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Interview With Hasan Rahman, Mark Regev

Aired May 30, 2003 - 19:44   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush is heading to the Mideast next week. We're going to look now at the prospects of peace for peace from both the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives.
Hasan Abdel Rahman Palestinian Authority's representative to the United States is right here with me in New York City. Mark Regev is the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington. Gentlemen, good evening to both of you.

We're going to start by playing off of Kelly Wallace's piece looking at the different Palestinian groups. But, Mr. Rahman, I want to focus on Hamas. How much power does Mahmoud Abbas really have to rein in a terror group like that?

HASAN ABDEL RAHMAN, PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO U.S.: Well I think the question is not how much power he has because the power now has been destroyed. The official formal security agencies has been...


RAHMAN: He can have the political power. You know, we have to go back to the origins of all of this. There has been occupations going on for the last 35 years...


RAHMAN: If there is a feasible, credible, peace process that will end the suffering of the Palestinian people that has lasted for 35 years, that will end Israeli demolishing of homes, Jewish settlements on Palestinian territories, assassination of Palestinian leaders, destruction of Palestinian homes, if there's a credible process that eventually will give the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and an independent state and we feel that the road map can do that.

If Mr. Sharon adheres to the text and the spirit of this road map, I believe Abu Mazen it will have the support of the Palestinian settlers.

KAGAN: I can see where this is going already. If someone else said something first...


KAGAN: I want to bring Mr. Regev in and then kind of put him on the hot seat here and say can Ariel Sharon rein in the settlers and change that situation?

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: Most definitely. There's no question about that whatsoever. Israel will do whatever we can to help President Bush's trip to the region succeed, to make the peace plan succeed and to help Abu Mazen and the Palestinian reformers succeed.

We want peace. We are willing for concessions. We are willing to come up to the plate and hope this process works. We want this peace to work.

KAGAN: But, Mark, one of the things that the Palestinians are going to say, and I don't mean to speak for you, Mr. Rahman, but they're going to say well then, fine, go ahead, accept the whole road map just as the Palestinians have done.

REGEV: Well we're accepted the steps in the road map and we've even said something I think more important. We have said to the Palestinian leadership, the new leadership of Abu Mazen, we have said we are willing to pull out. We are willing to pull out of the cities of the West Bank. We are willing to return to the lands before the violence and terrorism started. Just say where you want us to move. Tell us where we can start pulling out where you can already start to rein in...


RAHMAN: ... to go take your troops and your settlers into Israel instead of having them on the West Bank in the Palestinian territories. Because...


RAHMAN: As much as the Jewish settlers are in the Palestinian territories and the Israeli soldiers are in the Palestinian towns, that is going to provoke Palestinians.

The only way you can do that and have Palestinians quiet is to have those tanks out of the Palestinian villages and towns and allow the Palestinians to be a free people like you are.


KAGAN: I want (UNINTELLIGIBLE) steer this in another direction here because we have seen some movement although it's been small. And I just want your perspective from both of you on one single word that was uttered last week. And that was Ariel Sharon using the word "occupation."

RAHMAN: I think that's important.

KAGAN: This man, I mean Ariel Sharon of all people saying, call it what you want. Now he kind of back tracked afterwards. But he used the word occupation...

(CROSSTALK) RAHMAN: ... he has in his government, the most lunatic, extremist...

KAGAN: OK, before we go to naming names -- calling names...

RAHMAN: But that's exactly what...

KAGAN: But take a step back and talk to me about when you first heard him say those words, how significant...

RAHMAN: I thought that was definitely a positive step by Mr. Sharon because he finally, after 35 years, realized that this land is Palestinian land and the Israelis (UNINTELLIGIBLE) occupied. And what happens to occupiers? They have to leave.

Why he does not accept the full text of the road map and the steps in the road map and the vision in the road map. We have done that. We have no problem in accepting the right of Israel to exist, within the 1967 boundaries. But we want Israel also to accept our right to have state on our territories in 1967 borders.

KAGAN: OK, Mark, let me bring you into this. I want to look forward to when President Bush sits down in Jordan with the two prime ministers. How helpful, how significant is it that President Bush is taking this step?

REGEV: Oh,it's very significant and we're supporting the president's trip and we'll do everything, as I said, to make this a success. As I've said, Israel is willing to do very tangible things on the ground to help empower the Palestinian moderates.

The only reason we had to go into the Palestinian cities was because groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad were organizing those terrible, murderous suicide bombings. Now if the Palestinians can take charge of their own affairs, if they can really bring an end to this, then many things become possible.

I hope that with Abu Mazen taking charge that we can move aggressively and quickly forward in our process of peace, that we can move to implement the steps in the road map. As President Bush said just today, everything will depend on the terrorist issue. If the Palestinians are serious, if Abu Mazen is good on his word. He said he wants to disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He wants to stop terrorism. If he really is good on his word, and we'll do everything we can to help them, a new Middle East is really possible.

KAGAN: Well, we will see if this is indeed a new day.

I'm going to have to let Mr. Regev have the last word because he had the first word. OK?

Hasan Rahman, thank you so much for your time. Mark Regev, thank you for joining us from Washington. Appreciate it. Gentlemen, thank you so much.


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