CNN INSIDE POLITICS
Events in Middle East Escalate; Washington Reacts to Latest Suicide Bombing
Aired March 29, 2002 - 16:00 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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff on the national Mall, where the tourists are gathering. The cherry blossoms are here. But events in the Middle East have cast a pall over this religious holy week.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley, also in Washington. I'll have complete reaction to the latest suicide bombing and the Israeli attack on Yasser Arafat's compound.
MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett traveling with the president in Crawford, Texas. The U.S. expresses grave concern but vows to keep working toward a negotiated cease-fire.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Bill Schneider in Los Angeles. A tough customer has a change of heart and scores the political play of the week.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS WITH JUDY WOODRUFF.
WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. I'm reporting today from the Tidal Basin here in Washington, where as you can see behind me, the cherry trees are in blossom. Signs of spring are all around. But as the tourists arrive during this religious holy week, events in the Middle East have cast a shadow over events at home.
Another suicide bombing in Jerusalem. This one carried out by an 18-year-old girl. And on the West Bank, Israeli forces attack and enter the compound of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader. Candy Crowley is in our Washington bureau with more on today's events -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Judy, the pictures from this day are in some ways striking, and in other ways too familiar. They show the aftermath of yet another suicide bombing in Jerusalem. And the images of tanks tearing holes in Yasser Arafat's Ramallah headquarters. Left behind as darkness fell, more death, more destruction and more damage to what's left of the peace process.
For the latest at this hour we take to you Jerusalem and CNN's Christiane Amanpour -- Christiane. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, the latest is, according to Palestinian officials, that Yasser Arafat, who is essentially holed up in two rooms, along with aides, in his Ramallah compound. He has been in touch not only with the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Power -- that's what we're told -- but also with other Arab leaders.
Now, we've been told by Palestinian leaders who were in touch by phone with Yasser Arafat that throughout this day, particularly in the evening hours, his compound, as you know, has not only been breached by those tanks and armored vehicles, but the compound has been taking direct hits by machine gun fire from those armored vehicles and tanks.
We also have been told that army bulldozers, a kind of wrecking equipment has come in and is apparently ready to demolish some of the buildings in that compound. Arafat apparently is within a couple of rooms in the center of the compound.
Yasser Arafat himself and his aides and political colleagues believe that he is a target of this operation, even though the Israeli government has given assurances to the United States that he is not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YASSER ARAFAT, PALESTINIAN CHAIRMAN (through translator): They either want to kill me, or capture me or expel me. But I say no. I will be a martyr. I hope I'll be a martyr in the Holy Land. I have chosen this path. And if I fall, one day a Palestinian child will raise the Palestinian flag above our mosques and churches.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, this Israeli invasion of Ramallah, and particularly the surrounding of Yasser Arafat's compound, comes not only after that suicide bombing attack in Netanya, but also, as this was going on, another suicide attack in Jerusalem. This time an 18- year-old girl, a refugee from a camp in the West Bank, went into a supermarket in Jerusalem, detonated the explosives, killed two people and wounded about 20 others.
The Israeli government spokesman, when we asked him a short while ago, says that this operation into Ramallah and potentially into other areas under Palestinian control, could last for a long time. He said there is no limit. He will be there until there is a cease-fire or until we route out terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIDEON MEIR, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We had no choice but to take this obligation upon ourselves. And what Israel is doing is actually exercising Israel's security doctrine, which is self-defense. There is no intention to reoccupy the territories or to harm physically Yasser Arafat. But there will no terrorist who will be immune from Israeli security forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP) AMANPOUR: So that's where we are right now. Palestinian leaders have said that they call desperately on United States to get involved. They also are telling us, and of course, U.S. officials as well, that the U.S. envoy, Anthony Zinni, his beleaguered mission is still continuing. And he is he continuing to press for some kind of a cease-fire agreement, despite the odds at this particular moment -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Christiane, thanks very much. We want to tell our viewers that we expect, within a couple of moments, Christiane will be talking with Yasser Arafat. So stay tuned to hear what goes on there. Also stay with CNN tonight for Christiane's special report on the Mideast situation. "LIVE FROM JERUSALEM" will air at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Here in the U.S., Secretary of State Colin Powell urged restraint on the part of Israel, but once again strongly urged Yasser Arafat to clamp down on terrorism. Powell said the overall peace process has been disrupted by what he called terrorism in its rawest form.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president and I are gravely concerned at the situation today in Ramallah. We deplore the killing and wounding of innocent Palestinians there. While we understand the Israeli government need to respond to these acts of terror and the right of the Israeli government to decide what actions best serve the interest of the Israeli people, we call on Prime Minister Sharon and his government to carefully consider the consequences of those actions.
Chairman Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian people and his leadership is now even more central to try and find a way out of this tragic situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: President Bush is in Crawford, Texas for the Easter weekend. Our Major Garrett is in Crawford as well. Major, how will today's violence impact on the U.S. role in the Mideast peace process? Is anything going to change here?
GARRETT: Not in the near future, Candy. What's going to remain the same is the president's personal envoy Anthony Zinni will remain in the region and be the point person for the Israelis and the Palestinians. I can tell you, when the president conducted a video teleconference this morning from his ranch here in Crawford, Texas with his top officials, top advisers at the White House, it was a unanimous opinion that the United States had to strike a very stern note to the Palestinians. That it is these acts of terrorism against innocent Israeli civilians that have disrupted, derailed efforts to achieve a cease-fire.
The president felt very encouraged only Wednesday, the talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians were moving very close to a negotiated and implementable cease-fire. And then the Passover Massacre. And the Bush White House believes it is in no position, with its leading of an international coalition against global terrorism -- terrorism that is used, attacks against civilians to achieve political aims -- to any way limit the Israeli government's response in dealing with an act of terrorism.
What the Bush administration has told the Israeli government is if you are going after people you suspect are involved in terrorism, that's OK. But watch out for civilians. Do whatever you can to protect Palestinian civilians. But if it's against terrorism, you have a green light -- Candy.
CROWLEY: White House correspondent Major Garrett in Crawford, Texas with the president. Now let's go back to the national mall -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Candy. We want to tell our viewers once again that we're waiting any moment now for Christiane to talk by telephone with Yasser Arafat. Just as soon as we get that connection, we will bring that to you.
In the meantime, a little more perspective on today's events. In a moment I'll speak with Sandy Berger, who was President Clinton's national security adviser. But right now we will talk with Jeane Kirkpatrick, who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Reagan.
Ambassador Kirkpatrick, it sounds as if the U.S. is putting more of the onus for what's going on on the Palestinians. Is that where the onus should be?
JEANE KIRKPATRICK, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, I think at this moment, the Palestinians clearly are guilty of major acts of terrorism. And their attack on the hotel, you know, and the killing in which more than 20 people were killed and 100 people injured, followed by this bombing today. Yet another suicide attack -- both of these were suicide attacks, which are particularly tragic and unpleasant attacks, I think.
WOODRUFF: Are the Israelis correct to believe that Yasser Arafat has the power, has the ability to stop every one of these suicide attacks from taking place?
KIRKPATRICK: I don't know, frankly. You have to know more than I know to be certain about the answer to that. But I think the basic Israeli position has been that Yasser Arafat can control the larger part of the terrorist groups and terrorist attacks if he tries hard enough. And I believe that that position is shared by both our president and our vice president, who have reiterated it in the last week.
And it was of course critical in Vice President Cheney's decision not to meet with Arafat while he was in the region. So I would suppose if all of them believe this is the case, it's probably the case.
WOODRUFF: Ambassador Kirkpatrick, there are those who say the Bush administration was wrong not to get involved sooner in the Middle East. In other words, to pick up where the Clinton administration left off.
KIRKPATRICK: Well, I think it's necessary to think a little about what that means before you reach that conclusion. Because you have to think about how deeply involved President Clinton was in those talks, the Israeli-Palestinian talks.
You know, we have to remember that he had met more often with Yasser Arafat than anyone had -- and invited him more often to the White House than anyone had been in the White House. And that he had been personally deeply involved in those negotiations.
You have to remember also that the negotiations were taking place in the context of the Oslo Accords. And everyone was very optimistic about this. And suddenly it fell apart.
KIRKPATRICK: It fell apart when Yasser Arafat walked away.
WOODRUFF: And I guess the point -- or the question I'm asking is, by not being involved, by not at least forcing the two sides to try to deal with one another, has not the violence spun out of control? Without pointing fingers.
KIRKPATRICK: I don't think anything is out of control, I'd like to say. But I think the violence has continued. That's really the point. I mean, the point is that the violence continued. The violence continued in spite of everything that President Clinton did, which as more than anyone had done.
And the violence has continued now with the United States not doing anything. And that leaves the situation in which it's really, I think, quite difficult to know what we might do that might, if anything, that might have a more positive effect.
WOODRUFF: Well, Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, on that note, we will leave it. Thank you very much. We appreciate your joining us. It's good to see you again.
KIRKPATRICK: Thank you. Good to see you, too.
WOODRUFF: And now we turn to Sandy Berger, who was President Bill Clinton's national security adviser. Sandy Berger, in essence, I believe what Ambassador Kirkpatrick is saying, it doesn't matter how involved an administration is. The violence goes on, nothing gets better.
SANDY BERGER, FMR. CLINTON NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think you saw Vice President Cheney acknowledge last week that nothing much will happen in the Middle East without American engagement. We pressed so hard in 2000, at the request of the parties, because we could see very clearly that without a break through to peace there would be a return to violence, which is exactly what has happened. Now, I don't think anyone should be surprised, after the last week of daily suicide bombings, that the Israelis would respond sharply. Israel will establish that it is not going to be driven away by violence. But we now need to break out of this ladder. And only, I think through American engagement, is that going to be possible.
WOODRUFF: And so, the Bush administration is correct to put most of the responsibility for what's going on, on the Palestinians and on Yasser Arafat?
BERGER: I think that the Palestinians must understand that a strategy of terror will not work. At the same time, the Israelis need to understand that in the final analysis, there is not going to be a military solution to this. They are not going to crush three million Palestinians into quiescence.
What I would be doing at this point, Judy, is going back to the Arabs and the Saudis who issued that statement yesterday, and say -- and broadening this effort. And saying to the Arabs, we will make a major effort to build on the Saudi initiative. But first you have to deliver the Palestinians, not only to their vision of peace, but also to the steps that have to be taken to create the conditions under which that can be pursued.
WOODRUFF: But these are words that have been spoken, both sides have heard them, and yet the violence continue. What is it going to take to shake the situation loose to move toward at least a cease- fire?
BERGER: It's an extraordinarily difficult situation. And there is no easy solution. But I believe that we need now a deeper, broader effort, with -- going back now and taking up the challenge of the Saudis and the Arabs, but saying it's not enough to simply have a vision of peace. You also have to be part of the process of building the pathway to that vision. And that requires your delivering the Palestinians to take the steps necessary to create the conditions under which a major initiative can go forward.
WOODRUFF: Well, Sandy Berger, we are going to have to leave it there. Sandy Berger, who was national security adviser to President Clinton. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
BERGER: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, both, and to Ambassador Kirkpatrick.
And now back to Candy in the studio in Washington.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Judy. For anyone in Ramallah, the situation can be very dangerous. Here is footage from a crew with Nile TV, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were caught in the middle of a firefight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(GUNFIRE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Arabic)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: The man injured in that shooting was shot in the mouth. He is reportedly in serious condition in a hospital in Ramallah.
Now again, we want to tell that you that Christiane Amanpour is expecting to do an interview with Yasser Arafat shortly. We will have that for you of course. And we will continue to follow developments in the Middle East throughout this hour.
But up next, more from Judy Woodruff at the National Mall here in Washington.
Plus, my interview with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams on security, tourism, and the city's comeback from the September terrorist attack.
Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile will join Judy to discuss the violence in the Middle East.
And later, Brooks Jackson on federal efforts to hang up on telemarketers.
WOODRUFF: Well, as we've been telling you, I joined the tourists on the Tidal Basin today to get close to the cherry blossoms. But yesterday when I was out of town, Candy was right here where I am and she was talking to a very important person -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Judy, as you know, that spot where you are is a tourist magnet in the springtime. And this year city leaders are hoping the cherry blossom festival will signal a change of season for the city's economy as well. D.C. depends on dollars for tourism, and like many other places, it has been affected by a lack of travel since September 11th. Recently I did have a chance to visit with Washington Mayor Tony Williams. We talked about the city's recovery.
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: It really is the most beautiful time. The cherry blossoms have been here now for a long time. They really represent a historic relationship between our nation and Japan that began in 1912. The first wave of trees didn't actually work out, but another wave was put in place. And you can see the beauty here. It's remarkable, really.
CROWLEY: Spectacular. And I'm looking around and I'm thinking what might be an even prettier sight to your eyes, is the tourists. Are they back?
WILLIAMS: Well, they're coming back. We're now exceeding our expectations, gloomy as they were, with the tourists coming back for the cherry blossom festival.
CROWLEY: How tough has it been to lure visitors back?
WILLIAMS: Well, you're working against an undertow of fear. You're working against an undertow of anxiety and uncertainty. This is exactly what the terrorists wanted to see. But fortunately I think Americans are resilient people. We're a champion people, and we're showing that we're not going to be deterred by terrorism. We're going to go about our regular life.
And included in our regular life is showing support for our democracy. And Washington, D.C. represents that democracy. Not only here with the Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument, but the cherry blossoms are so important, because they really represent the fabric of our city.
CROWLEY: And frame the problem for me, post 9-11. How much have you lost? How tough has it been to get tourists to come back to city, to get business to come back to the city?
WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, you have the fact that we're Washington, D.C. And we're a major center of government, a major center of technology and commerce. And whenever you have the threats -- the actual tragedy that we saw on September 11th, and then the threats that were issued since then, all the warnings, that had a depressing effect.
Unfortunately, many people were cautioning people around the country, don't come to Washington, D.C. because it's an unsafe place -- not in the traditionally way in terms of crime, but now because of terrorism. That's hurt us.
CROWLEY: But you're still behind. I mean, you're still suffering from 9/11.
WILLIAMS: To give you an example, we were looking at the city losing up to $150 million in revenue in 2002. We made up about 2/3 of that. We're still talking about a loss of around $50 million. So that's still a significant impact.
CROWLEY: Do you feel the city is where it needs to be in terms of prevention, and in terms of emergency preparedness?
WILLIAMS: The city is where it needs to be in terms of having a level of preparedness where I can ensure citizens and visitors that they're safe. Does that mean that we still don't have more work to be done? Absolutely we have more work to be done.
Certainly, working with the federal government, working with our surrounding counties, Maryland, Virginia, there's more work to be done there. But are we where we should be right now? And can I say with assurance that visitors are safe? Yes, I can.
CROWLEY: I don't know, Judy. If those pictures don't bring them back, I don't think anything will. It looks really good out there.
WOODRUFF: It does. And, Candy, the mayor will be happy to know there are a lot of tourists here today. You can probably see some of them behind me.
You know, these cherry blossoms have been here for quite some time and they've witnessed a lot since their roots were planted here several decades ago. At one point they got tangled up in politics, much later their trunks were attacked by beavers. Our Bruce Morton has more on the history of these awesome blossoms.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They planted the first trees 90 years ago, back during the Taft administration, and they were a big hit. In the 1930s, women threatened to chain themselves to trees that were to be cut down to build the Jefferson Memorial. They didn't, but the story is, Franklin Roosevelt told the park service to remove the trees at night to limit political damage.
Right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, somebody did cut down four trees in protest. And the trees became "oriental" instead of Japanese, until the war ended.
The official cherry blossom festival started in 1940. They added princess, queen and so on, in '48. Japan presented the U.S. with a 300-year-old stone lantern in 1954, and they light it every year.
Mr. Jefferson and the blossoms get along well together now. They frame the Washington Monument, give the ducks something to look at, and the paddle boaters. The only recent threat to the trees came from these guys, beavers. See, a stump. Tooth marks.
The park service put wire around some of them. It made a nice place to read. They tried these beaver blockers, but in the end they hired professional trappers. They captured the beavers and moved them, for tree security reasons, to an undisclosed location. Vice President Cheney would understand.
So the trees bloom, different varieties. Some pinker, some whiter. They're a tourist attack in a city which, with access to some traditional attractions limited, badly needs one. And they are something more. Jackie Wolfe has worked for the festival for 30 years now.
JACKIE WOLFE, CHAIRWOMAN, NATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL: It's of course all about friendship. And anytime you hear any of the Japanese people or Americans that have been involved with the festival, it is always about friendship.
MORTON: The friendship between Japan and America lives. It survived a world war. And tourists come. But what's it really about? Magic, maybe. Just look. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: From all that serenity to something very different. Under siege in the dark and at Israel's mercy -- that's the status of Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
When we come back, details on today's dramatic events in the Middle East. Please stay with us.
CROWLEY: Now an update from the INSIDE POLITICS "Newscycle." The conflict in the Middle East escalated several notches today. Right now, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is holed up in his West Bank office. He's surrounded by Israeli troops, who invaded most of his compound.
Earlier today, a young female suicide bomber set off explosives at a Jerusalem supermarket. Two Israelis were killed, along with the bomber.
Pope John Paul II continues to struggle through holy week services at the Vatican. Today he took part in Good Friday services, but was taken into the Basilica, standing on a wheeled platform so he did not have to walk. The Vatican says the pope will celebrate mass Easter Sunday, and will use a special altar, designed to keep him from having to climb steps.
WOODRUFF: Candy, with us now for more on the Middle East situation, Bay Buchanan, who's the president of American Cause and Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore.
Donna, to you first. Without pointing a finger and saying the Bush administration is at fault for what's happening, there is some discussion now about whether the administration should have been more aggressively involved in the Middle East, given what we're seeing now.
DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, clearly I think they need to spend a little bit more time on the situation there. There was this long gap when General Zinni was removed from the area, and then of course the violence escalated once again. He's there now. He has a tough assignment, to get both sides to get back to the political table, to negotiate and stop this tit for tat revenge and retaliation.
But I think they're engaged, now. And clearly, Secretary Powell is playing a lead role in talking to both sides.
WOODRUFF: Bay, should they have been involved sooner?
BAY BUCHANAN, AMERICAN CAUSE: I think that's an unjustified criticism that I'm hearing rumbling around out there. President Bush only took office 15 months ago. The situation in Israel was dramatically different than when Clinton was in office, when you had Prime Minister Barak, who really wanted a peace agreement, was out there working. And they worked together and they had one there. And it blew up. And it blew up. And that had nothing to do with President Bush. And we have someone over there now, Prime Minister Sharon, who campaigned and said, "Listen, Barak was trying to give too much away." And so the situation was dramatically different when he took office. I think that, obviously, their conversations have been continuing. They've had talks. They talk regularly. And there's been an open communication. But I don't think it's justified to criticize him on that.
WOODRUFF: You say it has nothing to do with President Bush.
But, Donna, is the presence of the United States required in order to get to some sort of a solution in the Middle East?
I mean, the United States has interests in that region. Israel is an ally. We have friends in both Jordan and Egypt. And they're all looking to the administration for help. The Saudis now have a very comprehensive peace plan on the table. They need to bring that plan to the table, as well as get back to Tenet's plan, the CIA director's plan. And, of course, former Senator Mitchell has a plan.
So, the United States needs to be at the table and needs to continue to try to get both sides to talk again.
BUCHANAN: Donna, I absolutely -- I agree with Donna, Judy, in the sense that, at this stage, we do have a peace agreement on the table in the Saudi agreement. It was so hopeful this morning when you woke up and recognized that the Arab nations, the Arab governments have come together and agreed that they would like to have normal relationships with Israel.
And the key is now, though, I think the president is going to have to go back to Sharon and say: "What is it that you need? Let's get all the cards on the table. What is it that Israel needs? We now know what the Arabs need. It is not a perfect peace plan."
Then maybe he can bring them together. But, if the two sides don't truly want peace, there's nothing that America can do to impose that.
WOODRUFF: Do you agree with that, Donna, that there's nothing the U.S. can do to impose?
BRAZILE: Well, you know, we have condemned the terrorism and the massacre that took place on Passover. But we have got to do more.
General Zinni needs to have more help from the administration. Perhaps Secretary Powell needs to visit the region. Vice President Cheney was there and he was able to do a little bit of talking. But I do believe that the United States has a vested interest in staying involved and being at the table.
BUCHANAN: But President Bush could not have a stronger team on this.
You have Vice President Cheney. You have Secretary Powell. You have General Zinni.
WOODRUFF: But, for the longest time, he didn't have
BUCHANAN: But we had open communication. And you had a new prime minister. You had a new president. They were trying to feel other out, see what's out there.
You cannot blame the conflict and the awful situation in the Middle East on President Bush. That would not be right. He is doing what he can. But the situation is quite clear. Both sides have enormous hatred for each other. And they both have legitimate complaints. And to work this out is no easy deal.
And, with all the efforts of President Clinton, all that he did to bring those people together, and having Barak in there, who was a moderate, that didn't work. That failed. So, what is President Bush to do? He cannot stop working with them and, hopefully, work something out. But, Judy, it doesn't look good now.
WOODRUFF: Donna, you have said that perhaps President Bush should name another very high-ranking envoy to go in there.
And perhaps it is time to bring President Clinton back into the room, at least seek his advice. Look, he was able to bring both sides to the table before. There was a credible plan that Yasser Arafat rejected. But perhaps now that the situation is at its worst possible point, that we need former President Clinton's help to solve the problem and get those people back at the table.
BUCHANAN: President Clinton was working with Prime Minister Barak, who wanted peace. He was willing to give land for peace. He was working towards that goal.
Prime Minister Sharon has ran on a platform that said Barak was trying to give too much away. This is not the same situation. And what do you offer them at this stage? I think you've got a plan on the table. We've got to hear from Sharon what he needs, why this plan is unacceptable, and tell exactly what he needs, put that on the table. Then Secretary Cheney (sic) can work with both sides. But, until then, I don't know how you move forward.
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, it's great to have you here on the Tidal Basin with the cherry blossoms.
BRAZILE: Happy Easter to you both.
WOODRUFF: And to both of you, although the subject is a grim one. Thank you very much.
BRAZILE: Thank you. WOODRUFF: Coming up: from party symbols to public art, donkeys and elephants prepare to take their place on the streets of the nation's capital. Plus, more on what's happening here on the National Mall.
(INTERRUPTED FOR BREAKING NEWS)
WOODRUFF: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
We came today to the Washington's Tidal Basin for the flowering of the cherry blossoms, but events here far overshadowed by what's been going on in the Middle East.
Let's go back to Jerusalem now and my colleague, Christiane Amanpour.
Christiane, you've not only now have talked to a spokesman for the Israeli government; you earlier talked by phone with Yasser Arafat. And I want to go to that question that he became so angry at, when you asked him whether he had the ability to control the violence. He didn't want to address that. Why is that such a sore point with him?
AMANPOUR: Well, he's clearly furious.
He's sitting in that compound in Ramallah. And, basically, his answers to me were a series of rhetorical answers, rhetorical statements. And he's clearly furious that one would expect him to rein in violence which he feels that he's unable to do while he's sitting, being attacked by the Israeli military, their armor and all their heavy weapons. So, that was what I assume was the basis for his emotional outbursts, and then basically hanging up the phone.
He does get very angry when he's asked those kinds of questions. Actually, I was trying to ask him what he had made of Colin Powell's statement as well, calling not only for the Israelis to show restraint, but also on Yasser Arafat to rein in the violence.
Look, it is very clear that what the Palestinians feel -- and this is not just in public, but also in private -- they feel that they are under an unfair military disadvantage. They feel that they have no political horizon ahead. They feel that they're being asked to rein in violence when, A, their hands are being tied by the Israelis constantly destroying many parts of their infrastructure, their security infrastructure; and B, when this occupation is carrying on, they feel that they -- I think Arafat feels that, even if he could tell people to rein it in, it's not politically in his interests to do it right now, without the possibility of a political horizon ahead.
They feel -- and this has been public statements from them all the time -- and he said it even tonight -- "We're under occupation, end of story. This is our right to resist." And that's their feeling. WOODRUFF: Well, realistically, Christiane, it does raise the question of how the Israelis could expect him to do this, when, as you point out, much of the security force has now been destroyed by the Israeli attacks.
But all of this, we will be continuing to look at and to discuss.
AMANPOUR: Yes, again...
WOODRUFF: Go ahead, Christiane.
All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Christiane Amanpour...
AMANPOUR: Yes, basically, the Palestinians...
WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there. Sorry, Christiane. I know they will be coming back to you very shortly -- Christiane Amanpour reporting for us from Jerusalem.
I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
And before I go, I want to thank my colleagues, Candy Crowley at the studio here in Washington, and my colleague Bill Schneider.
We didn't get to your "Political Play of the Week." We'll catch up with that next week.
To all of you, a Happy Easter and a happy Passover. We thank you for joining us. We'll see you later.
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