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Administration Quiet on Israeli Attacks

Aired December 3, 2001 - 10:56   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: ... covering for you for the past hour or so.

Let's turn it now to CNN's Major Garrett, who has been watching from his post on the North Lawn of the White House -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Let's recap quickly the limited Bush administration reaction to the events unfolding on the ground in the Gaza Strip with this Israeli military action. No direct Bush administration reaction to the military undertakings by the Israeli government, however, the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, did repeat what Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday, which is the Israeli government is a sovereign government; it has a right and an obligation to defend its people and defend itself, although Mr. Fleischer did repeat what Secretary of State Powell said yesterday, which was that both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, should take heed and at least weigh the repercussions of whatever moves they make, military or otherwise, in the region.

A very muted response from the Bush administration to what's going on on the ground now. In the past, Miles, the administration has taken pains to encourage both sides to do everything within their power to minimize the cycle of violence, saying that responding in kind to acts of violence only aggravates the situation. We're getting none of that rhetoric from the Bush administration today, nor did you get it yesterday. The general reaction here is things are unfolding, and they are going to keep an eye on it, but not discourage Israel from responding militarily.

O'BRIEN: Major, take a moment for us to put this in the larger context of the war on terror, the events of September 11. In talking to Mr. Gissin, it struck me that we have had our ground zero. That clearly is a statement to the American people and perhaps changes the perceptions among Americans and the administration. How are things different post-9/11, now that we are watching this.

GARRETT: There are a lot of moving parts to this entire process, Miles, and you've identified one of the most important moving parts, at least from the Israeli perspective: The Israeli government argues, We are the subject of terrorism committed against our citizens, not daily, but there is a threat of it almost daily. This weekend, you saw a horrific wave of that type of violence. The Israeli government says this very directly: The United States has said because it was subject of violence on its shores, it had the right, responsibility, and obligation to respond in kind. The Israeli government has said we also reserve that right.

And you remember, at very beginning of the military campaign, or the assessment here in United States of a military reaction, the Israeli government criticized the United States for sending signals not to appease anyone within the region. The Bush administration took that criticism very seriously and does not want in any way to be perceived as shortchanging the security of Israel as it pursues its military goals in the overall campaign against terrorism.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Major Garrett, at the White House, thank you very much. Major will be staying at that post throughout the morning. We will be checking in with him as events warrant.

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