CBS Evening News, March 22, 2000
DAN RATHER: The State Department confirmed today that U.S. diplomats have been talking secretly, behind the scenes, with Israel and Syria ever since their formal talks broke down in January. A U.S. spokesman said both sides still face what he called "tough decisions", but signs about that there are two deals in the making. Earlier today I talked with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak about this. What is your priority? A deal with Arafat or a deal with Syria?
EHUD BARAK [Prime Minister of Israel]: We have decided to go simultaneously on all tracks in order to strengthen Israel, to secure its future through peace agreements with our neighbors. So we have to be aware of the fact that we have to be strong for generations to come. I cannot impose peace on Syria. I cannot impose a reasonable agreement on Arafat. But we are ready to take sometimes even a calculated risk, and with the really credible leaders of both Syria and the Palestinians, the leaders who founded their movement, who shape their people’s and their — They are the people who can make the tough decision, and there will be a need for tough decisions along the way to peace.
RATHER: If you were forced to choose, would you rather have a deal with Arafat and no deal with Syria or vice versa, a deal with Syria and no deal with Arafat?
BARAK: I prefer a deal with all of them, with Syria, with Lebanon, with Arafat, and I believe that it’s possible if we are determined enough, and if we are ready. But we cannot impose it.
RATHER: Will any possible deal with Israel and Syria include U.S. troops in the Golan Heights?
BARAK: I don’t see any need for U.S. troops and for any troops. We are strong enough to defend ourselves, maybe there will be a need for a few dozen of technicians or civil servants to operate some early warning assets on behalf of both sides, or to monitor certain regimen that have been agreed upon.
RATHER: Realistically, is there a chance that we can avoid future wars in this region?
BARAK: We are realistic to know that we will have to be strong militarily and otherwise for very long time.
RATHER: But you think it would be worth the price, whatever the price?
BARAK: I’m fully confident that the most costly peace is much cheaper than the cheapest war.
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