Gissin: Israel won't give in to terrorists
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TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- Israeli officials quickly and strongly condemned the suicide bombing of a northern Israeli hotel on Wednesday, calling it the "Passover massacre" and vowing retribution.
Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, talked with CNN's Bill Hemmer on Wednesday from Israel about the terror attacks and its impact on talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
GISSIN: No doubt, this is the Passover Massacre. There was a ray of hope coming from (the Arab League Summit in) Beirut. We hoped that the Arab world is reaching a strategic crossroad, maybe for the first time, with the Saudi initiative. (We hoped) they were really willing to sit down and negotiate peace and reconcile this long and bloody conflict.
Then, reality in the Middle East hit us very hard. (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat is the same Arafat that he was 18 months ago, when he launched this war of terror against us. The "King of Lies" is facing a real moment of truth because, I believe, following this attack, Israel is going to have to reassess its overall policy.
HEMMER: Do you go into security council now? What happens?
GISSIN: There are consultations. We are committed to helping achieve a cease-fire. That has been the policy of the prime minister and the policy of this government. We are committed to Mitchell and the Tenet report. We want to go back to the negotiating table.
But the Palestinians must understand that this horrendous wave of violence, terrorism and incitement must stop. The pictures speak more than a thousand words when you see the victims lying there. Every day we have an attack like that. But this is also hurting Palestinians. The suicide bombers are destroying Palestinian society as a civilized society. They're sending them back to the Stone Age or another type of society that definitely is not civilized.
HEMMER: We heard from the White House of some progress in security negotiations. What are you hearing about the potential of a cease-fire in light of what is happening now?
GISSIN: There definitely was progress on the Israeli side, but only on the Israeli side. We accepted the proposal of (U.S. Middle East envoy Gen. Anthony) Zinni and did everything in our effort to make his mission a success. But Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, for the third time, are trying to scuttle his effort. They don't understand that first there has to be a complete cessation of violence, terrorism and incitement before we can move to negotiations. There are not going to be negotiations under fire.
We are determined. Today, we are celebrating a very sacred festival of the Passover Seder, commemorating the Jewish people's coming from slavery to redemption back in their holy land, their promised land, some 4,000 years ago.
Now we're seeing the same pharaohs of 4,000 years ago trying again to destroy the people of Israel. It won't help, and it won't happen. It didn't happen for 4,000 years. And Yasser Arafat isn't going to be the one to dismantle Israeli society.
There is another option. They can go back to the negotiating table and stop with this futile effort to achieve by violence and terror what they were not able to achieve around the negotiating table, the only place where the Palestinians have achieved anything.
Every time they choose to use violence against us, it ends up with a tragedy for the Palestinian people. Every time they choose to negotiate, they gain something.
HEMMER: Is it likely, or even possible, that the military could go back into the sections of the West Bank and Gaza that became so contentious 10 days ago?
GISSIN: We would like to reach a cease-fire. That's first and foremost. But of course, if all the efforts exhaust themselves and we're facing another wave of terrorist activity like this, then we will exercise our right to self-defense -- just as the United States did when it attacked the Taliban.
We will use the necessary measures, taking due concern and making a major effort not to create any regional escalation in this conflict, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure -- do what the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat failed to do for the past 18 months. We are not going to live with a terrorist entity on our borders, and we are not going to live with terrorists attacking us everyday.
We will know what proper measures need to be taken. We haven't used all the measures at our disposal. I have one advice for the Palestinians -- go back to the negotiating table, make the necessary effort to stop the violence and don't mess with us.
HEMMER: Passover is underway and Israel had been under high alert. How could an attack like this happen in such a crowded hotel?
GISSIN: It's impossible to seal a country, particularly an open society in which people can travel freely. Of course, there will be an investigation to find out how (the suicide bomber) slipped past the guard at the hotel and past other measures that were there. But the point is not to succumb to terrorists: We can't lock ourselves up or lie down and play dead.
We are a living society, and we intend to continue to live here in an open fashion. We understand we have to live with Arabs, and we intend to live with Arabs -- but without terrorism. We will find a way to deal with this terrorist activity.
HEMMER: We are also watching the Arab summit. What's your take?
GISSIN: We really hoped that the summit would be an important turning point in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, when the Arab countries understood that the only way for survival for the Israelis and the Arabs is peace.
We have learned to survive while holding the sword in one hand for the past 120 years. War benefits no one ... Therefore, I think it will be a missed opportunity if this conference does not end up with a call to Israel and to the Arab countries to come together to another conference where we can really talk about our differences rather than shoot them out.
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