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Saturday Morning News

Crisis in the Middle East: Sam Husseini Discusses the Summit's Prospects

Aired October 14, 2000 - 8:47 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As we just heard live here on CNN, President Clinton announcing that Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat have agreed to meet in Egypt early next week for a summit seeking to end the violence and disruption in the Middle East.

For more perspective on that, we're joined from Washington by Sam Husseini. He is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Thank you for speaking with us. And I understand, sir, you can give us a Palestinian perspective on this news. Thanks for being with us this morning.

SAM HUSSEINI, INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC ACCURACY: Well, I'm very glad to be here. I don't pretend to speak for the Palestinians.

KAGAN: OK.

HUSSEINI: But I think I can shed some light on things.

KAGAN: OK.

HUSSEINI: I mean when President Clinton says let's get to the root causes of the violence, I think he's got to take a little bit of a look inside, maybe more than just a little bit of a look because what he did at Camp David was say Yasser Arafat's responsible, Barak's done all of these great things and everybody seemed to take President Clinton's word for it.

Now, they have not made public what was on the table at Camp David but the indications are...

KAGAN: No one has. That's true of both sides.

HUSSEINI: Right.

KAGAN: Of all sides.

HUSSEINI: So we're supposed to take President Clinton's word that the Palestinians were intransigent and the Israelis were so accommodating but what...

KAGAN: And you think that was a strategic mistake? Has that been part of the problem that has caused some of the bitterness of the Palestinian people?

HUSSEINI: Well, I think it's more than a statistic mistake. It's failing and refusing to do justice. The beginning of the Oslo Accords, basically they were a way of making permanent occupation, OK? The Palestinians would only be granted nominal control over the population centers. Israel would retain control over the territories, over the water facilities, control over the every day lives of the Palestinians as they move from one point to another, over trade. They would refuse to bring in the refugees back to their rightful homes in Lebanon, who are living in squalid refugee camps.

There was no indication that Israel would be giving full citizenship rights, first class citizenship rights to the Palestinians living in Israel. And this is what happens when you don't do justice.

I think a lot of Palestinians now are saying give me liberty or give me death, OK? The Israelis have all of the armaments and there's an incredible asymmetry. I mean we see Palestinian civilians, scores and scores of Palestinian civilians getting killed...

KAGAN: Is that...

HUSSEINI: We see some Israeli soldiers...

KAGAN: Excuse me, sir. Is that what you see -- is that reflected, we had reports -- I don't know if you were able to see our coverage earlier today, but we did have reports out of Gaza City and also out of Ramallah, our correspondents talking to just regular Palestinian people on the streets and they're none too pleased with Yasser Arafat for agreeing to go to this summit.

HUSSEINI: Well, because they know what's -- because they've been paying attention for the last several years as to what the so-called peace process has brought them -- tens of thousands of more illegal Israeli settlers, 1,000 house demolitions of Palestinian homes. These things are done quietly. The Israelis, you don't see these things on the evening news. A Palestinian, to go from one town to another, has to go through humiliating Israeli checkpoints. They've seen their unemployment rate skyrocket.

They are, what Israel is trying to do is make permanent an occupation and the subjugation of a people while saying oh, we're giving them freedom, when they're not if you look at the real agreements.

KAGAN: And so is the answer not to sit down at the table? Is the answer not to sit down at the table at all?

HUSSEINI: The answer is to sit down at a table that wants to do justice.

KAGAN: But this is...

HUSSEINI: Not at the same table that's gotten us to this point, all right? Just talking...

KAGAN: This is the table that's available this week in what is, I think many people would agree, has been a dire situation.

HUSSEINI: Well, yeah, except...

KAGAN: Something must be done, would you agree?

HUSSEINI: Something must be done and, indeed, it should be done through the United Nations. And the United States...

KAGAN: And they will be there, too, as I...

HUSSEINI: No, they will not be there with any substantial presence. The United Nations, the Security Council, attempted to do something. They condemned Israel's actions and they haven't followed through on the resolution. Why haven't they done that?

KAGAN: The original agreement was to have the Israelis...

HUSSEINI: The United Nations should...

KAGAN: ... the Palestinians, the Jordanians and the Egyptians and the United Nations at this conference in Sharm el-Sheikh.

HUSSEINI: The United Nations, I'm sure, will dutifully take notes. It will not be a meaningful player. It will not implement the dozens of resolutions that Israel is in violation of. Israeli, Israel violates U.N. resolutions when it builds settlements. Israel violates the Geneva Accords when it shoots at civilians in occupied territory, which is what it's doing. Israel is violating U.N. Security Council resolutions when it refuses to let the Palestinian refugees back into their homes.

Israel is doing this on a day by day basis and the United States and this administration is constantly covering up for the fact, they're constantly, you know, just talking for the sake of talking, of...

KAGAN: So you would rather see a forum sponsored by the United Nations...

HUSSEINI: They're doing photo-ops for the (unintelligible).

KAGAN: ... rather than having the U.S.?

HUSSEINI: Certainly not this administration. I mean this administration has certainly shown itself to be ridiculously biased towards Israel and I think we need to have a basis on international law. I mean we just went to, you know, bombing, we bomb Iraq every other day now, we bombed Yugoslavia, allegedly to pursue U.N. resolutions. Well, Israel is in violation of dozens. The United Nations needs to assert itself.

KAGAN: So, bottom line, the only table available this week is the one in Egypt and this particular conference...

HUSSEINI: Because...

KAGAN: Yasser Arafat -- let...

HUSSEINI: Because President Clinton makes it so.

KAGAN: ... better off going or not going? Better going or not going?

HUSSEINI: No.

KAGAN: Better off not going?

HUSSEINI: No, no. This is a silly question, I'm sorry to tell you.

KAGAN: Well, what's your answer?

HUSSEINI: Better that this President stands up and starts to do justice than to give us more meaningless talking, more talking that's going to implement subjugation and that's not proper.

KAGAN: And well, with that...

HUSSEINI: That's not proper.

KAGAN: With that, we'll let you have the final word. Sam Husseini, thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

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