settler.

Mr. Goldstein, thank you very much for being with us. You heard what came out of the meeting today in Aqaba. Your thoughts?

SHAUL GOLDSTEIN, ISRAELI SETTLER: We think this is surrendering to terror. Unfortunately, we don't think this process is going to get to any kind of peace process. We lost over more than 1,000 Israelis after the signing of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) accords. And unfortunately, we think that this process is much more dangerous than the previous one.

COOPER: You heard what Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said about unauthorized settlements. We're going to play a sound bite from what he said; I want you to react to it. Let's play that now.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: In regard to the unauthorized outposts, I want to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law. Thus, we will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts.

COOPER: Will you or other settlers attempt to stop him from removing what he calls unauthorized settlements?

GOLDSTEIN: It is not a law issue. It's a political issue. It's a political issue. We think we are entitled to this land, Israel, the Jewish land. Why can a Jew not live in those hills? What is preventing from Jews to live in the Desert Sinai which shares the language of your house? What's the problem? It was 2,000 (ph)?

COOPER: It's estimated there are maybe 300 or so settlers living in these particular settlements, these most recently built ones. Is it worth stopping the peace process from moving forward for that small a number of people involved?

GOLDSTEIN: It's the principal, it's not the number of people. It's not a peace process, this is a surrendering process. They're not promising us peace. They're promising us cease-fire. And the cease- fire, it's not stopping of the terror, it's not stopping of the violence. We know that Abu Mazen does not control the Palestinian streets. The Hamas and the Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad promising more bloodshed. It's not the end.

And second, the first stage will be those so-called outposts. The second stage will be the so-called settlements in the first place and then entire Israel. We'll be addressing that thing in Arabic (ph), and we believe in Arabic much more than we believe them in English or Hebrew.

COOPER: Shaul Goldstein...

GOLDSTEIN: It's a peace process...

COOPER: Shaul Goldstein, appreciate you joining us and expressing your point of view. Thank you very much tonight.



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