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Jamie Rubin: Gaza attack will have chilling effect

Former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin
Former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin

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Former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin talks with CNN's Bill Hemmer about the attack in Gaza.
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CNN's Chris Burns on the explosion that ripped apart a U.S. diplomatic convoy traveling in Gaza.
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Jamie Rubin
Bill Hemmer

(CNN) -- Three Americans were killed and another injured Wednesday in Gaza, when a bomb went off underneath a convoy carrying U.S. diplomats and their security detail.

The victims were employed by the U.S. Embassy in Israel to provide security while U.S. officials traveled to Gaza to interview Palestinian students who have applied for Fulbright scholarships in the United States.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin spoke from London with CNN Anchor Bill Hemmer about the Gaza attack.

HEMMER: Jamie, off the top, your reaction to the news we're getting now?

RUBIN: Well, it's a real tragedy. This is a crossing that American diplomats have gone over week after week for many, many years. During the height of the peace process, I would say dozens of American diplomats, accompanied by security officials, were passing the Erez crossing in order to promote peace in the region. And they were doing the Lord's work.

Let's remember, in much the same way that the bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad was an attack on those who were trying to help the Iraqi people, the American diplomats and security personnel operating in the Palestinian territories are trying to help the Palestinian people.

And that is why the Palestinian Authority, although they disagree with us on so much, desperately want the Americans there and realize that it's an attack on them as much as it is a tragedy for the American diplomats involved.

HEMMER: What do you think is the appropriate U.S. response right now?

RUBIN: Well, at this point, until there is some claim of responsibility and some ability to determine who is responsible, the most you can do is what is going to go on, which is a very serious investigation to try to figure out who would do such a thing. Nobody seems to want to claim responsibility and we'll just have to see where the investigation leads.

But clearly one thing we've learned here is that there has been a complete collapse in the authority of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians.

Their ability to control the territory they have, to operate on that territory, to provide security for American or foreign officials operating through, has been severely impaired now and diplomats are going to be reluctant to come and -- or require extensive security procedures.

This is an attack on, obviously, the United States, but a demonstration of the complete collapse of authority in the Palestinian territories.

HEMMER: That answer is a bit dire. Now, will you take it just a step further. How do you get that control back, if that's the reality on the ground, with no control present?

RUBIN: Well, you have to, in order to build up the security services of the Palestinians again, you're going to have to do it in a much more careful, in a much more determined way that takes into account the very real possibility that there are other Palestinians who want to destroy that cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the United States and that they are going to try to attack Americans.

So you're going to see more Kevlar. You're going to see more bulletproof vests. You're going to see more strict security procedures for the Americans operating on the ground.

But it's going to have a chilling effect and make it all the harder for us to play a role there, a role that I must confess has been declining in recent years, but is still important.

HEMMER: Take a different approach on that. Is this the type of event that can coalesce the three sides, the Israelis, the Palestinians and the U.S., against a common target?

RUBIN: Well, I don't -- I'm sure that all three sides will be condemning the bombing.

If there is a ray of hope in such a terrible tragedy, it may be to shake up Yasser Arafat and the leaders in the Palestinian Authority.

Chairman Arafat, for all his flaws, and there are many, has cared greatly about his relationship with the United States. He desperately wants to be returned into good favor with the United States. He misses his ability to work closely with an American government.

So this may be a wake up call for him, that in allowing the situation to deteriorate so far, he has allowed chaos to ensue in his area of responsibility and maybe will be a wake up call that he needs to work with the new prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, and develop a real security service that can stop these kind of things from happening.

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