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U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Hold News Briefing of Efforts to Ease Mideast TensionsAired October 10, 2000 - 10:08 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live now to Jerusalem, where Kofi Annan and Ehud Barak are having a news conference, following their meeting trying to find peace in the Middle East.
EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Good evening. I have just ended a meeting with General Secretary Annan. We are always thankful for the contribution that the general -- secretary-general personally is making to the efforts to bring peace to our troubled region.
We, first of all, discussed the soldier that had been abducted into Lebanon, and we expressed our demand, that the -- that the U.N. or Red Cross authorities will be -- get an immediate, unconditional access to them, to bring information about their situation, and that we expect their immediate release since the abduction itself was a clear-cut violence of international law after our pullout from Lebanon.
We, of course, reiterated the fact that we hold Syria, as well as the Hezbollah and Lebanese government, but Syria as the dominant player in Lebanon responsible for the overall, quick resolution of these issues.
We feel that this is a major violation of the agreement and the spirit. And we, of course, keep to ourselves the right to respond at a time, place and means that we will find appropriate.
I believe that the visit of Secretary-General Annan to the region is somehow contributing to the chances of the peace process...
... impressions and I know that they are trying to push it towards (OFF-MIKE). And we...
KAGAN: Bear with us as we have a few microphone problems here. We're bringing you this news conference, this late-breaking news out of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak coming just out of his meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan trying to find some resolution to the number of problems that have taken place over the last two weeks in the Middle East. Kofi Annan flying to the Middle East trying to help find some resolution. He met earlier in the day with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, now Ehud Barak. Let's see if we can go ahead and listen in.
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
... a message to the public. I believe, as the prime minister said, we are (OFF-MIKE) that we do have a chance, we do have a window (OFF-MIKE) in order to be able to bring this situation (OFF-MIKE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN HEBREW)
KAGAN: Well, we've got our wires crossed a little bit there. We can't get the English up and we're hearing the Hebrew translation instead.
Once again, that's U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan having his comments after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
While we can show you that picture, we can also show you this picture from Ramallah, a site that has been the scene of a lot of violence over the last 13 days. This pattern of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has left almost 90 people dead, most of those Palestinians. And this being a Palestinian town, a lot of the violence and protest taking place there.
Once again, we're trying to hear our current comments from Kofi Annan.
Can we get Mike Hanna in? We can't get Mike Hanna in.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We're seeing Mike Hanna now on our screen there. And I don't know if he can hear us there, but just a time ago, Mike...
MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can hear you.
HEMMER: ... OK, we could see the live picture where the clashes, again, continued in your part of the West Bank. What's happening there now, Mike?
HANNA: Well, this has been an ongoing skirmish through most of the afternoon. As you see behind here, the Israeli security forces confronting once again the Palestinian demonstrators, ambulances going there. There has been this ongoing conflict throughout the afternoon, but once again a low-scale type of conflict.
I'll move away out of picture as you see the ambulances come in.
This has been a low-scale conflict on this particular day relative to what has happened here in past days. But still, you see there the stones are raining down, concussion grenades being fired by the Israeli side, the smoke you see there from tires that have been set up in the middle of the road. This an absolutely familiar scene over the past 13 days that this conflict has been going on. This area here behind is the Ramallah. This is the far northern boundary of the Palestinian Authority. Jerusalem itself is a matter of miles just up the road.
KAGAN: Mike, are you able to hear us back here in Atlanta?
HANNA: Yes, I can hear you.
KAGAN: OK, question for you: The Israelis had given the Palestinians until yesterday to stop the violence. That clearly didn't happen. Extending the deadline. Any word now when a new deadline might be imposed?
HANNA: Well, effectively, what has happened is that that deadline has been extended from the Israeli side to allow more time for talks or attempts to get talks under way.
But one most point out as well that since the original ultimatum was given, which was on Saturday, the Palestinian completely rejected the terms of the ultimatum. They have been absolutely adamant that it is not they who have the power or the responsibility to end the conflict. That rests with the Israeli government, and in particular its security forces whom the Palestinian accuse of being responsible for the violence that you are seeing.
HEMMER: Hey, Mike.
HANNA: Once again, this is a fairly typical example -- yes.
HEMMER: Mike, I just want to interrupt you because I want to let our viewers have a better understanding of what we're seeing here. Based on your perspective, it appears quite obvious that there are Palestinian protesters at the top of this screen with ambulances beyond them. In the foreground, there's a number of journalist coming in and out of the picture here carrying cameras, et cetera, and then obviously Israeli soldiers as well.
We've seen some soldiers take cover on the outside of one of the jeep doors and fire what appears to be bullets, possibly rubber bullets. Could you clarify, indeed, what we're seeing here and what's taking place in this current clash?
HANNA: Yes, what you are seeing there at the top of the road are the Palestinian demonstrators. Now, for the most part, and as far as we've witnessed, they are using only stones, and for most of the time in this particular area, have been using only stones as weapons.
On the side nearest us, as you pointed out, you see the Israeli security forces firing occasionally the rubber-coated steel bullet or else, as you see there, a tear gas canister flying down into the crowd. They have also been using concussion grenades. These are grenades that are supposedly harmless that create a major concussion, very disorientating when thrown into crowds.
But I have just spent the last hour at Ramallah Hospital, which is a matter of half a mile down the road that you see on your screen there. Doctors at the hospital there provided me with statistics that indicate, according to their figures, that a large amount of regular bullets, that is sharp-point ammunition, has been used here over the past week. The figures that were given to me, incidentally...
KAGAN: Mike? Mike, we're just going...
HANNA: ... some 227 people -- yes.
KAGAN: We're going to have you stand by just one second. We were able to fix our audio problems. Here's U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Let's listen along.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ANNAN: This is not an issue for the leaders alone. It is not an issue just for Prime Minister Barak and prime -- and Chairman Arafat. It is not an issue even for the idea alone. It's for all of us, the population have a role to play, Palestinian and Israeli, to work together to bring these things down. We all have a responsibility. We live in the society and we have a responsibility to work with the leaders and others to make sure that this situation calms down so that we can move back to the negotiating table.
With your specific question about the three soldiers, I have not seen them personally. My envoy or the Red Cross has not seen them, but we are working on it. From the information we have received, I understand they are well and that they are being well treated. But we can be able to confirm this once we've had access to them, and we are working very hard on that.
QUESTION (through translator): Mr. Prime Minister, are you still opposed to the international commission of inquiry to the situation? And are the efforts working towards a summit meeting taking shape?
(speaking in English): Did you get the impression that Arafat instructed all his forces to stop the violence immediately? -- one question. And the second question, how does the condemnation of Israel in the U.N. helps the achieving the tranquility in the area? And don't you think it was a mistake to condemn Israel like the mistake that Secretary U Thant made in 1967?
BARAK (through translator): For the past 10 years, there's been a process under U.S. auspices and the Russian participation that we believe the best way is a committee rule which will assess the facts of the events that have been, the source of which will be the Americans, the Palestinians and us, according to the agreement that had been arranged in Paris where expert who will be recommended by the European community and by the U.N. secretary-general.
And at an American -- later American request, we accepted that there would be another participant, a Norwegian, for instance. And I have no doubt this kind of committee will enjoy the kind of necessary status to ensure the objectivity and will be much more efficient than an international commission of inquiry, which has been raised in that direction by the other side during the negotiations. Therefore, we are in favor of a commission headed by the United States, and against an international commission. I don't know anything at this stage of -- about a summit and since that issue has not yet come to fruition, I don't see the need to respond to it.
ANNAN: The council have been following the situation on the ground, and I don't think their intention was to complicate the situation or to inflame it. I know that their resolution is not very popular in Israel but I can assure you the counsel, when it acts, usually tries to work towards (INAUDIBLE) to work for peace, not to inflame it.
I have come here as Secretary General under my own good offices to try to see what I can do to work with the leaders to get the situation back on track. And I hope we will make some progress. I am determined to do everything I can, working with Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat to move forward the process.
On your second question, on your second question, I got the impression that Chairman Arafat is concerned about a level of violence, is concerned about the level of Palestinian casualties. In fact, he told me 99 percent of the people who have been killed have been our people. And I think he's anxious to bring down the violence. He's anxious to see the situation calm down and this is what we are trying to work with him on. And I hope we will succeed. I am hopeful, I am optimistic that with good will on all sides we can do it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have come.
KAGAN: Once again, we've been listening to a news conference from Jerusalem, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, after they came out of their meeting together. The prime minister talking about his concern for three Israeli soldiers that have been abducted by Lebanese guerrillas. The prime minister using some strong language, saying Israel reserves the right to retaliate for that action.
Kofi Annan there to try to calm things down. He also met earlier with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and said that Mr. Arafat's main concerns were the Palestinian casualties that have taken place over the last 13 days in this region. Also, the violence that, as you can see from live pictures right now does continue.
We have our Mike Hanna standing by in Ramallah on the West Bank at the site of this violence and the scenes you are seeing. Mike, what can you bring us the latest from there?
HANNA: Well, once again, you are looking here at a live picture from Ramallah. The situation here a standoff that has occurred through much of the afternoon. Indeed, a standoff that has occurred for much of the past 13 days.
Closest to the camera here, you see the Israeli security forces in their vehicles. Up the road you see, there, a crowd of Palestinian demonstrators. This, the Ramallah Junction at the far north of the Palestinian authority, one of the closest points to Jerusalem proper, which is just up the road here. The smoke you see billowing there is from tires that have been set alight by the demonstrators. The ambulances have been coming in and out as the stones have been thrown toward the Israeli positions.
The Israelis have been responding with fire, with -- we understand, for the most part, rubber-coated steel bullets. They've been using tear gas, concussion grenades. So the situation here, though, one must point out, is of a lesser intensity at this point than it has been on many of the previous days. There have been, on occasion here, the exchange of live fire. That is live fire coming from the Palestinian side.
Once again, you hear a rubber bullet being fired, a rubber-coated steel bullet. There have been, on occasion, live fire reports from the Palestinian side, but this has been a rare occurrence. According to most, who spent a lot of time at this particular point, and from what I've seen over the times that I've been here, for the most part, I've observed the Palestinians carrying only stones.
The Israelis have been using, as I said, the rubber-coated steel bullets, the tear gas, the concussion grenades. But they have been using regular bullets, that is sharp-point ammunition. Evidence of this provided to me at the Ramallah hospital here, where nearly half of those admitted to the hospital were suffering from wounds consistent with that of regular bullets or live ammunition.
So this confrontation is going on. The conflict is going on. But I must point out, once against, that this is of a lower intensity that what we have seen before, and reports from other areas of the West Bank, and indeed in the Gaza Strip, indicate that there has been a general lessening of the level of violence over the past 24 hours, which is essentially good news for people such as the U.N. secretary- general, and others involved in trying to bring the two together to discuss a way to which to get a permanent cessation of these hostilities.
HEMMER: Mike, not to diminish the point here, or understate what we're seeing over the past 13 days in the Middle East. But so much of the game here is cat and mouse. It is chase and be chased, between soldiers and Palestinian protesters.
Curious to get your thoughts on what we are seeing relative to that point. And also, because of a camera angle we are seeing back here in the U.S., Mike, can you give us a better indication of the distance that separates the Israeli soldiers from the protesters, those throwing rocks that we see so often in these pictures?
HANNA: Yes, indeed, at this particular point, there have always been in a very close proximity. You see, on the left of your screen, the Israeli vehicle moving forward. That is an attempt to push the protesters back. There, once again, you have the concussion grenades, some bullets fired. Watch now as the vehicle reverses back.
This has been a common occurrence. This particular strip of land, of road here, has been continually shifting. Beyond that front vehicle that you see there. The demonstrators are probably a distance of some 40-50 yards. It isn't very close proximity between the two sides.
In regard to -- the first part of your question, the once again the statistics do tell very a significant tale, unfortunately, of -- we've had some 90 people killed in the past 13 days. Now all but four of these have either been Palestinian or Arab-Israelis. This the Palestinian point to as ample evidence of the fact that they are bearing the brunt of the fire, that they are suffering most of the casualties, and the statistics bare this out.
Now part of the reason for this is because most of these conflicts have taken place in Palestinian-controlled territory. Ramallah, right here, where you see these vehicles, this is the border of the northern border of the Palestinian Authority. On this side is under Israeli control; on that side is theoretically under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
This is the type of clash that we have seen at the borders at the checkpoints which lead into Israeli territory proper.
The other form of clashes that we have seen are either in the Gaza Strip, which is largely Palestinian controlled, apart from the Jewish enclave of Netzarim, in the West Bank, we've seen major clashes around these Jewish enclaves. These have been flash points all along.
So this has been the pattern of what has happened here. Either at the so-called borders you have the confrontation, where the Palestinian demonstrator will come from a town that is under their control, and confront the security forces who are preventing them from moving any further to Israeli territory proper. Or you see the clashes of violence within the Palestinian territory.
HEMMER: Mike, I apologize for interruption. My regrets there. But we do want you to stand by there. We are going to come back to you shortly, and talk more about this. You are about 90 minutes from sundown I believe where you are located there. We will come back and talk about it.
But in the meantime, John King standing by at the White House. Here's Daryn for more on that.
KAGAN: Let's bring in senior White House correspondent John King standing by.
John, the president tried to get involved yesterday, offered to go and basically do what Kofi Annan is doing today, and he was rebuffed. As he sits and watches this continuing scene of violence and Kofi Annan's involvement, what can the president do?
JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, White House officials stressing the answer to Mr. Clinton's plans on the possibility of an emergency meeting summit were not yet. They are saying nobody flat out ruled it out. And initially, Prime Minister Barak was somewhat cold to the idea, but by late last night, he had come around and said that he would be willing to attend. U.S. officials very encouraged by that. Encouraged by the presence of the U.N. chief in the region, believing he might be able to broker some diplomatic calm here, to get both sides to step back from the violence.
Obviously, pictures like this quite disturbing to the administration here, although overall, they say, that there has been some improvement in the coordination and the communication between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the past 24-48 hours.
Now the presidents spoke yesterday with Mr. Barak, Mr. Arafat, the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. No additional calls as yet today, we are told. The president in a very important diplomatic meeting on another front right now with number two North Korean official.
After that, we expect him to reengage in the Middle East. He is expected to speak again to Mr. Barak and Arafat. Perhaps by the end of the day, U.S. officials saying, they will make a decision as to whether the time is right to have some form of emergency summit, the most likely form that would take is a visit by the president to the region, though they do say there are other options on the table, including perhaps a visit by the secretary of state or the president's special Mideast envoy.
Again, they are watching quite anxiously. And privately here looking for a statement from Mr. Arafat. They say Mr. Barak has now come out, made public statements that he would do all he can do to calm the environment down, they are looking for a similar statement from Mr. Arafat.
HEMMER: All right, John. John King, live at the White House, thanks.
Going to go back to Mike Hanna.
Mike, if you have the telephone back to your ear right now, and if you can here me, give us an indication, a typical clash like this. How long would this continue? You describe the line of demarcation earlier between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. But knowing that nightfall is soon upon us, does nightfall determine when this confrontation ends?
HANNA: At this particular point, that has largely being the case, Bill. To, once again, to make quite clear of the sequence of events here, and this has been an absolutely regular pattern. Earlier on today a funeral was held for a Palestinian who was killed in the clashes yesterday at this exact same point.
After the funeral, the people came down to the barricades, once again, and confronted the security forces. This is the kind of pattern that we have been seeing all along.
Here the violence generally dies down. The confrontation, when darkness falls, the demonstrators generally move back, the Israeli forces generally move back. This has not been the case in other areas, particularly in the recent day, where there have been nighttime firefights, particularly within Israeli territory between Israelis and Arabs, Jews and Arabs, and this has been happening in recent days.
But with me, as well, Bill, is my colleague Ben Wedeman, who spent much of the day, at this point yesterday, among the Palestinian protesters.
And Ben, you will possible explain, what is the sequence of events that you saw? You saw the whole build-up yesterday and how it happens and how the clashes go?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Mike. Yesterday is pretty much the same thing. A funeral took place in downtown Ramallah about midday, people started moving toward this Israeli position, and very soon, they start throwing rocks and Molitov cocktails. The Israelis respond, as you can see, with tear gas, with rubber-coated steal bullets. It's very much a pattern, Mike.
HANNA: Also I must correct myself here, Bill. The funeral that happened today was a man who was allegedly killed by Jewish settlers yesterday, who was allegedly, badly beaten and tortured before his death.
This, obviously, a dreadfully emotional thing, which once again, the crowds on that side, when we were there earlier on, deeply angry about this course of events, as they have been deeply angry about each event.
But the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke about the cycle of violence. She spoke about how she has got to get people away from the psychology of confrontation to the psychology of peace making.
Well, each time there is a death, that intensifies the cycle of confrontation. Because you will have a funeral, you will have emotions further inflamed, and you will then have an ongoing confrontation, leading to more deaths, leading to greater degree of anger.
So, in a simple way, it would appear, that if there were no more deaths, then you would have a greater degree of stability and calm on the ground -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Mike Hanna, Ben Wedeman, on the scene there, Ramallah, West Bank. As we continue to take in live pictures there, we won't leave this scene here.
But in the meantime, for a bit more perspective, here is Daryn with a guest now to talk more about.
KAGAN: Yes, and we have this guest from the University of Maryland. Shibley Telhami. I hope that I am announcing your name correctly. But juts to introduce you to our audience, you are at the Anwar Sadat chair for peace and development at the University of the Maryland.
Thank you for joining us this morning, sir, I appreciate your time. SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: My pleasure.
KAGAN: From the comments we heard from Kofi Annan and also from Ehud Barak, it would appear that they were even suggesting that this a bigger than a Palestinian-Israeli problem, this is something that is engulfing the entire region.
TELHAMI: There is no question that, in the past two weeks, the conflict has been transformed from primarily a Palestinian-Israeli conflict to an Arab-Israeli conflict, and even to a Muslim-Jewish conflict. And that makes it incredibly hard to control.
Two weeks ago, governments were much more in control than they are today. Today public passions, as we can see, and also religious organizations are taking the lead. Things are shifting very rapidly.
But I think that, more importantly, there has been a threshold that has been crossed in the past couple of weeks, and that is a change from a psychology of peace making, to psychology of war. This is fundamental, because when you have a psychology of war, people act on their worst instincts. And I am afraid that, at the moment, the chance of escalation is really higher than the chance of peace.
I think that Kofi Annan's visit has had some calming effect, it is helpful, it clearly slows things down. But something more dramatic needs to be done, if we are to have a chance to stop this cycle.
KAGAN: And what would that be, would that be a visit by President Clinton, even though h8e has been rebuffed so far?
TELHAMI: Yes, I think there is no question that the United States is in the best position to act. Even though, I must say, that at the moment, there is a major problem, and that is a crisis of confidence between the United States and the Palestinians. That is an obstacle in the way to peace making. I think that it has to be addressed.
I think, clearly, the Palestinians see the U.S. as taking Israel's side, and as a consequence, they are suspicious of every plan that the U.S. puts forward. They think it's a trick, trying to trick them into something, which obviously makes them respond less favorably.
And on the other hand, the U.S. is very suspicious of Arafat's intentions. He is officially saying that Arafat doesn't want a peace agreement.
So when you have that kind of accusation, it makes it very difficult, and I think the first task, therefore, is have -- to build this confidence. The president should send a special emissary, a high-profile person with access to the president to rebuild the relationship with the Palestinians.
It's impossible to proceed unless you have that relationship rebuilt, and I think it even is more important, perhaps, than Clinton himself going. Clinton will help, perhaps, stop that cycle. But you are going to need to have a relationship constructed in an environment that is very difficult.
And obviously, the messengers is almost as important as the message. You have to have a relationship of trust. That is why Kofi Annan is somewhat effective, even though he really doesn't report a powerful state. He doesn't have leverage on his own. But he is a trusted man. People are addressing, listening to him, he has the respect of both parties, and we need to build that relationship at the moment to proceed forward.
KAGAN: Getting back to the involvement of President Clinton and the U.S. government. What about those critics who say that this, the scenes that we are seeing right now live on CNN, are a direct result of the Camp David summit that was called too early and that that -- go ahead.
TELHAMI: No, I don't agree with that.
TELHAMI: I don't agree with that. I think that we would have had something like this if we didn't have the summit. I think the president was wise to hold the summit. I think that summit was a very brave attempt to broker an agreement. And I think it was very important, we made tremendous progress, and we were nearly there.
I think what was happened was, there was a misunderstanding of the complexity that they shared Jerusalem. It clearly was a deal breaker..
KAGAN: On whose part?
TELHAMI: ... and that is what we are facing is really a consequence of the inflammation over the issue of Jerusalem.
KAGAN: Well, one thing that did happen that segs between within the comments that you made earlier following that summit, following the meeting at Camp David, the U.S. government, President Clinton came out and was very strongly criticizing Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians, and that not only distanced the U.S. government from the Palestinians, but also the Palestinian people might have become bitter as well?
TELHAMI: Well, yeah, the problem, of course, is when you are trying to get a leader to make concessions, and more concessions, and he feels constrained by his own public, if you go publicly criticizing him to pressure him to compromise, obviously, he is going to be less able to compromise because of public opinion.
That is the same thing about the public ultimatum, by Mr. Barak. If, in fact, that is intended to change Mr. Arafat's position, obviously it wouldn't work. Because he's not going to be want to be seen as responding to threats.
And so, especially in an environment like this, where emotions are very high. So ultimately, I think, you are going to have to have effective behind-the-scene diplomacy. You are going to have to build trust. You can't avoid to erode the confidence any further because, at the moment, the issue is no longer peace making for the U.S., it is really a national security crisis. There are implications for American interests all over the region, perhaps all over the world, and it clearly could effect the economy as well.
And so, as a consequence, and I think that the issue is no longer taking side or assigning blame, the issue is preventing a situation from escalation in a way that would protect vital American interests.
KAGAN: Shibley Telhami, thank you for joining us with your insight today, sir. I appreciate your time.
TELHAMI: My pleasure.
Daryn, thank you. And I am reminded yesterday of Kofi Annan, his comment he made when he touched down on the ground there in Tel Aviv, saying, quote, "Time is short. The stakes are high. And the price is greater than we are willing to pay."
The question is: Can all sides in this matter afford any more time before the situation continues to unravel the way we have seen it over the past two weeks?
Jerrold Kessel on the ground in Jerusalem. Let's go to Jerrold now.
And Jerrold, what is your take given what you are seeing not only there in Jerusalem, but what you are hearing throughout the region with different Arab leaders? Kofi Annan himself being on the ground there in Israel. Is the time slipping or is, indeed, the time being saved at this point?
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, I think it's not quite sure. Certainly, Kofi Annan was very optimistic, but whether that is his customary calm demeanor that's coming through and that that's what he projects in an attempt to radiate that calm to the situation, or whether it's a deduction from the possibility of really restoring calm to the situation -- too early say. But, certainly, he's been saying -- both after his meetings, and he's had now two with Yasser Arafat down in Gaza and a short while ago with Prime Minister Barak here in Jerusalem -- he has been saying it is doable.
He can -- he didn't say he, but the situation can be reined in, he said. He said we're in the midst of a very delicate, diplomatic process and hopefully, that there will not be the kind of violence on the ground that will sidetrack these efforts, and that they will be able to follow through. He did say that time was very short. This window of opportunity, he said, would not last a very long time. But he said: I believe it can be done, otherwise I wouldn't be here trying to do it.
Now, just as he was voicing that kind of positive and optimistic view of the possibility of this diplomatic -- this desperate, diplomatic effort to rein in the violence, so the violence has been continuing. We have here these pictures on the scene from CNN pictures there at this outskirts of the West Bank town of Ramallah. You can see ambulances making their way away. There has been another clash there between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops in those Jeeps in the front of the picture. The smoke billowing up from the Palestinians having set up those barricades, trying to toss petrol bombs.
The Israelis have been firing back and there have been these ongoing clashes. Down in Gaza, not far from where Kofi Annan was meeting with Yasser Arafat, a clash at Rafah, on the border between Gaza and Egypt. And there a nine-year-old boy is now in absolutely critical condition in a Gaza hospital after taking a bullet in the head. And he, according to eyewitnesses, was not party to the stone- throwing of young Palestinians at an Israeli army position, but was standing by on the sidelines, but, nonetheless, another one of the growing number of casualties that Yasser Arafat reflected on when he told Kofi Annan, 99 percent of the casualties are Palestinians who are killed and wounded.
And, therefore, we, Yasser Arafat said, are interested, are desperate to get the firing stopped. And the question is: Who stops first? The Israelis say it's Yasser Arafat who must give the orders to the Palestinians to stop firing or to stop their attacks, is the way the Israelis see it. The Palestinians say the Israelis must stop firing -- Bill.
HEMMER: In addition to that Jerrold, getting back to the topic of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, earlier, he had implored upon his own people not to initiate attacks against Israeli Arabs or Palestinians throughout the area; while at the same time it appears that he is walking a very difficult tightrope here, at times being somewhat conciliatory toward Yasser Arafat, to encourage him to go ahead and speak publicly to his own people to rein in the wave of violence we have seen; while at the same time, he rides a very tough line, especially against Lebanon and Syria. And you heard him just 30 minutes ago say Israel will respond when and how it chooses against Lebanon and Syria with regard to those three Israeli soldiers who were taken captive last weekend.
What is Ehud Barak's position from within Israel as he is perceived by the Israeli people at this point, knowing that his approval rating within his own country is down around 30 percent?
KESSEL: You are absolutely are right. You put your finger on that one.
Just as the Israelis keep saying that everything is within Yasser Arafat's head and what Yasser Arafat chooses to do, this whole situation is dictated by that. I think that you can equally say and you're fair, right to point that out, it's how Ehud Barak perceives the situation and all throughout this almost two weeks of confrontation he has been fluctuating between being a diplomatic dove to a security hawk. And sometimes he's become a security -- a hawkish diplomat too, as when he stepped back and went away from Paris, insisting that it was up to Yasser Arafat to agree to that commission the way that he insisted, of inquiry, headed by the United States, rather than an international commission. He underlined that again today.
There is that fluctuation in Mr. Barak's attitude to the situation. But I think, and the bottom line, today, he attended quite pointedly, a memorial ceremony for the thousands of Israeli soldiers who died in that very traumatic war for Israel 27 years ago, in 1973, the Yom Kippur War, and there was a memorial ceremony at the National Cemetary.
And Mr. Barak pointedly said at that time, that the only -- the legacy of the soldiers who had died was to bring peace. And at the same time, while he is saying that, the Israeli army is taking still very forceful measures, and continuing to take very forceful measures in trying to curn what the Israelis see as the ongoing Palestinians challenge to them on the streets.
So it is Mr. Barak walking both lines at the same time. And you rightly point out, he has been gaining in popularity from the tough stance that he has been taking, in terms of the Isreali public's attitude; and, at the same time, in the last opinion poll, while his personal ratings were down, down, down, an overwhelming majority of Israelis said: Go on with the peace process. They supported that. So that dycotomy that perhaps exists in Mr. Barak's personality, and in his policy is just a matter of reflection of the attitudes in the Israeli public at large.
HEMMER: Jerrold, with that, and much appreciate the comment on that. Believe us up to date today. I believe we are about an hour and 15 minutes from sundown there on this Tuesday, the 10th of October, in the Middle East. Last night, when that deadlined passed at the end of Yom Kippur, it was reported throughout our network that, indeed, the violence had toned down considerable in all parts of Israel and all parts of the occuppied territories, Gaza, the West Bank, and the northern border with Lebanon.
What has been the measure today, in addition to what we are seeing right today in Ramallah, with regard to that violence?
KESSEL: On one level, it has tapered off to the degree and the intensity of the clashes, on the streets between Palestinian demonstrators and Isreali troops, like this clash that we are seeing in Ramallah. But -- and there have been similar clashes, as I said, down in Rafah, where that young Palestinian boy was shot and is in critical condition, and some 14 people, 14 other Palestinians were hurt in that particular confrontation. There was also one in the town of Hebron.
That being said, on this level, I think there has been a tapering off. What there hasn't been and what happened yesterday, where it really exploded, if you like, both mostly within the streets of Israel, but also on the streets of the West Bank, was on person to person violence, and the degree of people to people, Palestinians against Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Jewish settlers attacking Palestinians very much so, we understand from Palestinian reports in various parts of the West Bank. And within Israel, Jewish-Israelis attacking Israeli-Arab citizens. Israeli-Arab citizens continuing to demonstrate in some places against the police and against the ongoing violence with the Palestinians.
So, on that level, it's still a great deal of turmoil that envelopes this diplomatic effort to try to bring things under control. And, in the broader sense, I still think what we are seeing evolve is, amidst these efforts to tone down, to reign in the violence, as Kofi Annan has been putting it, it will take a major diplomatic effort to put the peace process back on the table, and that will be the only thing that will really cool down the situation.
That seems to be the message from Palestinians on the street. That, above all, seems to be the message. They say, time and time again we are hearing it: We cannot go back. Israel cannot expect that we are going to go back to the situation that existed just two weeks ago, when we were in a situation, where we were literally being, where we saw Yasser Arafat being dictated to on the peace platform. That seems to be the fundamental mood among Palestinians.
But that, in turn, is hardening the hearts and minds of Israelis. So the situation remains very, very complex in that ever-widening cycle of turmoil and suspicion that envelopes this relationship.
HEMMER: Clearly, the sunlight is growing softer as another day comes to an eventual conclusion there, another day of violence. The same stuff we have seen now for two weeks running in different parts of the Middle East.
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