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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Crisis in Middle East

Aired March 29, 2002 - 21:00   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.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Yasser Arafat is under siege. Will he survive Israeli wrath over suicide bombings? As the battle escalates and talk turns to war, can the U.S. do anything to defuse the crisis?

Debating from very different perspectives, in Washington, the chief Palestinian representative to the United States Hasan Abdel Rahman.

And in New York, Israel's counsel general Alon Pinkas.

Then an exclusive interview with the president of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud. He's been on the phone with Chairman Arafat.

For perspective on American Mideast policy in these dangerous times, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

And former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, once chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Plus, from Jerusalem, CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour; and on the scene in Ramallah, the site of Arafat's surrounded headquarters, CNN's Michael Holmes.

And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with Hasan Abdel Rahman. He is at our Washington bureau, the chief Palestinian representative to the United States. And ambassador Alon Pinkas, the Israeli consul general is in New York.

We'll start with Mr. Rahman. What can -- I know -- have you spoken to Chairman Arafat today, or soon, or how is he doing?

HASAN ABDEL RAHMAN, CHIEF PALESTINIAN REP. TO U.S.: Yes, I did. I spoke to him around 5:30 p.m. this afternoon. He was in good spirits. He realizes what's going on around him, of course.

He's been in his compound, subject to bombardment by Israeli tanks and Israeli cannons. And he realizes how dangerous the situation is; not for him, personally, but for the prospects of peace as a result of this incursion, invasion by Israel. He feels that those tanks are not only bulldozing the roads of Ramallah and the buildings around him, but also they are bulldozing the possibilities for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

KING: Ambassador Pinkas, assuming that Chairman Arafat didn't order terrorist attacks and the terrible events of Passover, why the attack on him?

ALON PINKAS, ISRAELI CONSUL GENERAL: Well Larry, first of all, I can't assume that he did not order attacks. I may estimate that he did not personally order them, but I can equally estimate that he knew about them or did nothing to prevent them, or condoned them; or knew about them in advance and did nothing to prevent them.

Why the attack? Why the incursion? For a simple reason: If the upper east side or the lower east side of New York are attacked, if New Orleans is attacked, if a pizza parlor in Chicago is bombarded; if Bethesda, Maryland is subject to daily shootings, if children in San Francisco can't go to school, then you defend yourself.

And this is exactly what we're doing. Now, we're doing something that the Palestinians, that Arafat, in particular, should have done -- committed to do and vowed to do for seven years, but failed to do or was incapable of doing, or couldn't care less, and lied his way through two successive American administrations and five Israeli prime ministers.

KING: Mr. Rahman, how would you respond to suicide bombings? In other words, how does a country deal with something like that, do you think? If you think Israel is responding in the wrong way, what should they do?

RAHMAN: First of all, I don't believe any of us supports suicide bombing, or any of us would endorse, condone any attack on civilians in Israel or by Israelis on Palestinians.

But we cannot view this in isolation from the context in which this takes place. Imagine yourself a Palestinian who has been living under illegal foreign military occupation for the last 35 years, three generations of Palestinians humiliated, deprived; their life and their dignity is violated on daily basis. No hope. Living in a refugee camp.

Every single day of your life, you see your territory taken away from you by foreign, Jewish settlers, and you have no control over your destiny. And you have no power to combat this.

Just in the last three weeks alone, Israel moved 30,000 soldiers in Ramallah. Ramallah is a city of 25,000 people. You have 30,000 soldiers, 150 tanks, 300 people killed, 3,000 men blindfolded, stripped half-naked with their fathers, grandfathers and children together, put in detention camps by the Israeli army.

If you are 20 years old and see your father humiliated in your presence by an Israeli soldier, or your mother is beaten up, or a settler abusing you, how do you react?

I believe that the Israelis should look at what they are doing to the Palestinians and try to modify their behavior and treat the Palestinians like their equal, and I assure you that the whole situation will change.

KING: Ambassador Pinkas, does he have a point in the fact that -- saying that the Palestinians growing up that way, what alternative do they have but to take some sort of action? They have no voice power, they have no vocal power, they have no standing anywhere, they have no -- they're not a country. What do they do?

PINKAS: OK Larry, let me try and address this logic. First of all, he has a lot of valid points in what he said. The problem is he's a negligible minority amongst the Palestinians.

Most of them think of suicide bombers, or homicidal maniacs who also blow themselves up, as role models. And most don't think -- or at least do not express themselves in very mellow and moderate Western -- in a very moderate and mellow Western way as Mr. Abdel Rahman did.

Let's follow the logic. Everything that Mr. Abdel Rahman described, suppose he's right in everything, for the sake of conversation, we sought to change at Camp David. A year and a half ago with President Clinton under the auspices or mentorship of President Clinton, Prime Minister Barak laid on the table a very comprehensive, very ambitious, very forthcoming peace plan.

That is not, incidentally, Larry, dissimilar from what the Saudis are bragging about last week -- not dissimilar from the plan they presented in Beirut.

Now, let's assume that the Palestinians found some issues in that plan not to their liking or objectionable. So you're telling me that the gap between what President Clinton endorsed at Camp David and what the Palestinians wanted justifies 58 suicide bombers? I find that logic very, very hard to absorb.

Now this, unfortunately, is a national liberation movement, or a revolution, if you will, that instead of philosophers and poets and statesmen, boasts and prides itself in suicide bombers.

What kind of political culture is this that we need to contend, that we need to confront, that we need to engage in a dialogue that makes martyrs out of suicide bombers?

KING: Are you saying, Mr. Ambassador, that Chairman Arafat can prevent a suicide bomber?

PINKAS: I'm saying that Chairman Arafat could have prevented 100 suicide attacks since Camp David. I'm saying...

KING: Let me get a break and we'll -- I just want to get a break. You'll be with us. By the way, both gentlemen, even though other gentlemen and ladies join us, will be with us throughout the entire program.

When we take a break, we'll come back with the president of Lebanon in a special interview that I taped a couple of hours ago, and then we'll return to our panel.

We'll be right back; don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: IN that conversation with Prime Minister Sharon he advised me that the Cabinet was meeting to decide what action the Israeli government should take in response to the recent spate of terror incidents. And he also advised me that whatever actions they might decide to take, it would not include bringing any harm to Chairman Arafat or killing him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE President Emile Lahoud, the president of Lebanon. We understand, Mr. President, that you have spoken to Chairman Arafat today. Can you tell us what he had to say?

EMILE LAHOUD, PRESIDENT, LEBANON: Yes. I did this morning and he's in very high spirits, very good morale. And he was telling me that the tanks were surrounding him and were pounding his compound and that they were going inside his compound and that he wanted me to get in touch with the leaders of the world and tell them what is really happening.

This is something that has never been in history before: A president of his country being surrounded and pounded with tank and with no hope of anything else but to make him surrender. This is new.

KING: Mr. President, excuse me, did you call other world leaders?

LAHOUD: Yes, I did. I talked to Mr. Agnar (ph), the president of the European community. And I told him what he could do and we had a meeting of all the ambassadors of the big powers that will be held tomorrow at 10:00 to send a message to their leaders telling them what is really happening, because I don't think in the 21st century this is the way to solve things.

KING: The United States says Israel has told it that it does not intend to harm Chairman Arafat. Do you accept that? Do you believe that he is safe from physical treatment?

LAHOUD: Well, I don't know, because from what I hear now, that there are only two rooms that haven't been taken yet, and all the fighting is going around these two rooms. So, we don't know. And it's not enough that we keep him alive, just barely alive in those conditions. This is not done in any country with a president. And this is not the way to solve things.

KING: Your prime minister says that this is not only an attack against Arafat, but an attack against the peace plan submitted by the Arabs. Do you share that view?

LAHOUD: Well, it's good that you ask me that. What happened yesterday was a historical moment for the Arab world. For the first time, there was solidarity all over the Arab world. First, the disputes that were in the past were solved. And a peace plan was brought forward, the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah, and all the Arab leaders accepted that, and which stipulates, in short, land for peace. And they put in details what it means. And this is new. And just after we got that decision, then we hear in the morning that Israel was attacking Chairman Arafat.

KING: But, the reason they...

LAHOUD: Is that they way to answer that?

KING: The reason, I guess, they were doing it -- is not guess -- is acts of terrorism? Did that conference in Lebanon condemn all terrorism? Did it urge the prosecution of all terrorists?

LAHOUD: Lebanon was the first country that condemned terrorism when we had the 11th of September attack on the Trade Center. And we said we couldn't accept that. And we had that in our country. The same group tried on a smaller scale on the eve of the 20th century to the 21st, on the eve of the 31st of December, they had an attack on our soldiers. And we had for about four days of combat, and we stopped all these people.

And at that time, I remember very well the leader of that group, which called himself Aisha (ph), had as well a U.S. passport. And when he was killed in the combat, we were asked why did this U.S. citizen was killed. And human rights from the U.S. came here and asked why he was killed. We said, well, this is terrorism and they attacked without any reason and killed our soldiers.

KING: So you condemn all terrorists, including the acts...

LAHOUD: We condemn it, of course. And we are against any act of terrorism. But there is a difference between terrorism and somebody who occupies your land and wants to stay there and dictate his wishes. This is something not done in this world. That's why the only way is to sit around the table and find a solution, a peaceful solution. And that's what we asked in the summit yesterday and we wanted the world to hear that. And what we get in response? The Israeli attack on Mr. Arafat.

KING: Thank you, Mr. President. We'll be calling on you again. I appreciate you doing this at this late hour. President Emile Lahoud, the president of Lebanon coming to us from Beirut.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

Joining us from Wilmington, Delaware is Senator Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

In Washington, Lee Hamilton, who served 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And now it's called the International Relations Committee. He's now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Remaining with us in Washington is Hasan Abdel Rahman, the chief Palestinian representative to the United States.

And in New York, Ambassador Alon Pinkas. Alon Pinkas is the Israeli consul general.

All right Senator Biden, what's your read on all this? Both sides have been clearly defined. What's going on in your estimation?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: My estimation is this is Mr. Arafat's war. He had an opportunity 18 months ago. He gambled that he could reject a peace agreement, a peace settlement offered to him. And he's gambling since then that world public opinion would be able to be turned.

Can you imagine, Larry, what would be happening if Israeli citizens were going in the West Bank and strapping dynamite on themselves and blowing up Palestinian children? Can you imagine what the world would be saying and doing? I find this bizarre.

KING: Mr. Rahman would say that the Israeli citizens don't have that kind of plight that the Palestinian people have faced. There would be no incentive for them to do that.

BIDEN: Well, there is every incentive for the Palestinian leadership. And by the way, I listened to Mr. Emile Lahoud, the president of Lebanon. You know, they call on -- the Arab world calls on the United States to intervene.

Where is the leadership in the Arab world? Can you imagine if Sadat were alive, he would be calling Sharon now and saying, we -- we -- should sit down. "We" meaning Sadat and Sharon, because it's obvious that this fellow Arafat's not going to settle this deal. It's obvious he has no interest in it.

KING: Lee Hamilton, before we bring back Mr. Rahman and Ambassador Pinkas who are all going to be part of this through the rest of the program, what's your read Lee?

LEE HAMILTON, FMR. CHMN., HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, to be very frank, Larry, I've followed events in the Middle East for several decades. I don't think I've ever been more discouraged than I am tonight.

It's very hard to see a way out of this. And as I've been sitting and listening to this show tonight, I keep asking myself the question: How do we get out of this box?

I'm quite sure, at least from my point of view, that we do not get out of it by escalating the violence. I don't think the violence gets either party where they want to go. I don't think increased violence gets Israel greater security. I do not think increased violence gets the Palestinians any closer to a Palestinian state. Furthermore, I don't think things will move forward at all unless the United States comes in pretty heavily. I think we should not have a policy of deny and neglect towards the Middle East. I think we should not have a policy of supporting escalating violence. I think we should not have a policy of "just say no to violence."

We've got to find a solution to this problem. The United States is going to have to lead.

KING: Mr. Rahman, what role do you see the United States playing right now?

RAHMAN: Well, if you allow me, Mr. King, before I answer this question. There are three remarks I want to make.

One, that we did not reject out of hand a great offer that was made to us in Camp David. I want to refer Mr. Pinkas to the article written by no other than Rob Malley, the adviser to President Clinton, who said that Israel did not make any offer in writing to the Palestinians in Camp David.

And let me remind him that after Camp David we continued the negotiations until January; six months later we were negotiating. And on the 26th of September we were here, very close to where I'm sitting, negotiating with the Israelis, with Shlomo Ben-Ami and Dennis Ross.

And that same day when Mr. Sharon let 2,000 armed men to Al-Haram al-Sharif and provoked the disturbances that followed. And in the first week there were 69 Palestinians killed at the hands of the Israeli soldiers before one Israeli was wounded.

On the 26th of September, Yasser Arafat was dining in the house of Mr. Barak. And he appealed to him, and we appealed to the Americans, not to let Sharon go to Al-Haram al-Sharif because he's going to cause a religious conflict there. Well, this is one.

Second, we do not pride ourselves of our suicide bombers, Mr. Pinkas. We are the Palestinian society that has produced more artists, more poets, more painters, more doctors, more engineers, more university students than any other society in the Middle East. We, in fact, hate the Israelis for turning our children into suicide bombers because you suck life and hope out of them.

Mr. Biden, I listened to you. I don't like to see our people wrapping explosives around themselves and going into Israel. But I want you also to condemn the Israeli tanks that go into the Palestinian cities and towns and shoot civilians.

You remember that there were 1,200 Palestinian civilians, 450 of them are children 16 years of age and less killed by Israel in the last 18 months.

I want you, Senator Biden, to take this same position and recognize the humanity of the Palestinians when they are victimized by Israel. KING: Before, Mr. Rahman, you respond on what the United States should do I think ambassador...

RAHMAN: And I want to...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I know, but I want -- before I get out of thought here, Ambassador Pinkas, you want to respond, and then we'll continue on.

PINKAS: Well, truthfully, Larry, I'd rather go on with the show the way you seem to -- you want to conduct it and you see fit to conduct it. I really don't want to be dragged into this selective memory that Mr. Rahman has.

KING: All right, from the way both of you sound...

PINKAS: Let me just say, really, one remark. There has got to be an end to this tendency that the Palestinians have to blame everyone except themselves for every tragedy they have self-inflicted on themselves.

They have said no to a 1937 British partition plan. They have said no to a 1947 United Nations-mandated partition plan. They have said no to negotiations ever since. They have accompanied this process with nothing but violence, terror, hatred, incitement and lack of credibility and trustworthiness.

And finally, they said no at Camp David. And they did, in fact, say no at Camp David. And I suggest you consult President Clinton, not any of his aides who wrote an article.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll come right back.

Christiane Amanpour and Michael Holmes will join us from Ramallah and Jerusalem, and our panel will stay with us through the rest of the program.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Joining us on the scene in Ramallah is Michael Holmes, CNN correspondent who was near that compound soon after the storming. In Jerusalem is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent. Earlier, had a lively phone interview with Chairman Arafat.

First, Michael, what's the latest from where you are, and how are you? Are you in any danger there?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's fair to say that anyone in Ramallah at the moment, Larry, is in some sort of danger. It's about 4:30 in the morning here. And for the last 24 hours, the firing has been pretty much constant, not just around the compound but throughout the streets of Ramallah as well. Just a short time ago, in fact, for about the last half an hour, there's been a fairly intense firefight happening about 400 meters from where we are just up the street. Heavy machine guns, tank- mounted machine guns, and also small-arms fire. It's certainly a pretty risky place at the moment for residents in particular who are all behind closed doors and also media as they drive around. It's fair to say. A cameraman was shot today as he was driving around -- Larry.

KING: Christiane Amanpour in Jerusalem, who has been done yeoman-like work as well all day today. Before we have you respond, here is a quick clip from Christiane's interview earlier today with Chairman Arafat. Watch and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you able to rein in the violence?

YASSER ARAFAT, CHAIRMAN, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: You have to be accurately when you are speaking with General Yasser Arafat. Be quiet!

AMANPOUR: Mr. Arafat, what did you make of Colin Powell's statement...

ARAFAT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You are covering this question. This terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli crimes. Be fair. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Can I ask...

ARAFAT: Thank you. Bye-bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. Christiane, what do you make of that?

AMANPOUR: I make of that that he was really angry and he didn't like the question that I asked him about Colin Powell. The whole question was, what did you make of Colin Powell's statement? Will you and are you able to rein in the violence? And that certainly didn't go down well.

Of course, one can understand the pressure of being cooped up in a compound in a couple of rooms as a very large military incursion is pounding away outside your door. But certainly that struck, unfortunately, a rather raw nerve there.

KING: What can you also tell us, Christiane, about the teen suicide bomber this morning?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, what happened today in Jerusalem, it happened shortly after those tanks started going into Ramallah and started the assault on the Ramallah compound there. What happened was that a woman, an 18-year-old -- at least this is what is being claimed and a video is being distributed showing an 18-year-old girl, a resident of a refugee camp in the West Bank there, apparently affiliated with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is a militant group that is also affiliated with the Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat.

In any event, went into this supermarket in Jerusalem and detonated the explosives. Two people were killed and at least 20 others were wounded. So that is what happened today in the middle of this new Israeli military action in the West Bank.

KING: Michael Holmes, we had an event today involving an Egyptian television crew. We're going to play a little tape of that. As we show it, can you tell us what happened?

HOLMES: Yes, Larry, as we understand it, this cameraman was driving through Ramallah filming, as we all have been doing in the past 24 hours, came across an Israeli tank and armored personnel carrier which apparently opened fire. A bullet came through the window, hit him in the jaw and he was hurt badly. He's going to live. Very dramatic pictures.

Now, what I can tell you is that he was driving in what we in the media call a soft-skinned car, which is just a regular vehicle. When we go out, we're lucky enough to have a very heavily-armored Land Rover that we drive around in which will stop most but not all bullets. Very heavy-caliber bullets such as those that come off these tanks will pierce the armor, but small-arms fires and other sorts of caliber weapons won't pierce it. We also, as you can see, we wear these flak jackets which got ceramic plates in front and they're kevlar and they will stop small-arms fire, nothing heavy caliber. And we also wear these helmets which protect our heads. So, you know, it's the best you can do. And we also have a military expert who travels with us and he advises us when and when we can't step out of the car, Larry.

KING: From your viewpoint, Michael, Israel says it does not want to harm Mr. Arafat. From your viewpoint, as the set-up there and the situation, is he in harm's way?

HOLMES: Oh, I think without question anyone in the Palestinian Authority compound today was in harm's way. There were 40 security officers, at least, of Yasser Arafat's security detail wounded. One was killed. Yasser Arafat himself has been in these two rooms that Christiane mentioned. He's there with a couple of advisers. They're pretty much the only rooms that haven't been gone through by Israeli troops.

I think it caught everyone by surprise that the Israeli military decided to actually take over the compound. Everyone expected them to ring the compound, but not to go in with such force. Is he in immediate danger? Israel says no. They don't intend to harm him. Palestinian spokesmen will stay, well, of course, he's in danger given what's been going on there today. It has been a few hours since we were outside the compound because, of course, it is being dark. But when we were there, there was still small-arms fires and grenades going off, Larry.

KING: Christiane, do you see any point of optimism here at all, or have we reached a low point in this apparently ongoing conflict that never seems to end?

AMANPOUR: Well, as you heard from your guest, former representative Hamilton, there does seem to be an immense amount of pessimism really hanging over this whole situation here. I mean, it is really sinking further and further into the abyss of violence, and it really is at unprecedented levels at this moment.

KING: Michael Holmes, do you have anything that you can say, boy, that things might turn here for the better?

HOLMES: Well, what I can say is that around the compound this evening, at least the firing has died down. I can't say the same thing for the streets in Ramallah. We've heard several firefights this evening. During the day, we passed by Palestinian gunmen in the streets routinely. They're there, they're armed and they're walking around the streets. The firing tonight has been intense at times, not at the compound but in the streets. As to what happens in the next few hours as daylight comes is pretty much anyone's guess, Larry.

KING: Michael Holmes, thank you so much on the scene in Ramallah. He'll be following things for CNN throughout the day and we thank him for being with us. Christiane, we'll ask to remain. She may have some questions of our panel as well.

As we go to break, here's more of that occurrence involving Nile TV in Ramallah today. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back to our lively discussion. Remaining with us in Jerusalem is Christiane Amanpour. Rejoining us in Wilmington, Delaware, Senator Joe Biden, chairman of Foreign Relations. In Washington, Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Also in Washington, Hasan Abdel Rahman, the chief Palestinian representative to the United States. And in New York is Alon Pinkas; Ambassador Pinkas is the Israeli consul general.

Senator Biden, Mr. Rahman points out that it's kind of one way -- you can go one way, how about the other way? How about the Israelis firing on Palestinians? Is this a plague on both thy houses?

BIDEN: Well, actually it is a plague on both their houses. I've been critical for 18 years of the settlement policy. I am not a great fan of Mr. Sharon's. I have been outspoken about the point that Lee Hamilton has made, that force will not get this done either way.

But the truth of the matter is that Israel is in -- the reason why this continues is Mr. Arafat and most of the Arab world believe that they're succeeding by not total, outright condemnation of the bombing.

The president of the United States and the secretary of state has been very straightforward. They have put significant pressure on Mr. Sharon. They have been openly critical of Mr. Sharon. And I heard a deafening silence from the Arab world.

And so what I wonder is -- and I don't know how this gets settled, Larry, leaving the two parties to work it out themselves. This requires the United States, as Lee just said, get in with both feet, as well as the responsible Arab world get in with both feet.

KING: And Lee Hamilton, this president, I believe, is the first president to say there will be -- that we favor a Palestinian state. Shouldn't that have calmed things?

HAMILTON: Well, I think it's a positive statement, and helpful here. I think it's important to...

KING: Yes, but look what's happened since.

HAMILTON: Well, I know. But you asked a moment ago, is there any ray of light, any hope here. And I think there are some elements that give us some hope.

And the fact that the president sees that it's necessary to make some linkage between a call for a cease-fire and an ultimate resolution, I think is a step in the right direction.

It's very important here that we not have exaggerated expectations of what can be achieved in an extraordinarily hostile environment. The United States now must act to avoid catastrophe. It must act to avoid a further conflagration in the region.

That means, I think, that we push hard, very hard for a cease- fire. And here I think I state a controversial point, but I've come to this conclusion: I think that the United States will not succeed in getting a cease-fire, or at least a long, lengthy cease-fire, without moving beyond just the security question.

I think you have to link the cease-fire to some kind of political process, even though that might be vague. And I think the president was, in a sense, trying to do that.

KING: Ambassador Pinkas. I think Sharon said today this could go on for quite some time. What's the end point?

PINKAS: Well, the end point is to...

KING: I mean, what must the Palestinians do to stop being shelled? In other words, what do they have to do that would cause Israel to say, we stop today?

PINKAS: Frankly, I don't know that there's anything the Palestinians could do to stop this, for one reason and one reason only: that the last 18 months have clearly indicated and demonstrated to us, almost in unequivocal terms, that nothing that the Palestinians say, nothing that the Palestinian leadership states -- this is a bankrupt leadership. This is a total corrupt leadership, politically, ideologically, financially, personally. There's nothing that they can do that would stop this.

Having -- I understand question. Having said that, Larry, the only reason we went into Ramallah, the only reason we are operating militarily throughout the West Bank is to rout out the terrorists; to try at least -- try. I'm not saying we'll 100 percent succeed -- but try and demolish and obliterate the infrastructure of terrorism, the hotbed of suicide bombers that Arafat either declined to deal with, was afraid to deal with, or was reluctant to deal with.

The endgame is obviously, definitely and comprehensively political. We know there's a political process at the end of the tunnel here. We hope there's a political process.

KING: Christiane, as a correspondent who has covered many of these things, can this be safely be called, to you, a war?

AMANPOUR: Well, the Israeli government officials who addressed the press conference earlier this morning after their emergency Cabinet session -- notably the prime minister and the defense minister -- used that very word, "war." So yes, frankly. In their terms it is, and they have outlined it as such.

I think there are a lot of issues here. You've just heard from Senator Biden and Representative Hamilton about the need for a political solution. Clearly that is a very serious view, and what the Palestinians have always talked about.

And you've also asked about U.S. involvement, and what the Arabs can do. Well the Arabs, in the Beirut Summit, have done what they feel that they have done now -- in the words of the Saudis, put their cards on the table, for the first time collectively as a bloc offering normal relations to Israel.

And you know that Crown Prince Abdullah is going to come to the U.S. in April to see President Bush. And we're told that he's going to carry a very strong message that the U.S. get much more heavily involved and to put a lot of pressure on the Israelis, because they feel that the Israelis only listen to the U.S., and try to hammer out some political breakthrough, or rather some political process to get on track again.

KING: I got to get a break here.

And when we come back, we'll have Mr. Rahman respond to this and what he thinks the United States might do, and where he sees this all ending.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: We cannot lose sight of our goal. Despite the tragedy we see unfolding now on this holy week, we must not lose sight of the goal. We have to achieve an enduring and comprehensive peace for Arabs and Israelis alike. This is the future. This is what we must achieve. And although things look dark now, we must have hope, and we must continue to work, and work hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Mr. Rahman, what should the -- in your opinion should the United States do, and where do you see this going?

RAHMAN: First, let me say this. And I will address that -- I promise you -- to address that.

KING: Well, we've got limited time. If you don't address it, we'll never get an answer.

RAHMAN: Well, no. It is important to say the following. When Mr. Pinkas failed to answer a question, he resorts to name calling. Bankruptcy of the Palestinian leadership, dictator Palestinian leadership. He continues to call naming exercise. That's not going to be helpful. I just want to remind Mr. Pinkas that we signed in 1993 an agreement with Israel, and that's the Oslo agreement.

During seven years of negotiations, Israel brought in the West Bank, 100 Jewish settlers. For the average Palestinian, the checkpoints, the military occupation continued and the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories continued. Now, by the end of the process, which was supposed to bring a conclusion to the occupation, the Palestinians did not see a light at the end of the tunnel. And that's why unless there's a political dimension, and unless the Palestinians feel that finally the Israeli illegal occupation will leave us alone, there is no incentive for the Palestinians. And that's where the challenge for the United States comes. Because so far, the United States has focused on cease-fire, and did not address in realistic and practical way a method, a process that will lead us to a solution.

And the end, we know it. The Americans have said and the United Nations and Prince Abdullah that the end has to be a Palestinian state next to Israel.

KING: Well, wait. Ambassador Pinkas, do you agree with that? Do you agree a Palestinian state is inevitable, is the only way out of this eventually?

PINKAS: Yes, but that was evident at Camp David. That is not the issue. There's no one to run that Palestinian state. I'm sorry to say, Larry, I've counted almost 900 hollow words in the last 90 seconds here.

Again and again and again, blame the world, challenge the U.S. what does Mr. Abdel Rahman mean? What do you mean the challenge to the U.S.? Could there have been more genuine a commitment, more serious an involvement than that of President Bill Clinton? Could there have been in history a better friend of the Palestinian cause than President Bill Clinton, and you double crossed him, too. And you cheated him, too, and you lied to him, too.

How many more presidents? How many more prime ministers are you going to lie to? And worst of all, Mr. Abdel Rahman, how long are you going to cheat yourself and delude yourself into this distortion of history that you --

KING: All right.

RAHMAN: I really need to say something.

KING: Quickly. I want to get a final comment.

RAHMAN: I assure you, Mr. Pinkas, that Mr. Clinton does not agree with you. And Mr. Clinton if he is on television today, he will acknowledge that he has made a total mistake by blaming Yasser Arafat when he came out of Camp David. Because for domestic political purposes, like most American politicians he has to accused Mr. Arafat --

KING: I want to get a final comment. Senator Biden, listening to this it sounds I guess to some hopeless.

BIDEN: Well, if the two people talking are the ones that are going to be in negotiation, it is hopeless. The only way this works is you start from scratch again. You know, going back and arguing over who struck John when, where and what is not going to work. You have got to start from a blank piece paper again.

KING: But how, who -- how does that start start?

BIDEN: Well, I think it starts, Larry -- I've reached this conclusion. It requires us to be more forceful, as well as the Arab world to be in the deal, not on the sidelines. And it is not enough to say, we'll recognize. It is required that they put the same kind of pressure on Arafat that they expect us to put on Israel.

KING: Only got a minute. Twenty seconds, Christiane. Is it going to get worse, before it gets better?

AMANPOUR: It may do. And many people believe that even this Arab initiative that's come out, may not materialize for another few cycles of violence. But Anthony Zinni's still here, still trying to push for a cease-fire, at least in the sort-term.

KING: And Lee Hamilton, do you see any course for feeling some light at the tunnel?

HAMILTON: Oh, sure, there are some good signs. The Arab summit proposal is a step forward. It puts terms that are not acceptable to Israel. But at least it is a proposal.

KING: A start.

HAMILTON: The secretary of state had good advice for us a moment ago, we've just got to keep trying. KING: Thank you all very much. Thanks to our panel. Thanks to our guests, earlier. We'll take a break. And When we come back, I'll tell you what's coming up over the weekend on LARRY KING LIVE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night a tribute to Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. Tragically, both died the same day. Sunday night we repeat our interview with Dennis Quaid who stars in a great new movie called "The Rookie." Really, a terrific movie. And Monday night, Judge Judy returns to LARRY KING LIVE.

Aaron Brown returns Monday night, but finishing up a yeoman-like week. Sitting in for her friend, in New York to hose "NEWSNIGHT," the one, the only, Ms. Connie Chung.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com





 
 
 
 


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