Interview with Prime Minister Ehud Barak
on CBS News "Face the Nation"

October 8, 2000

MR. SCHIEFFER: We start this morning with the Prime Minister of Israel. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for joining us. You laid out an ultimatum to the Palestinians yesterday, I suppose I would ask you, what happens if they don’t respond?

PRIME MINISTER BARAK: I didn’t lay out an ultimatum. I said the obvious, almost self-evident consequence. If Arafat, who can easily order an end to the whole violence that we are facing is not doing it within reasonable time frame, let’s say two days, we won’t have but only way to conclude that he deliberately has decided to abandon the negotiation process, and is preferring a confrontation. We will not yield to a negotiation that goes simultaneously with a wave of violence, kind of launched at us in total contradiction to all the agreements he had signed in the last seven years.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Prime Minister, do you believe, in fact, that Mr. Arafat is in control here, and could stop this violence?

PRIME MINISTER BARAK: First of all, he’s in control. I’m confident that if he gives the right orders, loud and clear, to the right individuals in his Tanzim, which is a street organization of Fatah, which is armed against the agreements, if he gives such an order, within 12 hours we will have a calm situation. He proved it in the past. It’s the same right now. And in a way, may I say that if he’s totally out of control of his people, what is the essence of making him a partner and a future head of state.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Already we are seeing the spread, three Israeli soldiers were taken captive yesterday by Hezbollah. You suggested in a news conference earlier today that Syria may be behind that. What can you tell us about that, and would you be willing to release some of the Hezbollah people if it could be in exchange for your Israeli soldiers?

PRIME MINISTER BARAK: I think that Hezbollah ran this operation, not the Syrians, but since the Syrian is the prominent power player in Lebanon, out of its own choice, I have no way but to see this reality, and identify the Syrians as the source of responsibility for any attack against Israel from the soil of Lebanon, whether they directly received an order like that last one, or indirectly. But, let me tell you more than that, if Syria would take all necessary acts or steps in order to put an end to the violence of Hezbollah, I would not hold them responsible. This is the same way that I don’t hold responsible King Abdullah for what comes from Jordan, since I know that he takes all the measures to put an end to it. I don’t hold Mubarak responsible for what comes from Egypt, since I know he takes all steps to avoid it. But, we cannot say this about Syria, they are the power player, they are responsible, and they might be addressed.

MR. SCHIEFFER: And what about that possible prisoner exchange, would you even entertain such a thing?

PRIME MINISTER BARAK: I don’t want at this delicate moment to discuss it in front of the camera.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Is there a role for the United States to play here, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER BARAK: I believe that the United States is deeply involved in the peace process in the Middle East. I should tell you that I highly admire the contribution of Secretary Albright in the last few months, but especially in the last few days and weeks. And as well, the contribution of the administration under President Clinton. Of course, the United States can contribute, but ultimately the decision should be made by the local leaders. No one can impose peace upon Arafat, no one can impose peace upon the young President of Syria, Beshar Assad, and no one can impose peace. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to peace, and only one is enough to initiate confrontation.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Prime Minister, how close at this point are you to war?

PRIME MINISTER BARAK: I do not know, I hope we are not close to a war. But, look, we have to understand, we have a tough situation. We lived through tough situations in the past. Israel is a young encouraged democracy, open society, pluralistic one, that lives in a neighborhood that does not resemble the neighborhood of North America or Western Europe. We are living in a place where there is no mercy for the weak, and no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves.

So when we come to make peace, we stretch our arm. I committed myself to leave no stone unturned on the way to peace. I was ready to contemplate ideas that were never contemplated by any previous Israeli prime minister, neither Netanyahu or even Rabin in Paris, but I’m not going to make a peace at any price, or at any cost. I am for the peace of the brave. I am against the peace of the ostriches that might put their head in the sand at the toughest moment, let the wave storm them and say afterwards, okay, that’s what’s happened. I’m not ready for this kind of peace. We will stick to our vital interests. We will show openness and readiness to contemplate the interests and the rights of the other side.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Thank you.

 Interview with Israel PM Barak on CBS News Face the Nation-08-Oct-2000
 Interview with Israel PM Barak on CBS News Face the Nation-08-Oct-2000
Outbreak of Violence in Jerusalem and the Territories – Sept/Oct 2000