CNN’S ‘INTERNATIONAL HOUR’
INTERVIEW WITH: ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES
3:20 P.M. (EDT)
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1993
BILL DELANEY: With me is Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the man instrumental in the back-channel negotiations which led to this really historic breakthrough. Foreign Minister, tonight where do we stand? How soon can an agreement be signed in Washington?
FOR. MIN. PERES: There are two possibilities. One is to sign an agreement just on the declaration of principles, and that can be done as early as next week. It stands on its own legs. It doesn’t need any further confirmations. Then there is a second possibility, and that is that the PLO will decide to change its character, to stop being a terroristic organization, and to start becoming a political body. Then maybe the persons that may sign will be changed, and then it may take either earlier or later on; it’s a matter I don’t think that will take too long time.
MR. DELANEY: Sir, are you suggesting a sequence, then, that next week the declaration of principles could be signed; following that, a Palestinian statement renouncing terror and recognizing Israel could come subsequent to that?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Not necessarily following. It can be right now. And then we can have one signature on the two, you see?
MR. DELANEY: The Palestinian charter, the Palestinian charter created in 1968, 25 years old or so, continues to refer in many clauses to destruction of the state of Israel. Is it enough for the PLO or the PLO’s representative to make a statement abrogating that charter, or does something have to be written down?
FOR. MIN. PERES: It’s enough that they will make (a one-sided?) statement. But let me say the following. We are not blind to understand that the PLO, in fact, has changed. It should be able to change itself in declaration, in commitment, because they have previous commitments in writing. I think in order to clarify the change that we are talking about, the PLO has to say the following things: A, they recognize the right of Israel to exist in peace and security; B, they accept 242 and 338; three, they are ready to settle all future disputes by political means; four, they are divorcing those parts in their charter that calls for the destruction of Israel; five, they denounce terror as a means of relations, as a political mean.
MR. DELANEY: And all of those important points can be made after the declaration of principles is signed in Washington next week.
FOR. MIN. PERES: It can be done after. It can be done before.
MR. DELANEY: Who will do the signing next week? Should the declaration of principles be signed before these statements are made by the PLO? Who will do the signing?
FOR. MIN. PERES: If it will be just the declaration of principles, the delegation of the Palestinians and our delegation.
MR. DELANEY: But you’re suggesting it could be something more if the PLO
FOR. MIN. PERES: Then
MR. DELANEY: in the next few days says the things you say it needs to say.
FOR. MIN. PERES: Right.
MR. DELANEY: In which case who could do the signing then?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Then we shall have to decide who will sign. We didn’t (calculate?). We didn’t discuss it. And then we shall discuss who will sign. It’s an open-ended question.
MR. DELANEY: Sir, is it possible it could be you? Is it possible it could be the Prime Minister himself? Is it possible it could be Yassir Arafat?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Whoever has a pen and a mind and a heart; a pen to sign, a mind to understand, a heart that wants really to have a peace in the Middle East.
MR. DELANEY: Sir, there are many forces that want to prevent this. How concerned are you about terror stepping in the middle of this peace process and creating an event so horrific that the process is thrown off the rails?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Terror by whom?
MR. DELANEY: Terror by the Palestinians; even conceivably terror by some radical Israelis who are as against the process as some radical Palestinians are.
FOR. MIN. PERES: The answer is very clear. If it is terror by the Palestinians, it will be for the Palestinians to put an end to it. Let’s not forget that 3000 Palestinians were assassinated by their own brothers. And now their Palestinian majority will have an opportunity really to defend itself. If it will be an attempt of terror in Israel, we are a democratic country and we shall defend democracy with the same determination and strength as we are defending our land, defending our people. Israel is three things: A land, a people and a democracy.
MR. DELANEY: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much. We now go over to CNN’s State Department correspondent, Ralph Begleiter, in Washington.
FOR. MIN. PERES: Thank you.
RALPH BEGLEITER: Mr. Foreign Minister, if I may just follow up a moment, one of the provisions in this agreement allows for Palestinians from Egypt and from Jordan to come into the occupied territories after this agreement is signed and implemented to participate in a police force on behalf of the Palestinians. Do you expect a large influx of armed Palestinians from those two countries, albeit to participate in a peacekeeping police force?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Let me first of all say that this is part of the agreement of Camp David. According to Camp David, as it was worded, a strong Palestinian force may include people or policemen that will come from Jordan. I think we shall have to agree about the size of the police force.
MR. BEGLEITER: They would defend would they help to work against the kind of opposition that Bill was asking you about a moment ago? Would they, for example, try to prevent Hamas from expressing its opposition violently?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Yes. This is the real change. You know, until now there was an armed Palestinian minority that was threatening an
situation that we should have silent the guns of the minority and defend a defenseless majority. Now, it is for the Palestinians to decide themselves, to defend themselves, and hopefully to elect their own leaders.
MR. BEGLEITER: Mr. Minister, are the talks continuing with the PLO at this time? Are there Israeli-PLO discussions continuing right now?
FOR. MIN. PERES: There is nothing like an official talk between the states of Israel and the organization of the PLO. This will take place only and when there will a recognition of the organization. But informal contacts, yes, are being continued in order to prepare the ground for a new future.
MR. BEGLEITER: Where and how are they being conducted now? What are the issues they’re dealing with? Are they dealing with the sequence, the items you talked about with Bill?
FOR. MIN. PERES: Well, the declaration of principles was finalized, agreed and is unchangeable. It’s a matter of take it or leave it. The government of Israel has approved it formally with a very impressive majority. Sixteen members of the Cabinet voted for; two abstained. From what I understand, the Palestinian organizations too did approve it. Now what we have on our agenda is the declaration of the PLO which will really introduce a change in the character of that organization and the prospects of it, which may enable all parties to deal with the PLO as a non-terroristic responsible political party. That is my hope and our desire.
MR. BEGLEITER: And if I may ask you a question about the Middle East peace talks on the broader front, you and Jordan, Israel and Jordan, are all but signed as well on a declaration of principles. It hasn’t been signed, but it’s been pretty much agreed. Many people say that Israel and Lebanon could likewise reach a declaration of principles pretty quickly. And even on the Syrian front, a lot of work has been accomplished toward a declaration of principles. Will this agreement with the PLO clear the way, open the door for quick progress on those other fronts?
FOR. MIN. PERES: I hope it will help, and it should help. Generally speaking, we would like to have a comprehensive peace with all parties and all countries in the Middle East. And furthermore, once we shall be over the disputes of the past, all of us will join forces to build a new Middle East like United States or like united Europe, a continent or a region of great tolerance, of real freedom, of science, of education, of understanding, as the time calls for and as the future generations are demanding from us.
MR. BEGLEITER: Let me ask you, finally, what was it that you felt required conducting these negotiations through a secret channel? Could it not have been done in another way? Is this the only way it could have been done? And if so, why?
FOR. MIN. PERES: It is extremely difficult to ever think openly for the simple reason; because most people think that when you negotiate, the main task is to convince the other party, where in fact what you have to do is to convince your own people. When you do it publicly, each party tries to satisfy the press, the public opinion, of its own side. And for that reason, you cannot really make a compromise, introduce a new idea, because everything is opened, checked, criticized, and the parties are finally becoming spokesmen instead of negotiators. For that reason, I think and that is shown time and again; take your own negotiations about Vietnam that you need a quiet diplomacy where you can exchange seriously views and try to look for a middle ground that will enable all parties to arrive to a new future.
MR. BEGLEITER: Mr. Minister, on behalf of my colleague, Bill Delaney, who’s with you in Jerusalem, and myself, Ralph Begleiter in Washington, thank you very much for joining us.