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Interview with Charles Enderlin

Aired May 17, 2003 - 08:12   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a crucial weekend in the search for peace in the Middle East.
CNN's Kelly Wallace has more live from Jerusalem on where the Bush administration's road map seems to be leading -- good morning, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Anderson.

Well, this meeting, this crucial meeting will get under way just about six hours from now. It will be the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in two and a half years. The last time such high level talks took place was back in September, 2000, just days before the latest Palestinian uprising against Israel got under way.

Now, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas have met before. But this will be their first meeting in their roles as prime minister. And Abbas, Palestinian sources say, will use the meeting to try and encourage Israel to implement and accept the so-called road map for Middle East peace. Israel has said it wants to see some 15 changes made to that document.

Now, Abbas will also be urging the Israelis to take other steps to ease the plight of the Palestinian people. He convened a cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip earlier on this day to prepare for the session. He was also expected to be discussing the resignation of a long time Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat. Erakat is still not commenting, but some Palestinian observers believe he is stepping down because he was not invited to be part of the Palestinian delegation that would be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tonight.

Now, as for Prime Minister Sharon, he wants this meeting to focus on security, according to Israeli sources. And one possibility, sources say, that could be discussed would be what steps the Palestinians could take to control security in areas such as the north of the Gaza Strip that would allow Israeli troops to pull out from that area.

That all being said, no major breakthroughs are expected in this meeting. Many believe the next steps will be determined by what happens when Prime Minister Sharon meets with U.S. President Bush in Washington on Tuesday -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Kelly Wallace in Jerusalem, thanks very much -- Robin.

ROBIN MEADE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, as we've said, this is the first high level Israeli-Palestinian summit in two and a half years.

Let's get some expert perspective now on this from Charles Enderlin, the author of "Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace Process in the Middle East 1995-2002."

And Charles Enderlin is live in our Jerusalem bureau.

Thank you so much for your time.

Could today's talks be the start, perhaps, of those shattered dreams being pieced together or have both sides just not learned enough from the failures of the past, Charles?

CHARLES ENDERLIN, AUTHOR, "SHATTERED DREAMS": I am quite skeptical about the chances of this road map. Both sides are already for two and a half years not having any dialogue, any negotiations. In fact, the only dialogue is through bombs, suicide attacks and military incursions. And just to give them a paper and tell them implement it is not enough.

Mr. Dahlan, the Palestinian chief of security, the chief of security of Mahmoud Abbas, the prime minister, will ask for two months of special quiet from the Israelis, no military incursions into Gaza, no targeted killings so that he will have the time to try to restore calm.

But he will ask for a political gesture from Prime Minister Sharon and this will be for him a problem.

MEADE: Saeb Erakat resigned yesterday as the chief Palestinian negotiator. You knew him well. What do you make of that?

ENDERLIN: Already for two years Saeb Erakat says he's very tired. I quote, tired from the Israeli situation, from the Palestinian situation. He already threatened several times to resign. This time what triggered it is a fact, like Kelly just said, that he was not invited at the meeting with Ariel Sharon tonight and also he's deeply dissatisfied with the political concessions that Mr. Abbas is requesting from Prime Minister Sharon.

MEADE: So do you think, does it provide a clue about possible dissent against the new prime minister then?

ENDERLIN: Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has really a problem. If within the few weeks, maybe a month or two, he doesn't bring a real change for the way of life for the Palestinian population, he will have probably to resign. Listen, we have a very tragic situation. On the Palestinian side, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. On the Israeli side, we have the worst economic crisis since the creation of the state of Israel.

MEADE: Certainly...

ENDERLIN: Both populations don't believe any more in the process.

MEADE: Certainly a very tough situation.

In your book, basically kind of what I got from it is that you convey the importance of empathizing with what the other side is going through, especially, for example, concerning a site important to Islam and Israelis. Do you have any hope about that?

ENDERLIN: This was, I believe, one of the main mistakes of the Camp David summit in July 2000. At the end, the Israelis and the Americans didn't understand the very tough position Arafat took about Temple Mount for the Jews, Sharahem (ph) and Sharif's holy mosque for the Palestinians, for the Arab world. And, you know, for the Israelis, for the Jews, it is the, it is where Isaac, where Abraham made the sacrifice of Isaac. For the Palestinians, for the Muslims, it is, it was never a Jewish temple. It is a faraway mosque and the sacrifice of Isaac didn't exist. It was the sacrifice of Ishmael in Mecca.

So to tackle this problem from a religious angle was a mistake.

Later on, when they negotiated in Tabbah in January 2001, there was some progress on this aspect and I believe ultimately when they get to it, an agreement is possible.

MEADE: All right, Charles Enderlin, author of "Shattered Dreams," thank you so much for your insight this morning.


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