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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Interview with Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Hanan Ashrawi; Interview with Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh; Is President Carter Doing the Right thing by Going to Cuba?
Aired May 12, 2002 - 12:00 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.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 12:00 noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and 7:00 p.m. here in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
We'll get to my interview with the Israeli defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, in just a moment, but first, a news alert.
BLITZER: Just a short while ago, I spoke with Israel's defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.
BLITZER: Defense Minister, thank you so much for joining us today.
There's a lot of speculation that you've decided to delay at a minimum and perhaps cancel any military operation in Gaza, is that true?
BENJAMIN BEN-ELIEZER, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: Well, let me begin to say that again. We launch a war after we lost 500 people, innocent people, families. 500 have been killed. And all they can see now is that we will decide when and how.
BLITZER: The whole Gaza operation, there had been a call up of some reserve units. Now, we're being told that those reserve units have been deactivated, although tanks still remain poised around Gaza.
What's your best assessment of whether or not this mission will go forward?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, it also depends how things will develop on other side. The question of reserve, it's to release and to recruit. That's the whole thing. But what we are going to do, when and how, what will we decide of the operation, this is depend on other side.
BLITZER: These decisions have not yet been made? Is that what you're saying?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, let me put it that way. I'm ready to say at this stage of the game that I'm willing to give a chance.
BLITZER: To give peace a chance right now?
BEN-ELIEZER: I'm willing to give a chance and to wait. It not means that if tonight or something like this will happen I will keep quiet. But I, as a we made all our way in the last year, we are ready to give any chance to the peace process. If someone in the other side will all his counts (ph), then we'll consider that again.
BLITZER: There was some speculation also, as you well know, if you read all of the Israeli newspapers, that you were concerned and your generals were concerned that there could be extensive Israeli casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza, given the concentration of people there. How much of a factor is that?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, this is a war, sir. And once you declare a war, or you declare that you are moving toward operation and you don't have any other alternative, losses has always happened and we would try -- I can tell you all my orders to the army is to do everything in order to minimize the losses definitely within -- when it come to civilians, kids and women and other peoples.
BLITZER: And did you also have information that the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, that those terrorists that you want the most had already gone underground, were hiding, it would have been difficult to find them?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, it's obvious that that's what they are expected to do. But I can tell you from our experience, from our experience, all those who hide, we found them one by one (inaudible) everyone.
I want you to know, sir, that when it comes to Gaza, Gaza is the Hamas capital. This should be known. Gaza is the Hamas capital. And sooner or later they should understand that we'll reach every one and every one of them, unless they will decide to change direction.
BLITZER: Do you know for sure that the suicide bomber who was in Rishon Litzion (ph) came from Gaza?
BEN-ELIEZER: We know that he born there. We know the Hamas is behind him. We don't know exactly from where he embark, whether it's from Ramallah, Nablus or from Gaza.
BLITZER: You know is identity? Do you know his name?
BEN-ELIEZER: Yes, we know his name, we know his identity. But the only thing I can say is -- his name, there are three names from three places, the same name. And we are continuing to inquire anyhow.
The Hamas is behind him. We don't know yet if he embark from Gaza, from other places.
BLITZER: And do you want to share his name with us?
BEN-ELIEZER: I don't keep his name in my pocket here, but I don't think it will be problem to submit the name.
BLITZER: At this point, Yasser Arafat has taken some steps, he's arrested some individuals, his Palestinian Authority, Hamas members in Gaza, and he also made a statement on Palestinian television in Arabic in which he said, "I have issued my orders to the Palestinian security forces to confront and prevent any terror attack against Israeli civilians."
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, this is the same ritual that happened to be after any time there are massacre and they begin to be worried. This is the same thing, I can assure you, how many times he repeated that in the last year. I don't care about the wording, what he say. I care what he done, what he's doing.
BLITZER: But he has gone and arrested some individuals, some suspects.
BEN-ELIEZER: He can sell this names and the numbers to other others, not to me because I know. When I will feel that he arrested the leaders of the Hamas, the big, big, big shots in the Hamas or the Jihad Islamic, then I can say, yes maybe. But from the names I do understand that everyone -- no one know who are those names.
You know, just follow what the Hamas have came out, you see. He don't know nothing about any arrest. So he is arresting people to the microphone, but nothing happened. Even if they're talking about -- if he's talking about names. Those are the names, mean nothing to anyone. And the Hamas say we don't know what he's talking about.
BLITZER: Well, having said that, you know what President Bush said after Arafat's speech. Let me read to you specifically what President Bush said. He said, "I was most pleased that he," referring to Yasser Arafat, "did that. I thought that was an incredibly positive sign."
BEN-ELIEZER: Will you please continue what he have said also?
BLITZER: He then went on to say, "As you know, I have been one who has been disappointed in the past and therefore hope that his actions now match his words."
BEN-ELIEZER: That's what I hope also. That's what I hope.
BLITZER: But he does say it's an incredibly positive sign.
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, as I have said, listen, we respect President Bush very, very much. And I know that his statement came in order to encourage Mr. Yasser Arafat to move on, not only by statements, but by doing something.
Now, the unfortunate thing is that beyond the statement that Arafat gave, nothing happen in the area. I am following everything in the area, and I can tell you, I am sorry to say, that nothing radically -- nothing happened there. Everything is going on -- you know, in the last three weeks, only in the area of Gaza, we have prevented 14 attempts of entering settlements in Gaza area, 14 attempts. Only last day, we put our hands in suicide bomber. The fact that every day between one to two suicide bomber is going beyond all statements given by Mr. Yasser Arafat.
BLITZER: As you know, many critics, including American critics, including many people here in Israel, raise this issue. Why does Israel need to maintain Jewish settlements in Gaza amidst 1.3 million Palestinians?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, I think all the question of -- I believe that the question of the settlements will come sooner or later to the table when the Palestinians will find that this is the only place where we can discuss an open negotiation.
I never said that the settlements is out of any discussion. No, we didn't say that. And I can say that right now I don't think that there is any reason to go for evacuating any settlement right now unless we are beginning to move in some direction that will lead to a political process. BLITZER: But you are saying that the settlements in Gaza and on the West Bank could be on the negotiating table?
BEN-ELIEZER: From my opinion, yes. Yes, I think that whether we like it, we don't like it, this is going to be part of the negotiation, at least some of the settlements.
BLITZER: The CIA director, George Tenet, I take it, was supposed to come this week to talk about security arrangements. It might be delayed, I'm told, another week.
But his goal, is it the same as your goal, to try to achieve a unified security structure in the Palestinian Authority?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, first of all, we welcome the arrival of George Tenet to here. But unfortunately George is going to do something there, not in our side.
The only thing that I can say, we definitely feel the time come for deep reforms in the other side, and deep reforms not only to organize or to unit all the political and the military elements, but to dig in and to see that something will happen.
By the way, this demand, this didn't came from Israel. This demand is came from the Palestinian society, from all the leaders of the Palestinians, one by one. Just look how the process is going now. All the surrounding, including the main, main leaders of the Palestinians, is coming now against him and putting a demand, clear cut, one, deep reforms. that's number one.
I am happy to say that I feel, at least, that some of the moderate Arab world is also adopting this theory that something have to be done.
BLITZER: Some of the moderate Arab leaders?
BEN-ELIEZER: Yes, yes. BLITZER: Do you believe that Yasser Arafat is still capable, after all is said and done, of being the leader of the Palestinian people that will achieve a peace agreement with Israel?
BEN-ELIEZER: I doubt, sir. Really I doubt. I'm sorry to say that.
BLITZER: Have you written him off?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, listen, I used to visit him from time to time two years ago, you know.
BEN-ELIEZER: But since the 28th of September, I lost any confidence with him. And I would have said -- I said that he finished already his historical rule as leading figure for a peace. I didn't that he lose his position as a terror leader, no.
BLITZER: So who is the alternative to Arafat?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, I'm not the man to tell you who is the alternative. I think that there are great leaders there, and I think that the Palestinian people have to choose who is the leader that can drove them and take them to a better life, to a better destiny and to better future for their kids.
BLITZER: There's some speculation that the 13 Palestinian gunmen who were released from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, who are now in Cyprus and will be heading to destinations in Europe, will be free men in Europe, they'll be allowed to go where they want. Is that acceptable to Israel?
BEN-ELIEZER: Well, once the exile have done by the Palestinians through the Americans and the other, we don't have any other control than that.
One thing I can assure you, that they will never enter our borders again.
BLITZER: And the issue of exiling Yasser Arafat, is that off the table now?
BEN-ELIEZER: No, I don't think it's relevant now. But as I have said, all is depend how things will develop there. So I was one of those who try all my best to see Arafat as leading the Palestinian people to a peaceful talks and peaceful solutions. Right now I lost confidence, and the only thing that I can say, sir, is all is depend on him.
BLITZER: All right. And finally, let me end this interview with where we began, with Gaza. You're saying now you're ready to give an opportunity, give peace a chance, not move in, but you want to see actions?
BEN-ELIEZER: Definitely, yes. I want to see actions. I mean, if the terror activities will continue to take place from Gaza, I don't think that we can just say we didn't lost patience. So the only -- I hope that things will be controlled there, by the leaders there in Gaza. I hope to see and to feel that everyone is moving to a quiet period. I will do everything in order not to be involved with another operation that obvious will cause suffering to both sides.
BLITZER: Mr. Defense Minister, thank you so much for joining us.
And when we come back, we'll get the Palestinian perspective.
Late Edition, live from Jerusalem, will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Twenty six Palestinians involved in the Israeli- Palestinian standoff in Bethlehem returned to Gaza Friday after a five-week siege at the historic Church of the Nativity. Thirteen other Palestinians are still on Cyprus, awaiting word of their final fate and destination.
Welcome back to this special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
Joining me with the Palestinian perspective is the Palestinian legislator, Hanan Ashrawi. She joins us from Ramallah.
Hanan Ashrawi, thanks for joining us.
I want to alert our viewers. We had planned on bringing Yasser Abed Rabbo to Late Edition. Unfortunately he's not so feeling well. Thanks for filling in for him.
And let's get right to the issue of Gaza. You must be relieved when you heard the defense minister of Israel say just a little while ago on this program he was prepared to give peace a chance, he's not going to move the troops into Gaza, he's ready to let Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority show the world they can deal with the terrorist threat.
What's your reaction to that?
HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN SPOKESWOMAN: Well, it seems to me, if they want a surrogate occupation, they're not going to get it. But if they want to negotiate in a genuine and a seriousness of intent in a genuine way, then let's get them to the negotiating table. They're the ones who have stopped all negotiations, have refused to negotiate, who've been pounding and shelling and battering the Palestinians, thinking that's how they can get us to submit.
This is the wrong approach. If they want to negotiate, lift the siege, stop the daily incursions, and start serious talks on the basis of international law and U.N. resolutions. This is something that's available. Now, not striking Gaza is not doing anybody a favor, it's doing themselves a favor as well, because this policy has shown its futility. It backfires. Not only does it claim hundreds and thousands of innocent lives, but it doesn't achieve anything except inflaming people more, creating more anger, more pain, more hostility. This has to stop.
BLITZER: Well, the Israelis point out, of course, that what also has to stop are the suicide bombings, one occurring only this past week just south of Tel Aviv in Rishon Litzion (ph). And as you know, the Palestinian leader did speak out against that afterwards.
But the Israelis, the defense minister, said that the arrests that were made in Gaza were relatively modest, minor officials, that Yasser Arafat's not backing up his words with deeds.
ASHRAWI: Well, actually, he's doing the most he could under the circumstances. We may have our disagreements, but I believe that Yasser Arafat is between a rock and a hard place. And he is rendered almost incapable of carrying out any of his decisions. His people are constantly being targeted. The whole area is totally fragmented. And at the same time, his security forces are in disarray. And he's being asked to carry out things that would undermine him in his own people's eyes, in order to appease the Israelis or appeal to the Israelis.
We have to understand that suicide bombers and violence and all this conflict does not emerge a vacuum. One has to deal with the real cause, and one has to understand that, by escalating the military assaults and violence, Sharon is succeeding only in creating more suicide bombers.
You have to deal with the causes. If they target our civilians, there are people who will seek revenge, there are people who will feel desperate enough in order to retaliate using the same means.
I have always said, we cannot do unto others what was done unto us. And even if they target our civilians, we shouldn't target theirs. And even though they have the largest army in the region, attacking a captive and defenseless population, it doesn't mean that we should adopt these methods of targeting Israelis within Israel.
So we have to create an alternative discourse, we have to create alternative realities, and we have to generate hope that would tell the Palestinians that their lives are not fair game for the Israelis, and that the occupation is not an infinite or open-ended proposition, but is coming to a rapid end, and that the massive military escalation is going to stop, in order to create an alternative channel which is the political and peaceful channel.
BLITZER: Hanan Ashrawi, we did hear some strong words coming this past week from President Bush, calling for dramatic reforms within the Palestinian Authority, within the security structure of the Palestinian Authority, as a prelude to resuming negotiations.
BLITZER: The president saying this, "We have a chance to achieve peace. And so I would hope that all the responsible Palestinian leaders understand the reform is in their interest. It is in the people's interest."
The point being that there are so many various Palestinian security services, all run by different individuals, no one is responsible, in effect, for the whole picture. One of the things the U.S. wants is a unified security structure that can do a better job in preventing terrorist attacks against the Israelis.
ASHRAWI: Well, I hate to say this, but President Bush is a Johnny come lately to this issue because we have been asking for reform; we've been working toward reform. Actually, civil society -- the Palestinian people as a whole have been trying to get genuine reform from within.
And it has to be homegrown, it has to be authentic. It has to be reform on the basis of a Palestinian agenda, not an imposed sort of patronizing agenda that creates a new neo-colonial situation. And reform does not just mean the security systems.
Unfortunately, when it suited their purposes, Israel and the U.S. were quite willing look the other way, to ignore all sorts of violations and suspension of the rule of law provided President Arafat and the Authority fulfilled their obligations in terms of providing Israel with security with a total disregard for Palestinian security in every possible way.
Now the reform has to be, again, a reform that is based on Palestinian priorities, with a Palestinian agenda, not an imposed and artificial reform in order to suit the Israelis.
They've been trying very hard to create an alternative leadership to delegitimatize President Arafat. First he's irrelevant, then he's not legitimate. Now he needs to be reformed.
This kind of mentality, which is very high handed, cannot work. One has to deal with the Palestinians as equals. One has to understand that we have rights. We also have brains, and we the have the ability to carry out these reforms. The thing is you cannot measure any leadership on the basis of...
BLITZER: I was going to interrupt and say, what about elections? It's been six years since Yasser Arafat was elected. There's calls for greater democracy within the Palestinian community. Is this the moment where he should at least have the opportunity, hold elections, to reestablish his legitimacy as the Palestinian leader?
ASHRAWI: We want elections on all fronts. We have been calling for elections, for local government elections, for legislative elections, as well as for presidential elections. Unfortunately with all the incursions and with all the fragmentation and the siege of the Palestinian territories, it's become physically impossible to have these elections.
So I was hoping that the siege would be lifted, that the incursions would stop, that the Israeli army would withdraw, and that we would have the freedom to carry out these elections as soon as possible. It is in our interests.
We need -- we have amended -- we are working on amending the elections law. We really need to ratify the basic law. And we do need to have the physical ability to have free and fair elections at all levels. And I think it is crucial, because legitimacy comes from the people, from elections, and not from dictating the will of the Israelis or even Americans on the Palestinians. This is a must, I agree, Wolf.
BLITZER: Hanan, what is your understanding of the 13 Palestinians who are going to be wound up in exile in Europe? What will they be doing? Will they be spending time in jail, or will they be free to roam around?
ASHRAWI: No, these people have not been convicted, they have not been charged, they have not been tried. We are calling for -- what happened to due process? What happened to presumption of innocence? You cannot punish people because of Israeli allegations. And of course Israel is not a neutral party in this case. So they haven't had their day in court.
And they have been already been punished because exile is the worst type of punishment that can be meted out to Palestinians. This brings back the worst nightmare of the Palestinians, the dispossession, the uprooting, the exile, the dispersion of Palestinians. And we have vowed never again. Every Palestinian would much rather go to jail or even die rather than be exiled.
This case has to be dealt with within the law. The occupying power has no business exiling or deporting people under occupation. And international law also says that nationals should be free to enter or leave their country. And of course, as I said, they haven't been tried, but they have been punished already.
So the host countries I don't think will put them in jail and I don't think they'll punish them twice. But at the same time, there should be a fair and equitable solution because these people have not had any charges proven against them. And the word -- and the say-so of the Israelis alone should not be sufficient cause for multiple punishments.
BLITZER: Hanan Ashrawi, joining us from Ramallah, thank you very much for offering us the Palestinian perspective.
And when we return, President Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met this past week at the White House. But is the latest U.S. push for Middle East peace on the right track? We'll discuss that and more with two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana and Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Late Edition, live from Jerusalem. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We recognize Israel has the right to defend itself. We do not, in any way, give Israel a green light for military action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher explaining the Bush administration's position on the potential for Israeli military action. Welcome back to Late Edition.
Joining me now with the view from Capitol Hill in Washington are two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee: In Phoenix, Arizona, the Republican Jon Kyl, and in Washington in our studio there, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Senators, welcome back to Late Edition.
Senator Kyl, let me begin with you. The Israeli defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said to me just a little while ago, he's basically written off Yasser Arafat as a potential peace partner with Israel. Have you?
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Well, I'm not in the position of negotiating with Arafat. I leave that to the Israelis. And I think Americans would do well if they would step back a little bit and understand that the Israelis are the ones on the ground there with the best evidence of whether they can deal with Arafat.
I would suggest, though, that if history is a guide, Arafat is not a reliable partner. I suspect that the administration is attempting, one last time, to see whether Arizona can perform. And I think the view is that if he cannot then, clearly, he'll have to be moved aside.
BLITZER: Senator Bayh, what's your view on that?
SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I don't have much confidence in Yasser Arafat, Wolf. He's a man who has at least tacitly endorsed terrorist activities. He was the head of a regime that was corrupt and in the process of losing the confidence of its own people before the latest outbreak of violence. And I think his word is not good. Unfortunately, there's no one else to deal with at this time. The understandable and defendable Israeli actions to defend themselves have had the effect of increasing his popularity among his own people. And it's possible that when he is removed from the scene, elements like Hamas and Islamic Jihad can move to the front.
So it's a dilemma. He is an unreliable partner in these negotiations, but there's simply no one else. And so, we have to make the best of a very difficult situation.
BLITZER: You know, Senator Bayh, a lot of Palestinians make the same point in effect about the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. They question whether he is ever going to really be capable of making the kinds of territorial concessions that would lead to an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Do you think Sharon is capable of making those kinds of concessions?
BAYH: Wolf, I don't know, but I am confident that the Israeli people will embrace meaningful compromise in exchange for a lasting, secure peace.
This is a perfect illustration of how violence is so counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Ariel Sharon was elected after Yasser Arafat rejected a very forthcoming peace proposal by the previous Israeli government. And the answer to that proposal, rather than a counteroffer, was an outbreak of suicide bombings. Hence, Ariel Sharon was elected, the Israeli people decided to take a harder line on security issues -- very understandably -- and so, here we are.
But I'm confident, whether it is Prime Minister Sharon or some future leader, once terror is brought to a halt, once there is an understanding that there can be security with peace for the state of Israel, the Israeli people will be willing to make the compromises necessary.
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, do you have confidence in Ariel Sharon?
KYL: First, let me say, I agree with Senator Bayh's comments. I think it's morally repugnant to even compare Sharon and Arafat. Sharon was elected by a democratic government, a very robust country, by the way, in terms of their ability to fight politically and elect leaders. And Arafat's election was a charade, a sham. And the evidence of Arafat's specific and direct dealing in terrorism seems incontrovertible.
So on the one hand, you have somebody that's been historically and recently tied directly to terrorism, against innocent Israelis and, on the other hand, a question of whether Sharon is going to be willing to make compromises for peace. As I say, the comparison between the two is morally repugnant.
Yes, the Israelis will make peace when the conditions are there for them to do so. BLITZER: I wasn't making the comparison, Senator Kyl. I was just pointing out that to the Palestinians, a lot of the Palestinians, they have these deep reservations, these deep questions about whether Ariel Sharon will ever make the kinds of concessions they want.
But getting to the whole issue of Yasser Arafat, the evidence that you say is against him, linking him directly to terrorist actions, why is President Bush and Secretary of State Powell, if that is true, pushing the Israeli government to continue this peace process with Yasser Arafat?
KYL: Well, first of all, I would suggest that the administration has been put in the position because of the other things that we're dealing with, our own war on terror and having to deal with the Middle East governments of the other Arab states, to try to find a way to defuse the situation in the Middle East while we go about our business. And that has resulted in some compromises. And one of the compromises is to see if one last time there is a way of securing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians by dealing with Arafat.
My own view is that there ought to be a fairly short time fuse on this, and that intelligence will demonstrate whether or not Arafat is really able to contain the situation there and to keep terrorists from continuing to attack the Israelis. If he is not able to do that, then clearly something else has got to be tried.
And my own view is that if the Israelis are able to rout out the terrorists, then it's not going to be a question of having to deal with another terrorist, but rather dealing with another leader of the Palestinians that won't choose terrorism as a weapon.
BLITZER: Senator Bayh, earlier this week a House Appropriations Committee approved another $200 million for Israel, at the request of the White House, another $50 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. Assuming that comes to the Senate, will you support those additional funds?
BAYH: I would be inclined to support it if the administration believes it's important for us to continue to play the role of a goodwill broker in this region.
I'd want to scrutinize the aid to the Palestinian Authority very closely to ensure that it's not going to be siphoned off to indirectly support elements there that do not favor the peace process.
But certainly the Israeli portion I would favor, and I'd take a close look at the other.
BLITZER: What about you, Senator Kyl?
KYL: I agree with that. I would want to make absolutely sure that none of the aid that's going to the PLO is going to reconstitute a military presence or a military group that Arafat can use to support continued terrorism against the Israelis. We pumped literally hundreds of millions of dollars into the PLO for a police force that was supposed to be able to keep the peace and instead was used to create a terrorist army, in effect, at Arafat's disposal. That we cannot do again.
BLITZER: OK. Senator Kyl and Senator Bayh, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more questions coming up, including your phone calls for the two senators. Late Edition, live from Jerusalem, will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe it will require international forces -- the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians and others -- and I think we ought to show up and do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Former President Clinton speaking last Tuesday at Hunter College in New York, suggesting that international peacekeepers, perhaps even including American peacekeepers, might be needed as part of a settlement here in the Middle East.
Welcome back to Late Edition. Rejoining us, Senators John Kyl of Arizona and Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Senator Kyl, is former President Clinton right when he says that U.S. peacekeepers might be needed, should be considered?
KYL: No, I wouldn't do that under any circumstances. It's a very bad idea.
Think about it for a moment. You have U.S. soldiers trying to keep the peace between terrorists and the Israeli army. Are they going to be able to stop terrorism? No. Even the Israeli army has had a very hard time doing that. And what happens when the Israelis army then tries to go after the terrorists? Are they going to try to stop the Israeli army? No.
In other words, our own people would be sitting ducks right in the middle of a very bad situation, very much like they were in Lebanon a couple of decades ago when we had over 200 Marines killed. I would not send American troops there to keep the peace.
BLITZER: Senator Bayh, Senator Kyl makes a good point. I was in Beirut at that time. 241 U.S. Marines, they went in as peacekeepers and they came out in body bags. Are you concerned that that could happen again?
BAYH: Wolf, I would be very concerned. I think it's largely a question of timing. I think under the current circumstances, it would be a grave mistake to insert American military personnel. I think they would, as Senator Kyl mentioned, become a target for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, just as American forces in Beirut became a target for Hezbollah.
If at some future date -- and it might be quite some time, regrettably, given the state of circumstances in the Middle East right now -- if, at some future date, you had a Palestinian leadership that genuinely embraced peace and had taken the steps to crack down on the militants, so that it appeared that the prospects for violence were substantially reduced from the state of affairs that prevails today, then it might make sense to consider.
But I think we're a long way from that point. Certainly not now.
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, how much of a setback for the Bush administration's policies toward Iraq and what they call "regime change" in Baghdad is this festering Israeli Palestinian crisis? KYL: I think it is a setback, Wolf, perhaps more from a public- relations standpoint than anything else. But it requires diverting attention away from the other goal of our own war against terrorism, and it complicates our dealings with the Arab states.
Now, it's not really true that we have to have all the Arab states on our side in a military action against Iraq. But by the same token, it's not a good thing for them to be fomenting world opinion against us either.
And right now I would also be focused very strongly on Pakistan. We still have huge issues there. We have Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
We've got to really keep our attention focused on our own war as much as possible. So this is a diversion, I'm afraid.
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, does the U.S. government, the U.S. intelligence community, have a better handle today on where Asama bin Laden might be than it had, let's say, six months ago?
KYL: I'm not sure that we do, no. I can tell you, as a member of the intelligence community, we don't know where he is or whether he's alive.
We do know this, that there are large numbers of Al Qaeda soldiers and terrorists that have infiltrated across the border into Pakistan. That area is not really under the control of the central Pakistani government, but is under the legal control of tribes in the region. It's very difficult for American military to have a major presence in Pakistan, as you can appreciate.
And so we have a real problem on our hands right there. That may be where Bin Laden is if he's alive today. So we have a lot of work to do there, and we've got to keep our eye on that ball.
BLITZER: How concerned, Senator Bayh, are you that the Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, his network, might still be able to engage in terrorist actions against U.S. targets, whether in the United States or around the world?
BAYH: I'm concerned, Wolf, but I think their ability to engage in large-scale activities has been substantially reduced because of our response following the tragedy of September the 11th. We have dispersed them from Afghanistan. As Jon mentioned, they're attempting to reconstitute themselves in places like western Pakistan, northern Yemen.
We do face a continuing threat around the world. They're still out there, they still have great hostility toward us. Even as we're continuing to try to cut off their money, their logistics and the other things that they need to conduct these enterprises.
So the bottom line, Wolf, I would say is we need to continue to be vigilant because the threat has not been eliminated.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Bayh and Senator Kyl, always good to have both of you on Late Edition. Thanks so much for joining us on this Sunday. Appreciate it very much.
BAYL: You're welcome.
KYL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, the second hour of Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
We'll speak with two men who have been in the negotiating fire here in the Middle East: the former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the former Senate majority leader George Mitchell.
Also, we'll get the inside story on the release of all those people from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. And we'll have a special conversation with the former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The next hour of Late Edition from Jerusalem, coming up. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Joining us now, from Connecticut, is the former U.S. secretary of state, Dr. Henry Kissinger, and in New York, the former U.S. Senate majority leader, George Mitchell. He's author of the so- called Mitchell report, which has been a blueprint for to trying to get peace negotiations back on track.
We'll be discussing that in a moment, Senator Mitchell.
But let me begin with Dr. Kissinger and ask you this fundamental question: Some Palestinians, Dr. Kissinger, believe the Israelis have now blinked when it comes to going into Gaza, to seek terrorist targets in the aftermath of the suicide bombing near Tel Aviv this past week.
What's your reading of what has been going on?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, if they have in fact called off the operation that they were so loudly advertising, it may lend itself to that interpretation.
The question is whether they did it because they believed that this meeting between the three Arab heads of state, or from Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, offered them a window for a negotiation, or whether they decided the operation was too difficult, or maybe a combination of both.
I think there is an opportunity for a peace negotiation. The question is whether this is the best framework within which to do it.
BLITZER: As you remember, Dr. Kissinger, out of the 1973 war you emerged and engaged in so-called "shuttle diplomacy," disengagement of forces agreements in Sinai, the Golan Heights, eventually leading to a formal peace treaty in 1979.
Is there that kind of silver lining? Do you think this current turmoil right now could lead to that kind of breakthrough between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
KISSINGER: I think there is an opportunity to repeat at least some of the pattern of that previous crisis.
Both sides are exhausted. Neither side knows how to bring it to a conclusion, in the direction of their maximum program. Both sides know that, if they continue, they will be more and more exhausted without advancing toward their end. And for all of these reasons, I have thought, even before this latest event, that this is, despite all appearances, an opportunity in which progress can be made, not toward the final agreementm but toward something that will calm things down, permit normal life to begin and create an atmosphere in which final status agreements can then be negotiated.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, I want you to pick up on that point, but I want to read a little excerpt from an editorial that appeared in the New York Times this past Wednesday. It said this: "Mr. Sharon is seeking to prove that Mr. Arafat is a terrorist, while Mr. Arafat wants to prove Mr. Sharon is a war criminal. It is up to the United States and the Arab world to change the subject."
Is that doable?
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think it is, Wolf, because I believe that life has become unbearable for both sides. And each is not advancing toward its ultimate objective through the current conflict. The Israelis have a state, and they want security. They are, of course, not secure now, given the events of the past year and a half. The Palestinians want a state; they don't have one. And that prospect is receding, not coming closer, as a result of the events of the last 18 months.
So I think that the lack of symmetry in their objectives presents both an obstacle to gaining an agreement but it also presents an opportunity, and I think this is an opportunity that ought to be seized by both sides.
BLITZER: Well, Senator Mitchell, as you know, Dr. Kissinger was the architect of what used to be called step-by-step diplomacy, interim agreements that eventually could lead to a full-scale agreement, but way down the road. The Palestinians are saying they don't want that now. They want to go for a complete agreement. They're sick and tired of these interim agreements.
What do you say about the strategy that the U.S. administration should be pursuing?
MITCHELL: Well, I think the current view of the Palestinians was formed not by events in which Dr. Kissinger was involved that you described, but more recently by the Oslo events in which both sides had very high hopes, willed themselves to believe that something positive is going to happen. And then of course, it didn't occur, and so there has been a great deal of dashed hopes, and that has led to a lot of the resentment and a sense of betrayal on both sides.
I don't think it has to be neatly labeled in the manner that you have done so in the question, Wolf. I think you have to get into a process that has some prospect of reaching an ultimate objective that both sides seek, but I don't think you can impose a rigid timetable on it, and I don't think you can achieve it very quickly early.
I think Dr. Kissinger is quite right. In the current atmosphere, with high level of violence and high emotion, it's not feasible that leaders can take the steps needed to achieve long-term agreements. But you get into the process, hopefully emotions cool, violence subsides, and then you can gradually move into that process.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Dr. Kissinger, with Senator Mitchell?
KISSINGER: Yes, I agree. And in fact, the plan of Senator Mitchell embodies these principles.
If you move to final status agreements now, it raises all the most controversial issues -- refugees, holy places, all the issues in which a compromise is least achievable. But if you focus on security, normal life, drawing some lines across which coexistence could take place, I think you have a much better chance. And from that basis, one could restart the final stages negotiations after terrorism has ended and violence has subsided.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, a big focus of attention from the Bush administration this past week is on the Palestinian security services and the reforms that the U.S. government is now pursuing, calling for. That's going to be one of the major missions the CIA director, George Tenet, will have if and when he ever comes back to this part of the world.
But I want you to listen to what Yasser Arafat had to say on this specific issue earlier this week on Wednesday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YASSER ARAFAT, LEADER OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I hereby call on the United States and President Bush, as well as on the international community, to provide the necessary immunity and support to the Palestinian security forces whose infrastructure has been destroyed by Israeli occupation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, is that realistic, to assume that reforming the Palestinian security services is going to be able to get the job done as far as preventing the kind of suicide bombing attacks we saw this past week near Tel Aviv? Can the Palestinian Authority, in the current environment of the West Bank and Gaza, do that?
MITCHELL: Well, they certainly can make the 100 percent effort that our report called for, and I believe have a significant impact on it, although it is highly unlikely that could it completely end the violence. Wolf, when our committee was there, we met with both sides repeatedly. And the Israeli government said to us, "We know Arafat does not have complete control, but what we want is a 100 percent effort." After much discussion inquiry, we concluded that was a correct assessment. He doesn't have complete control, and he obviously has now than he had then. But he had not met that 100 percent effort.
Given the devastation that's occurred and the reduction in the capacity of the Palestinian Authority's security forces, there will have to be a process of reorganization, rebuilding, recruitment of personnel. But I think it should be accompanied by a higher degree of efficiency, a greater centralized effort, a better command, communication and control system.
I just want to make one further point about this, Wolf, when our commission was there, we spent several months talking to both sides. They disagreed on everything except one issue. They both wanted a resumption of security cooperation. They both said it had been effective. They believed that it would be a very positive step for both sides, and I think they should do it.
And then they should move into this phase of reciprocal steps, which our report recommended, but not as a reason to delay final status negotiations, but make possible an atmosphere where they can get into them with some prospect of success.
BLITZER: But, Dr. Kissinger, you may have heard my interview with the Israeli defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, just in the first hour of this program.
BLITZER: He effectively says he doesn't believe Yasser Arafat can ever get the job done, as far as negotiating peace with Israel. And that seems to be a pretty widely held view here in Israel over these past several months.
So is there an alternative, though, to Yasser Arafat?
KISSINGER: I think the Israeli distrust of Arafat is so great that to rely on him alone is not going to create the correct atmosphere. I think we have to turn to the states that were present at the conference over the weekend -- to the Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, and maybe even the Syrians -- and say, "Arafat it is your problem. You have to see to it that he carries out commitments, and you have to help him make commitments by giving him an alibi for making them."
If one relies entirely on him, he has too great a record of non- performance, partly because he doesn't want to and partly because there are too many factions in his group for him effectively to control them.
But I think if we make if we make -- the Arab states have a lot to lose, because their structure can be undermined if the violence keeps continuing. So on this basis, with the Arabs states taking responsibility, I think an agreement can be made. BLITZER: All right. Dr. Kissinger, stand by.
Senator Mitchell, please stand by.
We have to take a quick commercial break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation on the Middle East. I'll also ask these two men about former President Jimmy Carter's current visit to Fidel Castro's Cuba. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of Late Edition, live from Jerusalem.
Once again joining us, the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and the former Senate majority leader, Senator George Mitchell.
We have a caller from Michigan. Michigan, go ahead with your question, please.
CALLER: Hi. For both your guests, isn't our government putting the cart before the horse, pressuring Israel to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians so that we can move ahead then with the war against terrorism? Shouldn't we instead be moving ahead against Iraq and Iran, who are fomenting the unrest? Then there'd be a better chance of peace between Israel and the Arab world.
BLITZER: All right. Let's Dr. Kissinger respond first.
Go ahead, Dr. Kissinger.
KISSINGER: I don't American policy toward Israel is driven by trying to settle the Palestinian issue so that we can move against Iraq. Those are handled more or less separately. And there really isn't enough time not to deal with the Palestinian issue when there is violence affecting the whole region going on for months.
So my belief is that the administration should, as it is, pursue both policies simultaneously.
BLITZER: But, Senator Mitchell, a lot of people say that, with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis boiling over, in effect, right now, the U.S. can't pursue a policy of so-called regime change in Baghdad, because so much of the Arab world is not going to be with the U.S. in that kind of military effort.
MITCHELL: Well, that's obviously true, and that's had an effect on the administration's approach. But I agree that we have an independent basis for wanting to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That's been American policy for a long time, and it is not based solely on what happens in Iraq and Iran.
And so I don't agree with the caller that military action now against Iraq and Iran would not be helpful in resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, in my judgment. BLITZER: All right.
While we're looking at a picture, gentlemen, of President Bush returning to the White House -- he was in Camp David for the weekend. He's walking back into the White House. We'll see if he stops and speaks with reporters. If he does, we'll take his remarks live. If not, we'll just speak over him, as we watch him walking casually with his little dog into the White House.
Dr. Kissinger, you see former President Jimmy Carter in Cuba, the first time in more than four decades a current or former president visiting Fidel Castro's Cuba. What goes through your mind? Is Jimmy Carter doing the right thing?
KISSINGER: I have high regard for President Carter, and especially for his extraordinary conduct out of office, but I have grave doubts about a former president of the United States being received on a quasi-presidential visit in Cuba, when it is the official policy of the United States that there should not be visits to Cuba, and when it gives the impression that he's there to do some negotiating on his own, unless he was specifically asked to do so by President Bush.
BLITZER: But, Dr. Kissinger, he did get permission from the president to go. He didn't necessarily get instructions or anything like that, but the White House apparently did sign off on the trip. What do you make of that?
KISSINGER: Well, I don't know the circumstances. Fundamentally, I think negotiations on behalf of the United States should be by designated representatives.
If the president asked him to go, that's one thing. If the president acquiesced, privately thinking he'd be just as happy if the trip didn't take place, then it would be another. So in my judgment, it would depend entirely on what he was told by President Bush.
BLITZER: On that point, Senator Mitchell, the understanding I have is that the White House acquiesced in allowing, in giving, in effect, this sort of yellow light to Jimmy Carter to go, but a lot of people think it's a good idea. What do you think?
MITCHELL: Well, first, he's not negotiating on behalf of the United States, and I hope that that's clearly understood. I don't believe President Carter has stated that he intends to go to negotiate with Castro on behalf of the U.S. The Bush administration did acquiesce.
Well, Wolf, I saw one of the opponents of his trip on television yesterday saying he shouldn't go because Castro's a Communist, he wasn't elected to office, and he's guilty of human rights abuses. Well, of course, just a few months ago President Bush met with the president of China, who is a Communist, who wasn't elected to office, and who's guilty of human rights abuses. I hope that out of this will come an improvement in relations, but I conclude by repeating what I said at the outset. President Carter is a former president, he's not a participant in the current administration, and he should not -- and I'm certain he's not intending to -- negotiate on behalf of the U.S. government.
I hope he does say something positive, and I think he will in his speech to the Cuban people.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger -- let me just bring back Dr. Kissinger for a second.
BLITZER: The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial only this past week, said its time to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, as you know, conservative in its orientation, no friend of Communist Cuba.
But is time it lift to the trade embargo against Cuba?
KISSINGER: Yes, I think it is time to lift the trade embargo against Cuba. We have no trade embargo against nations of similar domestic qualities. And I think that we should find some bipartisan consensus that studies this and comes to that conclusion. I personally would favor lifting the trade embargo.
BLITZER: What about you, Senator Mitchell? Do you think it is time to see that trade embargo go away?
MITCHELL: I would not do it unilaterally. I would do it as part of a larger package, in which there was some quid pro quo from the Cuban government with respect to actions and policies of its own. If it can be part of a package of that type, then I think it does make sense.
BLITZER: And if you had to wrap up, Senator Mitchell, right now, the whole U.S.-Cuban relationship, four decades, 43 years Castro in power, right now, is there an opening that you think could result from this Jimmy Carter visit there?
MITCHELL: I do think so, Wolf, because although Castro has had remarkable longevity -- I read in the where he has outlasted 10 American presidents -- even he has limits, and there is a very soon going to be a change in Cuba. And I think we should be preparing the way for that as part of a larger policy change. I think there is a lot to be said for a new opening and a new policy based on new circumstances that are going to exist there very shortly.
BLITZER: And as we see, President Bush continuing to mingle, to chat at that rope line on the South Lawn of the White House with friends who gather there to receive him upon his return from Camp David.
We are going thank the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell for joining us on Late Edition today. Always good to have both of you on these two subjects. I'm sure we could have discussed a lot of other subjects besides the Middle East and Cuba. Thank you very much. We're going to take a quick break. We'll continue to watch the president. If he speaks, we'll of course take that live. Let's just watch him walk into the White House, make sure he's not speaking right now. And looks like he is walking right past the reporters, as he often does, and goes into the residence of the White House.
Late Edition, live from Jerusalem, will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to Late Edition. We're live from Jerusalem.
You're looking at live pictures from Tel Aviv, where the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is now addressing his party, the Likud Party, at their central committee meeting. It's a lively session, where some opponents, some critics, led by the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are trying to get a resolution passed that would oppose forever any Palestinian state on the West Bank, a resolution that's being resisted by the prime minister.
Welcome back to Late Edition. We're continuing our conversation here about the situation in the Middle East. And joining me now are three guests: Here with me in Jerusalem, Matt Rees. He's Time magazine's Jerusalem bureau chief. And Mark Perry, he's an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
And in Tel Aviv is Joseph Alpher. He's the former director of Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
Welcome back. Welcome to all of you.
And, Mark, let me begin with you. The whole negotiation that resulted in the end of the five-week standoff at the Church of the Nativity, you were intimately involved in helping the Palestinian side come to a conclusion. What's your understanding, what happens to the 13 Palestinians who have been exiled to Europe?
MARK PERRY, TECH. ADVISER, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATING TEAM: Well, I was roped into this about two weeks ago, and was there to manage the team. And I think that this was really a last- minute deal. After five weeks of negotiations, it was a last-minute deal. And part of that last-minute deal is that those 13 may be incarcerated for a very short time but eventually they're going to go free. My hunch is they are going to be very, very watched -- closely watched while they're in Europe.
BLITZER: Well, when you say they're going to be incarcerated for a short time, what is a short time?
PERRY: It is very uncertain, and I think negotiations are still going on. European Union, European delegations are not quite certain yet what they're going to do with the 13. They are wanted. Some of them are notorious. Israel certainly wants some of them back. We may see that eventually.
BLITZER: And is there a deal now, in what countries they'll be spread out, these 13? Because, as you know, right now they're still in Cyprus.
PERRY: There isn't a deal yet. They're going to be, over the next 24 to 48 hours -- my understanding, over the next 24 to 48 hours, that's going to be determined. Of course the Palestinians are very, very upset that they have been deported. This is an emotional and psychological red line for the Palestinian people.
BLITZER: All right, let me bring in Joseph Alpher in Tel Aviv and talk a little bit about what's going on in Tel Aviv right now.
Mr. Alpher, this whole Likud conference. And a lot of our viewers, in the United States, indeed around the world, will be surprised to hear that Prime Minister Sharon is being attacked from the right from within his own party because of his support, if you will, for a Palestinian state.
Give our viewers the perspective, what's going on.
JOSEPH ALPHER, FORMER DIRECTOR, JAFFEE CENTER, TEL AVIV: Well, I think we shouldn't take it all that seriously, Wolf. While Sharon extensively has come out in support of Palestinian state, the dimensions, parameters of the kind of state he's talking about are, in any case, totally unacceptable to the Palestinians, so that his program for a Palestinian state, to my best estimate, is a non-starter in any case.
Now, his main attacker in this Likud central committee meeting is former Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is coming out very much against a Palestinian state. And yet, we know that when Netanyahu was prime minister, he was actually much more forthcoming than Sharon or even than Ehud Barak, in terms of turning over the territories of a future Palestinian state to the Palestinians back in '96 to '99.
So the subtext here is Netanyahu's attempt politically to wrest control of the Likud from Sharon, challenge him for the internal Likud nomination, to lead the Likud list in the next elections, and be the next prime minister.
BLITZER: All right, Mr. Alpher, stand by. I want to listen in because the prime minister is speaking about Yasser Arafat right now. Let's listen to his speech through a translator.
ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... the shortcuts of the Barak government have brought us to war.
The conclusion is straightforward. There are no shortcuts to peace. There can be no peace with terrorism. There will be no peace with a man of terror. In order to make peace, a real peace, a peace for the generations, we have to overcome, to conquer terrorism. There is no other alternative. There is no other way. He who wishes for peace must be prepared to beat terrorism, not to give in.
There are not shortcuts. This isn't how the government, under my leadership, works today -- a government of National Unity with the Likud in its center, a government which is working on the basis of the principles of responsibility and coolness. My friends, there are people who give advice and there are those who act, the executive. We will not overcome terrorism by means of books, but by means of maintaining our pull and taking the proper action. A government that knows how to stand fast in a security campaign, looking after our forces and being able to maintain our position in such complex diplomatic situations.
A government which understands that, in order to make peace and to maintain Israel's power, we have to maintain our relationships with the biggest of our friends, the greatest of our friends, the United States. Our relationship with the U.S. is perhaps at the best level it's ever been. Our relationships here are based on trust and belief in shared principles.
We will not overcome terror by means of speeches and slogans. We've heard many such, but the time now is here for action. Operation Defensive Shield is an example of such action. This was one of the most important operations carried out by us, and it has paved the way for an unrelenting war to uproot terrorism, wherever it is.
And having carried out this action, we have continued and we are continuing with our efforts, and we have gone back to Kalcalia (ph) and we've gone back several times to Tulkarem, and we've gone into Hebron. And we are carrying out actions on a daily and nightly basis.
We have arrested more than 2,000 wanted men. We have brought about the destruction of terror infrastructure in the refugee camps. These have been great achievements, the achievements of Defensive Shield making it possible for us to proceed tranquilly.
Our foe feels what we're doing. They don't hear about it, they feel it where they live. And they feel that in their centers of government, the actions by the Israel defense forces and its commanders, our forces, the regular forces and our reserve forces, the action by our security forces are things that aren't talked about. It's not words, it's actions, it's deeds that we are delivering. Actions by the Israel police, by the border police, who've turned into a proper fighting force.
SHARON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The actions by our rescue services, who grit their teeth and do what they have to do. Everything that has been done by our various security services, who join forces and stretch out their hand every day.
This is a people who want peace, but they are prepared to do everything to repel the enemy. And the action by our government is implementing what it says in the Bible. It says, "I will wage war when I must."
We know we have to defeat terrorism and restore security so we can continue -- go on to make peace. It is possible to achieve peace, but first there are two basic conditions that have to be achieved. One is a complete end of terrorism, violence and incitement. And secondly, the Palestinian Authority has to undergo basic structural reforms in all areas -- security, economic, legal and social -- with complete transparency and organizational responsibility. We cannot make peace with a dictatorial, corrupt regime. This has to be a different regime, a different authority.
After these two conditions have been met, these basic conditions, we will be able to enter stage-by-stage arrangement, including a long- term interim arrangement where basic decisions will be reached between us and the Palestinians.
Only after that, after we see how the Palestinians are constructing their own society and their self-rule and see what their attitude is to peace, only then will we be able to undertake discussions which will determine the precise relationships between us and them. Only then will we be able to see what arrangements we can make in order to ensure that the agreements are kept. Only then we will be able to sign a permanent peace agreement.
The Israeli people want peace. The Israeli people knows that peace will come only if we overcome terrorism. The Israeli people believe that we will overcome and that we will make peace as we have promised.
I have proposed a regional conference. You know, there was such a conference, there was such a conference in Madrid. And it was headed by our prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir. But together with Yitzhak Shamir, one should remember, there was also our deputy foreign minister. That's not something new. That's already happened.
Friends, members of the Likud, I've come here this evening because this is my home. I took the initiative of establishing the Likud. I, together with my friends, run this wonderful organization. We've been together in difficult moments. We've been together in moments of victory. And I know that only the Likud can lead the state of Israel responsibly and with security through periods of crisis.
And today, as we lead the state in this period of crisis, our responsibility of all of us is first and foremost to the state of Israel, the people, the whole people of Israel. This is our responsibility as the governing party of Israel...
BLITZER: And so the prime minister of Israel delivering a fiery speech before his party, the Likud Party, as he pointed out, a party that he helped form. And in the process taking a direct swipe at his main challenger for leadership of the Likud Party, the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pointing out that it was Benjamin Netanyahu, as the deputy foreign minister, who went to Madrid some 10 years ago for that first peace conference with the Arab world, a peace conference that resulted in the Oslo negotiations, where many of the Likud members bitterly opposed to that.
Major political fireworks under way right now in Tel Aviv. We're going to be continuing to monitor that speech. Later we're expected speak with Benjamin Netanyahu.
But when we come back, we'll continue our conversation with our guests. We'll get inside story what's going on here in the Middle East. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special Late Edition, live from Jerusalem. We're continuing our conversation now with three individuals who know this part of the world very well.
Let me pick up with Matt Rees, the Time magazine bureau here in Jerusalem. You just listened to Ariel Sharon, our viewers around the world listened to him deliver this very, very blunt speech, defending his record, taking a swipe at his rival Benjamin Netanyahu in the process.
Does Netanyahu represent a serious political challenge to Sharon?
MATT REES, JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: He really does. That committee that we were watching there -- looks more like a rabble or an ugly beast, really, but it's actually called the Likud Central Committee -- is 70 percent in favor of Netanyahu. So right there in the center of the Likud he is very much a challenge to Sharon, and Sharon was trying to tame it.
BLITZER: How did Netanyahu manage to make this political comeback? Because, as you remember, when he was defeated the last time, he was decisively defeated, and yet here he is, perhaps on the verge of once again becoming prime minister.
REES: It's a measure of how bad things have gotten here, in terms of security, first of all under Ehud Barak, who defeated Netanyahu, but then under Sharon, things have got as bad is the can be.
People to tend to look back and forget that, under Netanyahu, they doubted his character, they thought he was something of an untrustworthy character, and they remember only that there were relatively few terrorist attacks.
BLITZER: Do the Palestinians, Mark Perry -- and you know the Palestinians well, you've helped them, you've advised them a little bit -- do they understand that every time there's a terrorist incident, whether in Rishon Letzion (ph), which we saw this past week, or any of others, that that, in effect, strengthens the Netanyahus, the Sharons and undermines Ehud Baraks, the Shimon Pereses, the more dovish members of the Israeli political establishment?
PERRY: They're very aware of it, and they're very sensitive about it. In the argument that the secularists inside the Palestinian society keep making is that every time there's a bombing in Israel, Israel targets Arafat, when they should be targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
And if you're the head of Hamas, you think this is a very good deal. You bomb Israel and they weaken Arafat. It's an amazing formula and equation that's going on. They are very sensitive to these kinds of party conventions.
BLITZER: That's a good point you make. Joseph Alpher in Tel Aviv, let me pick up on that point that we just heard Mark Perry make. The Hamas might be happy that the Israelis are going after Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority because that, in effect, might help them down the road.
Do the Israelis, the Israeli defense establishment, do they understand that?
ALPHER: Look, clearly, they understand that Arafat and some of his institutions are a much more visible target than Hamas and so are easier to strike out at. But let's bear in mind, Arafat undertook solemnly to prevent terrorism against Israel. It's his responsibility to deal with Hamas, not ours.
And we've seen on a number of occasions in the past six or seven years that when he puts his mind to it and he gives his security services free reign, they're perfectly capable of taking care of Hamas and, to a large extent, preventing many of the Hamas atrocities.
So the argument of successive Israeli governments has been that it is Arafat who has the facilities, he has the intelligence, and he has the responsibility to deal with Hamas.
Clearly, Hamas are of the revolutionary opinion that the worse things are the better they are, because they don't want any kind of a solution at all, and they'd rather be in power instead of Arafat. But this has to be understood to be not only our problem, but Arafat's problem, first and foremost.
BLITZER: As we speak, Joseph Alpher, right now, the prime minister of Israel, speaking to his Likud Central Committee, is asking the committee to delay any vote. A resolution is on the table that would prevent, that would oppose any Palestinian state west of the Jordan River forever. He's asking for that. Obviously, he's not getting a very warm reception.
Do you think he can succeed in getting this Likud Central Committee to delay such a contentious vote?
ALPHER: Well, I think it's likely that the bartering and bargaining is going to go on until late in the night. In the past, we have seen such compromises.
Clearly, the party doesn't have an interest in really embarrassing Sharon to that extent that they are tying his hands behind his back when he deals with the Palestinians and with the United States. But, as we've already heard, Netanyahu indeed does command a majority. And if he puts his mind to it and he wants to humiliate Sharon and, indeed, make it more difficult for him to carry out our policy needs, particularly with the United States, Sharon could be in trouble here.
BLITZER: Let me bring back Matt Rees of Time magazine, the Jerusalem bureau chief. How closely -- and you deal with Palestinians all the time -- do they follow domestic Israeli politics? REES: Very closely indeed. In fact, some of the ones who followed it most closely are now in Israeli jails because they speak Hebrew and they have been arrested...
BLITZER: You mean like Marwan Barghouti?
REES: Marwan Barghouti, yes.
They follow it very closely. They will be looking at this to see what the consequences will be for Sharon's government, not just for his party, the Likud. This could mean, perhaps, if this vote is passed, it could mean the end of this National Unity government because the Labor Party won't want to stay in government if there is going to be no Palestinian state as part of the government's policy.
BLITZER: Well, would this resolution of the Likud Central Committee, assuming it is passed, if in fact Netanyahu gets his way and it is passed, would that be binding on Sharon right now, as he is the prime minister of Israel?
REES: It would be a big problem for him in getting anything sold. One of the things that he has always said is, because he is of the right, he could sell a peace agreement to the people on the right who are most opposed to it. The left wing, like the Labor Party, they are already on board with a peace agreement. They need someone like Sharon to sell it to the right, and that's one of the things that has been his big plank. Now, if he loses that, he's got a big problem.
BLITZER: Pick up the point that Joseph Alpher made, Mark, on the -- if the Palestinian Authority really wanted to crack down on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the suicide bombers, they could do it, but they don't really want to do it.
PERRY: Well, he said that -- I don't necessarily disagree with that. He said that they have three ways of doing it: Arafat has the responsibility, he has the political facilities, and he has the intelligence network.
Well, he no longer has the political facilities, no longer the preventive security service, no longer the intelligence network. They have been destroyed in the last five weeks. And yet, we still have the threat of bombings in Israel.
Clearly, a military offensive will not work here. We have to move toward a political process. That is what the Palestinians want and need.
BLITZER: All right, let me bring back Joseph Alpher in Tel Aviv.
Joseph Alpher, the decision, and we heard it directly from the defense minister of Israel on this program, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, to delay or at least cancel for the time being a move, a military strike in Gaza, how is that going to play among the Israeli population? ALPHER: I think a lot of Israelis had some doubts as to the wisdom of moving into Gaza in the aftermath of the relatively successful operation in the West Bank. It wasn't clear that the Rishon Letzion (ph) suicide bombing originated in Gaza. In other words, the provocation didn't necessarily lie in the Gaza Strip.
There do seem to be some beginnings, some positive beginnings of a possible political process. Sharon apparently made some commitments to the Americans, as well, with regard to trying to maintain some -- keep things at a low profile in order to allow some of these confidence-building measures to develop some momentum.
All in all, I think the public is basically pretty understanding of it.
You have to bear mind here also that, given the international repercussions as well as Israeli losses in the Jenin refugee camp, everyone in the Israeli public knows that a refugee camp in Gaza is five or six times as large and as complex as the one in Jenin. And that if and when we set about carrying out a genuine offensive into Gaza, it is going to be extremely messy. It is going to have internal repercussions. It's going to have international repercussions.
And so I think, all in all, people are prepared to put that off in the hopes, however slight, that perhaps some stability may -- stabilization may set in here.
BLITZER: All right. Joseph Alpher in Tel Aviv, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks also to Matt Rees of Time magazine, Mark Perry here in Jerusalem.
When we come back, Bruce Morton's essay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON: The new target price for cotton, about double the current market price. And remember the famous mohair subsidy? It's back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Congress using the family farm to grease the political wheel? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Bruce Morton remind us now that pork-barrel politics in Washington are alive and well.
MORTON: Wolf, while you've been worrying about war and peace, the Congress has been spending our money. It's what they do, of course, but the farm bill they passed this week is special. A 70 percent increase, one report said, on existing programs. Between $111 billion and $117 billion, another estimate goes, through the year 2007.
Everyone in the Wall Street Journal editorialized. Democrats, Republicans, even the White House has died and gone to pig heaven, and they've repudiated their principles to do it.
The new target price for cotton, about double the current market price. And remember the famous mohair subsidy? It's back. Time to go out and buy a few mo's.
Previous bill had tried to move toward free-market farming. This one goes exactly the other way. Is this saving the family farm? No. Family farms are disappearing.
I remember a farmer in Iowa during caucus season last time saying, in five years I'll be working for one of the big agri-business companies or I'll have a job in Des Moines and do this on weekends because I love it. He raised pigs, one step on the chain, and he couldn't compete with companies that did everything from studying swine genetic to wrapping bacon to ship to supermarkets.
Two-thirds of the farm subsidies in the last five years went to 10 percent of the farms. How much will the Cargills and Archer Daniels Midlands and the rest get? No way to know.
The bill sets a cap of $360,000 per farm, but experts say there are so many loopholes in the law, that's meaningless. One farm group charged the bill subsidizes bigger farmers to drive their neighbors out of business.
And of course, while America is urging Europe to cut its farm subsidies, this bill raises the ones here.
Congresses just like to spend. If you got a bill with something in it for every member's district, it will pass, whether it's good national policy or not.
The only way you can close military bases is to have one up-or- down vote on a group of them. If 35 districts are losing a base and 400 aren't, it'll pass. Vote one at a time and everybody says, "I'll vote for your road if you'll vote for my base," and they'll all stay open.
It's the way it is. So come on home, Wolf. Have you room for a mo or two in your backyard?
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: I'll be home soon enough. Bruce Morton, thanks so much for joining us. It's time now say good-bye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
For our North American viewers, we have another hour of Late Edition. We'll speak about some of the top legal stories of the week, including the pipe bomber in the United States.
We'll also get some perspective from our politic panel. Our so- called Final Round will be with us as well. It's all ahead, including a news alert. We'll go back to Jerrold Kessel -- he's in Tel Aviv -- for the latest on that Likud Party Central Committee meeting.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Right now, I want to shift gears to another major development in the United States this past week, the arrest of the alleged pipe bomber in the United States, Luke Helder. He's admitted 18 pipe bombings that resulted in some six injuries. Helder left behind a series of anti-government messages.
Joining us now from Washington for some insight into all of this are the former attorney general Dick Thornburgh; he served during the first Bush administration. The former federal prosecutor, Beth Wilkinson, who prosecuted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. And Ron Kessler, he's the author of the new book and soon-to-be best- seller, "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI."
Good to have all of you with us.
Ron Kessler, let me begin with you. It didn't take the FBI very long to find Luke Helder. They got it right this time. But they got some big-time help, didn't they?
RON KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE BUREAU": Yes, but that doesn't detract from the fact that the FBI was successful. The important thing is it (ph) went down properly. There are so many little things that can go wrong along the way. And you know, when they get it right, let's just give them credit for getting it right, as opposed to other cases where, as we've seen in the past eight years under Freeh, we had one fiasco after another.
I think, actually, since my...
BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, Dick Thornburgh, in this particular case, Luke Helder, he seems, at least to some, to come across as simply a misguided soul, as a opposed a hardcore terrorist.
BLITZER: How should the government deal with this young man?
RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: This case is a reminder to us that not all of the terrorist threats come from the Mideast, that we have a substantial domestic terrorism problem, as was pointed out in the Oklahoma City bombing case and the Unibomber and, indeed, some of these school shootings that have taken place, kind of random acts of violence with some kind of fuzzy political connection.
But I think here the interesting thing is that no amount of profiling would have picked Luke Helder out of a crowd. If you were to round up the usual suspects, he would not be among them -- apparently, a stable 21-year-old college student. And this is going to make it all the more difficult to deal with the problem of domestic terrorism.
And I suspect that they will seek to throw the book at Mr. Helder because of the need for a deterrent effect on others similarly minded.
BLITZER: And is that your sense, as well, Beth Wilkinson? And if it is, give us the difference between the man you prosecuted, Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and Luke Helder.
BETH WILKINSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think the government will use the full force of the law and ask the court to sentence him at the appropriate time, to the maximum which, in this case, I believe will be life in prison.
You know, it's troubling because he is kind of a mini-McVeigh. I mean, he has shared some of the same sentiments Mr. McVeigh did. While he has a college education, he doesn't seem to have fit into any group. He didn't belong to a lot of organizations. He seemed to develop these views and talk about them among his family and friends. And I wonder if he not been caught and had gone on, that he might have engaged in even more horrific events than planting these 18 pipe bombs.
BLITZER: Well, Ronald Kessler, you studied the FBI for many, years, written a couple of books on it now. Is the FBI better trained, better capable of dealing with so-called domestic American terrorists, like a Timothy McVeigh, if you will, or a Luke Helder, in this particular case, if he is, in fact, convicted, or with international terrorists, a la Al Qaeda?
KESSLER: I think, traditionally, the FBI has dealt better with domestic terrorists. But, you know -- remember that they do make good cases all the way -- you know, all the way through these problems, they have been making good cases. In fact, there are about 100,000 cases a year that they investigate, and almost every one goes down perfectly. They are upheld on appeal.
It's been the high-profile cases where Louis Freeh has become involved where you've seen these big problems. So it -- you know, I know that now the FBI is thought of as a bunch of bumblers. It was not before Louis Freeh took over.
And you know, if you trace these fiascoes that we've seen, including Robert Hanssen, a lot of them go back to Freeh. In the case of Hanssen, Freeh rejected a proposal by the head of counterintelligence, Bear Bryant (ph), way back in 1994 to polygraph all counterintelligence agents. And if that had been accepted by Freeh -- it was rejected -- there's no question that Hanssen would have stopped his spying, because he was not a fool and simply the deterrent effect would have been enough for him to stop.
BLITZER: Well, on that point -- and Louis Freeh is obviously not here to defend himself -- but Dick Thornburgh, you've studied the FBI over your career. You were once the attorney general which oversees the FBI.
The book that he rights, Ronald Kessler, "The Bureau," is very, very damning of Louis Freeh. Is this fair to blame Louis Freeh for some of the mistakes, some of the bungles of the FBI over these past several years?
THORNBURGH: Everybody is going to make their share of mistakes in a high-profile job like that. But let's not forget the atmosphere within which Louis Freeh had to operate. For a considerable period of time, the president himself was the subject of a criminal investigation. The attorney general had substantial problems in deciding how to proceed with regard to important allegations that the FBI and Louis Freeh had brought to her attention.
I think it was an extremely difficult time. There's no question that mistakes were made. But problems within the FBI are not the product of any one person. Those problems have to be dealt with in a systematic way.
And I agree with Ron Kessler that, when all is said and done, the FBI, at the working-agent level is still, by far, hands down, the best criminal investigative agency in the world. And I think that's something that we don't want to lose sight of as we go through these problems.
BLITZER: Beth, you're now in private practice. You no longer work in the government, but you were federal prosecutor, prosecuted Timothy McVeigh. Your dealings with the FBI those years, how good or bad was the FBI in your investigation?
WILKINSON: Well, they were excellent on the McVeigh and Nichols cases.
And I did work rather closely with Director Freeh, and I'll tell you that during that time period, we had some difficulty with the FBI lab. You may recall they were under investigation. And Director Freeh himself allowed us to go out and hire outside experts from Britain to review all the lab evidence, to testify in court. So I found him quite helpful and open to criticism of the Bureau during a very difficult time in a very high-profile case.
And the agents who worked with us on that case, starting with the 5,000 agents who were assigned at the beginning down to about 60 who were with us at trial, were excellent law enforcement agents who really gave up their lives with their families for several years and devoted themselves to the case.
So I've had some very, very favorable experiences with FBI agents as well as other federal law enforcement agents who assisted us on the case.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We're going to continue this conversation. We're going to switch gears, talk a little bit about Robert Hanssen, the Soviet and Russian spy who, this past week, was given a sentence, life without the possibility of parole.
Late Edition -- our special late Edition will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am pleased that this chapter in American history has been closed on this day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The attorney general, John Ashcroft, commenting on the sentencing of the convicted Russian and Soviet spy, the former FBI agent, Robert Hanssen.
Welcome back to our special Late Edition. We are continuing our conversation on these legal issues with three guests: In Washington, the former attorney general, Dick Thornburgh, the former federal prosecutor, Beth Wilkinson, and Ron Kessler, author of the book, "The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI."
Ron Kessler, give our viewers a sense of perspective. How much damage did Robert Hanssen do to the United States?
KESSLER: He was the number-one spy in U.S. history. Aldrich Ames gave up more people who were killed, but in terms of information that damaged U.S. intelligence operations, both human and technical, he is number one.
BLITZER: You touched earlier on why you blame Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, at least for part of the damage that was done under his watch. But why don't you elaborate a little bit and give us another example or two, why you are so critical of Louis Freeh?
KESSLER: Well, another example is that Louis Freeh had this abhorrence of technology. He actually did not use e-mail and got rid of his computer as soon as he took over. And that had an impact on the FBI's computer capability.
When I wrote my previous book on the FBI 10 years ago, I said that they were way behind technologically and they had to double up on using computers. Since then, there was absolutely no upgrading whatsoever. And so they were using 386, 486 machines that even churches wouldn't take as donations.
And because of this, they didn't have computers that would detect the kinds of request for information that Hanssen made. Very improper requests made repeatedly that should have been detected. The CIA has computers, has had for decades, that would detect that kind of thing.
And so, again, in terms of anything concrete that would have caught Hanssen, Freeh did not take the proper steps.
BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, if Ron Kessler is right that Robert Hanssen caused more damage to U.S. national security than any other convicted spy, why is he getting life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as opposed to the death sentence?
THORNBURGH: Lots of people have raised that question, Wolf, and it's a good one. I think, of all the cases involving treason or espionage against the United States, this one, I agree with Ron, stands at the head of the list.
But I suspect there's a very good reason behind not going to trial and seeking a death penalty, and that's the phenomenon of "graymail." Hanssen could have made demands for a lot of materials in his defense that would have run the risk of exposing sources and methods used by the FBI and other intelligence agencies and jeopardized agents-in-place and techniques even more than he did.
This is a very difficulty problem, and something we've got to keep in mind as we proceed further with the prosecution of terrorists, that they have a vested interest in exposing and providing a road map to their colleagues of precisely how we investigate these cases and what sophisticated techniques we use.
So that, in this case, probably the decision was made to accept a plea and go with a life sentence with no parole.
BLITZER: But, Beth Wilkinson, I thought there were some provisions in the current law when you deal with espionage, terrorism, that there are certain sort of secret venues, secret locations, secret trials, if you will, where they don't necessarily have to make the most sensitive classified information. There can be judges and all of this held in a way that the national security is not further compromised. Why didn't they do that in this particular case?
WILKINSON: Wolf, I don't think those are available for this type of espionage case. I think you are referring to things for immigration violations where secret evidence can be shown to the judge.
But in this case, the defendant would have a right to confront all of the evident the government wants to use against him.
And as Mr. Thornburgh was saying, because of his job at the FBI and counterintelligence, he would have argued that he had access and needed access to explain what he was doing every day to convince the jury that he wasn't guilty of the offenses. And by doing that, he would have exposed all these very high-level, super-secret programs that the government wants to protect.
He's already done so much damage to the country, it really would have been almost impossible to have a full-blown trial under our, you know, current system and protect those secrets that he would have tried to expose.
KESSLER: There is a "graymail" statue that does permit evidence to be shown to a jury and a judge without making it public.
THORNBURGH: Yes, the Classified Intelligence Procedures Act would permit that kind of safeguard. But prosecutors are not very comfortable with that statute. The risk is that this information will somehow get into the public domain in any event. And I think that sometimes prosecution will accept a plea, or sometimes even forego prosecution.
WILKINSON: And CIPA won't stop -- if the judge decides the information is relevant, it won't stop the disclosure.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. Beth Wilkinson, Dick Thornburgh, Ronald Kessler, thanks for joining us. Always good to have you on the program.
That's it for me in Jerusalem. But I'll be here all week with all the late-breaking developments in the Middle East. I'll see you daily at 5:00 p.m. on Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Until then, thanks very much for watching.
Coming up, Late Edition's Final Round. Jonathan Karl will be sitting in for me. We'll get all the latest political news, our Final Round roundtable discussion. That's coming up right after this news alert. Stay with us.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN: Welcome to Late Edition's Final Round. I'm Jonathan Karl, and joining me: Donna Brazile, Democrat political strategist, Peter Beinart of the New Republic, Jonah Goldberg of New Republic Online, and Robert George of the New York Post.
We begin with former President Jimmy Carter and an historic visit to Cuba. He arrived there today, the first U.S. president to set foot in Cuba since Fidel Castro assumed power in 1959.
Robert, what is this, the beginning of end of the trade embargo on Cuba?
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: I wouldn't hold my breath on that. See, only Nixon could go to China, but only Jimmy Carter could go to Cuba I guess.
It may show some kind of at least a cultural, business thawing of relations between United States and Cuba, but as long as Florida is still in play as a significant political state, there's not going to be any kind of end of sanctions, certainly not in the next two years.
KARL: Donna, I know you know a lot about winning Florida.
JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Ouch!
KARL: But I mean, come on, Americans can travel to North Korea, they can travel to Iran, they can travel two of the three axis of evil, but they can't travel to Cuba? What's going on?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Absolutely. And let me just say this. Members of Congress have been going to Cuba now for the last couple of years. The Cold war is over. It's time that we stopped this cold-shoulder approach to Cuba and lift the embargo and help the people of Cuba find democracy.
GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, I'm reminded of the Simpsons where they unveiled the statute of Jimmy Carter and the first response from the crowd was, "Jimmy Carter, he's history's greatest monster."
Which doesn't quite characterize the conservative view of Jimmy Carter, but it should be pointed out that Jimmy Carter does have a grand history of sucking up to Third-World despots and dictators, and this is no exception. I don't know what Carter hopes to really get out of this.
If Castro has a come to a Jesus moment and says he wants free elections, that would be great, but otherwise, I don't think anything is going to happen.
KARL: How did Carter get that reputation, I mean, as this great human rights activist? Because he has gone around and he made the case for getting involved with China again right after Tiananmen Square. I mean, he's...
PETER BEINART, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Yes. He was a lot better on human rights when he was a president then as an ex-president.
But I think, just to go back to what Robert said. I mean, the real question, interesting debate, is in the Republican Party, because the Republican Party's business wing has spent a lot of time explaining to everybody who will listen that capitalism is the way you overthrow tyranny, and yet they don't believe that in Cuba.
And, while in the short term the Cuban exile laws will probably keep us under wraps, in the long term the Republican Party is going to have to reconcile that contradiction.
GOLDBERG: I think that's right. At some point, the embargo has to go. The embargo was a worthwhile thing when the Cold War was going on, and at some point, free markets and capitalism have to go in there, and that'll be the end of Castro.
BRAZILE: And it's ironic that the pressure is coming from a lot of these farm states and from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, as well. They are talking about it.
GEORGE: The question is, yes, Carter actually may have a good opportunity to talk about things like free elections, when he actually speaks to the Cuban people on Tuesday...
KARL: We'll see. And he is going to be speaking in Spanish. He's addressing -- and he already has once, a big speech in Spanish.
We've got to move on, though, from Cuba to the Middle East, where Israel has put its military operation in Gaza on hold. Earlier today on Late Edition, Israel's defense minister told Wolf that his country is willing to give peace a chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN-ELIEZER: I am willing to give a chance and to wait. It does not mean that if tonight or something like this will happen, I will keep quiet. But I -- as we made all our way in the last year, we are ready to give any chance to the peace process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: All right, Peter, what's going on? Why is Israel pulling back?
BEINART: I wouldn't read a lot into this. First of all, Gaza is very difficult militarily because it's so small and overpopulated. Second of all, you have to realize there's very few people, even on the Israeli right, who really care about Gaza. It's not like the West Bank. Has no biblical significant, and most people in the Israel would be happy to let it go.
The most interesting part of this is the third part. The security chief in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan, is someone that some people in the Israeli government actually see as a potential successor to Arafat. They like him much more than security chief in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub. And I think they may want to give him a chance to act, in some ways, to upstage Arafat as a part of a potential move to make him the man.
KARL: Well, I mean, what do you think? It's an international...
GEORGE: It's a little bit ironic, really, because after the bombing outside of Tel Aviv, where another 15 or 16 Israelis were killed, the world sort of kind of held its breath because there wasn't any immediate rush to, like, criticize or tell Israel to hold back, hold back, which suggests that even the world is realizing what kind of pressure Israel is under, in terms of them being continually attacked. And they, in a sense, allowed Sharon to make his own decision as to whether he was going to go forward immediately or hold back for a few days or a few weeks.
BRAZILE: Well, Israel has a right to respond when they see fit. On the other hand, I think the administration approach, the Powell approach, is finally working. He's talking to both sides, he's trying to lay out a framework for discussions that will take place later -- I don't know if it's a meeting or a conference. But I think the Powell approach is finally bearing some fruits in the Middle East now.
KARL: So is this Sharon responding to U.S. pressure? Is that what's going on?
GOLDBERG: I would think there's some of that.
In terms of the Powell approach, I'm not sure exactly what the Powell approach is, other than thumbing through his Rolodex. But it seems to me that the approach that has actually worked is the Sharon approach.
And the reality is that Israel is in a position where it can talk about peace, where it can talk about basically turning the other cheek to a suicide bombing because the Jenin assault was so successful, because the West Bank assault was so successful, that they were in a position where they have the upper hand.
GOLDBERG: And, you know, it's important to point out when we're talking about restraint in Gaza, they showed restraint in the West Bank too. They could have been a lot more brutal over there, and they weren't. And I think this just sort of shows that in many ways that Sharon was correct all along.
KARL: All right, we've got to move on. The United States has expressed disappointment in Yasser Arafat's leadership. But earlier today, Jordan's King Abdullah suggested that the Israeli campaign may have had the unintended consequence of bolstering the Palestinian chairman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN: It made him so popular that you put him in a position where it was very difficult to get the process back on peace. In other words, the rage on the Arab street propelled him to new heights, and that was unfortunate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: All right, Donna, so was that right? I mean, did basically Sharon boost Arafat's popularity?
BRAZILE: Well, you know, the laws of gravity will take effect sometime soon again.
But look, for now, he's just merely a symbol. He's a figurehead. And the moderate Arab nations need Arafat right now to really get this peace process, this Saudi peace initiative back on the table. But I don't think Arafat is going to play role, long term, in really bringing the Palestinian people to the peace table.
GEORGE: Well, I mean, the real irony here of course is -- and we saw this earlier on when we were showing footage of the Likud convention -- that the reverse has actually happened too. Sharon is the one who has gone into the stratosphere. I think the reference was he's practically the new king of Israel.
And he has a -- he leads a real democracy there. So I think his standing and how he wants to respond to Arafat is far more important than Arafat's role in the Arab world.
KARL: But Abdullah doesn't have much love for Arafat. I mean, he was -- actually, in that interview, seemed pretty critical of Arafat.
BEINART: No, he and his father have never liked Arafat. In fact, Arafat has always been a threat to the Hashemite leadership in Jordan.
But Abdullah is right. I mean, it's not just that you want an alternative to Arafat. Let's remember, you want a more moderate alternative to Arafat. Right now, all of the criticism is from people who want -- who are more extreme, who want to be more violent than him.
And the only way you can create a legitimate moderate alternative to him is to give the moderates a chance to say to their people, look, we have a path to -- a non-violent path toward a Palestinian state, which is not simply a couple of cantons surrounded by Jewish settlements, but is actually a viable, contiguous state. And that is the option -- the opportunity that Ariel Sharon has never been willing to put out there.
GOLDBERG: I don't disagree with a lot of all of that. I do think it's important to point out that, you know, that, first of all, the Jordanians, if we did -- if there was a Palestinian state tomorrow, the Jordanians would be terrified. They have never liked the idea of a Palestinian state over there.
And there's all this talk about whether Arafat has become more popular or not seems to me sort of, in some ways, irrelevant, in the sense that if he's more popular but he's actually doing something about stopping the suicide bombings, how is that worse than if he's less popular and he's allowing the suicide bombings to happen every day?
I don't love Arafat. I don't like Arafat. But it seems to me that, after Sharon's offensive, that Arafat is actually doing something about stopping these suicide bombings. And that, to me, I thought was part of the whole point of getting Arafat to condemn these things.
KARL: All right, we've got to take a break.
More of the Final Round when we come back.
KARL: Welcome back to the Final Round. This week, President Bush is expected to sign the $190 billion farm bill approved by the House and Senate. But one Republican senator said today the measure is just too costly and doesn't deserve the president's signature. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR DON NICKLES (R-OK): I hope he vetoes it. His staff has indicated his intentions or they -- they thought that he would sign it. But it goes to his desk, and I would love to see him veto it. It is a budget-buster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: All right. Jonah, and you are with National Review Online.
GOLDBERG: I am.
KARL: Forgive me for saying New Republican Online.
What ever happened to the mantra of limited government, limited spending? Bush is really going to sign this thing?
GOLDBERG: Look, you're not going to find a conservative out of government who's going to defend this monstrosity. The farm bill is a horror show. It is a pinata. You can smash it from any angle, and pork is going to fall out of this thing.
And the only thing I can say, as a matter of just pure punditry is that, look, when the Senate is this close, you've got so many of them running for president, you got all these farm states that could swing the control of the Senate. It becomes a feeding frenzy, and it's like pigs at a trough, and enough metaphors. It's awful.
KARL: And then, you know, you have Trent Lott and Tom Daschle enthusiastically supporting this. Now, when those two guys agree, run for cover, I guess.
BRAZILE: Absolutely. No one is obstructing this bill.
(LAUGHTER) It's filled with pork, beans and a little rice and some gravy...
... to cover up every other spending in the farm bill.
Look, I don't think the Bush administration has any credibility. I don't think they'll veto this. They'll let it go and then just run up the deficit.
GEORGE: And there's two things you have to keep in mind here, Jonathan. One, spending goes up during election years, which this is. Spending also goes up during wartime, which we happen to be in.
The Democrats aren't going to be voting against any military increases. The Republicans won't vote against a Medicare expansion and so forth. And so, we're just going to be -- the budget is going to be spiraling out of control for quite a few years to come.
KARL: And Bush's legacy will be the biggest expansion of the federal government since who knows?
BEINART: I mean, you know, the one thing you would hope for in a Republican president is some fidelity to free-market principles. And it's not just on this. It's also, this is very bad for trade policy because it undermines what we've been telling the Europeans about subsidizing their own farm.
And it comes in the wake of this horrible decision on steel protectionism. I mean, in The New Republic, we dubbed it this week, "uncompassionate, unconservative."
It's really if Bush is only willing to sell out his free-market principles, when the poor are not involved, when it's just, you know, when it's well-financed special interests are pushing him. I think it's a disaster.
KARL: OK. So we can all agree, bad bill. Maybe that's why it passed the Senate with an...
KARL: All right. The Bush administration is asserting that the Second Amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms applies to individuals as well as the well-regulated militia as stated in the Constitution.
Robert, what is this, a tactic to roll back gun control?
GEORGE: Where is my gun? Oh, I left it in the Green Room.
Possibly. But the fact is, it's constitutionally sound. If you actually look at the Bill of Rights, it focuses on individual rights in the context of speech and a whole lot of other issue. So I think that this is an appropriate reinterpretation of the original intent of the Second Amendment. As much as Donna over there is just going to be...
BRAZILE: First of all, Robert, I'm not packing...
... and I don't intend to. I think this is -- John Ashcroft promised during his confirmation battle that he would not write public policy and be an activist attorney general. Now we see that he is an activist attorney general.
The Supreme Court should decide this. The administration should have stayed out. But we know that this is just a pander to the right- wing National Rifle Association.
KARL: And yet, your Democrats are not going to make a big deal out of this because they are worried about those mid-term elections.
BRAZILE: Well, you know, Democrats -- some Democrats love guns. Some Democrats do not like guns. And we'll see how that debate goes.
GOLDBERG: Well, it's somewhat echoed in some of the comments that Donna made. The coverage of this has been generally outrageous. They are making it sound as if John Ashcroft has this loony, bizarre interpretation of the Second Amendment that has no legal foundation, that he's writing it in personally because it's his own quirky personal view. That's how the L.A. Times and the New York Times write about it.
The reality is is that there is a host of constitutional arguments, a host of constitutional precedents about this. And it's a perfectly legitimate argument to have about whether or not the Second Amendment applies to individuals or not. I believe it does. And I believe that liberals, if they applied their philosophy to the Second Amendment the way they did everything else, we'd all be required to carry guns.
BEINART: This is just such nonsense. You know, with all due deference to your reading of the Constitution, and your reading of the Constitution, for 70 years it has been settled law that the Second Amendment only applies to militias, 70 years.
GOLDBERG: Hmmm, 70 years, what happened 70 years ago? Oh, the New Deal, lots of unconstitutional things happened then.
BEINART: Yes, I was going to say, you know, there was a time when conservatives believed in judicial restraint, not upsetting 70 years of jurisprudence because they wanted to pay back the NRA. It's absurd.
GEORGE: What about the 150 years of the United States before that?
KARL: And yet, you know, it's interesting, the Supreme Court has not ruled on this thing in 70 years, which is just fascinating. Anyway, let's move on.
GOLDBERG: Neither side wants it to go to the Supreme Court.
KARL: We've got lots of other things to talk about.
BRAZILE: This will be another 5-4 decision, I'm sure.
KARL: All right, 5-4.
Maryland has become the second state to suspend the death penalty because of concerns about racial bias.
Donna, what do you think, should other states follow suit?
BRAZILE: Absolutely. First of all, we need a moratorium nationally to restore confidence in the legal system. Since 1978, 100 people have been set free. Why? Because of DNA tests and analysis.
BRAZILE: Of course there's racial bias in the system. Three- fourths of the people on death row in Maryland were African-American. Over half of the people on death row in the federal system, African- American or Hispanics.
So I do believe with need a moratorium on the death penalty, and perhaps we should eliminate it in the process.
GEORGE: How many of their victims were African-American and minority as well? I mean, that's the thing that too many liberals seem to forget.
The fact is, there was a just a poll earlier this week.
BRAZILE: Many of these victims in Maryland were white. I just wanted to -- but, look, that doesn't excuse the fact that crimes were committed.
GEORGE: The point is, though, the latest poll show that more people than ever still believe that the death penalty is an appropriate penalty.
KARL: Now, wait a minute. You're going to have this dependent on by polls and let polls determine the death penalty policy?
BEINART: The polls on moratorium are very different, actually. It's very close on moratorium.
The politics on this have shifted because crime has come down and because a number of prominent conservatives actually, including Pat Robertson and George Will and others have come out and said, there are problems here.
I mean, I'm against the death penalty on principal but even -- I think you can be pro-death penalty and say wait, wait a second. It's clear that in a situation where the state is taking someone's life they have very, very good representation, and in a lot of states right now they don't.
GEORGE: Of course, I don't know when last time we actually had the death penalty...
(CROSSTALK) GOLDBERG: First of all, I have no problem with moratoriums when they are done not for the purposes of pandering during election year, which seems to be what this whole thing in Maryland is being set up to do.
Second of all, not a single person has ever been proven to have been executed who was guilty -- who was innocent.
Third of all...
GOLDBERG: ... these statistically anomalies, they may prove that there are a disproportionate of blacks and Hispanics on death row, but that may just mean that there are too few rich white guys being executed, not that there are too many blacks and Hispanics.
BEINART: That's because they have good lawyers.
GOLDBERG: Fair enough.
KARL: All right, all right. OK. We've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back with our lightning round, when we come back.
KARL: Time now for our lightning round.
The Bush administration is pushing for more single-sex classes in public schools. Does separate but equal equal a good thing for our kids?
BRAZILE: Absolutely not. Let me just tell you, I am a product of a same-sex public high school in Louisiana...
(UNKNOWN): And look at you.
BRAZILE: Thank you. I turned out OK.
BEINART: You lived to tell the tale.
BRAZILE: However, I do believe that they're unfair, and this is a violation of civil rights. We shouldn't go back there.
GOLDBERG: Well, I, too, am a product of a single-sex school. My college was an all-women's college, until my freshman year. I am actually very much in favor of single-sex education.
KARL: As long as they let a few guys in.
BEINART: I don't think it's necessarily discrimination. If he can show me hard evidence that kids learn better, I'm all for it. But I haven't seen any so far.
GEORGE: We should experiment with as many alternative forms of education and see what works.
KARL: All right. Well, I went to Vassar College which was once was a single-sex school.
President Bush has tapped former President Clinton to lead a U.S. delegation to East Timor's independence celebrations.
OK, now, Jonah, is this the thawing of the Bush and Clinton situation, or is he sending him as far away as possible?
GOLDBERG: Yes, well, when we asked the producers why we were discussing this, they noted that it's the furthest geographic point from the White House.
So I think Bush is on the right track with his Clinton policy, and I think he should stay on it. And if he wants to get involved in a sort of manned mission to mars, more power to him.
BEINART: Bill Clinton should go there, and he should say that we have peace in East Timor because the U.S. backed a tough peacekeeping policy, led by (inaudible) exactly what the Bush administration will not do in Afghanistan, which is why we're losing the peace.
GOLDBERG: I have to agree with that.
GEORGE: Well, I think that's -- actually, I agree with Peter, as well.
GEORGE: You know, let Mr. Clinton stay over there for as long as he wishes.
BRAZILE: No, no, no. Let him come back. If he's available, the Bush administration should use him at every turn.
KARL: All right. Well, next, this week's issue of U.S. News and World Report is reporting that the Democrats are hatching up a plan for their own TV work. Is this the answer to bolstering the Democrats' political fortunes?
BEINART: Well, you know, at least this TV network is going to be in English.
(LAUGHTER) I think the really extraordinary story today is the Republican Party, the party of assimilation, against bilingual education, coming out with a TV program entirely in Spanish. I mean, that's the real hypocrisy here.
GEORGE: Well, yes, I agree 100 percent with what Peter said. I think that the GOP Hispanic TV thing is absolutely absurd.
You know, if the Democrats want to, you know, have their own network, you know, it's fine. I mean, they've got the New York Times, so they may as well have their own TV station, as well.
BRAZILE: Well, the Democracy Network -- I don't know the name of the network. But I do know the DNC is really investing in technology and upgrading some of its equipment. And this is a great move for the party.
KARL: Is this soft money?
BRAZILE: No comment.
GOLDBERG: I generally think it's an idiotic idea and a huge waste of time and money because no one is going to be watching a Democratic network when they could be watching MSNBC.
GEORGE: Will they go after Carville and Begala?
KARL: I'm not going to touch that one.
All right, next. And it's Mother's Day. But former first lady Barbara Bush says the holiday has become a rip-off. What do you think, have we commercialized mom?
GEORGE: Quite possibly. I've got to say, oh, Happy Mother's Day, Mom, of course.
But I mean, quite possibly. I mean, we've done it with all of our other holidays, whether it's Martin Luther King or President's Day and so forth. You know, I mean, kind of, capitalism does trump all on some of these days.
BRAZILE: Perhaps it is commercialized, but our mothers deserve everything -- diamonds, pearls and of course, a wonderful Sunday dinner.
GOLDBERG: It's too commercialized out in the culture, but it doesn't penetrate all the way into the family.
And I want to know what George Bush got his mom that his mom thinks Mother's Day is a rip-off.
KARL: Yes, what is that all about? (LAUGHTER) BEINART: My goodness, Republicans against commercialization.
I actually am going to -- the economy needs a boost. It looks like it may be slowing again. I think Mother's Day -- a commercialized Mother's Day may be the best thing we could have.
GOLDBERG: More utilitarianism from the New Republic.
KARL: We'll see.
OK. Now, Star Wars is going to premiere on Thursday. I'd like to know, are you going to go?
KARL: You're not going to go?
BRAZILE: I'm not into that.
GOLDBERG: I may have to camp out. I'm serious, I may camp out.
BEINART: Star Wars never works, no matter how much research the Republicans put into it.
They miss their targets all over again. I'm not interested in...
KARL: There you go again. Only in Washington could we have a joke like that.
GEORGE: I will -- I'm not going to be going the first weekend. Besides, the best movie of the summer has already come out, and that's Spiderman.
BRAZILE: And I want to go see Spiderman first, I should say that, before Star Wars.
KARL: And you know, I've noticed they are already camping out, waiting to see this in Washington. It's not until Thursday, and they're already at the Uptown.
All right. This has been a great Final Round. Thanks for allowing me to step in for Wolf. Thank you very much, the Final Round.
That's your Late Edition for Sunday, May 12. Be sure to join Wolf next Sunday and every Sunday for the last word in Sunday talk.
For now, thanks very much for watching. On behalf of Wolf Blitzer, who is in Jerusalem, I'm Jonathan Karl in Washington.
And to all the mothers out there, including mine, Happy Mother's Day.
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