INTERVIEW WITH: EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER

CBS "THIS MORNING" – TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 1996

Q: As we’ve seen, reaction has been swift and strong to the latest terror attack in Israel. Right now we want to go beyond the immediate response and look at the impact these tragedies are having on Israel and its neighbors. We begin in Tel Aviv this morning, where Israel’s foreign minister, Ehud Barak, joins us. Good morning. Thank you very much for being with us this morning.

FM BARAK: Good morning.

Q: We have talked this morning about how your prime minister has created an anti-terrorist task force. Do you see these as covert operations, overt military operations, or will these involve undercover operations?

FM BARAK: It will involve whatever measures the task force will recommend.

Q: Do you envision the Israeli military targeting specific Hamas cells in occupied territories, or formerly occupied territories?

FM BARAK: The government allowed this task force to choose its targets and to operate wherever they find it appropriate. We intend to carry on with the struggle against terrorism to the end. It’s an opportunity, maybe a last opportunity, to the Palestinian Authority to outlaw the terrorist group, the Hamas, to disarm them and to arrest them and to carry on their own campaign. But if we find it insufficient, we will operate wherever it will be needed and whenever it will be needed.

Q: Are you optimistic that through these powers you can stop the bombings in Israel?

FM BARAK: I’m totally confident that ultimately we will defeat terrorism and we will never yield to it. We will never let terrorism dictate our policies or destiny. But it’s clear to me that it’s not going to happen overnight and that we will suffer even in the future sometimes terrorist attacks.

Q: When Palestinian security forces arrested who they thought was the mastermind of three of four critical bombings in Israel, they said it became quite clear he was getting his orders from outside of Israel. Is it any clearer where these orders are coming from?

FM BARAK: It’s clear to us that all the last incidents were directed and coordinated from Gaza, which is under the Palestinian control, and from Ramallah, which is under Palestinian control. It’s true that the individuals who committed suicide during these attacks were chosen, maybe intentionally, from areas which is under our security control. But the whole operation was ordered and coordinated from the areas under the Palestinian Council security services, and we know that they know who are the people and they should arrest them, put them behind bars.

Q: Is there any suggestion that they’re taking orders, in addition to that, from inside these territories, from Syria, for example?

FM BARAK: I don’t see such evidence, and it’s not very important. You know, some kind of inspirational orders could come from many other places around the world. The real question is where the real action is originated, and this is in the areas under the Palestinian Authority control.

Q: Let’s talk about the political impact of all this in the wake of the bombings. Political polls show that Prime Minister Peres’s lead is dwindling, that Benjamin Netanyahu is now gaining strength in the polls. What impact do you think this really will have on the upcoming elections?

FM BARAK: No, we didn’t even bury our dead, and some of the injured are still their life is at risk. I don’t think that it’s appropriate to deal with politics now. My judgment is that when the emotions will cool down a little bit and the brain will start speaking again, people will realize that it’s a nonpartisan problem. I spent most of my mature life, some 35 years in uniform, fighting against terrorism. And I know from my own experiences that terrorists will never give a damn about the question of who is sitting in the prime minister’s chair. Whether it’s Likud or Labor, they want to kill Israelis. They want to shake the willpower and the self-confidence of the whole Israeli society. They want to take over the control of the Palestinian society. It has nothing to do with the political leadership of Israel.

Q: Foreign Minister Barak, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate your joining us.

FM BARAK: Thank you.