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Funeral for Yasser Arafat in Cairo

Aired November 12, 2004 - 03:45   ET


ANNOUNCER: We interrupt our regular programming for CNN breaking news.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... from every walk of society, from every level, from president to politicians to people on the street. The plight of the Palestinians is the single most galvanizing topic in the Middle East.

And of course, it is also the one that is deemed responsible for so much of the violence, so much of the despair, the excuse and the alibi that is used for so much of the terrorism.

And now, in the wake of the president of the Palestinian Authority's death, in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death, they are calling this the end of an era, the end of what has been politics as usual in the Middle East and the possible opening for a new beginning.

In the United States, President Bush, who has shunned and isolated Yasser Arafat, who has looked aside as the prime minister of Israel has waged a full-scale assault on Yasser Arafat, his old nemesis, has kept him incarcerated in the increasingly demolished Muqata in Ramallah there for the last three years.

Now, people are saying, officials are saying, experts are saying that possibly, possibly there may be the possibility for a new beginning, if a new Palestinian leadership can create a team that will live up to their own obligations under the road map to have reforms, to be able to keep a reign on terrorism and then, of course, to see both the Israelis and the United States and the other international partners meet their very serious obligations under the principles that created the road map and President Bush's vision of a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.

As we watch again these live pictures, we welcome the U.S. audience, which has now joined us for these funeral services. Again, we say that this is the official funeral at which heads of state, heads of government, foreign ministers, other dignitaries have come from all over the Arab world, from Europe, from Africa, from Asia.

A mid-level representation from the United States, assistant secretary of state, William Burns, who is the U.S. point man for the Israeli-Palestinian situation but who really has not had much to do in that regard over the last several years, as both the United States and Israel has demoted the necessity for a peace process and has not engaged over the last three years in any meaningful way. Perhaps, as we've been saying, as analysts and others have told us, that this moment represents the possibility for another opening that could lead to what has so far eluded the Palestinians and the Israelis. And that is, a permanent peace, in which the Palestinians get their legitimate right of a free and independent state and the Israelis are able to live in security and peace.

We go now to our bureau in Israel, in Jerusalem, where we find Guy Raz, our correspondent, there.

GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.

We are on the Mount of Olives, just overlooking the Al Aqsa compound, of course, the site where Yasser Arafat had hoped to be buried.

Now, police in Israel have declared the highest state of alert today. Today, of course, being a particularly unique day, the combination of Yasser Arafat's impending funeral in Ramallah and, of course, the fact that it's the last Friday of Ramadan.

Now, some 5,000 Israeli police are mounted around the old city. And I'll step aside. You can see just behind me the compound there. Over the coming hours, we expect to see thousands of worshipers gathered there for the final Friday prayers of Ramadan.

Now, Israeli police are restricting access to the site. Only men over the age of 45 will be allowed to worship here this afternoon. And women will be allowed. We understand that already in the past hour or so, police dispersed a crowd of demonstrators, young men who were trying to get inside of the compound.

Now as I say, this site, of course, is the place where Yasser Arafat was hoping to have been buried. Israel had rejected that request. And we understand that soil from the Al Aqsa compound of the Haram-al-Sharif, known to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews, will actually be placed inside of Yasser Arafat's tomb, in the hope that one day, when a Palestinian state is established, with possibly this part of the city, East Jerusalem, as its capital, his grave will then be reinterred on that site just behind us.

AMANPOUR: Well, who is the guest?

Years ago, it was, I believe, in 2001 when Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini died, he was, in fact, buried at Al Aqsa. And you remember those incredible scenes of thousands of Palestinians, streaming to that site to pay their last respects. There is precedent.

Of course, he had his home there. He was a prominent family from there.

What was the reason, in your mind, that Israel refused to allow Yasser Arafat to be buried there?

RAZ: Christiane, there were several reasons. And the key reason, of course, is that this city is a city that Israel annexed part of the city in 1967 after the '67 war. That's a move that's not recognized internationally.

But Israel regards even this part of the city, East Jerusalem, as part of the city that falls under its sovereignty. So eventually, by allowing Yasser Arafat to be buried on the Haram-al-Sharif, the noble sanctuary behind me, it would be an implicit recognition that perhaps Palestinians might be able to establish a future capital here.

At the same time, you mentioned Faisal Husseini's funeral in 2001. That, of course, passed without any major skirmishes, but it was a political demonstration. So from the perspective of the Israeli security apparatus, this funeral for Yasser Arafat, had it been held here, could have potentially been some type of powder keg.

But you know, there are also other precedents involved, aside from Faisal Husseini. And particularly when we talk about the possibility that Yasser Arafat's remains may be reinterred.

Once the state of Israel was established, some of its national symbols, leaders, were actually reinterred from parts of Europe and the United States, people like Zeb Zabotinski (ph), Theodore Herschel (ph), whose remains were reinterred in West Jerusalem, an area now known as Mount Herschel (ph).

So of course, this is a possibility, that Yasser Arafat's remains could be reinterred here on the site just behind me eventually, once a Palestinian state is established, with East Jerusalem possibly as its capital -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Guy, as we continue to look at these live pictures by Egyptian television of the coffin of Yasser Arafat, draped with the Palestinian flag, drawn on a carriage by six Egyptian horses, mounted by a military guard and also accompanied on foot by military guards, to the place where dignitaries will file past and be able to pay their respects.

We believe that will be in this tent that you're seeing now, where the Palestinian delegation, led by Abu Mazen, who for all those years was Yasser Arafat's close friend and colleague in exile, who was also the man who helped negotiate the Oslo Accords, who then became Yasser Arafat's prime minister, who gave up in frustration and who now is -- now is sworn in as the chairman of the PLO, succeeding Yasser Arafat in that position.

He leading that Palestinian delegation, which also includes Farouk Kaddoumi, who -- also, another long-time collaborator of Yasser Arafat, but who never came back from exile, who never came back to the territories, rejected the Oslo Accords.

He, too, is here, and he has ascended to the leadership of the Fatah organization. There is also Rawhi Fattouh, who is the speaker of the Palestine -- Palestinian Legislative Council and who was sworn in just hours after the confirmation of Yasser Arafat's death on Thursday. Was sworn in as the caretaker, president of the Palestinian Authority under their basic law, their constitution. Of course, awaiting elections that must be held within 60 days. The question right now is will there be sufficient ability to actually hold those elections in 60 days and general agreement that it will take a lot of effort on the behalf of the Americans, the United Nations, And all the countries and organizations, including the European Union, who are involved in trying to help push this process forward.

And will have to help in organizing and preparing the groundwork for these elections to take place.

We go again to Dr. Korani (ph) in our bureau here in Cairo, who's also watching these proceedings.

Dr. Korani, how does a new Palestinian leadership, do you think -- how will it be viewed in the Arab world, which has long seen Yasser Arafat as it's only charismatic, political revolutionary leader? How will a new Palestinian leadership take over and move the process forward from where it has been stalled for the last three to four years?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christiane, they will have a very hard job, because Yasser Arafat was evaluated not so much on the achievements and his actions, but on his symbolism.

And just to give an example from Arab culture, he has died and he's buried on the holiest of the holy month. Ramadan is supposed to be very, very holy, and Friday, for Muslims, is a holy day. But the last Friday of the holy month is the holiest of all.

So that gives him almost an air of strength. Now his successors wouldn't have that. So they will be evaluated on the basis of what they achieve. And there really we come up to the conventional wisdom that things would be easier after Arafat, as far as the peace process is concerned.

In a sense, this is true, because the Americans and the Israelis have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) him. He was besieged. He was left in one room. Sometimes his (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was not even given to him. So he couldn't move very much. It was a non-starter.

Now is the new Palestinian group -- the process must start again.

But what actually puts the ball in the court of the Americans, and the Israelis. First of all, the obstacle of Arafat has been eliminated. But No. 2, and this is -- it hasn't been mentioned very much, and I think it needs to be mentioned, is that Arafat differed from his successors. He was the one who imposed some historic confessions.

His successors, will they be able to have the same latitude? And that brings up back through the politics of symbolism in the Middle East. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is also very ill and the fact that the Israelis have tried to prevent the symbol from going to the end by being buried in Jerusalem. So to come back to a basic question, I think his successors will have a harder time than him, just as though they have to keep a united, and they have to deliver.

And there is a window of opportunity, but it depends very much, not only on his successors, but on the Israelis and the Americans.

Back to you.

AMANPOUR: As we watch these live pictures, we're watching continued live pictures from Egyptian Television, and we have seen some of the delegations represented here now walking out of the immediate enclosed area just behind me, we believe, to pay their respects at the side of Yasser Arafat's casket.

We have seen Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia just earlier as we were having our discussion. And, again, we didn't know until the last moment how high a delegation would come from Saudi Arabia. Historically, Saudi Arabia has been a benefactor of the Palestinians in terms of a lot of money, but it's also had, as we mentioned, its great difficulties, most particularly during the Gulf War of 1990- 1991.

Hosni Mubarak is leading and walking with these delegations outside now on the street. We saw the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Of course, for many years, Yasser Arafat's PLO was very closely allied to the ANC, the African National Congress, which was led then by Nelson Mandela. And, of course, he spent all those years, 27 years in jail.

And many people tried to draw parallels between the struggle that Mandela waged for the black majority in South Africa to gain their legitimate rights and to be able to participate in political and daily life in South Africa after so many years of that brutal apartheid. And many people compared the struggle of the South Africans to the struggle of the Palestinian people.

Many also say that Mandela, at least in 1994 around the time of the Oslo Accords, Mandela was able to realize that dream by concluding a peace and an agreement with the white government of South Africa at that time and become elected president of South Africa, the first elected president in nationwide elections in South Africa, a black president whose motto and whose mandate was one of reconciliation and not division.

And many people fear and feel that perhaps Yasser Arafat has died without being able to do the same thing, without having yet been able to bring his people into a permanent peace with their rights, with their aspirations, with their legitimate demands met under international law.

Again, we're watching the delegations outside the immediate tented area that they had convened in for the last hour or so, where they came and were greeted by the Palestinian delegation. Many of them came and kissed President Mubarak on both cheeks. He is walking there side-by-side with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, who himself at the Arab summit of 2002 raised his peace plan for the Middle East, whereby in return for land by Israel, all of the Arab nations would recognize Israel and would enter a final peace. That at that time was dismissed by Israel. Many at that time had held out hope that that might have been a starter. It was not at that time.

A great deal of pressure, we understand from officials, will now be on both the United States as the traditional broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and on Israel itself now that the one person that they deemed the obstacle for peace, that they deemed not to be a partner in peace, has now departed and has left the way open for a new leadership. The pressure on them can re-engage.

Certainly right now even as we speak, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain is in the United States, where he is holding key talks with President Bush. He is the first foreign leader to meet with President Bush since he was re-elected. On top of his agenda, top of his list of priorities is restarting the Middle East peace process.

He said himself that now the single most-pressing priority on the global stage must be to re-energize the peace process, which, as we've said, is defunct at this moment between the Palestinians and the Israelis, because that is causing misery for the Palestinians, that causes misery for the Israeli people, and more than that is a tool of recruitment for violence and terrorism in this Middle East region.

The war on terror, says Prime Minister Blair, will never be won by military might alone. It must be met also by political resolution and the resolution of the aspirations of the Palestinian people and the Israelis to live in peace in a two-state solution.

As we watch and listen to this honor, to this military funeral for the deceased president of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat, here in Cairo, as we watch the delegations come from all over the world, from all over the Arab world, from Africa, from Asia, from Europe, and even from the United States of America, let's go to Daoud Kuttab, who is standing by in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where in a few hours the body of Yasser Arafat will be interred in what is the semi-demolished compound in which he was incarcerated for the last three years of his life.

As you watch this, Mr. Kuttab, what immediately comes to mind? Is this the respect for Yasser Arafat that he has obviously lacked for the last four years? Is this more for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people? What are your thoughts on the legacy of your leader at this moment?

DAOUD KUTTAB, PALESTINIAN JOURNALIST: Well, I do think that he is getting the respect that he deserves. He is a leader that most of the world knows as "Mr. Palestine." He represented Palestinian aspirations. He unified the Palestinians and put the Palestine issue on the political map.

So in that sense, he does deserve it. I think it's clear that there is a lot of forward-looking at this time, because people see that this is an opportunity for movement in the peace process. The Israeli leader, Ariel Sharon, and Yasser Arafat were stuck in a kind of embrace, a fatal embrace that they couldn't get out of. And maybe we can now remove this obstacle that the Israelis were creating, this excuse of saying that they cannot talk to the Palestinians because of Mr. Arafat.

So now that this particular excuse is no longer there, we are hopeful and there is a lot of hopefulness among Palestinians and people around the world that now we can really challenge the Israelis to end this brutal and illegal occupation of our land and allow for a peaceful state to be established in Palestine alongside of Israel.

So it's a moment of sadness, but it's a moment of hope.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Kuttab, as you watch the coffin drawn by that carriage, mounted Egyptian honor guard there, moving towards perhaps the plane that will bring him to where you are, followed by this array of world leaders there, leaders from Saudi Arabia, obviously the host country here, the president, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the king of Jordan, the president from Algeria, the president of Syria, and a whole host of world leaders, when you look forward at this moment, do you look forward with hope or with fear?

KUTTAB: Well, I am hopeful, Christiane. I am hopeful that we have such a strong international and Arab world backing to our cause. Yasser Arafat is no longer with us, but I think his legacy is there. And in a way, if I can say, it's a divine intervention. Arafat had stuck for the principles that Palestinians believe in, in this Muqata right behind me, and he refused to buckle under.

And now that legacy has been established. That line has been drawn in the sand of where the issues that Palestinians should not give up on. There has to be a state alongside the '67 borders. Jerusalem must be a part of the Palestinian state, the eastern part of it. And there must be a fair solution of the refugee problem. These are the issues that Arafat stuck on and he died while standing up for these issues.

And now with the strong support from the Arab world, from the international community, Mr. Blair's recent statements and President Bush's continued statements that there will be a Palestinian state in 2005, and with the kind of moderate and flexible leadership that we have with Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qorei and others, I think we do have a chance to make peace.

But, you know, as everybody said, it takes two to tango, and we need the Israelis, our Israeli neighbors to be forthcoming. They must allow for an improvement of life. The closure of the last four years and the devastating economic and violence has been really killing the possibilities of hope.

So the Israelis must come around and give up on this repression that they have and allow for substantive negotiations for a solution to this conflict.

AMANPOUR: Daoud, I'm going to come back to you. Please stand by. I want to bring in our correspondent and Cairo bureau chief, Ben Wedeman, who is also watching this, and has not only covered for so many years Egypt, but also the Palestinian territories and Yasser Arafat.

As you watch this, what is going through your mind? And how do you believe the people on the street level are taking his demise and looking to the future?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF: Christiane, I think it's interesting when you look at these pictures what do you see? You see heads of state. You see security. You see journalists from around the world. What you don't see are ordinary people. That part of town where the funeral is taking place has been cordoned off. Ordinary Egyptians cannot go anywhere near this funeral.

And I think this underscores the fact that Yasser Arafat was something of a folk hero for people here in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. And oftentimes Arab leaders don't want to be upstaged by others. And I can tell you there are several Arab leaders who are attending this funeral who are not popular with these people, who do not have this aura, the myth about them that Yasser Arafat does.

Now, we know that the Egyptian security are really clamped down on the situation in this city of 16 million people. Yesterday, as soon as it became clear that Yasser Arafat's body was coming here and that the funeral would be held here, there were expectations that there will be some demonstrations, some protests in Cairo after Friday prayers get out, which is in about just over an hour and a half.

So we're seeing here, Christiane, the real gap between the rulers and the people. And Yasser Arafat was one of the few Arab leaders who actually was able to create a bridge between his people and his leadership -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And, Ben, as we look at this turnout from the Arab world most particularly, walk us through a little bit the history of the Arab leaders vis-a-vis their relationships with Yasser Arafat. And even though many of them have provided support over the years, they have also been accused of betraying the Palestinian people, of keeping them in refugee camps, of never giving them citizenship, of using them as political pawns in the greater struggle. What is the relationship between these Arab leaders that we're seeing and the Palestinian people?

WEDEMAN: Christiane, it's always been something of a problematic relationship. Arab leaders -- and I'm speaking in general, of course -- have always liked to exploit the Palestinian issue for their own purposes, domestic and international. And the Palestinians particularly under Yasser Arafat finally broke away from the control of the Arab regimes. And Yasser Arafat, his struggle was not only against Israel, but it was also a constant quest for independence from one Arab regime or another who wanted to control them.

Now, we can go through the whole list of countries who are represented at this funeral, who have a very long and dark history with the Palestinians. Bashar al-Assad of Syria, for instance, his father had a very stormy relationship with Yasser Arafat. Syrian troops went into Lebanon in 1976, initially they said to re-establish order there. And it quickly clamped -- really came down hard on the Palestinians, killing hundreds if not thousands of them in the course of the Lebanese civil war.

Egypt has never been involved in any sort of open armed hostilities, but we have seen relations between Egypt and the Palestinians on something of a rollercoaster after Anwar Sadat's, the late Egyptian president, began peace talks with Israel. His relationship with Yasser Arafat went very sour. And, in fact, after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in October, 1981, Yasser Arafat expressed satisfaction at the killing. He cheered the killing. And that has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of many Palestinians.

Now, as far as, for instance, countries like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, they've always been very interested in sort of paying off the Palestinians and giving them money in the hopes that they would not in any way draw them into the conflict. And we saw this after Yasser Arafat came down on the side of Saddam Hussein in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Kuwaitis and the Gulf states completely cut off ties, completely cut off funding, and only gradually did relations get any warmer from that very cold bottom point.

So, Christiane, very rocky, rocky relationships between the Palestinians and the Arab states. At the same time, I should point out that we're talking about regimes and leaders. At a street level, Yasser Arafat has always been popular on the Arab street.

In recent years as his fortunes have declined, as he became what was called the prisoner of Ramallah, many people saw him as a tragic figure, a sad figure, who was abandoned by the Arab leaders who had always said they were loyal supporters of the Palestinian cause. The feeling was that he was left to hang, left out to dry by the Arab leaders in his final years.

So many people on the street don't forget this very long and troubled history, Christiane, between the Palestinians and the Arab regimes.

AMANPOUR: And we'll just describe what we're watching here. Of course, a bus just going through our picture, but this is the march that the world leaders and the body of Yasser Arafat are taking to the military base not far from where we just saw the dignitaries meeting here, not far from where we are. They're going to the military base, where, we believe, Yasser Arafat's body will be loaded onto an aircraft for his final journey back to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Many of the Arab leaders have also been somewhat frustrated over the years by Yasser Arafat, have had to play mediator, have had to deal with the fact that he was unable to close the deal when it came to making a permanent peace with the Israelis.

But, of course, there has been much made of his how else can be described as a terrible relationship with the current Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. As much as the former Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, swallowed his animosity and looked forward for the good of peace and the good of the people, when it came to that Intifada, when it came to the outbreak of violence again, and then the election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister of Israel, the wording changed from one of accommodation with Yasser Arafat to one of enmity. He was called a pathological liar, a dog.

Ariel Sharon let it be known that he wished he had killed Yasser Arafat back when he had had that opportunity in Lebanon in the early '80s when Israel invaded Beirut in part, in great part to expel the PLO and Yasser Arafat from their bases there.

And, of course, over the last few years these constant threats that Yasser Arafat's life was not assured, that if he left he would never be allowed back, the constant threats that he might be assassinated. Of course, they had to assure -- and apparently they did -- the United States that no harm would befall him.

But many, of course, in the Arab world and in the Palestinian community bitterly, bitterly are angry and frustrated at the way, after all, the first properly democratically-elected leader of an Arab-oppressed people had been treated by this Israeli government overt the last several years.

And I want to ask Daoud Kuttab in Ramallah to comment on the writings of Ahmed Samih Khalidi (ph), who is a former Palestinian negotiator, and who said this week that Arafat's shameful treatment at the hands of Ariel Sharon and his friends in the West surely contributed to his fatal condition in the end, and it will not be forgotten. He described it as the unjustified incarceration for the past three years of the democratically-elected leader of an oppressed and occupied people is an indelible stain on the record of those who proclaim their faith in democracy.

How do you think, Mr. Kuttab, that the Palestinian people and the Israelis will be able to re-engage when there is so much bitterness of the sort that I just read out?

KUTTAB: Yes. You know, that Arafat, as we all know, has become a symbol and has been a symbol for the Palestinians. So in a way, the attempts by Israel to humiliate him was more of trying to etch away and cut away at the symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

So every time that the Israelis put restrictions on Arafat, tried to humiliate him, it was not just the person of Arafat that was being humiliated, but every Palestinian self in his heart, in his body, in his mind that he was being humiliated. And the checkpoints and other things were basically dwarfed in comparison to the way the Israelis treated Arafat, the way they tried to play games with him about where he can live and where he can stay, whether he can travel, whether he could come back, all of these things were very, very much adding to the anger and hatred by Palestinians that their symbol, their leader was being dealt with that way.

And then they cut off the electricity on him, I remember one night almost midnight that there was fear that they were going to kill him. Literally, women came out with pots and pans and they started hitting them, and there was an impromptu demonstration that night that actually slowed down the Israelis trying to do some harm to Arafat.

So the fact is that he was a symbol, he is a symbol to the Palestinians. And the Israelis knew this, and they did this specifically because they knew that by humiliating him, they would hurt him. And they wanted to break his spirit. They wanted to break his political stand, where he was saying, I will not give in on the issue of Jerusalem. I will not give in on issues to deal with the '67 borders.

They thought that by humiliating him they got his weak points, but he resisted. And this is why today Palestinians feel that this location behind me, this Muqata, must be remembered as Arafat's last stand, as the three years where he withstood tremendous physical but mostly psychological pressure on him to try to bring him down, to try to make him give up. And in a way, this will be remembered for a long time as the last stand of Mr. Arafat politically. And people will be very, very careful when they make negotiations in conceding what areas that Arafat refused to concede on.

So and on the issue of democracy, this always was some weak point that Palestinians felt that the U.S. and Israel had, because they kept on talking about a greater Middle East and democracy in the Middle East. And the one leader who was elected properly and fairly by his own people, which Jimmy Carter and others observed the elections, this one Arab leader who was properly elected was now being denied recognition, not only by his direct enemies, the Israelis, but even by the United States, who was shunning Arafat.

So it was a very difficult issue to deal with when the Americans were talking about democracy in the Middle East, yet at the same time refusing to recognize Arafat's presidential status.

AMANPOUR: Stand by, and as we watch a picture there of Yasser Arafat's widow, Suha, along with the wife of the president of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, we want to bring in our guest, Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state, the man who made shuttle diplomacy, who invented shuttle diplomacy back in the '70s, going back and forth between the Arabs and the Israelis, trying to forge peace back then.

Mr. Kissinger, thank you for joining us. And tell us, as you watch this and as you reflect over what's happened over the last two weeks as Arafat has lay dying, what do you think of this moment, his legacy and what we can expect in the future?

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I believe that we are at a moment of great opportunity for the peace process. It would have arisen even had he remained alive, but I think under the present conditions, everyone can take another look at the possibilities that now exist.

Arafat himself made a huge contribution in giving an identity to the Palestinian people in maintaining their struggle. His methods were not the methods that were needed at the end. But one has to give him recognition for his achievements in forming the identity of the Palestinian people.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Kissinger, would you agree that the moment has come for the United States to re-engage? And what would you recommend to President Bush on this account, given that you have close ties obviously with the president?

KISSINGER: I have supported the president. I would not claim close ties. I would say I would think this is a moment for America to re-engage itself. And I believe that a moment has come where the United States should make a specific proposal after negotiating it with our European allies. And if everything were to work well with moderate Palestinian leaders of countries like Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, in order to give then Palestinians the moral backing for the concessions they have to make.

In order to make the progress which I believe is possible, the sort of competition between the European and American approach should end, and they should be merged into some common position, which can be put to the parties.


AMANPOUR: As we watch this military funeral and the honor guard proceed with the coffin of Yasser Arafat eventually to be transported into a plane, we saw his widow, Suha. We saw the first lady of Egypt. And I believe we saw Yasser Arafat's 9-year-old daughter, the first we've seen of her in many, many years, saying good-bye to the father that she knew only as a young girl and, along with her mother, had not seen in the last three to four years since they left the Palestinian territories.

Dr. Kissinger, as you watch this array of leaders, many of whom must have been around while you were negotiating, what do you look back on? Where is the hope for other individual Arab leaders to negotiate with Israel, given the state of affairs right now?

KISSINGER: Despite all of the turmoil of recent years, there has been some progress made that has not yet been put together. Israel has agreed to the principal of giving up settlements, not to the specific number. The security fence permits a way of approaching the question of international guarantees that was not credible previously. And some of the voices in the Arab world that have stated that Israel would be recognized in turn for some peace settlement represent an important progress.

So my view is that even among the Arab leaders that I know, that there may be a greater readiness to make progress than one would deduce from the violence that one sees everyday on television.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Kissinger, thank you so much for joining us on this day.

And as we watch the final part of this official military funeral here in Egypt, and we see President Mubarak, who is the successor to Anwar Sadat, who concluded the first peace of an Arab leader with Israel, who stepped onto the soil of Jerusalem and who for his troubles was then gunned down a few years later, and we see that Egypt maintains its peace with Israel. We see that the Palestinians did as well under Oslo, but that has not yet turned into a permanent peace. We see that only Jordan is the other country to have done so.

So many world leaders at this red carpet farewell for Yasser Arafat. We saw just in that front line the president of Sudan, the foreign minister of Iran, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, the president of Lebanon, and the rather moving sight of the young Zahwa, Yasser Arafat's little girl, who barely knew her father and who was taken away from the territories by her mother some three to four years ago and never returned.

She is here in Egypt being held and comforted by her mother, who is also suppressing her own tears at this moment as the coffin of Yasser Arafat is marched by an honor guard, honorary military pallbearers to the plane that will take him to Ramallah and where he will be interred at the Muqata, the compound that once was the compound built by the British to administer historic Palestine, then was used by the Jordanians when King Hussein administered that part of the West Bank, and since Oslo it was used by the Palestinian leader as his West Bank headquarters and proved the demolished site of his last three years on this Earth.

Yasser Arafat, who is described in one of his obituaries as the wily enigmatic father and leader of Palestinian nationalism for almost 40 years, and who symbolized his people's longing for a distinct political identity and independent state.

Yasser Arafat, who began his struggle with high-profile acts of terrorism against Israel, the airline hijackings, ordering the deaths of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, who then in 1988 recognized Israel's right to exist, and who afterwards went along with what were, in fact, secret negotiations between peace-minded Palestinians and Israelis, which led to the decoration of principles to the Oslo Accords, which ushered in a relatively long era of relative peace and quiet, of Palestinian institutions, of the beginnings of co-existence with Israel and the Israeli institutions, of real and effective cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security service when we saw a marked drop-off in the acts of terrorism against Israel.

But also at a time when there was so much time and so many years between the original declarations of peace and the eventual final settlement, when so many more Israeli settlements were built in the West Bank and when trust began to whittle away between Israel and Palestine, between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership.

And when finally that summer of 2000 when President Clinton, who had engaged for so many years of his presidency and who had come closer than any other U.S. president to forging a permanent peace between Israel and Palestine, when he failed and was unable to get Yasser Arafat and Israel to conclude a final peace that many say was the most generous offer that Israel had ever put on the table -- the offer to share Jerusalem as a joint capital, the offer to return a certain number of Palestinian refugees to Israel, the offer to compensate the many tens of thousands of refugees who would never be allowed to return to their original homes that they fled or cast from in 1948 with the creation of the state of Israel, which offered almost the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza as the site of a contiguous Palestinian independent and democratic state -- that fell by the wayside.

And after that, the second Intifada, after Ariel Sharon, the current prime minister, walked onto the Temple Mount, the Haram al Sharif, and in the eyes of Palestinians provoked the violence that we have seen over the last four years.

The death of Yasser Arafat, after failing to rein in the violence, blamed by the Israelis for sponsoring suicide bombings that killed so many Israelis, of seeing thousands of Palestinians die in this Intifada and descend into poverty, their institutions diminished, many of them destroyed.

But in the end, upon his death, seeing that many of those Oslo institutions, the political institutions, the constitution, the basic law enacted, still standing, and able to enact, effect an orderly transfer of authority in accordance with their basic law and their constitution, security services are able, at this moment at least, to keep a lid on any potential outbreak of violence, and none of any significance having broken out from the moment two weeks ago that Yasser Arafat there in the Muqata in Ramallah entered his final bout of ill health.

There, he agreed, after so many years, to leave Ramallah. He agreed because Israel guaranteed for the first time in so many years that he could leave for treatment, and that indeed if he did recover that he would be allowed back. It is known that Israel at that time did not believe that he would survive, believed from the very beginning that he was dying. And, in fact, that did turn out to be the truth.

His last hours on this earth spent on route from his homeland via Amman, where he summoned his final strength, his final bout of charisma. He blew kisses to his people. He climbed aboard that military jet that the French had provided, and then we never saw him again, stretchered into the Paris military hospital at Percy outside the capital, and then eventually brought out from intensive care, from total organ failure from the coma that he lapsed into, brought out in a coffin, airlifted from Paris, the hospital, to the military airport at Villacoublay, given a high distinct military honor farewell by the French authorities, waved off by the prime minister of France, members of the Palestinian leadership who had come to accompany his body back to its final resting place.

A funeral march was played by a military band. And the national anthems of Palestine and of France were played as the coffin of Yasser Arafat entered the belly of the French military air force Airbus that brought him here.

Those honors as much for the person of Yasser Arafat and the singular role that he has played on the world stage, whatever his legacy for the last 40 years, as for the cause that he espoused and the aspirations of a people oppressed and still stateless, who are waiting their final legitimate right to statehood, an aspiration that galvanizes the Arab world, the Islamic world, much of Europe, an aspiration that has been legitimized by the United Nations, and now by the United States in the last few years, which has called for an independent, sovereign, peaceful, democratic Palestinian state to co- exist with a peaceful and secure Israel on the land that has been so bitterly contested for nearly 60 years now.

The former Israeli foreign minister speaking about Yasser Arafat and his death and his legacy, having conducted so many years of negotiations with Yasser Arafat, said that at this moment let bygones be bygones, openings be openings, and let us turn our face to openings.

Certainly many people who grew perhaps somewhat disenchanted by the authoritarian rule of Yasser Arafat in the last years of his life, by his inability to raise them up from a stateless people to one that has an independent state, are looking for their future and their new leadership to be able to guarantee them the state that is theirs by right in terms of the current political situation.

We turn now to Michael Holmes, who is in Ramallah, who is standing outside the Muqata, and will take over coverage of the next and final journey of Yasser Arafat as he proceeds there by air and will then be interred in a plot in that half demolished compound -- Michael.

HOLMES: Christiane, yes, Palestinians are pouring into the area around the Palestinian Authority compound, the Muqata as it is known. They number in the hundreds really, not the thousands yet, but there is still plenty of time for them to start to gather.

They have periodically marched up and down the streets around the Muqata, chanting slogans in favor of Yasser Arafat. We've seen many of them climbing the walls around the Muqata to get the best vantage points. Many of the roads around here have been sealed off, indeed as has Ramallah itself. The Israeli security concerns cited as the reason for that. Israeli forces sealing off Ramallah from the rest of the West Bank, and indeed other towns and cities in the West Bank similarly have been sealed off.

Now, what Israeli's concern, of course, was that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would want to march here to Ramallah, come and witness this resting place of Yasser Arafat. Israel said that wasn't going to happen.

And so, really it's going to be the residents alone who will be able to come here to the Muqata. They won't be able to get inside during the actual ceremony. They will, however, after the ceremony at about 6:00 p.m. local time be allowed inside. And indeed for the next three days will be allowed to visit the tomb where Yasser Arafat is to be interred in a little over four hours from now.

We continue to watch these live pictures now coming to us from Cairo. Here at the Muqata, the crowd has gathered mainly around the rear gate. That is the gate that is most often used, however. It's where business is done. Cars come and go. And it is the gate that leads straight into the open area of the Muqata, where this ceremony will take place.

I've been here many times over the last three years, and I can tell you that open area, which is the size of a good-sized parade ground, has been absolutely crammed with the rubble of Israeli incursions, crushed cars, destroyed buildings that were destroyed either by tank fire or by bulldozers indeed. It's just littered that compound. You couldn't walk around it without tripping over some of the detritus of these complexes.

Within 48 hours the most extraordinary transformation we have seen here. Palestinian workers brought in, heavy earth-moving equipment brought in, trucks and the like, and they've cleared this place in an extraordinarily fast period of time. We have seen new areas leveled and compacted. We've seen the walls of a barracks that is unpainted covered with white cloth, Palestinian flags are adorning all over this compound.

Outside the walls of the compound, the people are the ones doing the adorning.

During Yasser Arafat's time in hospital, it's fair to say that there wasn't a lot of posters and the like of Yasser Arafat around the city of Ramallah. They were in other places such as Gaza. But not here. In the last 24 hours, we have seen thousands of posters of Yasser Arafat go around this city. They are plastered all over cars. And they now adorn the walls on the outside of the Muqata. They have to be replaced every now and then because people are pulling them down and taking them as souvenirs or to march with as they move around these walls.

This compound is a large one. It covers several acres. And there were more than a dozen buildings here at one stage. There are fewer now because of the various demolitions and the like. Several of the buildings have been rebuilt, not Yasser Arafat's own office building where he spent the last three years under siege. Ironic in some ways that he is now on this day being afforded the respect in death that he's not been afforded or enjoyed in life in recent years, an enduring Palestinian symbol for statehood. According to many, also its prime obstacle to the achievement of that dream.

Many Palestinian leaders, and people on the street indeed, have been telling me in recent days that Israel and the United States have long said that Yasser Arafat is no negotiating partner, we cannot do business with him. He does not act in good faith. And so nothing has gone anywhere in terms of the peace process. Well, Palestinians will now say that excuse is now gone. It will be buried with Yasser Arafat in this tomb that has been constructed in the last 36 hours here in Ramallah.

Back to you. AMANPOUR: Michael, as we continue to watch these live pictures, and as the Cairo part of this funeral begins to wind down and Arafat's body is waiting transport to Ramallah, we just want to go to a report from John Vause about the Palestinian people where you are, about their grief and how they're reacting to this moment and the passing not only of the father of their nation, but of an era.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The waiting was finally over, bringing tears mixed with anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Abu Amar shouldn't have died. He's all we have. All of the people are crying for him.

VAUSE: But mostly, it seems, there was shock. Yasser Arafat's time as the only leader of the Palestinian people had passed.

"You have left the earth but you have not left our hearts," this man yelled from the main square in Ramallah.

Palestinians took to the streets. "With our souls and our blood, we sacrifice to you," they chanted. The slogan reserved for shaheed, martyrs to the Palestinian cause.

Children dressed as militants marched with those from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. They brought a promise to abide by the decisions of the Palestinian Authority.

Thick, black smoke from burning tires hung over Ramallah.

"Because of the Israeli occupation, when you are sad, you burn tires," this boy said.

On this day, Arafat's failings were forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he was one -- one of the greatest men in the world.

VAUSE: But there's also anxiety. What will the world be like without Arafat? A promising sign, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament was sworn in as interim leader for 60 days. For now at least an orderly transfer of a power.

But politics and election seem a distant thought. For now, Palestinians are preparing to lay Yasser Arafat to rest in his West Bank compound. By nightfall more than 1,000 mourners crammed the streets outside the main gate. And many cannot imagine life without the man who often seemed larger than life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't think it's real. Maybe we're waiting for a miracle.

VAUSE (on camera): Among Palestinians, there is now the hope that somehow Arafat's death will revive the stagnant peace process. Both Israel and the United States said he was an obstacle to peace. But now Palestinians say that excuse should be buried with Arafat.

John Vause, CNN, Ramallah.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: That report from John Vause. And we'll be rejoining Christiane Amanpour in Cairo in just a moment.

Our correspondents are not only in Cairo but, of course, Michael Holmes is in Ramallah, covering the leaders and representatives from around the world who are covering these events.

Live pictures now coming to us. They are pictures coming to us from Ramallah, where we are expecting the plane carrying the coffin of Yasser Arafat will arrive in the next few hours.

A reminder of the events that we have seen so far today. The morning started, of course, with a service in the mosque in Egypt in Cairo. That service was then followed by a military procession through the streets of Cairo, and then the body was taken to the airfield for the final transport to Ramallah.

Yasser Arafat carried many labels over the decades he spent in the political arena. At different points of his life he was called an activist, a statesman, and a terrorist.

CNN's senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers now takes a look back at the life and the controversial career of Yasser Arafat.

We will have that report in just a moment, but before we get to that, it's a chance for us to look back over the events of the morning, this historic morning. As I mentioned a moment ago, the day started with a religious service. The flag-draped coffin of Yasser Arafat taken to the mosque, where dignitaries from at least 40 countries had arrived to pay their last respects.

And on the streets of Cairo, a very large military operation was put in place. Perhaps a shame for those who had wanted those ordinary Palestinians and those ordinary people who had wanted to pay their respects but an operation that was necessary -- it was necessary, of course, for the smooth running of this day's proceedings.

Christiane Amanpour is back with us from Cairo.

AMANPOUR: Richard, the Cairo part of this honorary funeral, the military funeral here, is coming to a close. In fact, the service has ended, and we are awaiting the plane, the aircraft, that is taking Yasser Arafat's coffin back to Ramallah for burial.

We want to bring in now Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian legislator and Palestinian activist over so many years and who has joined so many times on our air to explain to us the nuances of everything that has been going on.

Hanan, one of Yasser Arafat's enduring images was, of course, at the United Nations in '74 when he appealed for an independent state. And, of course, he had the holster, he brandished the olive branch, and he said don't let that olive branch drop from my hand. It sort of epitomized, according to so many people, his shift between fighter and peacemaker. How do you see it right now at this moment?

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR: Well, again, the whole issue of the two sides, not just of President Arafat, but of the Palestinian cause, the sides of the revolution of national liberation of our struggle, and the sides of peacemaking and reaching out to the other side and saying I'm there and I'm ready to work together on a just peace.

Right now, Arafat is being seen in a multiple of ways, not just in one role. He's not being reduced to an either/or situation. Palestinians see in him (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a history, a national identity, a sense of historical redemption so to speak. He kept our cause alive. He kept the identity alive. He's seen as the father of the nation. And that is what is being looked at and assessed in his entirety.

And so he's still now, particularly at this point, Christiane, he is seen as the larger-than-life historical, symbolic, iconographic human being. It will be later on that he will be looked upon and assessed in more concrete and pragmatic ways.

At this moment, his funeral is a signal of the status in the Arab world and the region and even globally. And here in Palestine symbolically it is much more immediate, much more grassroots and human. And it's symbolic of his closeness (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with his people and their affections with which they held him.

AMANPOUR: Hanan, as we watch the military plane taxi to takeoff to bring his body to where you are for the interment, Yasser Arafat, of course, was a colossal figure. Whatever one might think of him, he's described as a giant on the world stage. But it was obviously very well known for yourself and other Palestinian officials over the last few years actively called for an end to the violence of the Intifada, the suicide bombings against the Israelis. How do you think the spiraling down of that violence is going to affect the possibility of a new beginning and new openings now?

ASHRAWI: Yes. Actually, we have been calling for an end to violence on both sides. We have been trying to stop any kind of suicide bombing or violence provided it has been by both sides. The problem is it's always been the Palestinian side that has been labeled and blamed maligned and asked to lie down and die quietly. It is the will now to hold both sides, particularly the strongest side, the Israeli occupation that is acting militarily, that has the F-16s and Apache gunships and tanks. These are the ones that have to stop the violence as well.

So we need to have a cessation of hostilities on both sides. The occupation must stop its incursions, its land grabs, its own demolitions, its assassination policies. And the Palestinians must adhere to a cease-fire, and we know they can do it because we've done this before. And to re-legitimize the language of negotiations and peacemaking based emphatically. Based on a recognition of parity of rights is not equal powers.

And I think we can do it through democratic principles and means. We need to have elections. We need to re-establish the legitimacy of leadership, do a mandate by the people. Then you won't have anybody coming and claiming to speak on behalf of the Palestinians or to act on behalf of the Palestinians without being elected to do so or given the mandate to do so.

Second, you need to have a vibrant, active, substantive peace process that can change the dynamic on the ground, and therefore that can undermine any desperation or moves towards acts of violence and hostility by saying there is a chance for peace. There is an avenue that you can have justice. You can be free. And you don't have to do unto others what was done unto you or resort to violence because you're victimized.

This is the kind of hope we need to give the Palestinians. Unfortunately, that hope has been missing. The Palestinians were left to suffer alone. And on the contrary, they were blamed and maligned. And the Americans stayed outside the picture, and they allowed the asymmetry of power (UNINTELLIGIBLE) its course.

AMANPOUR: Hanan, I want to ask you about the leadership. Many people took great comfort that moderates such as Abu Mazen and Abu Ala seem to be exerting their leadership influence, and now it's obvious that Abu Mazen has become the chairman of the PLO and Abu Ala is also, of course, running the government because he's the prime minister. But what about the ascension of Farouk Kaddoumi to head of Fatah. He is against Oslo. He hasn't come back to the territories. Does that complicate the political process? Or is that irrelevant?

ASHRAWI: That is relevant, and I sense it is a non. It is a sort of recognition of a historical goal.

The three of them actually -- Abu Mazen and Abu Ala and Farouk Kaddoumi -- belong to the old guard, to the same school as the Abwama (ph), so to speak. These are what we call the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the PLO leadership.

Farouk Kaddoumi, in particular, has a second-in-command position within Fatah. And because Abu Mazen was elected by the Executive Committee to head the PLO executives, it was seen by the Fatah central (AUDIO GAP) that they would go to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Farouk Kaddoumi to head Fatah.

It is a period of transition, I think, right now. It's not a question of who is a hard-liner or who is more moderate. It's a question of power-sharing. It's a question of giving due and respect to people who deserve it. And I think it will create problems within Fatah because they do need to act internally in accordance with a dynamic here, the base in which the leadership was outside, the base in which the PLO was deemed as the focal point, the center of decision-making as we said. And the people here were sidelined and had no part in decision-making.

These days are gone now that there is a nation. There are people underground with their institutions. There is a leadership here. And this is what has to be the source of legitimacy and the source of institutional work. And Fatah has a faction, is in need and the younger people talk about the customs, is a need of carrying out its own elections and is in need of revitalizing its own leadership to bring (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the younger generation that had been excluded so far.

It's very complicated issues, but I see this immediate period as still one of transition. We are a carry over from the previous period with the old guard in place. We need active, immediate, active elections. We need the conditions for elections in order to produce new leadership at all levels.

AMANPOUR: Hanan Ashrawi, we thank you so much.

And this concludes our Cairo portion of the military funeral and the honor that Yasser Arafat in death has been paid by so many world leaders. The man who commanded the world stage for 40 years, who brought his people's plight into the international spotlight, who demanded more than anyone else that his people, the Palestinians, get their legitimate right to an independent and free state is dead.

The plane carrying his body has taken off and is now on route to the occupied West Bank, where he will be interred. And in the words of many who have been watching this, the man who was likened to the revolutionary heroes in some people's minds, such as Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat has gone now. And people are calling for a new beginning.

I'm Christiane Amanpour in Cairo.


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