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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Israeli Ambassador to United States

Aired August 19, 2003 - 20:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: There is a new development just in from the Middle East, in the wake of today's suicide bombing that killed 18 people in Jerusalem and wounded at least 130 more. The Palestinian Authority has just announced it is cutting ties with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Both groups claimed responsibility for the bombing. Israel acted even sooner, suspending talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Joining me tonight, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Dan Gillerman.

It's an honor to have you with us tonight.

Good evening, Paula.

ZAHN: Is this the end of the peace process?

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: I hope very much it's not.

We in Israel have been yearning for peace for years. And I think the frustration today is even greater, because we were that near to it. And I would not like to give anybody, especially not the fanatics and the extremists, the pleasure of saying that this is the end of the peace process. But this definitely is a very tragic and very crucial day, in which the world got a very stark reminder of the horror, indiscrimination, and globality of terrorism, the nearly 20 babies and children who were killed in Israel. And you all saw those devastating, horrible pictures.

ZAHN: I don't think many of us could even watch them.

GILLERMAN: I know. These are really the victims of the worst and most horrible kind of terror, which is totally indiscriminate, which, in a way, sets out to kill innocents, and especially children and babies.

And they are the victims of the inaction, the impotence, of the Palestinian Authority. We've been urging the Palestinian Authority for months to act against these people, to imprison them, to crack down on terror, to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. They have done nothing. Mahmoud Abbas has talked the talk. He has not walked one inch to walk the walk. And what you have just said about cutting the ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad...

ZAHN: Does that mean anything to your government?

GILLERMAN: It means nothing. ZAHN: Why?

GILLERMAN: It's not a question of cutting ties with them. It's a question of cutting funds, of cutting away their arms, of collecting their arms, their weapons, of arresting them.

And I want to make one thing very, very clear. It is really not a question of capability. It is a question of willingness. Once the Palestinian Authority takes the decision to act against these people, it can eradicate terror in our region within 48 hours. They can do it. They know how to do it. Condemning, investigating, and cutting off ties is not the answer. These people cannot be appeased.

They must not be legitimatized. They must be arrested. Their weapons must be collected. They must be brought to justice. Otherwise, they will infect the rest of the world, as they just have today.

ZAHN: Are you suggesting, then, that Mahmoud Abbas is lying when he says that they don't have the internal police structure in place to clamp down on these disparate terrorist groups?

GILLERMAN: Mahmoud Abbas is certainly not telling the truth, neither to his own people, nor to the rest of the world.

Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan know very well where these people are. They are outnumbered by the Palestinian Authority, who numbers about 20,000 25,000 troops to 500, maybe 1,000, Hamas and Islamic Jihad members. In the past, whenever the Palestinian Authority wanted there to be quiet, they knew exactly what to do. I think what we're seeing today is the result of total ineptitude, of total incompetence and of total impotence on the part of Palestinians. The price is far too high. We cannot go on paying those prices in the future.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, sir, does your government plan to retaliate?

GILLERMAN: I don't know.

Our government and our prime minister have been very patient. They have not retaliated in the past, over the last few weeks, because they really wanted to give peace a chance and they wanted to give the road map chance.

ZAHN: This time could be different?

GILLERMAN: This time could be different.

I think that the pictures we all saw, the blood which is still strewn on the streets of Jerusalem from those babies and children, is crying out. And I think it would be very difficult for any government that wants to protect its people to refrain from doing anything about it.

ZAHN: Ambassador Dan Gillerman, sorry we have to meet under such tragic circumstances, but thank you for your perspective this evening.

GILLERMAN: So am I. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Again, glad to have you drop by.

GILLERMAN: Thank you.

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