Interview with Minister Shimon Peres
on ABC News "This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts"

October 8, 2000

MR. DONALDSON: Joining us now from Tel Aviv is former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace laureate, Shimon Peres. Mr. Peres, thanks very much for being with us today. And here with me in the studio to question Mr. Peres, George Will.

Mr. Peres, we’re about 24 hours away from the deadline that Prime Minister Barak has set for Yasser Arafat to call off the violence. What do you think is going to happen?

MR. PERES: I hope that the violence will be stopped even earlier. Because we cannot move, neither the Palestinians, nor us, while violence is going on. And I do hope that the president who is now devoting all this time — President Clinton — will intervene in order to put an end to the violence.

MR. DONALDSON: How can he intervene? What can the United States do?

MR. PERES: One of the suggestions that was done is to have a sort of a conference like it was in Shaw Mashek and call the two sides to stop the violence within 24 hours. And maybe the two sides need such a call because the violence leads to nowhere. And the costs will simply go up.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, if the deadline expires and the violence continues, Prime Minister Barak has said that Israeli forces will use "all available means" to restore order. What is "all available means", all-out war? What does it mean?

MR. PERES: I don’t think so. We cannot go and we don’t want to go to war. I think until now the army and the police did everything they could to restrain and to refrain from fire. I think they are going to respect human life, they are going to respect civilian life. And now we will remain an army like always, with values and restrictions.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, you know, of course, that the United Nations has passed a resolution complaining that Israel has used excessive force during this period.

MR. PERES: Well, I don’t think it is founded or based on facts. The problem is not excessive force and the problem is not who started and how many cartridges were fired. Today, the only problem is who is ready to stop. And I can say clearly that Israel is ready to stop every minute, that our forces are reacting, not initiating. They didn’t take the initiative on any occasion. And in five minutes time, the Palestinians can have a complete cease-fire.

MR. WILL: Mr. Peres, you just said the problem’s not who started this, but surely that’s pertinent. Mr. Barak says that with a simple order, Mr. Arafat could stop this. The fact that he hasn’t issued that order surely tells you something about who wants the violence, does it not?

MR. PERES: Yes. I think the problem is not the order, but the problem is the return of the order and I think the Palestinians, all the Palestinians are responsible from Arafat down the chain the command, should give the necessary orders to stop it.

MR. WILL: Before the violence broke out, Palestinian television ran file footage of the Intifada rioting over and over again, played war songs, called a general strike, and closed the schools so that the children would be on the streets. Now, does that not tell us that this is far from spontaneous, this is an act of policy?

MR. PERES: Well, it’s a very serious problem because when the West Bank was under Jordanian rule, the Jordanians would never fire to mature people. So the Palestinians could used to send children and women to demonstrate. And I think also you cannot have today an intifada and control it in the age of television.

MR. WILL: Mr. Peres, if Israel goes back to the Oslo peace process after this, does that not send the message that the Palestinians can punctuate this peace process with violence any time it wishes, without jeopardizing the peace process? Is Oslo or is Oslo not dead?

MR. PERES: No. You see, it’s a different situation not only for us, but also for the Palestinians. It’s one thing to be a head of a revolution and it is another thing to be a head of a state in being. Now, let’s say, you see, over the last six years, the Palestinians have had two leaders – the grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Arafat himself. I told Arafat, the Mufti and yourself, in the beginning, adopted a policy of refusal and violence. You brought a catastrophe on the head of your people. You could have had already a long time a state of your own. You could have escaped the poverty. You could have used the time to build a modern life for your people. Instead, you preferred personal glamour and popularity. Maybe today your situation is more complicated, you are less popular, but you serve the people. Don’t’ stop doing it. Because the price will be paid by the people. Nobody is a free agent anymore.

MR. DONALDSON: Mr. Peres, Prime Minister Barak has said that if, in fact, the violence continues, the peace process will essentially be dead. And he will form a coalition government to include perhaps General Sharon. Is that a good idea?

MR. PERES: I think it’s a bad idea to think that the peace process can die. You need the peace process for our own sake, for the existence of our people, for the Palestinian state. We don’t have a choice. Nobody can kill the peace process because we need it like air. We cannot exist without one.

MR. DONALDSON: I understand that, sir. But what I’m asking for is this – your view of whether a coalition government to include General Sharon, if it comes to that, is a good idea?

MR. PERES: I would prefer that we should continue with the peace process as it is. But if the Palestinians will not agree to a cease-fire, I don’t see what are the alternatives in the hands of Mr. Barak.

MR. WILL: Mr. Peres, you have just said that you need that peace process like air, like oxygen. Are you therefore not completely hostage to whatever the Palestinians do? Because you’ve said nothing they do can get you to suspend the peace process.

MR. PERES: I think what they do is they harm themselves, too. Not only us. And I don’t think the Palestinians are made of one view and people. You know, let me say, I know that you are an historian and a [unintelligible]. In thirty years, in between 1914 to 1945, fifty million Europeans lost lives. Millions of other Europeans lost their eyes, their legs, their hands. If somebody would tell you in 1944 that within one year you can have a different Europe, that you can have peace, I think everybody would be laughing. But looked what happened after such a bloodshed and hatred. After a history of red ink. I believe the same is here. We should not lose neither hope nor perspective. And understand that the people are condemned in the modern age to live in peace, not in war.

MR. DONALDSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Peres, for being with us today.

 Interview with Minister Shimon Peres on ABC News This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts-08-Oct-2000
 Interview with Minister Shimon Peres on ABC News This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts-08-Oct-2000
Outbreak of Violence in Jerusalem and the Territories – Sept/Oct 2000