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Israeli Diplomatic Reaction

April 4, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: And with me is David Ivry, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. As we just heard, the President asked Israel to halt its incursion and begin withdrawing from the areas it’s recently occupied. Is Israel ready to comply?

DAVID IVRY: First, I think it was a very strong, clear and positive speech, which the President of the United States gave today. I think it’s very positive, from our perspective, as well. One of the points was of course beginning of the process of withdrawal from those kind of cities.

We will try to do it anyway because we don’t like to stay in those kind of cities. It’s not a goal from our point of view to stay over there. But we have to do our work, and the job is over there such that Arafat is not doing his part by dismantling the organization of terror and not disrupting those kind of infrastructure, which they have over there, so we are doing it. But the idea is to do it and to go out.

MARGARET WARNER: When do you expect Israel would withdraw?

DAVID IVRY: I cannot say here what the timing is going to be. We want to do the job as fast as we can and to go out.

MARGARET WARNER: Are you waiting for Chairman Arafat to do anything before… a deputy defense minister today, a Ms. Rabin, said in an earlier interview on CNN, that Israel would want to see Arafat call for an end to the violence before it withdrew. Is that Israel’s position?

DAVID IVRY: I think this is a plan of General Zinni, what he is putting on the table as such that we accepted it immediately and Chairman Arafat didn’t accept it. This is starting with… This is not part of the getting into the cities. The cities, the goal over there is to disrupt the infrastructure of the terrorist organization.

MARGARET WARNER: Would you expect to have halted the incursions and begin withdrawing before Secretary Powell gets there next week?

DAVID IVRY: I don’t what to say. It depends what the achievements is going to be on the ground. But I think the expectation here is such that before Secretary Powell is going to come over there, this is the expectation here, which I understand.

MARGARET WARNER: So in other words, you’re getting the impression that the Bush Administration hopes and expects that even before Secretary Powell gets there, Israel would have begun withdrawal?

DAVID IVRY: This is what I understand.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, you’ve said a couple of times that the operation has to be completed, your work has to be completed on the ground. You’re a military man by training, you were head of the Israeli air force, I believe, during the time of the Lebanon invasion, for instance, in ’82. So give us your judgment: What hasn’t been done? What has been done? What remains to be done in this incursion?

DAVID IVRY: Well, military plans are very much such that they want to complete anything the best way they can do it. But it’s only the political level, especially in a democratic society and government which we have, are going to decide when it’s going to be ended yes or no. And they are going to decide, and the government of Israel is going to sit down and to dictate to the military side what should be done.

MARGARET WARNER: And is your sense, though, that in the view of the Israeli government, the operation is not yet done?

DAVID IVRY: That’s what I understand right now.

MARGARET WARNER: That it’s not?

DAVID IVRY: Not.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, Administration officials have said one reason President Bush stepped in to this now when he did is growing alarm here that Israel’s relations with its friendly Arab neighbors, Egypt, for example, were fast deteriorating. Yesterday, for instance, the Egyptian government suspended almost all contacts with the Israeli government, as you know. How concerned was the Sharon government by that?

DAVID IVRY: First, I think it’s very bad what the Egyptian government did because it was a commitment on a peace treaty between us and Egyptians of 1979 that, even… never mind what instability in the region is going to be, that embassies are going to work on both sides, which hasn’t been done actually in the last year.

The ambassador of Egypt has been called back to Egypt — in spite of it, almost not keeping the peace treaty between us. And I think it’s very bad. But that’s what Egypt decided to do, and I think they are still keeping the door open to negotiate about Palestinian issues. That’s what they said. So at least there is some light on the end of the tunnel.

MARGARET WARNER: But I mean did you take it as a warning from the Egyptian government that this situation had so inflamed this… this operation, Israeli operation, had so inflamed public opinion in the Arab world, that these governments had to do something and that Israel might become more and more isolated?

DAVID IVRY: Well, I think what they should do is to stop incitement and show the real truth who is behind terror and it’s going to be stopped. So it’s not because of Israel it should be done, but because of Palestinians and to try to change their way of speaking to the media and to condemn suicide bombing and terror.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Your expectations for the Powell mission. What do you think Secretary Powell… what is your understanding about what he’s going to concentrate on?

DAVID IVRY: First, he’s more than welcome — always Secretary Powell is going to be welcome to the Middle East. So we’re accepting very much the offer of President Bush about it. I don’t know what to say, what we should expect from acts by Secretary Powell because General Zinni is now… has on the table a plan how to come up to a cease-fire to start the Tenet and Mitchell report.

And this is what we understand how the plans were now. So as much as I understand, Secretary Powell is coming over there to encourage the Tenet plan, Mitchell plan and according to the 242 and 338, to implement the process in the Middle East. This is what the President did.

MARGARET WARNER: Prime Minister Sharon has said repeatedly that the violence has to stop and there has to be a negotiated cease-fire before a political settlement can even be talked about. But Secretary Powell last night said that in fact he believed that the political discussions had to start sooner, and he said, “The Palestinian people have to see that there is a political process and not just a cease-fire and security process.” Is Israel ready for that?

DAVID IVRY: I think in some way, it’s been done. First the United States came up with a vision of Palestinian state, as Palestine, it’s been repeated by President Bush and Secretary Powell several times. But Mr. Sharon said that there is to the end of it is recognizing the legitimate aspiration of Palestinian state. He didn’t speak about the borders, but he was accepting it. So it means there is a vision — there is a political vision for Palestinians. They have to stop violence first and then we can sit down and talk.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, Mr. Ambassador, thanks for being with us.