Israel's Gissin, Palestians' Arakat: We want peace
(CNN) -- Anchor Bill Hemmer was host Monday to two men with key roles in an international issue: Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Saeb Arakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.
BILL HEMMER: Joining us from Jerusalem, first of all, is a spokesperson for the prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Sir, hello to you and I appreciate your time.
Let's tick off the things that Secretary of State Colin Powell says is necessary for Israel. The Palestinians, he says, must have control of their own lives. The occupation must end in Gaza and the West Bank and the settlement activity must stop. Is any of that out of the question?
RAANAN GISSIN, ARIEL SHARON SPOKESMAN: Well, you know, Israel is a peace-seeking nation, a peace-loving country, and we share in the vision of Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Israel was created on the vision of peace and, therefore, everything is possible. We share in the vision. We also share in the efforts of the United States and we applaud the United States, both in its fight against terrorism as well as in its efforts in the past half-century to bring peace to the Middle East.
We believe that if we have good faith, and if the Palestinians are willing to really accept our extended hand, though we are bleeding from their acts of terror, then there is hope to realize this vision. We are ready. We are committed to peace. ... Now it is the time for the other side to reciprocate.
HEMMER: But, sir, take the first things we talked about first of all: the occupation. Are you willing at this point, as a government and a military official, to withdraw entirely from the West Bank and Gaza?
GISSIN: The question ... is subject to negotiation. ...There is a sequence of events that has to go through. We are willing, and the prime minister said it, through painful compromises on behalf of peace. One must understand that we are giving parts of our ancestral homeland for peace, one thing that no other nation on Earth has done under those conditions.
But because we want peace, we are willing to share in this vision. Because we want peace, we are willing to accept the fact that Palestinians have rights and they deserve a land of their own. But they must accept our rights to our ancestral homeland which has been one -- our land for the past 4,000 years as well.
HEMMER: All right. ... Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator, is with us now as well.
Sir, quickly, the points that Colin Powell ticked off from the Palestinian side: (Palestinians) must accept Israel as a permanent country in the Middle East; Palestinian leadership must stop terrorism -- arrest and prosecute, he says; and the violence will not work. What part of this is not workable right now?
SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN SPOKESMAN: First of all, sir, let me say to Mr. Gissin, we recognize you. We recognize Israel's existence. We have recognized Israel's existence on 78 percent of land, the June 4, 1967, borders.
We are asking you to reciprocate, to recognize us on the remaining 22 percent of the land -- that is the West Bank and Gaza including East Jerusalem, the June 4, '67 border. I invite you now, Mr. Gissin -- I invite Mr. Sharon on behalf of President Arafat -- to immediately, with no further delays, come to the negotiating table. Come to the political negotiations immediately with no conditions.
I think both Palestinians and Israelis deserve from us this, and not merely good words. I really appreciate very much what Secretary Powell's vision and all in its entirely, and we appreciate and thank these efforts. But what we need now is to transfer this vision into reality. I had expected Mr. Powell to say that as of tonight, the clock will start ticking as to the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations (named after former Sen. George Mitchell) and the Tenet plan (named after CIA Director George Tenet).
As of this set and date, both parties will come back to the negotiating table. This is the only way -- coming back to the negotiating table to enable us to save Palestinians and Israelis.
HEMMER: At this point, how much control does the Palestinian leadership, including Yasser Arafat, have at this time regarding the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza ... and stop the terrorist activity that still does exist there?
ERAKAT: Sir, President Arafat is exerting more than 100 percent efforts to sustain the cease fire. We have invited and we invite tonight Secretary Powell. He mentioned the term "third-party monitors," to dispatch immediately third-party monitors. Because, you know, the thing is we are a people with no tanks, no air force, no navy. It is our towns and villages and people who are under siege, under enclosures. We are being killed under the occupation.
So, please, send third-party monitors in order to see to it who is the side that is implementing and who is the side that's not implementing. Let's not put any conditions whatsoever. It has to begin immediately, the implementation of the Mitchell accommodations. Israel says they accept. We say we accept. Why don't we begin tonight? We are willing to declare, if the Israeli side is willing to declare tonight, that the clock will start ticking. And we need third-party monitors only to say to the world which is the side that is complying and who is the side that is not complying.
I don't want to seize this opportunity to score points or finger-point; this will not save the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. The situation is very dangerous. And we need to resume negotiations immediately and we need to begin the implementation of the Mitchell accommodations -- also immediately.
HEMMER: We've got to get to the final word from Mr. Gissin.
At this point, sir, give us an understanding of how far away that region is, not only from a cease fire, but going to the table that Saeb Erakat is talking about there.
GISSIN: Look, we haven't had one day of peace and quiet. One day. I'm not talking about seven. I'm not talking about 12 -- one day of peace and quiet.
The only thing that is ticking are the time bombs that they're sending into our towns and villages, the suicide bombers. Just show us that you can do it. When you want, you can arrest (and) stop the terrorists. ...
Show us that you can you do it and you will see that we can reciprocate. We are willing to make painful compromises. But it is your responsibility to seize control of the destiny of your people, and the first thing is to stop the violence. Then everything can proceed.
HEMMER: Final word, Mr. Erakat, please, quickly.
ERAKAT: Why don't we come back to the negotiating table? Why do we have to negotiate through CNN? We invite you immediately, I invite on behalf of President Arafat, ... to come immediately tonight and resume ... negotiations, to resume the security cooperation, to begin immediately the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations.
Raanan, this is the only way to save the lives of the Israelis and Palestinians. Please, let us stop scoring points, let us stop finger- pointing. Let us go to sanity, wisdom and courage and come back to the negotiating table immediately with no conditions whatsoever, because at the end of the day, we have recognized the state of Israel's existence. It is up to you to take the high ground and come back to the negotiating table. ...
HEMMER: That's the final word. I don't think anything is going to find an ultimate peace solution on this program just yet. Saeb Erakat of Ramallah, Raanan Gissin in Jerusalem, certainly we have a long way to go, but it is not impossible, in the words of Colin Powell.
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