LIVE ON LOCATION
Jerusalem: Colin Powell Arrives in Israel; Israeli Military Operations Continue
Aired April 11, 2002 - 20:00 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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Starting tomorrow, the world will be watching and waiting, a series of meetings set to begin in the early morning hours. Afterwards, we'll all sit around and parse the words at press conferences afterwards, trying to find out if there indeed is a bridge being built between the two sides here in the Middle East.
The real progress, however, will be gauged by the actions on the ground. And so far, the only action we have seen has been killing on both sides. Will Colin Powell make a difference? We'll all find out very soon. I'm Bill Hemmer. LIVE FROM JERUSALEM begins right now.
ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM JERUSALEM, "Powell's Search For Peace."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I leave now and go on to Jerusalem.
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ANNOUNCER: He's representing a superpower seeking an end game. An alternative to this and this. In this hour, the expectations and the pressure on Colin Powell, Israel and the Palestinians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: The West Bank is in very bad shape. People are suffering, people are dying.
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ANNOUNCER: Insight from Jordan's King Abdullah in a candid conversation with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDULLAH: The humanity has gone out of the window. We have to bring some sort of balance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Reflections of a Nobel Peace Prize winner on the anniversary of his liberation from Nazi horror. LIVE FROM JERUSALEM, "Powell's Search For Peace." Now, CNN's Bill Hemmer.
HEMMER: Hello again from Jerusalem. We say good morning. It is just past 3:00 in the morning here in the Middle East. It is said, though, that the United States is the only game in town when it comes to mediating some sort of cease-fire and eventual peace agreement here in the Middle East.
Well, very soon we're about to see what kind of game the United States has at this point. Colin Powell is here. That's the focus of our program and our coverage this evening.
First, though, the headlines for you again LIVE FROM JERUSALEM. Earlier tonight, this was the scene in Tel Aviv, Colin Powell arriving. On his itinerary tomorrow, meetings with the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in here in Jerusalem. Then later on Saturday, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, a meeting there set for Ramallah.
Israel says it is now taking control of the refugee camp inside Jenin. The prime minister says it is a haven for terrorists. The Palestinians say about 500 people have been killed between Jenin and another town of Nablus. Israel says no to that claim. They say the number is closer to 100.
Also in Hebron, an apparent suicide bomber blew himself up today accidentally. Several bystanders injured. Israel says the real target probably a nearby Israeli military checkpoint where soldiers have been on patrol.
First up though, our top story. And all eyes of the world right now focused on this mission of peace for Colin Powell. It took him a while to get here. Stops in Egypt and Morocco and Spain and earlier today in Amman, Jordan. But he is here, and tomorrow the meetings will get under way.
Certainly, the biggest question right now, can Colin Powell find some way to push these two sides closer together? Upon his arrival so, too, Andrea Koppel came along as well. She starts our program tonight with this report here in Jerusalem.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Powell stepped off the plane and into the Middle East maelstrom as Israel's almost two-week-long military operation in the West Bank showed little sign of slowing despite demands from the U.S. and others to withdraw. For Powell, that will be topic one for his conversation with Israel's prime minister.
POWELL: I think the president has made his position clear. He wants the incursion stopped. He has noted some progress, but he wants to see more progress. And this is what I'll be discussing with Prime Minister Sharon in the morning. KOPPEL: If expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough are low, the stakes for the United States in the region couldn't be higher. Powell's challenge, a diplomatic catch-22. After a suicide bomber apparently blew himself up prematurely in Hebron, how to convince Israel to withdraw its troops and the Palestinians to restrain extremists when each side wants the other to make the first move.
POWELL: However long the Israeli incursions continue, whether they pull out of everywhere today or whether they pull out of everywhere they are now in over a longer period of time, the problem will still be there of people who need to be brought into a negotiating process that will lead to peace.
KOPPEL: As Powell has attempted to gather support that will lead to peace, some of the largest, angriest demonstrations in decades have rocked the Arab world, shaking the very foundation of key U.S. allies. During Powell's swing through the region this week, he got expressions of support as well as clear warnings from leaders like Jordan's King Abdullah.
ABDULLAH: It is a make it or break it trip, I see, to both these leaders to say, this is what it's going to take and this is what we expect from you. We as the United States are saying to both sides, you're going to do one, two, three.
KOPPEL: If Powell's mission fails, a real possibility, so too could support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism including plans for ousting Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein. In addition, Israeli/Palestinian fighting could spiral into a wider war.
Already, Syrian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon have stepped up cross-border attacks on army posts in northern Israel.
(on camera): So what can we expect from Powell's mission? Well, even before he arrived here in Israel, the White House was redefining success, dismissing prospects for a cease-fire, moving the goal posts, saying the best they hope to achieve is to create a better atmosphere for peace.
Andrea Koppel, CNN, Jerusalem.
HEMMER: And now, the countdown is under way. Just about six hours from now, Colin Powell will sit down in his first of several meetings. A three-hour meeting with the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 9:00 a.m. local time here in Jerusalem. On Saturday, off to Ramallah and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Certainly these are critical meetings. We're going to talk more about them right now, about the agenda and what each side is willing to give and what they expect in return.
From the Israeli position tonight, Gideon Meir is with us now, a senior Israeli official here within the government in Jerusalem. Good evening to you. Thanks for taking time late in the night here. Colin Powell is going to come here. He's going to have certain demands. What is Israel and Ariel Sharon willing to give up for his trip here to the Middle East?
GIDEON MEIR, SENIOR ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL: We're going to start negotiation with Secretary Powell who is obviously a welcomed guest here in Israel. We're hopeful that he will be able to achieve a cease-fire between the Palestinians and Israel. I think both nations, the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis, deserve a cease-fire.
We are exposed for the past 18 months to enormous terrorist attacks, vicious terrorist attacks. And hopefully, Secretary Powell will be able to get the whole process moving.
HEMMER: The U.S. wants you out of the West Bank in terms of the military action. Will you do that?
MEIR: We've already started to move out. The president has asked us to start to move out. We've started to move out. We've just finished to move out from 24 villages. We moved out from Tulkarem. We moved out from...
HEMMER: Let's be clear, these are small towns. And, to be frank with you, these are towns and places that we never even knew military activity was taking place in the first place.
MEIR: Oh, they were harboring terrorism for the past 18 months like the big cities. We are also out of Tulkarem and Qalqilya. Hopefully, we'll be out by the time that we will be able to make sure that terrorism is not coming out from the major cities.
HEMMER: At a minimum, Colin Powell will be here for a few days, possibly that trip is extended. While Colin Powell is here, will the military incursions continue?
MEIR: It will continue as long as we are sure -- to ensure that terrorists will not come out, the suicide bombers will not come out to endanger the lives of our children here on the streets of Israel.
HEMMER: Sets up a bit of a paradox, and I want you to help me find a way through this then. If Colin Powell is going to be here negotiating an alleged peace agreement here or a potential cease-fire, how then can the military activity continue? Is it a bit of incongruity there?
MEIR: Look, there was also a request by the president seven days ago on Yasser Arafat to denounce terrorism in Arabic. Now, Israel is asked to give up tangibles and irreversible -- Yasser Arafat is being asked to give words, words which are intangible and reversible. We are still waiting. We are waiting for seven days. So the onus is on Yasser Arafat's shoulders. We're there. We have to remember after the Passover Massacre, after Israel restrained for two weeks and we got enormous terrorist attacks.
HEMMER: Your prime minister yesterday was asking the U.S. publicly to back off, lighten up on the pressure that they were exerting on the government. Today, we did not hear Colin Powell say get out immediately. He did not use those words. Is the U.S. getting the message then?
MEIR: I don't know. This will be discussed obviously tomorrow morning or, actually, we're already 3:00 in the morning...
HEMMER: Would you like him to?
MEIR: To what?
HEMMER: To get that message?
MEIR: No. We would like to discuss and to get a real cease- fire. We hope and we wish that the secretary will be successful in bringing about a cease-fire in the region. I think we deserve it and the Palestinians deserve it.
HEMMER: A week ago, there was a lot of speculation that Washington was in coordination with Jerusalem, your government. But in the past several days, it appears that there has been a split in that theory. How close have the consultations been between the two countries?
MEIR: These are two close nations, the consultations going on. We're not on a collision course as some would like to see us, absolutely not. These are two allies. And I think that from the conversation and negotiations that we are going to have in the next coming days, maybe, maybe, we can see and be hopeful for a cease-fire.
HEMMER: Quickly here, I only have about 20 seconds left. I was told by sources within your government that Colin Powell will not leave this place empty handed. If that's the case, what will he get then?
MEIR: Empty handed doesn't mean that Israel has to give something. Empty handed means that he has to put a lot of pressure on the Palestinian side to stop this terror. Because if terror will not be eradicated, peace will not prevail. Peace can prevail only if there's no terror.
HEMMER: Thank you. Gideon Meir, senior administration official here with the Israeli government. Thank you for your time tonight.
I want to give you a perspective tonight now from Jericho, by way of telephone, Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator is our guest now.
Sir, we say good evening, or good morning to you, rather there in Jericho. What is Yasser Arafat willing to give, the same question, what is he willing to give to Colin Powell on this mission?
SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: President Arafat, asked to convey to General Zinni yesterday, that our mandate as negotiator is to ensure that we exert every possible effort to ensure the success of Secretary Powell's visit simply because the success of Colin Powell's visit may release President Arafat from the siege, may stop the massacres being committed as I am (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to you now, Bill. Some people called me from Jenin, the Israelis are having three major graveyards. They are burying more than 300 Palestinian in Jenin refugee camp alone. They did not allow you on CNN, they did not allow the Red Cross or anyone else there to enter the refugee camp today. What did they have to hide by denying the access to journalists?
HEMMER: Mr. Erakat, let's get to Jenin in a moment. I want to stick to the Powell visit first of all. You know that Colin Powell asked Yasser Arafat to continue to denounce terrorism. Will he do that, will he do it publicly? Will he do it in Arabic?
ERAKAT: I think if you recall the history of all the civilians, Israeli civilians who were killed by suicidal bombers, I think President Arafat was the first to condemn the killing of Israeli civilians. And President Arafat is fully committed to carry it out that (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but you have to keep in mind, Bill, Yasser Arafat can't speak to me on the phone now. He's under total siege.
Sharon and the government destroyed the capabilities of the Palestinian Authority. We no longer have command centers, police stations. I think what Sharon did in the West Bank in the last ten days is to destroy the ability of the Palestinian Authority. I really don't know the capabilities of the Palestinian opposition groups, has he touched them or not. My question now for Mr. Powell, is that we really need to see the escalation of the process, the confliction process, we hope to see the Israelis withdraw immediately, the authority revived.
Then once we have the authority revived, we have to assess the damage done to us, but then President Arafat and us are fully committed to every single obligation that they agreed to in resolution 1402, or the other agreement signing including Tenet, and in Tenet, the first paragraph there, there must be a cease-fire announcement by both leaderships to stop violence, stop a cease-fire, and to exert every possible effort to do it. But now if you want Arafat just to say...
HEMMER: Mr. Erakat, I just want you to back up just a little bit here. Because you say you've had limited contact with Mr. Arafat. You met with him face to face yesterday, I know that. Again, the question, will he do it, repeatedly, if he is asked by Colin Powell to continue to put out that message?
ERAKAT: I think President Arafat will continue his course of peace. He will continue his actions to implement all our obligations to an agreement signed. Once again, Bill, we don't condone the killing of Israeli civilians. What should be condemned here now is that we are a people with no army, no navy, no Air Force. This disproportionate use of force against us, a whole way of life for the Palestinians.
We haven't been able to send our children to school for the last 15 days. Our hospitals are destroyed. We don't have any infrastructures, water, electricity. Nothing left, everything is destroyed. And that's what should be condemned, but at the end of the day, Palestinians and Israelis must ensure the success of the Powell mission. I would send that message to secretary Powell tonight asking him to go visit Jenin refugee camp tomorrow to discover the massacres, discover what's being done in the Palestinian refugee camps and Palestinian towns in Nablus and at Nativity Church.
At the end of the day, what we need to see happen now immediately is an Israeli withdrawal, the escalation process, the confliction process, and then the implement of Tenet/Mitchell, coming to the political horizon of ending this Israeli occupation. I believe it is doable. I believe we can do it. As far as our position on the Israelis and the Israeli lives and the Israeli civilians, we do not condone the killing of Israeli civilians.
President Arafat was the first to condemn all attacks that took the lives of Israeli civilians. These were opposition groups, but the ones who committed the massacres in the West Bank tonight are the Israeli official government and that is what needs to be stopped now. This Sharon madness, Sharon has hijacked Palestinians and Israelis and it pushing us deeper and deeper into the conflict, into the hate, into the difficulties that both will face in the future. This will bring no security, no peace. Sharon's not protecting Israelis in the West Bank. He's killing Palestinians. That's what he's doing.
HEMMER: Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, by way of telephone in Jericho, west of our location here in Jerusalem. We appreciate your time as well tonight. You heard Saeb Erakat talking about the situation in Jenin. In a moment we'll take you there. Ben Wedeman has been there today. We'll have a look at his report outside that town. Very difficult to access for reporters. But we'll have that for you momentarily here.
Also coming up, live from Jerusalem, a whole lot more to talk about including an exclusive interview with the King of Jordan, King Abdullah momentarily here.
ANNOUNCER: Next, from seats of power to streets of anguish. The cost of terror -- and a possible way out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDULLAH: These are two people that use strength to be able to put their differences aside.
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ANNOUNCER: Jordan's king with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. And a vision for the future.
Plus, Jewish memories of a nightmare past. LIVE FROM JERUSALEM will be right back.
HEMMER: Once again I want to recap what happened today on the ground Thursday in the refugee camp of Jenin. Again, this town located in the northern part of the West Bank. It has been the location for some of the fiercest fighting that we've seen and reported on in the past several days.
Reports were we're getting on Thursday is that a lot of that fighting essentially quieted down. Palestinians are saying in Jenin and the other town of Nablus at least 500 are dead. The Israelis dispute that claim. They say the death toll is more like 100. A U.N. team on the ground says it is 150 right now and counting. Also a CNN crew, Ben Wedeman on the ground there reporting, the level of combat dropped significantly on Thursday.
We can tell you though, what's happening inside that town has been rather restrictive. Reporters have been, frankly, kept outside. You see right here when Wedeman and his crew confronted by Israeli soldiers were kicked out of Jenin earlier today in the day on Thursday.
Meanwhile, also in the West Bank in the town of Bethlehem, basically no change outside the Church of the Nativity. That's a situation that's well into its second week. The ancient church now the site of that standoff between Israeli soldiers, about 1,000 strong on the outside and about 200 Palestinian gunmen holed up inside.
Both Palestinians and Israelis report smoke near the southern entrance of the church. You saw it a second ago in the videotape. Palestinians say that fire was started by stun grenades that Israeli defense forces had tossed near the church there in Bethlehem.
If you were with us yesterday, one of the top stories we were reporting on was that suicide bomber. For the first time in nine days inside of Israel, a suicide bomber struck. This on a bus, a commuter bus just outside the town of Haifa bound for Jerusalem. Eight people were killed there including the 18-year-old niece of Israel's ambassador to the U.N. He is back in his home country now for the funeral that took place today. From Haifa, Chris Burns was there earlier on Thursday.
CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside her family's apartment, the sight of Noa Shlomo's coffin unleashes a wave of grief. At 18, she was the youngest of three daughters. Her mother Fanny is a nurse, her father Joseph, the manager of a truck parts warehouse.
The intense grief wells up again at Noa's gravesite. Hundreds of townspeople, relatives, friends and fellow soldiers join to bid her goodbye. Noa and a close friend, Karen Frankel (ph), were on their way to work as border guards at Allenby (ph) bridge when a suicide bomber blew himself up in their bus, killing them and six others.
Noa's uncle, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, says his sister had long worried about Noa's safety. She told him...
YEHUDA LANCRY, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I fear a suicide bomber in her car. So it happened, unfortunately. And my sister called me a couple of days ago in New York, and that was the first sentence that she uttered. You see, it happened. BURNS: Another uncle remembers Noa as a talented dancer and artist, who even made a short film, winning a prize for it. Does her death change his mind about Israel's crackdown in the West Bank?
GIDEON WERMUTH, UNCLE: I think it shouldn't have taken place a long time ago. Like you say in English, strike the iron while it's hot.
BURNS: A common feeling among many here in Naharia (ph), a place bordered by conflict.
(on camera): Noa Shlomo's home town is a beach town that's been hit by repeated attacks -- by a suicide bomber in a train station, by Hezbollah guerrillas firing from the Lebanese border just a 10-minute drive away.
(voice-over): Hezbollah stopped the shelling two years ago, but resumed recently. And then came the suicide blast despite the Israeli crackdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the small thing that we can get. Because if Israel would not do that, it would be like before, every day, 20, 30 people dying.
BURNS: Yehuda (UNINTELLIGIBLE) joins in bidding farewell. Noa's comrades fire off a salute. She's laid to rest next to other soldiers, 18, 19, 20 years old, in a funeral this day multiplied several times over.
Chris Burns, CNN, Naharia (ph), Israel.
ANNOUNCER: Next, candid assessments of Colin Powell, Ariel Sharon and especially Yasser Arafat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDULLAH: He's the all-time hero in the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Jordan's King Abdullah sits down with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
And later, should they be forced to leave these homes for peace? LIVE FROM JERUSALEM continues after these messages.
ANNOUNCER: King Abdullah II has been in power since February 7, 1999, the day his father, King Hussein, passed away. Hussein had reigned over Jordan for 46 years.
HEMMER: Welcome back to Jerusalem as we continue our coverage. Earlier I mentioned the circuitous route that Colin Powell took to get here, including a stop earlier today in Amman, Jordan. Also in Amman with us earlier today was our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who sat down for an exclusive interview with King Abdullah. On the agenda there, certainly the visit from Colin Powell. Here is part of that interview from earlier this afternoon.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening from Amman, Bill. And indeed, Secretary Powell came here not just to speak about what was going on, but also to enlist the help of very key Arab allies, particularly those allies who have already made peace with Israel, notably Jordan. And we are here now with His Majesty King Abdullah II. Thank you for joining us.
We've just listened to the secretary and your foreign minister give their statements about this situation. Specifically, Secretary Powell said that they wanted to move "aggressively," that was his word, to a political track, to get some political action. Did he come with a new plan?
ABDULLAH: Well, we obviously talked about the importance of having a phased approach to bringing both sides to the peace table as quickly as possible. Obviously, that depends on his success with Prime Minister Sharon tomorrow and with Arafat on Sunday. But at the end of the day, what we need is an end game, a series of steps that will take us to a final solution, and that needs to be identified in the next two days.
AMANPOUR: So it is not even identified yet. The mechanism you spoke about, your foreign minister spoke about?
ABDULLAH: Well, I think everybody understands what's at stake, a Palestinian state, security for Israel. But having to get the commitment from Arafat and Sharon to be able to implement that is what needs to be discussed between the secretary of state and Arafat and Ariel Sharon in the next two days.
AMANPOUR: What has specifically he asked you to do, what can you do, I suppose, with Arafat?
ABDULLAH: Well, again, Jordan has always been with Egypt and many other moderate countries, an element of being able to bring people together. We are in specific discussions with Arafat to give him the support, to give him the mandate to be able to have the leeway, I guess to say, to be able to come to a phased approach when he meets.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe, given his almost mythic status now since he's being besieged by the Israelis, his status amongst the Arab people is very high, do you think he's in a position of strength? Can he do things that would require compromise and concession?
ABDULLAH: I think that, you know, he's the all-time hero in the Middle East. He's in a stronger position than any other leader is at the moment because of the popularity he has with his own people, the Palestinians, but with that of the Arab world. So he's in a very strong position, I believe, to move peace forward. And I hope that with that strength will come the vision to be able to talk to the Israelis and move away from the violence.
AMANPOUR: Given the unprecedented nature of the violence, given the historic antipathy, is a nice word to use, between Arafat and Sharon, do you think that those two leaders are capable of doing what needs to be done now?
ABDULLAH: They have to. I mean, the alternative is violence on a scale that we've never seen before in this part of the world. I think both leaders -- as we said, Arafat is in a strong position with the Arab public, Sharon is very strong with the Israeli public. These are two people that can use strength to be able to put their differences aside. And if both of them lose this opportunity, then we're in a very sorry state of affairs here in the Middle East.
AMANPOUR: Do you detect after your conversations any new coherence in U.S. policy, this U.S. administration's policy toward the Middle East?
ABDULLAH: Yes, I do. I think that the president's statement was balanced. I think that he charged both sides that they needed to do more. Powell is a very gifted statesman that understands what needs to be done.
AMANPOUR: President Bush in his speech last week specifically asked Arab leaders to do several things -- to publicly denounce terrorism and violence, to call suicide bombers murderers, not martyrs, to stop funding suicide bombing and stop funding their families, stop funding terrorism, and certainly to stop incitement on state controlled media. What have you done in this country to meet those requests for demands by the U.S.?
ABDULLAH: Well, Jordan has always stood against terrorism or extremism. We have always been a country that never has condoned acts of violence and always supported a platform that goes against the loss of innocent lives.
Our position with the United States on 11th September was very clear. We jumped in with both feet to support you. But we have to understand that the fundamental problem here is when a 16-year-old girl goes and blows herself up, it's the root of the problem that we need to be able to look at, and the root of the problem is that the Israeli government looks at this as a security problem, and it's never been a security problem.
It's a political one, 35 years of occupation, and unless they understand that giving dignity, hope and a future for the Palestinians, we'll never to be able to get ourselves out of the cycle of violence.
AMANPOUR: The suicide bombing of civilians in Israel has been considered untenable by many civilized people in this world. Arab leaders are being asked to condemn suicide bombings of civilians. I think nobody would argue that the Palestinians have a right to resist, but do you believe that the suicide bombing of Israeli civilians is, a)justified; and, b) does it serve the Palestinians' political objectives?
ABDULLAH: Well again, you know, we've never, ever supported. We've always stood against extremism and I think the Jordanian position has been very clear and we've always spoken out against any acts of violence that ends up with the loss of innocent lives. And in that respect, I believe that other Arab leaders have also stood up against extremism, and even Arafat not long ago had stood up to say that what was happening against Israeli civilians was something that was wrong.
AMANPOUR: Resistance, many people feel, is justified.
AMANPOUR: Resistance against the military, resistance against military targets, but when it comes to killing innocent civilians, many people view that as unjustified, immoral and essentially murder. Again, do you believe that suicide bombings of civilians is justified?
ABDULLAH: I personally do not and I've always stood against the loss of life, terrorism or extremism in all its form as a person, although there is the feeling, whether rightly or wrongly in the Arab street, that that is the only mechanism that the Palestinians have in retaliating.
But again, it's the root cause of the problem when a 16-year-old girl, as I said, blows herself up, there's a problem there and we have to solve the problem.
AMANPOUR: Do you think this has been counterproductive to the Palestinians' cause?
ABDULLAH: Well, it's been counterproductive in the point that it gives the Israeli government the excuse or the platform that they have the higher moral ground, and I think that we need to be able to move beyond that and solve, as I said, the political problem at the end of the day.
AMANPOUR: Do you believe that Sharon's intransigents makes the United States, makes President Bush look ineffectual?
ABDULLAH: Well, I think it has stumped all of us because there is an international reaction to get the Israelis to stop what they are doing and that there is no response, positive response from the Israeli side, has I think frustrated everybody, and I would imagine that it would be the same for the President of the United States.
At the end of the day, America is the key element in being able to bring peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians, and so America's word and America's position should be heeded with great strength.
AMANPOUR: When it comes to talking to Yasser Arafat, from your conversations with Secretary Powell, is the U.S. of a view now that Arafat needs to be offered any kind of tangible incentive in order to call for an end to the violence and rejoin the political track? ABDULLAH: Well, I think the incentives are based on humanity. The incentives are that here is a man who is isolated, his infrastructure, the PLA has been taken completely apart. His people are in desolation, desperate sufferings that are going on throughout the West Bank.
He needs to be given a window of opportunity. In other words, there needs to be a sort of a reaching out from the Israeli side that they can move beyond the isolation of Arafat, to being able to include him into further discussions.
AMANPOUR: Have you talked to Yasser Arafat...
AMANPOUR: ... in the last couple of weeks since he's been besieged.
ABDULLAH: Yes. Well, we obviously, we've been in contact with him throughout the whole of the intifada and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and especially since he was isolated in Ramallah, to the simple thing of trying to get him food and electricity on one week and the other week he didn't have water to take medication, and he called me to work the phones basically to do even those simple things, let alone the political workings of the phones to get a balanced approach too.
AMANPOUR: What do you think realistically is going to happen in the course of Colin Powell's visit to Israel and to the territories? Where do you see this going?
ABDULLAH: Well, I hope that Prime Minister Sharon will listen very seriously to what Secretary of Powell has to say on behalf of the President of the United States, will accept what the Americans are trying to say to the Israelis that they need to do, and on Sunday, same thing from Yasser Arafat, that he complies again also from what the Americans want. And if we can get a basis of understanding by the Israelis and the Palestinians, then I think we can all move together to take it to the next step, Mitchell and on from there.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that there - that the U.S. has an influence over either Sharon or Arafat right now?
ABDULLAH: I think the United States has an influence if it puts the right weight of authority to be able to get both sides. It is the United States of America at the end of the day. I think that the President is a very strong President. He has a strong administration, him and Colin Powell, if they say this is what's going to happen, it will happen. But you need that strength from the United States.
AMANPOUR: And you think he's going to tell Ariel Sharon that he has to be prepared to sit down in political negotiations?
ABDULLAH: I hope so.
AMANPOUR: You don't know for sure?
ABDULLAH: Well no, I mean I'm sure that's going to be the case. I just hope that the other side takes what is being said to it.
AMANPOUR: On that note, thank you very much indeed.
ABDULLAH: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan. Back to you, Bill, in Jerusalem.
HEMMER: That was Christiane from a few hours ago. Now tonight, in the middle of the night, we join Christiane once again live in Amman. Fascinating interview first off, and we should point out also that the country of Jordan itself, the majority of its people are Palestinian and with that, how much pressure do you sense is on King Abdullah right now in this current conflict?
AMANPOUR: Well an enormous amount, just as it has been throughout the history of this country. The king, his father King Hussein also had to tread this very delicate tightrope of knowing that his allegiance to the Palestinians was very, very strong but also knowing that he had cast his lot with the peace camp, and trying to navigate a way through these very treacherous waters over the years has not been easy for Jordan.
But I think what comes across from the Jordanians and certainly from King Abdullah is the utter commitment to the peace track. They are not about to do anything, such as breaking relations or taking any kind of hard line position despite the pressure that's on them.
And at this moment, the United States is banking more than ever before during the entire peace process, since 1993, banking more than ever before on countries such as Jordan and Egypt, the two countries who have made peace with Israel, to do all that they can to enter this political process and help the United States as it proceeds through these very, very, very difficult days ahead.
HEMMER: We've been reporting on several demonstrations, sometimes daily demonstrations, there throughout Arab capitols throughout this region, including in Amman. Earlier this week, there was a report that Jordan may cut ties with Israel, hasn't happened, but knowing that it's only one of two Arab countries in the area, including Egypt that has ties with Israel, curious to know have you gauged the temperature of the people there in Jordan for this climate?
AMANPOUR: Yes, and again the King does not plan to do any of or to take any of those measures that you mentioned, and he did say to me that since the beginning of the intifada, he accounted for about 2,000 demonstrations here in Jordan. Most of those, he said, he had permitted.
Now apparently, we're being told by our sources and people who have been calling us, another big demonstration is planned for tomorrow, or rather today Jordan time, Friday, after Friday prayers. The government here has banned that demonstration. It was called by the Muslim brotherhood and it was due to come towards the Israeli and U.S. embassies. But we're not sure whether that official ban will mean that nobody will come to this demonstration, or whether it will mean that there will be some violent confrontations between the anti-riot police and the demonstrators.
So that's something to look at very, very closely. But again, it does point to the delicate position that the King of Jordan is given that more than 50 percent of his people are Palestinians, and whenever something like this happens between Israel and the Palestinians of the occupied territories, this country has one of the most difficult balancing acts to perform.
I think one of the interesting things to come out of our conversation overnight was how hopeful and, you know, basically everybody's banking on what Colin Powell manages to say to Sharon tomorrow, and what Sharon manages to do in response, and also what will be the result of his talks on Sunday with Yasser Arafat.
The King of Jordan said that he expects to have a Palestinian delegation on Friday come here, and also perhaps a senior Egyptian government official going to visit Yasser Arafat ahead of Colin Powell's meeting with him, essentially to impress upon him how absolutely vital it is that they do commit to the initial steps that are required for a cease-fire and a reduction of these hostilities.
HEMMER: You know, Christiane, given the description you're giving us, just about 30 seconds left by the way, but given that description and knowing that King Abdullah has always been considered a moderate Arab leader, what is the possibility, the chance that he may be able at some point to become a mediator in this? Has he talked about that at all?
AMANPOUR: No. I think they all consider and they're all well aware that the principal role here is the role of the United States. They're a little bit concerned, obviously, that it's taken quite a while for the U.S. to get involved, but now they're really throwing all their support behind Colin Powell's mission.
In terms of being the principal mediator, that's pretty much unlikely. But in terms of being one of the principals to try to deliver the Palestinian side, that is something that they are prepared to take on.
HEMMER: We'll see you a little bit later this weekend. Christiane Amanpour live in Amman with us this evening, many thanks to you.
In a moment, we're going to introduce you to a man who is well known throughout Israel's history, and the history of the Jewish people, Elie Wiesel. Fifty-seven years ago today, he walked outside of a German concentration camp a free man. He's back here now teaching his lessons to younger Israelis. That's coming up.
Also in a moment, you've heard about the allegations against the Israelis about what's happening in Jenin. We'll get a response to the Palestinian side coming up, when our coverage continues. LIVE FROM JERUSALEM again rolls on in a moment here.
HEMMER: I want to go back to our program about 30 minutes ago. You may have heard our interview with Saeb Erakat, the Palestinian negotiator, making claims about atrocities that took place in Jenin. Now it's been difficult to access the area, but we want to bring back the Israeli spokesperson now, Gideon Meir with us to get the Israeli take on what's happening inside Jenin. We're getting reports now. Yesterday it was possibly 500 dead. Today we heard 300. What is the count that we know of, a solid count on the ground factual?
MEIR: The best of our knowledge is about between 100 and 150 Palestinians who were killed there. Ninety-five percent of them are gunmen. The Palestinians booby-trapped every possible building there. Jenin is the capitol of the suicide bombers. Jenin is the Palestinian capitol of terror. We were there in order to eliminate this industry of terror.
HEMMER: There are reports of mass graves and grave digging. Is that true?
MEIR: Absolutely not. We were requesting for the past three days from the Palestinian health authorities, from the Red Crescent, to remove the wounded and the dead. They refused. They refused because they want to create a story here of a massacre, and this story is a big lie.
HEMMER: Well, there's one thing that we want to know and that's the story about what's happening inside Jenin. Frankly, we do not have access. Our team, Ben Wedeman, were essentially booted out earlier today. Why not let reporters in and verify what you are claiming right now tonight?
MEIR: Okay, we're considering to take the press inside. The problem was that until this evening, there was fighting going on on the streets of Jenin. The Palestinians gave a very strong fight. Now when you're fighting and when we have 23 Israeli soldiers who were killed there, it means there was a real fight there. The Palestinians gave a strong fight there and we were reacting. So, it is a war.
HEMMER: Yes, I don't disagree with safety precautions, but what I do want to know is why not go in today when the fighting subsided. There were only a few reports of gun battles and you mentioned you're willing to take reporters in. At what point will that come?
MEIR: The only concern we had is not to endanger the life of reporters. It is a war, fighting which goes on there, and we want to make sure that reporters will not be wounded or killed. Hopefully tomorrow, you will be able to go in.
HEMMER: Tomorrow is what you're saying?
MEIR: Hopefully tomorrow.
HEMMER: Can you give that a guarantee? MEIR: I can't give you a guarantee but we were discussing it today, and hopefully tomorrow the press will be able to go in.
HEMMER: If not tomorrow then when, Gideon?
MEIR: I don't know. I hope tomorrow.
HEMMER: Okay, Gideon Meir, we will see tomorrow and certainly we'll talk then to see if indeed our crews, Ben Wedeman and others can get inside there in Jenin.
There have been claims and counterclaims throughout the week about what's happening inside that refugee camp, or indeed what happened in the previous days. Again, we will see if we can get our folks on the ground to get our firsthand reporting there in the northern part of the West Bank.
In a moment, Elie Wiesel, 57 years later, wait until you hear what he has to say about the current conflict. Back with that in a moment here.
ANNOUNCER: Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. During his acceptance speech, he said: "Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere. That applies also to Palestinians, to whose plight I am sensitive, but whose methods I deplore when they lead to violence. Violence is not the answer."
HEMMER: Earlier this week in Israel, it was National Holocaust Memorial Day. The entire country paused on Tuesday. And also this week, a conference got underway here in Jerusalem, featuring 300 Holocaust survivors. Elie Wiesel is one of them. Fifty-seven years ago today, as a very young man, he walked out of a German concentration camp a free man. He survived the Holocaust, April 11, 1945.
We talked to him earlier today about his message today for young Israelis and what he wants them to learn and remember from his own experience. Here's Elie Wiesel.
ELIE WIESEL, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: That the civilized nation at the very heart of Christendom in Europe could have done what German has done, to turn an entire people into a target of murder, and everybody collaborated, psychologists and philosophers, newspapermen and artists, everybody joined into that program simply killing children, men, women, all innocent. Why? That question should haunt us.
HEMMER: You're a man who is known for peace, yet Israel right now frankly is in war. To be so far removed from the whole concept of peace, how does that strike you?
WIESEL: It breaks my heart. I watch and watch. I watch all the time. It breaks my heart because I say, what should be done. If I had an alternative to the way Ariel, Prime Minister Sharon is handling this situation I would give it to him. I know that it can not go on. It shouldn't go on. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) funerals and more funerals and more orphans and more (UNINTELLIGIBLE). How long will it go on?
HEMMER: Ariel Sharon says right now Israel is in a fight for its own survival. Do you believe that statement?
WIESEL: If Israel's existence is threatened bothers me, twice in one century, one age. We, the Jewish people, we wouldn't be able to cope with the memories of such a story, of such a tragedy. It couldn't. If one suicide killer could cause so much death, so much agony, so much pain and suffering, one of them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here in Israel. We are now in Israel. Every day something happens.
There are hundreds of them who stand in line. Therefore, imagine a suicide killer with serious weapons, nuclear, radiological, who knows what. Therefore, it must be stopped. It's one thing that the entire world must realize, and especially the leaders of Islam. They must realize that. That is a red line. That will never be, must never be tolerated.
HEMMER: His campaign continues and so do we, after a short break, back in a moment.
HEMMER: This has been an absolute tragedy from the beginning, killing by both sides, literally by the hour throughout the week here. Some say the best way to describe the feeling on both sides is by using the word hate, hatred toward one another in a very deep way.
Colin Powell is here. Earlier on Thursday, he said he's not a pessimist and will not carry that attitude in here. But frankly, after talking to so many people, it's difficult not to feel that way.
Will there be a breakthrough? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you look at it on the ground, but then again there's not a whole lot that does make sense here in the Middle East today. The first meeting starts in five hours' time. Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell will sit down in Jerusalem. We'll be here watching and waiting. Thanks for watching again tonight. I'm Bill Hemmer, LIVE FROM JERUSALEM. We'll see you again tomorrow. Good night.
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