Foreign Affairs Advisor of Prime Minister Sharon National Media Center, Jerusalem
April 16, 2002
Good evening, thank you all for coming. Please allow me to start today by mentioning that this is a very special day here for us, for all of us Israelis. This is Memorial Day, which is a day of great pain and pride for Israelis. Mourning all the fallen throughout the wars and campaigns defending our survival and existence, and being together with all the bereaved families. At the end of the day we start the celebration of independence, which will start the real joy; but I guess here in this part of the world, certainly in Israel, there is no joy without grief, and tomorrow is Independence Day. We will celebrate our fifty-fourth.
Just one last sentence to finish these opening remarks in a reflective mood: when we celebrate this independence, it reminds all of us Israelis that our struggle for independence and keeping it is not over, unfortunately. And I am sure you are all visiting the country, and you see how the people come together, and what their mood is. I personally believe that the struggle we are in is not just a struggle between two national movements, I think it is more basic than that. It is, I would say, a struggle between two worldviews. Two concepts maybe, terror and democracy, and we will not let terror prevail over democracy; we are very determined to keep defending ourselves, and to make sure that terror does not prevail. Because there is no way to reason with terror. We also feel that we are here on the frontline and that if terror, God forbid, scores here, it will have a major effect regionally and beyond. So this was just the philosophical hour.
I just came back from the meeting of Secretary Powell with Prime Minister Sharon. They had a more than hour-long meeting; it was a tete-a-tete meeting. I understand it was a very good meeting and very friendly meeting. The Prime Minister and the Secretary discussed ways to move ahead, first with a cease-fire, and the current situation, and then how to move ahead with the long-term objective of reaching a settlement here which would be stable and provide security and stability towards the end goal of everybody, which is a lasting peace in the region. I don’t think I will add much more, and I think it will be much more interesting, at least for me, to answer your questions.
Q. One question is that Powell will be leaving the country and going to Egypt. He will be meeting with Egyptian and Jordanian authorities. Will he be going with some sort of a peace plan or at least a cease-fire, did he get any guarantees from Prime Minister Sharon, and what messages will he be conveying to Arafat?
A. Israel has made unilateral gestures already. As we have told everybody from the start of "Operation Defensive Shield", we are not there for the duration. The intention was to uproot the infrastructure of terror, and to make sure that terror doesn’t bounce back as we pull out, so as to ensure that we have some substantial quiet and cease-fire, which is the only way to move ahead with any political progress. We have already moved out of Kalkilya, Tulkarm and major rural areas, and we intend to pull out from the rest of the areas, to the extent possible, within a week’s time. Of course there are two major problems which are in Ramallah, where Arafat still shelters the murderers of our cabinet minister Ze’evy and Fuad Shubaki who masterminded all the financing of the suicide bombings and the contacts with Iran, and in Bethlehem. We intend to leave, as I said, very soon from Jenin and also from Nablus. On the other hand we expect the Palestinians to also live up to their commitments and to their part of the deal whereby they should first agree to a full cease-fire, a meaningful cease-fire, and full compliance with the security plan, within the security cooperation and fighting terror, with one hundred percent efforts, according to the Zinni bridging paper, which is based on the Tenet plan.
Q. Are we now at a make-or-break point in the Powell contacts, because if he leaves, and there is no definitive agreement tomorrow, there is going to be speculation that his mission has totally failed, and God knows what’s going to happen after that. How would you define the situation at this hour?
A. We are doing our share. We tried to exert every effort to help his mission. We are cooperating with it. He still has a meeting, I understand, tomorrow in Ramallah, and we will all be smarter after that meeting. But, from the Israeli perspective, certainly we don’t look at the mission in terms of failure, and certainly not black-and-white, or all-or-nothing. We will still work to make sure that the situation stabilizes and that finally we can achieve the so-much-needed cease-fire, so that we can move ahead.
Q. I would like to go back to your earlier comments about what you all expect of Arafat. And number one, the point that you made that you would like assurances that he would try to provide a hundred percent security. I’m wondering how you all think that he can do that, when so much of his own security infrastructure has been destroyed by your operation. And secondly, you made the comment that you were intending to end this operation, and you’re trying to do it in such a way that you won’t get a recurrence when you pull out. I’m wondering how you plan to do that, in view of the fact that probably this made a lot of people more angry, and they will be waiting for the chance to retaliate against you.
A. About the security ability of the Palestinian security organizations, there is a misperception, which unfortunately is what the Palestinians are trying to promote, that their security organizations are devastated and they cannot fight and do what they are supposed to do. But, to begin with, we wouldn’t have come in to these areas had they been performing what they were supposed to. They had overwhelming power, tens of thousands of well-armed people, with the best equipment. They didn’t do their job. On the contrary, many of them belonged to the terror organizations, something like security people by day and terrorists by night. But let’s look at the details, take a hard look at the specifics.
First of all, once we moved in, we were after the terror organizations, basically the Tanzim, the Hamas and the Jihad, and we had tremendous success. We captured a few hundred members, less than four hundred, that were actively engaged in terror. However, we didn’t touch the other tens of thousands, with their weapons, who are still in place. Also there is no doubt that the Palestinian leadership controls the finances, so they can easily stop the financing of terror organizations like the Tanzim. They can certainly issue cease-fires, declarations, instructions, and consistently and earnestly go after the terrorists. They certainly have the firepower and the manpower, as I described. This is one thing.
Secondly, take Gaza as a model. We are not going into Gaza, so the organizations are intact there. It is just a matter of political will, goodwill, a strategic decision by them to start doing what they are supposed to do, and that is fight terror. This was the view to begin with.
Now about the level of hatred. I would say that the level of hatred cannot be any higher than it already was before we started the operation. I think the facts speak for themselves. People who can send their children and women to explode themselves and die, just to kill Israelis, how much more hatred than that can there be? The results were the carnage or massacre of Passover and the suicide bombings, spray shootings and others. The situation was such that we had no choice but to go and defend ourselves, and to take responsibility for security in lieu of the Palestinian security organizations, which were not doing their job but, in fact, covering up for the terrorists.
We captured a lot of documents that show the involvement of the Palestinian Authority and link Arafat directly to the financing, ordering and perpetration of terror. I would say that the evidence that we have captured far surpassed our worst estimations and expectations. Our expectations pale in comparison to what we found. Certainly you won’t expect us, after this operation and all the evidence that we have, to give up our security demands and we certainly cannot accept the assertion that they don’t have the capability. They have the capability, maybe in the margins they are hurt, but we can help, we can cooperate.
They also have to control the levels of hatred and incitement which are coming from the top. They can do a lot to stop the incitement and, again, initiate a more conciliatory atmosphere. This is the main problem that we have. I know that Arafat and the Palestinians were getting some good reactions to their condemnation of last Friday’s suicide bombing in the market. But if you look at the condemnation, it was just a press release. When the incitement, the call for Shahid [martyrdom], for suiciders to explode in Jerusalem came, it came from Arafat’s mouth, more then once, in a very convincing way, I would say. Condemnations and words cannot be a substitute for a policy, cannot be a substitute for a strategy, which right now remains the strategy of terror.
Q. Do you think this operation will stop the terrorism, to a large degree?
A. So far we have proof. We have been waiting for more than eighteen months, with patience, taking a lot of casualties and pain, trying to give them chance after chance, whether it was missions of Zinni, Tenet, Mitchell, unilateral cease-fires from our side, pullouts, different things, moving roadblocks and checkpoints, and immediately we got casualties, because they infiltrated. When we move into the area, as we did, we see the apparatus. There was no way that they had the slightest intention to stop the terror. As I say, we have the proof, and I hope the IDF or intelligence briefings can be provided to you. So we are in a situation now, that we have no choice, but to do what we had to do, and that is take out all the terror organizations.
Now you talk about the success. How can we be sure that we will have no more terror attacks? We cannot be sure, there is no hundred percent foolproof, but certainly we can reduce the level of terror substantially, so that, first of all, we can restore the Israeli sense of security, which is the first and foremost obligation, I would say duty, of this government; and secondly, to bring the level of violence to such a level that will enable us to have any kind of political dialogue in the future. Because there is no way you can conduct political negotiations, under terror and fire. And you can see the results for yourselves. Since we started this operation, less than three weeks ago, we had only two suicide attacks. Before the operation, we had two suicide attacks a day. So clearly there is a major result. We proved that terror can be fought. If you will, there is a military solution to terror. Again, not one hundred percent foolproof, but certainly you can reduce it substantially, so that we can move ahead. I hope that this is a lesson to the Palestinians, that if they are serious, they can combat terrorism as well.
Q. Mr. Ayalon, I wonder, we were led to believe that last time Prime Minister Sharon appeared on CNN, Condoleesa Rice called you and said that the comments he had made were not enough of a commitment towards a specific timetable for withdrawal, and had asked for more. I was wondering if you could confirm that, and if you could talk about whether it came up in the meeting with Secretary Powell and Mr. Sharon this afternoon.
A. First of all, the conversation of Dr. Rice and myself is private. I’m not going to discuss any of that; and secondly, I can say that the Prime Minister talked to the President last night. It was a very good conversation, a very friendly conversation, and I won’t say anything more than that.
Q. Mr. Ayalon, could you say how many fighters, or however you characterize them, Mr. Arafat has to turn over for the Israeli army to pull out of Ramallah, how many people are in Bethlehem; and, when you say pullout, does this really mean, you know, withdrawal, or is it simply a pullback, say to the entries of cities, so you can go back in if you have to again. Thank you.
A. Define fighters. What do you mean by Arafat’s fighters.
Q. Well I called them ehh…
A. No, let’s call them what they are. We are talking about five murderers, who premeditated the murder of a cabinet minister, for the first time in the history in Israel. We’re talking about the PFLP, a terrorist organization, which is targeting civilians, and civilians only, so far, in the records that they have. So, I would say, to describe them as fighters is something of a great understatement, to say the least. They are murderers, they committed murder on Israeli territory, and by law they are subject to Israeli law and justice. There was a cabinet decision demanding their handing over, and they should be handed over, and tried here in Israel, and they will get a fair trial, as you would expect from a country like us, as we also have a good track record of that. So this is about that.
In Bethlehem there are also some terrorists there belonging to various groups – Tanzim, Hamas and Jihad. They are holding hostages, some civilians, some clergymen, and we hope that they will agree to free the hostages, to lay down their arms, and to reach a settlement with us. In any case, we believe that they feel secure knowing full well that we are not going to storm the church, and of course we will not; but the fact that we do not want to storm may make the situation there last longer than we would want. That’s why I specifically did not mention Ramallah and Bethlehem in the schedule of our withdrawal, which we are very much committed to, and which we will complete hopefully by next week.
Q. The second part of my question – the withdrawals?
A. Well this again will depend on the developments. If, and it would be my first choice, we can resume the security cooperation, if the Palestinians accept the Zinni paper, then we can think about the modalities. However if they don’t, it makes things more complicated, because the last thing we want to do is to pull out and then have terror bouncing back, which further would deter the situation and we don’t want to go back there. We want to keep stability here. So in that case we have some operational contingencies and, again, I will not detail them in great extent, except to say the principle would be to disengage from the cities, from the population, so there is no friction or flash points. But then the army will be deployed in some areas so that we can answer whatever contingency.
Q. Along those same lines, can there be a cease-fire as long as the standoff continues in Ramallah and in Bethlehem, and was that discussed today between Secretary Powell and the Prime Minister? And secondly, you said you’ve proved that terror can be fought; are you saying that the Israeli military operation was a success?
A. Well, the second question – just look at the results! I said, you know, we had two suicide bombings in a matter of almost three weeks, as opposed to two suicide bombings a day just before. And we have captured, I think, close to two thousand terrorists, a lot of equipment, suicide belts, explosive belts, mines, other explosive devices. We destroyed a substantial number, I don’t want to give you the number, because I don’t have it exactly, but I think, well over one hundred explosive labs, or production plants for mortars or the Kassam rockets, and you see that the level of terrorist activity is substantially down.
Q. Can there be a cease-fire as long as the standoff continues in Bethlehem and Ramallah?
A. You know our position on both Bethlehem and Ramallah is clear and we believe that justice is on our side, and we hope that we can reach there a peaceful solution.
Q. I wanted to know if the Israeli government is still maintaining that the clergy inside the Church of Nativity are being held hostage?
A. I believe so. I don’t have the latest details about the negotiations going on with the help of the Americans. I am not sure what is happening in the last few hours.
Q. Do you characterize them as hostages?
A. I would think so, yes. If they are detained there against their will, I think this is very much the definition of a hostage.
Q. There was another meeting today, as you said, with the Prime Minister. What exactly is going on in terms of the conversation? Is there a negotiation over a text, is there a three-way negotiation, with the Palestinian side, are you worlds apart, is there no discussion, and therefore what is the likelihood there will be some written agreement in Powell’s hands when he leaves tomorrow?
A. Well I that the meeting with the secretary was private, so maybe all these questions should be addressed by the Americans. I don’t want to speak for them. As far as the Israeli positions, I don’t have more to say than I have already said.
Q. There seems to be a difference of opinion in the definition of what withdrawal is. I just heard what you said in the question when it was put before State Department officials this week; the answer was "withdrawal is withdrawal". Can you tell us how this affected the negotiations, and what this might mean in the future?
A. No, I don’t think they stood in the way of negotiations. Withdrawal is withdrawal. Withdrawal is pullback, and that is what we are going to do. I think we have already shown our goodwill by starting to do that more than a week ago, and I can only reiterate what the Prime Minister has said publicly yesterday – that within a week’s time, we will be out.
Q. You said that you wouldn’t want to speak for the American administration. So, can you speak for the Sharon administration? Is he ready to sign a joint declaration or announce a joint declaration which will pave way for a cease-fire? But not in a while, is he ready now, or now as in today or tomorrow? Is he ready for an immediate cease-fire declaration, joint with Arafat?
A. We were ready from the day go for declaration, for cease-fire; when Zinni arrived the last time, about a month ago, we made some gestures, if you may recall. We gave up the seven days, which we thought were necessary to bring about a dynamic of quiet, so that we could have a better chance for the Tenet plan to succeed. We formed a high-level ministerial committee for negotiations with the Palestinians, together with the security committee. We pulled out of the areas where we were at the time, and we didn’t respond to major attacks, suicide attacks that followed the Zinni mission: a toy store in Jerusalem, the Afula bus, attacks on some communities in the Beit Shemesh area. We were also ready at the time, the Prime Minister was ready, to declare a cease-fire, even unilaterally. But it was thought it would be better to wait for a simultaneous declaration with the Palestinians, so that they would not feel in a corner, would not be embarrassed; so we decided, ok, whenever they are ready, we will declare a cease-fire. We also accepted the Zinni proposal, not without deliberations amongst ourselves, because there were some concessions we had to make. When Zinni came here – he took the Tenet [plan], and each of the parties, ourselves and the Palestinians, gave its interpretation of the plan. Of course there were a lot of gaps. Zinni took them and made a joint paper, which we, after long deliberations, accepted, and the Palestinians didn’t. We were ready to declare a cease-fire already then. We are declaring the cease-fire now, a meaningful cease-fire, which [would be] followed by an adherence to the Tenet plan, according to Zinni…
Q from the audience: "declaring" or "willing to declare"?
A: I can declare right now – we are willing to declare, of course, and I am just giving you an accurate account of what was going on. But, you have to understand, for us, we could declare unilaterally, this is not a problem. But if you declare a cease-fire unilaterally and the other side keeps attacking, that means you have to respond in self defense. So I think it would be better to have a cease-fire declaration from both sides. But again, the declarations and the words, I will repeat what I said, do not constitute a substitute for action.
Q. Powell will be taking the message that you are ready even for a unilateral cease-fire to Arafat tomorrow. Before he leaves the region here, will he be having a document in which you say that the words are not so important but you expect Mr. Arafat to have those words too? Does that mean a document, or any kind of declaration, or any kind of cease-fire will be obtained in this visit?.
A. Since I am not the one going to Ramallah, but Secretary Powell, I think you should ask him. But again, our position is very clear, and if the results from tomorrow’s meeting are a declaration of cease-fire and acceptance in full of the Zinni paper, then I believe we made some progress.
Q. Two questions. Could you tell us what specific benchmarks or conditions the Israeli government has for withdrawing from the Arafat compound in Ramallah? And second of all: I am a bit confused, are you any closer to a cease-fire or any kind of diplomatic progress than you were five days ago before Secretary of State Powell arrived?
A. About Ramallah, it is a very specific benchmark: the handing over of the murderers of Minister Ze’evy, and Fuad Shubaki, and I believe all told it is six people if I am not mistaken. Now there may be, and here I am not sure because I don’t have the details, but there may be some other big time terrorists that we would like to see in our hands, but for certain I can tell you that the five involved the murder of Ze’evy and Fuad Shubaki.
Q. It’s not contingent on a cease-fire agreement or any other…?
A. This is a separate issue. This is something that from a legalistic point of view, and from all other points of view, more than others, is important.
Q. To what extent have you changed your timetable for cease-fire and withdrawal as a result of the Powell mission? You said at the time you were going to carry out your mission slightly more expeditiously and then leave. So have you changed your battle plan, as it were, have you been obliged to leave the territories that you were going to leave, more quickly than you would have had Mr. Powell not been intervening?
A. Well I would say that once the President of the United States made his request, we did not ignore it of course. We have the highest respect for President Bush’s administration and for the entire American people, for their really valiant campaign against international terror, which we support and help to the extent possible, we will support in the future and continue to do that. Of course we had our operational concerns. I would say that we did go out of our way and made an effort to expedite and accelerate the operation in a way that we could pull out earlier than may have been planned, again to the extent possible not compromising security needs. That means making sure that the operation is successful by way of destroying infrastructures, the labs that I described before, and also arresting and rounding up the terrorists.
Q. Is there any likelihood that you would have behaved differently in Jenin, had you had less pressure on you? Would you have acted more slowly and more mercifully then you did?
A. No I don’t think we could have acted more slowly in Jenin, from a very sheer militarily operational point of view. The ways to take Jenin if any planner was going to do it anywhere else, would be to use fire power – air power, artillery or whatever. We opted for the longer way, for the most dangerous way for our soldiers – to go on from house to house, to make sure that we minimize collateral damage, and of course civilian casualties. And the fact is that we lost in Jenin 23 of our men. The highest casualties throughout this operation "Defensive Shield", because we took a lot of effort to make sure that we do it with minimum casualties. Now, you have to also know what we are up against. Diehard terrorists who are shooting from every house, rooftop or window, they were having explosive belts all over themselves, booby-trapping everywhere, so it was a very very dangerous operation which we carried out. I think the results are also evident as they unfold, and I believe many of you went there to see. I know that the Palestinians were talking about some inflated numbers, which were just ridiculous. We see that a pattern of continued lies is the strategy of incitement. The way that they describe the situation there, I think was twofold. First of all, discredit Israel, and secondly to stir up the Arab world, Palestinians, and cause instability throughout the region.
Q. I understand that Powell got Israel’s withdrawal from the [Palestinian] towns. What did Israel get out of Powell’s mission, and what can we expect to see if there will be more terror attacks after the withdrawals?
A. The Powell mission is not over, so we will see tomorrow clearly what are the results. As I said, what we expect is a declaration of cease-fire by the Palestinians and full compliance with Zinni. About future attacks, we will have to of course consider. I hope that with this operation, and we had tremendous successes, the ability of the terror organizations to regroup will take time. No doubt that they will try, but I believe that we will gain the minimum time necessary to get enough traction, hopefully, on a dialog. But this all depends I believe on the Palestinian leadership. If they are serious, and they stop incitement, give instructions, start dismantling their organizations and really fight the terror, and not encourage terror, then we have a chance. If not, the situation unfortunately, may stay the same that it is now.
Q. You just said we expect a declaration of cease-fire tomorrow from Arafat. Do you expect or do you hope or do you expect Powell to go and demand?
A. First and foremost we expect action. And that starts with compliance or with full acceptance of the Zinni paper, which is very very detailed and in a way it was drafted or thought out in a way that it would be easier for them to perform. We have the patience, and we will help them to the extent possible. First and foremost is the acceptance of the Zinni paper, and then compliance with it, and resuming the security actions on their part. This is much more important than declarations.
Q. [Hebrew] If a document will be signed tomorrow, the document that the Americans and the Palestinians are working on, that stipulates that the Palestinians will act against terror as best as they can, will this wording be acceptable to Israel? And a second question: does the Prime Minister support the participation of the Europeans and UN people in the international summit meeting that he is speaking of, and the participation of the Arab countries?
A. [Hebrew] Regarding the document, it is a hypothetical question. I don’t know what will be signed or if it will be signed tomorrow, but I think that I emphasized that what is important from our point of view is action – that is, a political decision by the Palestinian leadership to act with determination against terror, to accept the Zinni paper as it is and begin to act. Regarding participation of various parties and advancement of a regional conference, details will certainly be discussed in the coming days and weeks. Certainly, Israel will accept and encourage any step that is interested in advancing and supporting the peace coalition.
Q. You said that Mr. Arafat has to accept the Zinni paper but we’ve been hearing that there will be some extras. If that will be an announcement tomorrow, what you think about them? A document which will include an independent Palestinian state, a blueprint for that and some other things?
A. Well we have a vision and anyone who doubted Israel’s commitment to a political solution, to a settlement, I think only has to look into the address of Prime Minister Sharon to the Israeli Knesset last week. We certainly believe that there will be a political solution, which we are all committed to, but to reach it, we have at the first stage to do away with terror and violence. The vehicle to do that is the Zinni and Tenet. Then we should move on, and the vehicle may be a regional conference of all parties who are truly committed to peace and are willing to work hard and support peace, and there the modalities can be debated and exchanged. We believe that there should be a long-term interim solution whereby the Palestinians will give their immediate needs, and then we can go on with a mechanism of further negotiations to a permanent settlement, which will be realistic and which will move forward according to the developments of the relations.
I would say that we have to concentrate now on the situation that we are at. We have to stabilize it and the way to do it is to stop terror. Terror should not be rewarded, terror should not be negotiated with and I am sure you all remember the very recent history, where we had a full-fledged political process underway, which reached culmination in Camp David 18 months ago and the response of the Palestinians to the far-reaching offer of the Israeli government was terror. So first of all we have to take care of this problem of terror. Then we can move ahead.
Q. On the Zinni paper for example, is it the same Zinni paper as a week or two ago, or has it been modified in some ways?
A. The same paper.
Q. Secondly, on the cease-fire, is it your understanding that the Palestinians would be ready for a cease-fire declaration upon Israel’s final withdrawal from all the cities?
A. We will have to wait until tomorrow.
Q. Would that be acceptable to you?
A. To us? We will withdraw as soon as possible We have no intention of staying there one moment too long. And as I said we will concentrate on the towns I mentioned, and hopefully there will be some immediate or quick solutions to Ramallah and Bethlehem and then we’re in business, hopefully.
Q. Is monitors a live issue?
A. This is not being discussed yet. This is one of the ideas that we have discussed before with the Americans, of having a few American monitors for a specific location, and we may discuss it in the future. But again the terms of reference have to be well-defined, the numbers should be a finite number which we will discuss again with the parties. In any case, I don’t see any role here for an international force you are alluding to that.
Q. Is the government agreed on who will represent the Palestinians at this regional conference? Is the objection sustained or has it been somewhat modified on Arafat’s attending?
A. The details are still being discussed about the level of leaders. In a way, it may be more effective if you have leaders attending. About Arafat, our position is clear and I don’t have to repeat it. Now we also have the evidence to show linking him directly to terror. We believe that he is an obstacle to any progress in peace. Of course there will have to be a Palestinian representative and delegation. Again, about the different options we still have some time to discuss those.
Q. If there is not what you call a good solution to the stand-offs in Ramallah and Bethlehem, then Israel would say that there is also not a meaningful cease-fire? If it is impossible to solve the stand-offs in Bethlehem and Ramallah according to the Israeli request, then shall you consider that it is impossible also to have what you call a meaningful cease-fire?
A. Well let’s think positively, let’s hope there will be a meaningful cease-fire and all flash point areas will be solved
Q. The cease-fire, what do you mean in terms of the Palestinian side? What do you need, exactly?
A. In a way, a cease-fire may be a misnomer. The ceasing of terror would be more like it.
Q. So how do you get that? What are you looking for?
A. Stopping terror! No suiciders coming to our cities, markets and coffeehouses. No shooting by night at travelling Israelis. No land mines or what have you. Complete.
Q. A written promise, that’s what I mean. A document?
A. We have the written promise, the document is Zinni. If they fulfill Zinni then I believe that an effective cease-fire can be achieved.
Q. The very speech that you mentioned about, from the Knesset, which Sharon made, he also said that Arafat is the head of a terrorist state, and that he is a terrorist himself and that he is a liar. Now after Powell’s mission, after Powell has taken him as a partner for negotiations, is Prime Minister Sharon considering Arafat, the elected leader of the Palestinians, a peace partner?
A. Well again, as we progress, today we believe he is even less of a partner than yesterday, because we have uncovered more and more documents about his direct linkage to terror. Now you rightly so said that he was elected, democratically or not, he was elected. But is this the only criterion to judge leadership? There is another criterion which is conduct. Even though, let’s assume, he was elected democratically but his conduct is totalitarian, corrupt and terrorist. Then what? Can you just bring up the fact that he was elected and cut a deal with him? You do not cut a deal with terrorists.
Q. Can I just say that there have been many terrorists who have negotiated deals after they stopped being a terrorist or at least temporarily stopped being a terrorist and then have come to the negotiating table and have spoken. The fact that Mr. Arafat, in your view, is a terrorist and keeps performing terrorist acts surely doesn’t always for all time count him out from taking part in negotiations. In fact, you are supposed to negotiate with your enemy, not your friend.
A. Rightly so, Arafat was a terrorist who was denied entry into the United States until 1993. He was directly implicated with the murder of American and Belgian diplomats in 1973 in Sudan. That time he was linked directly. It was loose in other times, but he is the one who reinvented the hijacking of planes back in 1968, and so on. He was a terrorist.
In 1993, taking the exact approach you are suggesting now, Israel, knowing fully well that he was a terrorist, accepted him as a peace partner. Not only that, he wrote a written commitment to Prime Minister Rabin, on September 9, 1993, in which he took it upon himself, not only to renounce and stop terror itself, but to fight terror. This was the gist of Oslo. That’s why we pulled out from all the major towns. By the way, 98.5 percent of all Palestinians were under the full administration of the Palestinian Authority. We were not in any intrusive way there. We pulled out. Most of the areas we kept were strategic areas which were altogether unpopulated.
We allowed Arafat’s reentry here from Tunisia with tens of thousands of his people, fully armed, for the purpose of fighting terror and to negotiate peace, until Camp David. But instead of making good on his word, not only he didn’t fight terror, but he was the main terrorist, with the Tanzim, which he is paying. Most of our casualties were done by his people, not by the Hamas or the Jihad. The Hamas and the Jihad, by number, are very small. If there was an effort, even the slightest, on the part of the Palestinian Authority to really fight and effectively neutralize the Hamas and the Jihad, they could have done it a long time ago. We did give him chance after chance, even through the last eighteen months. Until you say, "Enough is enough. This man will not change" and we know he will not change. If he still calls for a million Shahids [martyrs] to come to Jerusalem and explode, can he be a partner? If he tells the former president of Indonesia, Wahid, that his aim is to throw Israel into the sea, and this is also well-documented, is he a partner?