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Interview With Dan Rather

Aired April 2, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, live from Jerusalem, "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather tells his chilling story of cheating death with a suicide bomber while risking his life in the danger zone. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always a great pleasure to have him with us. He's with us tonight from Jerusalem. He visits the hot spots of the world. The anchor of the "CBS Evening News", Dan Rather. OK, Dan, what happened?

DAN RATHER, "CBS EVENING NEWS": Well, if you're talking about the suicide bombing brush that we had about 24 hours ago, it was in Jerusalem. We were doing what reporters do. We were out and around talking to people, looking over the situation, trying to figure maybe some way we could get into Ramallah, perhaps some other area of the West Bank.

We passed, Larry, what I think anybody would call sort of a routine street corner. There was a small checkpoint there. We waved at police and the soldiers moved on. As we got a little bit down the road, there was, as it turned out, behind us, a boom. And very quickly, it was determined that this was a suicide bomber.

And we, of course, did what we had to do and eventually got back there to cover it. The only reason this is worth talking about at all, Larry, if it is -- this war is not about journalists, it is not about danger. Danger goes with the territory here. And, frankly, too much can be made of this except that it does show -- it's an example of why, in the Israelis' minds, they're doing what they're doing.

Now, last night, this was the sixth car bomb in six days. There was another today, right on the border with Israel, with the West Bank. So seven days in a row, there have been suicide bombers strike in Israel itself and what we barely missed last night, this suicide bomber was in a car. Presumably, he was looking for a major target inside Jerusalem. He got stopped at the checkpoint. The policeman approached. The car bomb went off. The bomber was killed instantly. The policeman died later at the hospital, and two others were injured. So for anyone who is saying what can be in the Israelis' minds by launching this really intense military offensive, perhaps some in Israel would prefer to call it a counteroffensive, whether you like what the Israelis are doing or not, to understand what's going on in their heads and hearts -- and make no mistake, this is almost universal in Israel as a country and with the Israeli people at the moment is, this cannot continue. The trigger for it, Larry, was the Passover night seder last Wednesday in which 22 people were killed almost instantly by a suicide bomber. Another three of them died today for a total of 25. As I say, whether one likes what the Israelis are doing or not, to understand what they're doing, they've moved into the West Bank. Goal No. 1 is to try to stop the suicide bombers from coming in to Israel. There are, of course, other goals.

KING: Two-part question. Does it not give you pause and do you have a greater understanding of what people are like living day to day there?

RATHER: Well, it certainly gives me pause, Larry. I'd be lying if I didn't say it gave us some pause. But, you know, when one tries to be a foreign correspondent, tries to be a combat correspondent, you recognize that there's danger. I've said before to you I think and I say again, that in some ways and some days, danger is my business. These are among those days and these are among the ways, and I accept that. And when something like last night happens, you don't just shrug it and go on. You think about it, but you say to yourself, OK, is this story worth it? And I think this story certainly is worth it. These are, as the "New York Times" called them this morning, perilous times.

Now, it certainly drives home a better understanding, as I've just tried to describe, of the thinking of the Israelis. We'll deal no doubt later in the program with the thinking of the Palestinians, who have their side of the story which they, like the Israelis, claim rather regularly that none of us in the media get right.

But the advantage of being here and walking the ground and covering first hand, Larry, for an anchor, is that reporter part of your soul, which I don't think you can be an effective anchor without having that part, you just have to walk the ground. You have to be here. You have to see it. You have to experience it in order to be a reporter, I think, with any depth of credibility.

KING: Was that your own decision to go or did the powers that be at the network ask you to go? How does that work since you run the show in the news division?

RATHER: No, it's my decision whether to go or stay, when to go or stay. Ours is a collaborative process, of course. And Andrew Heyward, who is the president of CBS News, Jim Murphy, who is the executive producer of the program, you know, we talk all the time about what to do and how to do it.

But at CBS News, going into a war zone is always a volunteer situation. Nobody is forced to go. Sometimes people are asked to go. But there's no prejudice if you say, look, I don't want to go. But I wouldn't want anybody to have any misunderstanding about it, Larry. With a story of this magnitude, nobody had to ask me to go. Clearly, once we had that Passover night suicide bombing, I knew the dynamic had changed. I knew that we had to get here in greater force and I had to be here.

KING: You already mentioned that your crew went back to the scene of the bombing. Was that your decision, theirs? What?

RATHER: Again, a collective decision. But there wasn't any doubt. As soon as we knew there had been a car bombing at this checkpoint which we had just passed, we in effect did a quick u-turn and went back to do what reporting we could.

The scene was still one of chaos and, yes, fear, anger, disgust, outrage, all of those emotions at the scene. But there has become a routine about these suicide bombings, Larry. The routine is there's the boom, there's the blast, then there's pandemonium, then the dead and wounded are attended to. There's an investigation. And very quickly, the scene is cleaned up.

What impressed me last night was how quickly the Israelis cleaned up this scene. And, in effect, they didn't say nothing has happened here, but it's part of the way they deal with this that you deal with it as quickly as you can and then you move on. And that includes sort of cleaning up the scene very fast and moving right on.

KING: Journalistically, does it work? Do people killing themselves to take other lives, does that prove something?

RATHER: Well, as a personal opinion, which is what you've asked, Larry, I don't think so. You know, the disheartening thing about the Middle East, and I don't want to sound like some old salt, but we've been in here and out of here over the years. This is the worst it has been between the Israelis and the Palestinians for at least several decades.

The disheartening thing is that, frankly, one doesn't see where any of it leads in terms of peace. And today, we talked to a number of people, some Palestinians, some Israelis, and the people caught in the middle -- and after all, they represent the greatest number of people. They have their fears. They have their angers. They'd like to lead a normal life, but they know that anything approaching normalcy is a long time away right now as the Israeli defense forces tonight, by the way, Larry, they moved -- the Israeli army moved into yet another West Bank town. This time, Jenin, that's a northern West Bank town that the Israelis say a lot of the suicide -- at least some of the suicide bombers have come out of a big refugee camp there.

You know, Nablus could be next. I wouldn't be surprised if Gaza down the road. That's the reason Shimon Peres said today that this operation that the Israeli military has embarked upon is likely to last at least weeks. And you may have noted that Ariel Sharon wouldn't give that as a timetable, in effect, saying it is open-ended.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll ask Dan why he thinks the world is so critical of Israel's activities and lots of other things and your phone calls as well. Dan Rather on the scene in Jerusalem. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


RATHER: In Jerusalem tonight, right at the dividing line between the Israeli west and the mostly Arab east Jerusalem, yet another suicide bombing. We had driven by only minutes before the bomb went off.

All right, this is what happened tonight at this intersection. A car bomber was trying to get through to a target, stopped at a checkpoint. The bomb went off. He didn't get through because he was stopped at the checkpoint. Bad, but could have been a lot worse.



KING: Joining us live from Israel is Dan Rather.

Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel, said today that Arafat can leave his headquarters on the condition that it's a one-way ticket. Others are now saying this is the first Israeli/Palestinian war, actual war between those two bodies. And three, the world is all lumped in one, Dan, is criticizing -- most of the world -- Israel for this continued action. Want to summarize all those three?

RATHER: Well, I'll take a shot at it, Larry. But first of all, let me explain that while we've been on the air, the rains came today. It's been a hard rain here. And we had a sort of tent covering. It collapsed. And that's the reason this water got on the jacket. I'll change it during the next break.

KING: It's OK. I like the look.

RATHER: Ariel Sharon -- it's one of the few chances we've had today to smile, I must say, with this cheap under-budget tenting gave way on us.

But Ariel Sharon today did say, in effect, he offered Arafat exile. He said, you know, you can leave but you can't come back. Now he said that when Arafat was apparently considering going to the Arab Summit last week. Maybe you want to call it an alleged Arab Summit because Mubarak wasn't there, Saddam Hussein wasn't there, Qadhafi was there.

But anyway, this was something different today, because among other things, Sharon has been under some pressure from various European countries to allow their diplomats in to see Yasser Arafat. So what Sharon did, was he sort of did a -- if you will -- a diplomatic shotgun blast out and said, well, OK, if you want to come see Yasser Arafat, be my guest. But if you're going to see him, you're going to take him out with you. And when you take him out with you, he isn't coming back.

Now, beyond that, he said to Arafat, if you want to leave, go. But you aren't coming back. But, Larry, this is a non-starter. It simply -- no pun intended here -- is not going to fly. Among the many reasons, Arafat believes that he is winning the battle for world opinion, and believes that the Sharon move of confining him, Arafat, in his compound over in Ramallah has backfired on Sharon.

Now, others may want to argue whether Yasser Arafat's assessment is correct or not. But there's little doubt in my mind that Arafat believes he's in the best position and indeed that he has leverage, if not indeed the whiphand on Ariel Sharon at the moment in terms of world opinion. So that's not just going to happen.

In terms of world opinion, turning against the Israelis, you know, that's an awfully hard thing to judge. But as best I can judge, I think that characterization is correct that you had these images. What images have been on television? Most of the images have been Israeli tanks crunching through poor areas and other areas in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers firing at various targets. You've had those kinds of images. And the Palestinians, to the anger, of course, of the Israelis, have been cast as the victims, if you will, the underdogs. And there's always a strong emotional pull, an undertow, if you will, in that direction.

And also, you know, people talk about the Israelis being good at public relations, publicity and spin, if you will, and indeed in many ways they are. But the Palestinians are good at it as well. And Yasser Arafat, in his own wily way, is a master of it.

So, yes, I think for the moment that world opinion, if one could take up a worldwide poll, would not be in Israel's favor. Now, what Israel is trying to do, Larry, and I know that you must have picked up on this, particularly in the last few days, they've accelerated the effort to tie what they're doing directly to the American anti- terrorism effort, saying, look, it is all part of the same war against terrorism. But the critical thing for the Israelis, world opinion as a whole and at large is not nearly as key for them and they know it as opinion with the American public. If they, frankly, I think, figure if they can hold American public opinion behind them, they'll be all right. And if they can't, then they're in for very big trouble indeed.

KING: And how about, Dan, the increased criticism of the Bush administration both in the United States and out for not doing enough and not doing more?

RATHER: Well, this has increased considerably in recent days. And today's lead editorial in the "New York Times" being perhaps example A. The drum beat is getting louder for President Bush to do something.

Of course, the problem for President Bush and those around him is what, like what should we do? The general assessment that the administration has in some ways tried to have it in several different directions is probably correct. On the one hand, the United States and the U.N. votes with an overwhelming majority for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. On the other hand, President Bush says Yasser Arafat needs to do more to control the suicide bombers. I don't think there's quite as much contradiction in that as some people view, but each person has to make up their own mind about that.

Where I'm going with this is if there's a U.S. plan about what to do in the wake of this current war developing, it's unclear to me. I'm not sure that such a plan exists. It is true that world opinion has coalesced behind the idea that there's one and only one country that can make a difference here and perhaps get a cease-fire of some sort and move this from war and violence back to the political and diplomatic arena and that is the United States. Now whether President Bush and his team are up to that and how soon they will decide on a course and make it public, I have no idea.

But Secretary Powell was pretty clear this morning, I thought, in saying, look, this may run on for a while. We hope it doesn't. We don't think that it is going to have the desired effect on the part of Israel, that is, to stop the suicide bombing. If I read Secretary Powell correctly, I think he believes it is going to be weeks, if not longer, before this situation begins to even reach a point where the United States can step back in and say, look, what about this idea or that?

But I'll say straight to you, Larry, I have no idea what the United States could propose that might be effective. Make no mistake, Ariel Sharon is absolutely adamant. He's determined that he's going to do what he can to stop the suicide bombing. But the suicide bombing is a new weapon and a very effective weapon by the Palestinians to which no defense has yet been devised. Sharon has done the best he can with this offensive. But who among us believes that however long this offensive goes, that it is actually going to be able to stop the suicide bombing? We can hope, but I have my doubts.

KING: More with Dan Rather. We'll also be including your phone calls in a little while on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay there.


RATHER: The bomber was killed instantly. The policeman who approached the car died late tonight. It has become a macabre ritual here: the bombs go off, pandemonium, followed by investigation. The crowd disperses and within hours all evidence of the bombing will be wiped away.



KING: We're back with one of the best journalists ever, Dan Rather of CBS News. He's on the scene in Jerusalem. What's being made there of Israel taking control of Bethlehem?

RATHER: Well, the fight in Bethlehem goes on, as best I can figure out, Larry. I haven't been in there tonight. In fact, nobody could get in there during the day.

The Israelis will prevail in Bethlehem, but it's been one of the toughest, bloodiest fights of the last few days. Palestinian gunmen took refuge in the Church of the Nativity, as you know. It is a special sacred place for Christians in that the birth of Jesus by tradition and legend took place there.

But what happened in Bethlehem is an off-shoot of what happened in Ramallah. And this is going to be happening through the West Bank for some time to come, Larry, no doubt about it. It was some scene there today as evidenced again by what's on my jacket here, that it rained pretty hard today. And in the rain and fog of this morning, this battle over Bethlehem developed. And as we speak, this new battle in Jenin is going on.

Larry, there's one thing we didn't mention. And if you'll forgive me for coming back to it. And that is that Ariel Sharon today, at or about the same time he offered this deal to Yasser Arafat, leave and don't come back and go into exile, I didn't think it got quite the play it deserved anywhere in the news today. But Sharon, he talked very tough about Iran, Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah and others over in Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley and their role in supplying weapons to the Palestinians. He made a direct link with them and, you know, this is about the toughest talk I've heard from Sharon on this subject. Now, part of it is an attempt to link what's happening here with what happened on September 11.

But the other part of it I thought was pretty clear warning. And you may have noted that some shells were fired into Israel from Lebanon by Hezbollah, quote, "in support of the Palestinians." And Sharon and the Israeli military responded almost immediately by attacking positions in Lebanon. Now, while we said this operation may go on for some weeks and that there's a limit been placed on it in terms of distance of saying, well, we're only going to go a certain distance out. You put that together what Sharon said today and I'm not sure that the distance limitation will hold. That may depend on how things go, but I wanted to call that to the attention because it was one of those things that in the chaos and so much news today sort of got pushed to the back page.

KING: The state department has told Americans that it is a deteriorating security situation, has asked them to get out. Have you seen Americans leaving?

RATHER: There have been some Americans leaving, not in great droves. And I think there will be some more tomorrow. This new admonition, new warning from the government just came today. But the state department's assessment, if it needs to be said, is absolutely accurate. The situation continues to deteriorate. And there's no prospect of anything getting better, certainly in the immediate future. So, that warning should not be a surprise.

It also was aimed, I think, in strong part, Larry, at those American citizens who are still in the Palestinian territory in the West Bank. But that situation is obviously deteriorating extremely quickly.

KING: You've been in many war zones. Is there a feeling in Jerusalem, the principal city in that country, that they're at war?

RATHER: Absolutely, they've had that very firm feeling. And by the way, Larry, it cuts across all political strata in this country. As soon as word came about the Passover night bombing of the seder, the suicide bombing of the seder, killed 22 on the spot, another three have died for a total of 25, as soon as word of that came through, I think every man, woman and child of memory age in Israel knew that it was, for them, war. I've been here many times over the years. Doesn't make me an expert on Israel or the Middle East, but I've never seen the situation quite as it is right now. And here's why. I come back to the suicide bombings. The Israelis know what an effective weapon this is. They know first hand, having had seven days in a row of it, how hard it is going to be to stop it. "The Economist" quoted somebody of the Palestinians saying with satisfaction that the suicide bombings are nails in the Israelis' shoes. And I thought that was an apt quote because that is pretty much the view in the region, whether you're Israeli or Palestinian or something else. And that is that Yasser Arafat has a new and effective weapon. The Israelis don't know how to stop it. They're deeply concerned about it in addition to being outraged and angry about it.

And when you say, well, what does Ariel Sharon, what does that have to do with Ariel Sharon putting the Israeli military on the West Bank? Job one, the first goal there so to, insofar as possible, stop the suicide bombers from coming into Israel. There are other goals including to isolate the Palestinian people, to humiliate them and possibly to try to force them to drastically reduce, if not stop, these suicide bombings. But the sense of the country and certainly the sense of Jerusalem, of the city, is that this is one of the most perilous times in the history of Israel as a nation since it was reformed in 1948.

KING: And you sense that everywhere?

RATHER: Absolutely everywhere. Jerusalem is a ghost town. It is night, of course. You can't see it now, Larry. But it is eerie to walk around this city. People are staying in their homes. There was street after street today in which there was nobody on the street. And I mean, zero, nobody on the street. It has been that way for a number of days.

KING: We'll take a break, come back. We'll include phone calls. He's our guest for the full hour. He's Dan Rather of CBS News on the scene in Jerusalem. John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" will be with us tomorrow night. And Thursday night, in his first media appearance since all the ruckus over leaving PBS, Louis Rukeyser will join us. We'll be right back.


RATHER: Even a year ago, this Israeli suburb was the last place you'd need an armored car or expect to see tanks in the streets.

This is southern Jerusalem, a quiet neighborhood. And while the only thing beating down on me right now is the rain, bullets frequently rain in this area, which is the reason those Israeli tanks are right back there.



KING: We're back with Dan Rather of CBS News on the scene in Jerusalem. Let's take a call or two for Dan.

Dearborn, Michigan. Speak up, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Mr. Rather, how are you tonight?

RATHER: Just fine, thank you very much.

CALLER: The question is, as much as we know about you, how could you morally agree as a decent journalist to comparing the September 11 events to what is going on in the occupied territories, considering that no foreign army is occupying your house or your offices at CBS in New York?

RATHER: Well I think, with all respect, that you didn't understand what I said. That is not my opinion. I said this was Ariel Sharon's opinion, and was the prevailing, widespread consensus in Israel itself, making that comparison.

I didn't make that comparison myself. Not my job as a journalist to do that. I was reporting, and accurately so, what Ariel Sharon and almost every other Israeli thinks -- not what Dan Rather thinks.


KING: Dan, as someone who has covered this for so long, do you often get the feeling when you listen to both sides speak -- it's kind of weird to say that -- they both sound right?

RATHER: You get that feeling all the time Larry. And the reason I have that feeling is that in some important ways they both are right. On the other hand, in some important ways they both are wrong.

You know, there's no story in the world more difficult to cover than this one, Larry. No one wants or should want to hear about journalists' problems; but for a journalist, this situation is immensely complicated. And when you do your best to be an honest broker of information, which is what I'm trying to do here, particularly in this region with all the emotion and hatred, you always run the risk that someone will misinterpret what you've said, as the gentleman who just called, obviously. And I said with all respect to him, he didn't understand that I was reporting what the Israeli viewpoint was, not what my own viewpoint is.

But, you know, it goes with the territory. Oscar Wilde, the English writer, once said "the truth is rarely pure and never simple." And I think of that often here in the Middle East, and particularly these last few days.

Larry, I do want to point out to you, if I may, that I'm hearing from some of our people, and I believe this is correct, it's been confirmed that Israeli tanks are on the move in another West Bank city tonight, expanding this military operation. Earlier they moved into Jenin, which is in the northern West Bank. And now I'm told they've moved into south Fete (ph).

And all of this part of the pattern and, indeed, part of the plan that's going to keep this going for several weeks. But at least two more West Bank cities have Israeli tanks in them and have had them in them since you and I have been on the air.

KING: Wow. Oak Lawn, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Yes, I wanted to ask: Is it fair for Israeli tanks to enter refugee camps of people that have already lost their homes due to Israeli settlement building? Is that really fair -- a fair thing to do to people who have already lost their homes?

KING: And that, I might add, I guess, is the growing sentiment that we've discussed in the world, that maybe Israel is losing the public relations war by that lady's very question, Dan.

RATHER: Yes. And I do appreciate the lady calling in, and thank you, ma'am, for calling in.

But the question is not mine to answer. It is for you, yourself, to answer, do you think it's fair? I would gather by the tone in your question that you don't. That's something each person has to make in their mind.

But if -- and I recognize there's some risk in saying that -- if one is going to say that this is unfair, outrageous, then a companion to that is, what do you say to those Israelis who say, you know, it may be unfair, but sending children and others as suicide bombers to attack innocent civilians within Israel is, quote, "also unfair."

This is the journalist's dilemma that -- and Larry, you said you sometimes get the feeling that each side, their arguments have validity. If you're a Palestinian -- or perhaps even if you aren't -- you certainly can understand the loss of dignity, pride, to say nothing of personal property destruction, sometimes death and wounding that results from a military operation such as the one Israel now has underway.

If you are an Israeli -- or perhaps even if you aren't -- you can certainly understand how the Israelis would say, you know, we hate doing this. We don't like doing it at all. But we simply can't sit here and let one suicide bomber after another come in and destroy us, our children.

And Larry, there's a growing sense in Israel and out that one of the things we in the press have not done often enough -- the Palestinians have a list, and some of it's valid on their part -- is that in some cases there are beginning to be substantial pieces of evidence that the Iraqis and some others are paying large sums of money to the families of suicide bombers and doing things such as offering them trips to Mecca.

This, if finally and completely confirmed, would put the lie to the idea that these suicide bombings are simply spontaneous. And so it goes.

People are going to have strong feelings on all sides of this for as far ahead as I can see. KING: What do you make, Dan, of the phenomena of female suicide bombers? In the past we've had something like it, but never young girls.

RATHER: I don't know what to make of it, Larry. I go inarticulate because, first of all, I didn't think it would happen. This is something new. And we've had what, at least two incidents of this fairly recently. You know, previously young men and boys, but not girls and women.

What this indicates to us is that this evil of suicide bombing is not in a period of diminishment. It is indeed catching on as the favorite weapon of choice. Born, yes, of desperation that the Palestinians feel.

It goes back to the conclusion, a tentative one, Larry, indeed it is, but how do you stop this? That -- let's say this Israeli military operation goes on for weeks or months. In the end, is it going to stop suicide bombers when -- not as an opinion, you'd have to say by any reasonable analysis, probably not.

But what Israelis say, it's two things: One, well it may not stop it, but we think we can significantly reduce it. And the other is, quote: "We have to do something in the face of these suicide bombers."

In the Palestinian territories, Larry, there's a sense of both defiance and steadfastness that is tied to the suicide bombings that even previously described as moderate Palestinians are not apologetic about it. In effect, they're saying look, we're a desperate people. And desperate people do desperate things. And we have hit upon this as a way of making the Israelis pay for all of the, quote, "outrageous and terrible things," unquote, that they have done to us.

KING: Dan Rather is our guest. Back with more right after this. Don't go away.


RATHER (voice-over): This stretch of road heading south out of Jerusalem through what were the comfortable suburbs has become one of the most dangerous in the area, snipers from the hills above firing on the traffic below. Checkpoints change into roadblocks without warning.

(on camera): But you know this is shut down here? OK, thank you very much. And we go back.

(voice-over): Leaving no alternative but to turn around and go back from where you came.



KING: We're back with Dan Rather. We'll be back taking your phone calls. What does Israel mean by calling this Operation Protective Wall?

RATHER: Well, in the same way that the U.S. military has names for operations such as Operation Desert Storm, Anaconda, the Israeli military has their version of that. And they do call this, you know, Operation Protective Wall.

There have been some Israelis and others who've said, well, the problem with that image is that it raises the French Maginot Line, which the French built for somewhat the same reason; you know, to isolate the Germans and to keep them out. But it turned out to be something that didn't work.

And of course, as is innate with the Israelis, which goes along the lines, listen we do this -- in their view, they do it because they have to do it. But to try to build such a wall, they're just not certain how to do it, and certainly not certain that this present operation will work, although Ariel Sharon, in effect, is telling his people, you know, we had to do something, and I'm confident if we stick with this that it will at least be a deterrent if it isn't an absolute barrier, it can at least be an obstacle to these suicide bombers, Larry.

KING: Toronto, Canada for Dan Rather, hello. Toronto, go ahead.

CALLER: Will you be interviewing Mr. Sharon or Mr. Arafat? And do you think that Mr. Arafat expects to have his fate in place of Israel or alongside Israel?

RATHER: There are two questions there. Certainly, I'm available to interview Prime Minister Sharon or Yasser Arafat at any time. And if they happen to be listening or viewing, call me collect, I'll be there in a second.

I don't mean to make a joke about it. I think it's unlikely, particularly with Arafat -- actually the Israelis are trying very hard to keep Arafat from being on television in any way, shape or form.

You know, as to the second part of it, I confess to you that I've forgotten the second part of the question for the moment which was what, please, madam, if you remind me.

KING: I've forgotten because she's gone now. I'm trying to remember what she said. I'll think of it in a minute.

RATHER: Well forgive me Larry -- oh no, I know what it is. Say again, please.

Ah, very important question. Thank you very much. And I apologize to you. Yes.

Well, that's hard to say. But there is a building school of thought, and not just among the Israelis, that when Yasser Arafat turned down the best deal by far he'd ever been offered at the end of the -- very end of President Clinton's presidency when Ehud Barak, who is now out of power, put in front of him about 90-95 percent of what Arafat said he wanted.

And when Arafat refused that, then there's a building coming out of that. And particularly now there's a building school of thought that says, Arafat doesn't -- he doesn't just want a Palestinian state. He doesn't want one beside an Israeli state. That he's, in fact, going for the whole thing; which is another way of saying that instead of Arafat's goal being just to go back to roughly what was before the 1967 war, which Israel won, that what Arafat may have in mind is going back to 1948. That of course, the Israelis cannot do.

Another way of putting it, Larry, is there are pressures on Yasser Arafat from, yes, the mullahs in Iran, from Iraq, elements in Syria, all over the Arab world saying, you know, you've got the Israelis on the run. And instead of settling for just a state, a small Palestinian state beside the Israeli state, let's push it now and let's crush it.

I will say that the Israelis fear that that's Arafat's position. I do want to emphasize that Chairman Arafat has not laid that out as his position, but his actions have led any number of observers to believe that that is, in fact, what he has in mind.

KING: What do you think has been the long-term effect, or will be the long-term effect of this on the children of the Israelis and the Palestinians? We understand that Israeli TV children's channel is now discussing and talking to the young kids about suicide bombers.

What can you guess they're going to grow up with here?

RATHER: I don't think we have to guess, Larry, that the effect of war on children who are caught in the crossfires is devastating. And it's the most disheartening part of covering this war. On both sides, Palestinian and Israelis, the children have been suffering, they are suffering, and they're going to continue to suffer in varying degrees depending where they are for a very long time.

On the Palestinian side, we know what it looks like, what life is like inside the Palestinian refugee camps. And we know what it's been like for a long time. And we know what the effect of that is on children. And we know that in Israel, that children who live in communities who have been under constant sniper fire -- and if you can imagine what it's like to be in your apartment and be under constant sniper fire and danger of that, that these children do poorly in their school work, they have all kinds of psychologic problems.

Look, when you and I talked when I was in Afghanistan, Larry, I said that, you know, war is hell on everybody. But no matter where the war is and who's fighting it, it's a particular kind of hell, it's the toughest hell on women and children.

So it was in Afghanistan, and so it is here in this situation.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with our remaining moments with Dan Rather, ever-present on the scene in Jerusalem. Don't go away.


RATHER (voice-over): Youssef Biliani (ph) and his wife Antoinette (ph) live in a Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem. For them, the issue is fear, but also dignity and freedom of movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot visit my family. I have a sister, nephews in Ramallah -- since six months, I cannot reach them. I cannot. It's forbidden.

RATHER: So while the old leaders with power and the young men with guns and bombs created this war, it is the people on both sides who must find a way to live with it.



KING: Dan, we know historically there are always voice of dissent in Israel. Is anyone speaking out in Israel? Are there any groups opposed to their country's actions?

RATHER: A very small number of people, as best I can make out, Larry. And, of course, in a democracy, which Israel is, people speak out and there's always dissent. But in the time I've been covering Israel over the last 35 to 40 years, frankly, I've rarely, if ever, seen Israeli public opinion as a whole so united behind a sense of, listen, we need to do something, we have to do something and we have to do it now, as is the case at this moment.

Now, having said that, among the voices of dissent, I think the ones that worry Ariel Sharon, the government, and the people of Israel the most are those people who are refusing to go into the army, saying, look, I just as a matter of conscience can't be a part of this kind of military operation. They are few in number. They've grown some over recent days. I would say that's the most significant part of it.

But no one should mistake here, Israel has a consensus on this. And it is the will of the Israeli people to do something about the suicide bombing. They'll argue about whether Sharon has the right strategy and the right tactics. But on the goal, about the goal, there is absolutely, well, I'd say very, very little dissent about that.

KING: One more call. Toronto for Dan Rather. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Dan. Dan, you're in Jerusalem right now. And we've heard from the Israeli public opinion. Will you also be going to the Palestinian refugee camps and reporting on their public opinion and their perspective as well?

RATHER: Absolutely. And we've done that anyway. Let me say that we've been trying to get in there. I have been there before. But on this trip, keep in mind, the Israeli army has what amounts to a shutdown, like a prison lockdown. And right now, we can't get in there. And if we did get in there, we would be thrown out immediately.

But we're doing the best we can to present the Palestinian side, the Palestinian argument side by side with the Israelis. As I said earlier, it's one of the toughest jobs that I or any other journalist can face today, and that is trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. Both sides are dealing in propaganda, but we make every effort to give both sides as honest as we can.

And let me just say to you as sincerely as I know how, you know, my role in my professional life is to try to be the best honest broker of information that I can possibly be. I can't be that every way, every day in every detail of the story but I'm here trying my best to do exactly that.

KING: Dan, do you see an out game? Is there any light at this tunnel?

RATHER: Larry, as you know, you've known me a long time, I'm an optimist by experience and by nature. But for the life of me, I can't see anything to be very optimistic about here at the moment. For those who thought they saw some light at the end of the tunnel, maybe as recently as a few weeks or months ago, right now the light is out. The tunnel is dark. I'm sorry to say that, but it's true.

It may be that down the line, I italicize the word may, it may be down the line that after Israel has run its course with this military strategy, going town by town, camp by camp, even house by house, looking for the roots of suicide bombing, that somebody and that somebody probably is going to be the United States, may step in and say, listen, what we're going to do is put up a barrier of some kind. There's going to be a line: Palestinians on one side to have their state, Israelis on the other side.

We're going to guarantee that line and they'll wind up being Israel remains a state. Palestine finally has its own state. Maybe far, far out in the distance, that's a possibility. But I have to say on this rainy night, Larry, it seems a long, long way away.

KING: We have a minute and a half left. How long you are going to stay?

RATHER: Well, I don't know, Larry. As long as I think I can add value to for our coverage here, I'll be here. You know, I'm committed to both the idea and the ideal that you can't be a credible anchor person and stay constantly in a windowless room on the West Side of Manhattan or in midtown Manhattan. You have to get out and see it, that I think that CBS News, by making the commitment to do our broadcast from here, probably at least all of this week, is in the right place at the right time on the right story. I just hope and pray every day that we can be accurate and fair on a story which is very difficult to do it. I think I'm here for at least the rest of this week. We just have to see how the news goes.

KING: Dan, I can do nothing but salute you. It's always great having you on. You're a terrific journalist and you're right on top of the scene. And stay well. RATHER: Larry, thank you very much. And I appreciate being on tonight. I'll see you along the trail.

KING: You bet. He's on that trail all the time, isn't he? Dan Rather of CBS News reporting on a rainy late night, early morning, in Jerusalem, as this incredible saga goes on. Sometimes, it seems insoluble and very frustrating for those of us who have to ask questions on both sides of the ledger.

We'll come back and tell you about tomorrow after this.


RATHER: With no common ground in sight, the outlook is the violence will escalate and the funerals on both sides will increase, and that among the dead on both sides, will be many civilians.



KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted" returns. That is always very interesting. On Thursday, Louis Rukeyser, I guess formally of PBS, will be with us to discuss his dilemma as he leaves that network and what's next in the world of business. This is his first television appearance to discuss his leaving of PBS. Louis Rukeyser on Thursday. And Friday night, a major tribute to a 50-year legend in America, Lawrence Welk.

Speaking of legends, Aaron Brown is standing by in New York. He is about to host "NEWSNIGHT." Aaron, what can I say?




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