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Colin Powell's Challenge

Aired April 10, 2002 - 17:00:00   ET



COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECT. OF STATE: Our call today is for violence to end and response to violence to end.


JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Under pressure, with just hours to go until his arrive in Israel, the United States secretary of state facing new challenges, challenges in the form of a suicide attack and Israeli promises to push ahead with their West Bank offensive.


ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: They have to be able to continue and finish this struggle.


CLANCY: Hello and welcome to INSIGHT. I'm Jim Clancy, in for Jonathan Mann.

Ariel Sharon on Friday, Yasser Arafat on Saturday and then maybe some shuffling in between.

Colin Powell is facing what could be the most difficult challenge of his diplomatic career. The United States secretary of state, to arrive in Jerusalem late Thursday, with no set date on when he'll leave, but with severe limits on his room to maneuver.

He'll be facing an ally that says he does not want to be pressured, and a Palestinian leader who will tell him that pressure is essential to any progress.

On today's INSIGHT, Colin Powell's challenge.

But first, let's take a look at some of the stories that are making headlines right now.

A broad coalition of nations sending a message to the Israelis and the Palestinians: end the military offensive in the West Bank and stop the attacks on civilians.

Late Wednesday the Israeli Defense Ministry said troops are leaving three West Bank villages.

United Nations, the European Union and Russia issuing the joint statement ahead of United States Secretary of State Colin Powell's arrival. The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been resisting the pressure to end the incursion.

The mandate given to Powell's peace mission was challenged on another front. A Palestinian suicide bomber killed at least eight commuters on an Israeli bus near Haifa. The radical group Islamic Jihad claiming responsibility for the attack.

Belgrade is one step closer to strengthening its cooperation with the war crimes tribunal at the Hague. The Yugoslav parliament is expected to pass a law which would allow the country to hand over war crime suspects to the tribunal.

The upper house approved that law Wednesday. The United States has made its support of Belgrade conditional on Yugoslavia's cooperation with the Hague. Some parliament members say the bill is a constitutional violation and would represent an act of treason.

A Dutch report on a 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina is placing partial blame on the Dutch government and the United Nations. The report says Dutch army officers handed over civilians to Serb forces, despite fears of widespread killings.

The report also charges the U.N. failed to give the Dutch army the support it needed. It also puts primary responsibility for the massacre, in which 7,500 Bosnian Muslims were believed killed, on General Ratko Mladic.

All right, now let's go back to INSIGHT and the challenge facing Colin Powell.

The United States secretary of state says his mission to the Middle East is not in jeopardy, but it will definitely be harder after Ariel Sharon vowed the offensive on the West Bank would not end soon, and a Palestinian suicide bomber unleashed more death and destruction in Israel.

Powell did get a boost from the international community Wednesday in Madrid, and CNN's Andrea Koppel is there in the Spanish capital -- Andrea.


Well, it really wasn't a hard sell to the folks who gathered here. Secretary General Kofi Annan from the United Nations, the head of the European Union, and also the Russian foreign minister from Russia.

And they gathered here today to give really the broadest approval of Secretary Powell's diplomatic mission.


(voice-over): In Madrid, a welcome show of solidarity. Representatives of most of the world's most powerful governments expressing strong support for Secretary of State Powell's increasingly delicate diplomatic mission.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan laid out the stakes.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECT. GEN.: I am frankly appalled by the humanitarian situation. The international community demands that the government of Israel honor its obligation under international law to protect civilians.

We call on Chairman Arafat as the recognized elected leader of the Palestinian people to undertake immediately the maximum possible effort to stop terror attacks against innocent Israelis.

KOPPEL: A situation one European official described as moving rapidly from bad to worse to appalling.

Fresh from two days of intent consultations within the Arab world, Powell's search for a solution to achieve a cease fire appears to be taking shape.

Among key components, accelerating the political process to, for example, recognize a Palestinian state, even before a truce is in place, introducing American monitors, a certain number of whom could verify a cease fire, committing to rebuild the Palestinian Authority, much of which has been damaged or destroyed, and agreeing to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat this week, over strong Israeli objections.

POWELL: The reality is that no other Palestinian leader, or for that matter Arab leader, is prepared to engage as a partner until Mr. Arafat has had a chance to express his views to me and to others. So I hope that there will be no difficulties in arranging a meeting with Chairman Arafat.

KOPPEL: On the eve of his arrival in Israel, Powell's supporters have wished him luck. With so much riding on his mission success, they say, Powell can't afford to fail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He carries with him all the prestige of the world's only super power, super-duper power, as somebody called it recently. and the United States has been a great friend to and of Israel. And if Mr. Sharon doesn't listen to Colin Powell, and the rest of the international community, then God help the Middle East.


KOPPEL: The last time Madrid hosted a meeting on the Middle East, it was 1991, and back then hopes were high because the Israelis and Palestinians had finally agreed to start talking peace.

Well, 11 years later, things couldn't be more different, Jim. Instead of talking peace, they're waging war -- Jim.

CLANCY: Andrea, Secretary Powell no doubt has a strategy. No doubt that strategy is being complicated by events on the ground. Are you getting any kind of a glimpse inside the game plan of the Powell camp right now for how they might perhaps surprise both parties, get them somehow to move in areas, in directions, they haven't been willing to recently at all?

KOPPEL: Well, as one European official put it, who obviously has been talking with Secretary Powell's team, he said they aren't going to be pulling a rabbit out of the hat.

I think this is cutting dry diplomacy. This is one step forward, sometimes two steps back. You have, obviously, intense pressure coming from the United States White House on the Israelis to withdraw from West Bank towns and cities.

We see them, the Israelis, pulling back from a few villages, but then expanding their incursions elsewhere, Jim.

You also hear the international community calling on Yasser Arafat to renounce terrorism and do more on that front. But then you have the Arab world saying that they're not going to use -- the guys who actually have the influence with Yasser Arafat, they're not going to use their pull with him until the Israeli military incursion is complete, and until Colin Powell sits down with Yasser Arafat.

So the sense one gets from here is that this is really tough going, tough slugging, and they won't know if it's going to work, really, until Powell gets on the ground in Israel tomorrow evening -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. Andrea Koppel, there, reporting from Madrid, traveling with secretary of state Colin Powell.

We're going to be taking a short break here. When we come back, a closer look at those challenges Powell faces. Stay with us.


CLANCY: Decorated war hero, a proven consensus builder, and a bona fide diplomatic superstar; Colin Powell has a chest full of medals and the political capital to match. He's going to need every bit of it this weekend.

Welcome back.

It was just last year that Colin Powell made his first trip to the Middle East as the secretary of state. There were warm words and smiles all around as Arab leaders greeted the new secretary, but times change.

Today, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Arab capitals, condemning the United States and Israel as terrorists. Arab leaders are, to put it mildly, less accommodating.

Powell was left waiting for two hours on the first stop of his mission. In Morocco, he was asked by the king there why he wasn't already at work in Jerusalem.

We're joined now by Michael Elliot of "Time" magazine to talk a little bit more about the challenges ahead for Colin Powell.

This has got to be the nightmare journey, especially with the developments in the last 24 hours, and the defiance from Israel's prime minister.

MICHAEL ELLIOT, "TIME": It's the ultimate poisoned chalice, Jim, isn't it?

The situation in relation to the Israeli government is extraordinarily difficult, because they've made plain that they do not regard themselves as having completed their operations on the West Bank.

His relationship with Arab governments is necessarily tricky because the United States has to reestablish credibility as an honest broker in the region, not simply as a supporter of Israel.

His relationship with the Palestinians is obviously difficult, because they are convinced adamantly that until the Israelis withdraw from the West Bank, they see no reason why they should make concessions themselves.

And fourthly, we should not forget that in Washington itself, Secretary Powell's position has not always been as secure as it might be within this administration. He won the last round. He's on a mission to the Middle East, but we know that there are people in Washington who have always taken the view that a round of American diplomacy in this point of time, when, as they would argue, Israel is trying to root out terrorists, is a mistaken endeavor.

So this is really just about as tough a diplomatic mission as you could hand to anyone.

CLANCY: Are those critics in Washington perhaps the same people that were pushing a policy in the Bush administration that said ignore it, let them fight until they get tired. Let them stare the abyss in the face, and then step back from the brink.

ELLIOT: Well, a source said to me today, when I was doing some interviews on the nature of the administration's attitude for 15 months now to the Middle East, he said, well, it's been ABC. It's been "Anything But Clinton."

And we know that when the Bush administration came in, it was a widespread view, shared, I think, by President Bush himself, that President Clinton had made a mistake by investing so much time and American prestige in the details of negotiating a Middle East peace. An effort that, in the end, as we know, proved to be not worth the time that the president expended on it.

CLANCY: Are your sources saying that there's any regrets over there?

ELLIOT: No, I don't think that members of the Bush administration would be prepared to say that they regret what they've done in the last 15 months.

I think they would say that they have made efforts to engage when it seemed appropriate, when they thought that they could exercise leverage.

I think what's changed in the last month are two things.

First of all, Vice President Cheney's trip to the region just a few weeks ago convinced the administration that they could not move forward with the second stage of the war against terrorism, which everyone assumes to be an action against Iraq, without the support of Arab states, and that that support was contingent upon some solution of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

And secondly, and more importantly, the level of violence and the number of deaths in both Israel and on the West Bank has been such that the American administration has simply been compelled to roll-up its sleeves and get involved.

But getting involved doesn't mean that this administration, in the shape of Secretary of State Powell, has a solution at hand.

CLANCY: If Secretary Powell goes into the region, tells Ariel Sharon to listen to President Bush, to end the offensive, and Sharon simply says no, isn't that a loss of face?

ELLIOT: I think you put your finger on the greatest single risk of this trip.

Secretary Powell arrives in Jerusalem tomorrow. He has always been at pains to point out that Prime Minister Sharon is the duly elected leader of a democratic nation, and so to an extent he can say what he wants.

But obviously, if after all the entreaties from the president on down, and President Bush has made it pretty plain on a number of occasions now that he wants to see real action by the Israelis, if after all that the Israelis insist that no, they need another how ever long that period might be to finish this exercise, then that would be a tremendous loss of face.

CLANCY: Michael Elliot, I want you to stay there for a moment, but I want to cross over now, on the telephone from Jericho we have Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. He has held talks with General Anthony Zinni of the United States. Let's find out what happened.

Saeb Erakat, what can you tell us?

SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well, Jim, we conveyed -- my colleagues, myself and Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we conveyed to General Zinni, after our meeting with President Arafat today, that President Arafat wanted to insure the success of the mission of Secretary Powell and our full commitment to the implementation of resolution 1402 with all its ingredients and with the quartet communiqu‚ in Madrid today and read by Secretary General Kofi Annan with the participation of Secretary Powell and the Spanish foreign minister and the Russian foreign minister.

And we need a roadmap, and I think we had a very extensive, very detailed, very in depth, very constructive meeting with General Zinni in terms of the need now to put the priorities in order.

I think the first priority, Jim, is that we need to see an immediate stop to the Israeli incursions, immediate withdrawal, because if you need to have the Palestinian commitments implemented, you need to have a Palestinian Authority in place. The question is, do we have this after the Israeli incursions and occupation of all our areas.

The other thing, you know, in order for that, we need Palestinian areas. Palestinian areas now no longer exist. They are fully occupied.

And once this is achieved, we need to assess the damage inflicted on our capabilities and our security infrastructure, our civilian infrastructure, and then we expressed our full commitment to the Tenet and Mitchell work plans, leading to the political horizon.

CLANCY: Saeb Erakat, excuse me for interrupting, but let me just get it straight. If I'm reading between the lines here of what you're saying, while so many people have so many doubts about this mission that's being made by the secretary of state, are you saying that the Palestinian side is, at least as much as is in their power, are going to make it a success? That is, we're going to hear a clear call for an end to the bombings. We're going to see a full effort to try to reign that in in the interest of the Palestinians?

ERAKAT: Jim, I meant what I said. I said that we are fully committed to all of our obligations emanating from the agreements signed and if you read the first article of the Tenet work plan, there is a very clear-cut call to have a declaration of a cease fire, stopping violence by both leadership on both sides.

But, Jim, to be honest with you, I saw President Arafat's compound today. I've been going to this place for many years. I did not recognize the place today. Yes, the president is in very high spirits, but the situation there is awful. There is hardly any room that is left intact. There is no running water, no toilets for the last 13 days. There is a shortage of food, shortage of medical supplies.

And, honestly, if you want to speak of an authority that will carryout its commitment, not by words but by deeds, you need this authority to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) its obligations on its soil, and now this soil is reoccupied by the tanks.

What we're saying, we see an opportunity in the secretary's visit. We want to help in order to insure the success of the secretary's visit, because insuring the success of implementing 1402 means stopping the killing fields out there, and you know as the numbers I am receiving today is that the numbers of killed could reach 500 since the Israeli offensive began. Thousands of wounded.

You know, the Jenin refuge camp is no longer in existence, and now we've heard of executions there.

So it's in our interest to make sure that the Powell visit is a success, and we really need to continue working on this road map, because all the components you can find, whether the withdrawal, the cease fire, Tenet, Mitchell and the political horizon ending the Israeli occupation, is all there in 1402, is all there in President Bush's speech, and it's also there in the quartet communiqu‚ that was issued today, which we conveyed to General Zinni President Arafat's full commitment to it.

CLANCY: All right. Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, checking in with us, talking with us there from Jericho on the West Bank, one of the few cities that has not been occupied by Israeli tanks and troops.

Back to Michael Elliot. You're listening there, as at least on the Palestinian side, Saeb Erakat appears to be saying they see this as an opportunity to make things work, to make things easier, for Colin Powell.

ELLIOT: But there was another suicide bombing today. Eight people killed in a bus in Israel, and as long as that continues, one has to say the pressure, the extensive public and political pressure within Israel on Prime Minister Sharon to continue an operation that many Israelis believe is necessary to make streets and cafes and buses safe, will continue.

So, we're in a lock here, where the Palestinians are asking for something that the Israelis do not believe that they can do without sacrificing their own security, and the Israelis asking the Palestinian to do something which the Palestinians say they are simply incapable of doing, with the Palestinian Authority being limited to, as they would argue, a couple of rooms in a house in Ramallah.

And the question, for me, that is completely unanswered is whether Secretary Powell has within his brief case, if you like, a sword to cut the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) knot, something dramatic, some demarche, as they would say in diplomat speak, which moves both parties off this finger-pointing posture that they now have, which enables and justifies them in doing nothing.

CLANCY: Michael Elliot at "Time," our thanks to you, as always, for being with us.

ELLIOT: Good to see you, Jim.

CLANCY: We're going to have to take a short break here.

When INSIGHT returns, the delicate dance, a look at Powell's chances of success through the prism of the United States-Israeli relationship. Stay with us.


CLANCY: All right, we're going to go back to the Middle East now, looking at Secretary Colin Powell's trip there.

Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, joining us now once again.

This is an important trip for Colin Powell. There are, to be sure, severe challenges facing not only the United States administration but the Israelis and the Palestinians. Can the government of Israel heed the call of the Bush administration to end its defensive on the West Bank?

RA'ANAN GISSIN, ISRAELI GOVT. SPOKESMAN: Well, you know, we said, I think one thing must be made clear right away: we have no intention of staying in Palestinian cities. We didn't want to go there in the first place.

We had to do it as a last resort, as the only choice, to stop this madness, this suicide bombing terrorist action, which has taken the toll of over 450 Israeli civilians.

You know, like we've been burying people every day of the weeks. In the past few weeks, every day, we've had funerals. We had to put a stop to it. So Operation Defensive Shield is intended to uproot terrorism, the same as Operation Mountain Lion is intended to uproot terrorism from the hills of Kandahar in Afghanistan.

We see great importance to the visit of Secretary of State Powell and we fully support. The cabinet today reiterated again that we fully support Zinni's proposal and we stand behind it, and we support the initiative of the president of the United States.

CLANCY: All right. Supporting it is one thing, but it is the action that is really at stake here. And Israel is an ally of the United States, to be sure. It receives $5.2 billion in aid or something close to that every year. These are the kinds of questions that are going to be asked, what can the United States expect of its ally? And frankly, Ra'anan, this is going to be an embarrassment to the Bush administration if Prime Minister Sharon says I can't pull out, I can't end it.

GISSIN: Well, first of all, as we said, from those areas, where there is no clear and present danger to the security and safety of our citizens, we're pulling out, and there will be additional towns that we're going to pullout in the next 24 hours.

But you have to understand, the centers of terror, our Kandahar, Jenin, Nablus, these innocent cities have become centers of terrorism, centers of suicide bombers, and what we have started to uncover right now is just the tip of the iceberg.

But once we complete removing the terrorist infrastructure, making the proper arrests, which by the way this is what Yasser Arafat was expected to do, according to all the agreements he signed, once we finish that, we will not be there. You know what, we will not be there, and terrorism will not be there, which will make it much easier for people like Saeb Erakat or anyone else who is really interested in peace with Israel to move along without a gun pointed to their head all the time.

It's different when you operate without terrorism.

CLANCY: Does Prime Minister Sharon really believe that with this operation he is going to end terrorism?

GISSIN: No, but I think this operation is an important step in the direction that will enable to establish a cease fire.

There is no way that you can leap frog or jump to a political process or to any political solution without first establishing the ground rules. No violence. No incitement. And believe me, the incitement that Yasser Arafat has been promulgating insures that there will be a continuing flow of shaheeds (ph), of martyrs, young children who go to blow themselves up with Israelis.

That's no way to make peace.


CLANCY: Powell is going to be in the region in barely 24 hours. What is the plan for pullouts between now and his arrival?

GISSIN: Well, there are going to be, as I said, very clearly, we are not going to pullout from the major centers of terror before we finish cleaning it up.

CLANCY: You mean Ramallah, Jenin.

GISSIN: Before we are certain that from these cities we won't have a suicide attack like we had this morning. I mean, the people of Israel have reached the point where they've said enough is enough.

You know, we can't just sit back and play dead, and count our dead every day.

Arafat promised peace (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and what have we got in 18 months? Just piece of the grave. Every day, we count our dead. It's impossible in this way to continue to survive.

CLANCY: All right. Ra'anan Gissin, summing up the view of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the people of Israel there.

That's all that we have time for on this edition of INSIGHT.

I'm Jim Clancy. Thanks for being with us.





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