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Jerrold Kessel: Israel's 'new policy'

Jerrold Kessel  

CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel has been reporting on the recent rash of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli targets this week.

Q: Do these most recent Mideast bombings increase the chances for Israeli retaliation?

KESSEL: Well, the Israelis {have said} bluntly that whatever action they take it shouldn't be seen as retaliation, it won't be retaliation, it won't be revenge. It will be what senior government people are calling "a new policy." And by that, they say this will be an ongoing battle to undercut what Israel says is terrorism. And (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon says he's got a method, got a way to combat effectively the upsurge in violence and he intimates that as far as he's concerned, the issue is not whether he'll act forcefully to combat this violence, but when. But they won't call it retaliation.

CNN's Jerrold Kessel has more on the continuing violence in the Middle East

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Views of the blast wreckage, from CNN's Jerrold Kessel, who also hears from an Israeli official

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CNN's Jerold Kessel: Israel to curb what it calls Palestinian terrorism

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Q: How does this change the political lay of the land in the region with regard to the peace process?

KESSEL: One's almost tempted to say "What peace process?" (Palestinian Authority President ) Yasser Arafat mentioned in his speech at the Arab summit Tuesday that Israel was turning its back, destroying the peace process. But the way the Israelis see it, and frankly most Palestinians probably see it in the same way, there is effectively no peace process at present.

Both sides relate to each other less and less as partners, not only as peace partners, but as any kind of partners -- and more as rivals. Some, you might say, go as far as to say the other side is increasingly the enemy. And that's much more the reality than the concept of a peace process, that's just dormant as it was in the past. Having said that, there is ... still an undercurrent .. of feeling that the deep conflict can't be resolved by anything other than -- call it a diplomatic process, call it a peace process --- by talking to each other. That, perhaps, there's still an argument about. But no one thinks they're anywhere near that again at this stage.

Q: What is the official reaction of the Palestinians to the suicide attacks?

KESSEL: Very, very little, frankly. There hasn't been much. The Palestinian leadership has been away for the last few days at the Arab summit. We spoke, for instance, to Hanan Ashrawi, the leading Palestinian legislator and often one of the top spokespeople. She had some interesting comments. She said that even though the root cause (and this is very much the Palestinian position) of the violence remains the ongoing occupation, and as they see it, Israel's refusal to negotiate the end of that occupation -- even so, she was quite caustic about the recent rash of bombings, especially the suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. She called them destructive and counter-productive to Palestinian interests and are, as she put it, playing into Israel's hands. But that's really the only kind of comment that we've had officially from the Palestinians.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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