The Next Step in Israel
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MARGARET WARNER: Now, some perspective from two men who’ve been deeply involved in MidEast diplomacy. Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State and National Security Adviser for Presidents Nixon and Ford. And Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Adviser to President Carter. Welcome to you both.
Mr. Brzezinski, beginning with you, the reports from the region are pretty horrific. How dangerous do you think this situation is?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: It’s pretty abysmal and quite dangerous. First of all, Mr. Arafat may be killed. In the report we just heard talk about the possibility of people being extracted from his office, from his immediate environment. There probably would be resistance to that. If he is killed, Mr. Sharon can then claim it was an accident.
Secondly, the whole thing is degenerating into more widespread violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that’s deplorable.
Thirdly, I think Israel’s international position is very badly damaged. A country which started off as a symbol of recovery of a people who were greatly persecuted now looks like a country that is persecuting people. And that’s very bad.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think this could spin out of control?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, it could spin out of control. In the meantime the United States and Israel are increasingly isolated internationally. This could hurt our ability to conduct the war on terrorism and last but not least– and this worries me a great deal — I think the Palestinians are being turned, largely by Mr. Sharon, into something like the Algerians: People absolutely determined to wage urban guerilla warfare brutally, ruthlessly, at any cost at enormous self-sacrifice.
And the Israelis are becoming increasingly like the white supremacist South Africans, viewing the Palestinians as a lower form of life, not hesitating to kill a great many of them and justifying this on the grounds that they are being the objects of terrorism, which is true.
But the reactions are all out of proportion, and all of that I think is a very sad spectacle and ultimately a spectacle of failure of American strategy.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Kissinger, a grim spectacle there. You do you share it in terms of how dangerous the situation is?
HENRY KISSINGER: Well, I think it is a – I agree with Zbig that it’s a – the situation is very grave, and I think it is dangerous. I don’t agree with many of the points he made. With respect to Arafat, I do not agree with what the Israelis are doing.
They’re making him a martyr, and they should move into a situation in which there is no danger whatever of his being killed by accident, and they shouldn’t undertake any moves that will risk the danger… that will risk his being killed by accident or any other way.
I do not agree with many of the other statements of Zbig. I don’t see how one can say that Israel looks like an oppressor when it has been the object of suicide bombing, when 40 people have been killed since last Wednesday by suicide bombers while peace talks were going on; and I also don’t think that it’s fair to blame everything on… or even most of this on Prime Minister Sharon.
This is a question of life and death for Israel, and we can be… the United States can be most active and historically has been most effective when the military actions had stopped and the United States could then undertake a series of peace moves. That was the situation in 1973. That was the situation after 1991, and I do not see how this can proceed unless at least the Tenet plan is accepted and unless the Arab leaders and Arafat make an unambiguous condemnation of the suicide bombing.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Kissinger, I’m sorry to interrupt you but just to follow up on something you said earlier about Sharon, essentially — essentially what he’s saying is he’s now doing what Arafat hasn’t done, which is to try to wipe out this terrorist infrastructure.
Do you think these incursions, this whole operation, will work, will end the suicide bombing with a military solution essentially?
HENRY KISSINGER: I do not think there’s a purely military solution, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a military reaction. I think what should be attempted is to reduce the suicide bombings to a fringe group to create a Palestinian negotiation under Arafat, if necessary, in which this is considered an interruption or a threat to legitimate Palestinian concerns.
In any peace movement, any peace process, it’s going to have very painful decisions for Israel. It will surely involve the creation of a Palestinian state. It will almost surely involve the giving up of some outlying settlements and a change of the dividing line between a Palestinian state, between the Palestinian regions and the Israeli regions.
But it’s very difficult to do while suicide bombing is going on without any serious condemnation.
MARGARET WARNER: What do you think? Do you think this is going to work, this incursion by Sharon’s government?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well,… this incursion by the Sharon government reminds me very much of Mr. Sharon’s operation in Lebanon in which he first of all misled his prime minister….
MARGARET WARNER: In 1982.
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: …In 1982 by defining the objective in a rather different way from his real intention and actual conduct. It seems to me that when we look at this problem we have to look at the totality of it. There’s loss of human life.
But you cannot define the loss of human life in terms of the number of Israelis killed by brutal, savage, inexcusable Palestinian terror. And it does take place. The fact of the matter is that three times as many Palestinians have been killed, and a relatively small number of them were really militants. Most were civilians. Some hundreds were children.
Now this can be called collateral damage. Maybe it can even be ignored but that in a way symbolizes the problem, that one side feels that only its victims are victims and the other side feels the same way. Now we’re going to move towards a solution of this problem, we have to think of it as a political problem, which cannot be solved unilaterally by one side alone.
The fact of the matter is that in the course of the last year, we have had Palestinian terrorism but we have also had deliberate, overreactions by Mr. Sharon designed not to repress terrorism but to destabilize the Palestinian Authority, to uproot the Oslo Agreement, which he has always denounced, in a manner which contributed to the climate, that resulted in the killing of one of the two architects of the Oslo Agreement.
I have in mind Prime Minister Rabin, and therefore, we’re dealing here with a political strategy, which has been designed for a full year to disrupt and undo the Oslo process. Unless the United States steps in, not only just with a procedural proposal of the Tenet plan and the semi-procedural proposal of the Mitchell plan, but with a concept and of vision of peace somewhat along the lines of what Henry outlined as the outcome, the situation is going to get worse and worse.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. But so you’re talking about not just having the U.S. push for a cease-fire, which is essentially the Tenet plan, but at the same time even while violence is going on to be talking about or presenting or advocating a larger political settlement?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because if we don’t do that, then we make the so-called cease-fire a hostage to any one terrorism. And it’s absolute hypocrisy to be claiming that Arafat can put a stop to the terrorism – and it’s — let’s put it mildly — poor information on the part of the president to be maintaining that.
This guy is sitting isolated. Sharon is trying to repress the Palestinians and terrorism is not stopping. How is Arafat supposed to put a stop to it? Yes he probably has been evasive. He probably has been winking, but the fact of the matter is that his ability to control the situation would be greatly increased if there was serious movement towards political process, towards a political settlement and that the United States took the lead.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Kissinger, do you see any prospect that the Israelis would be open to that kind of a dual track essentially approach where they’re talking about a political settlement while violence continues?
HENRY KISSINGER: First of all, I object to Zbig claiming the majority of this on is Israelis. I don’t have a brief for every single reaction of Israel, but I think it is important that the political negotiations occur free of the threat of terrorism.
It is true that there are isolated radicals that may continue to engage in terrorism, but the main pressure of the Arab community ought to be on condemning suicide bombing and then the United States can try to push for a political settlement and should push for a political settlement.
MARGARET WARNER: I mean the U.S.
HENRY KISSINGER: To have this occur after a whole series… to have the United States suddenly come up with a peace proposal after a whole series of terrorist attacks is going to show to the world that this sort of method is something that western societies can’t stand.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think there’s any prospect though or then that Arafat would respond to — the president has been calling on him to denounce this, to try to stop the terrorist bombings — I mean what are the prospects that that is going to bear fruit?
HENRY KISSINGER: I think it is necessary that the… that it’s understood that after there is a genuine cease-fire allowing for marginal actions that are of the criminal type that cannot be controlled, that then the United States will take a very active role in the peace process.
And one has to remember that every progress that has been made towards peace in the Middle East has come under American leadership. And I think that tradition would be resurrected, and I would be amazed if this were not the president’s intention.
MARGARET WARNER: But I guess… I still don’t understand how you believe we will get them to a cease-fire.
HENRY KISSINGER: We’ll get them to a cease-fire by telling… by making clear that they cannot achieve their objectives this way, that this way will produce a stalemate and that the only way they can make progress is through an active peace process after the suicide bombing is brought under control.
This happened… it happened in ’73. And it happened in ’91. Not in those words but that was the essence of the peace processes that started and that led to considerable progress at that time.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Brzezinski, what do you see as Arafat’s role here? I mean there does seem to be a real difference between President Bush who is saying “don’t kill him, don’t expel him and he still has a big role to play” and Sharon who just last night on “60 Minutes,” “I don’t think we have to talk to him anymore.” Is he still a player here?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Look, I think what’s quite obvious particularly after 9/11 what Sharon’s strategy has been. It’s been to stigmatize Arafat as a total terrorist and to link his policy to the U.S. struggle against terrorism.
And what we’re seeing now happen is essentially a confirmation of that strategy. I have no grief for Arafat. I’ve dealt with him. He’s evasive; he’s elusive. But the argument that he could stop terrorism and bring it to a halt and then go on from a prolonged procedural discussion into subsequent political discussions is sheer illusion or self-deception.
The point is there has to be a political process concurrently with the efforts to contain the violence. That means the U.S. stepping in, laying on the table proposals that point both parties to some definition of the settlement.
MARGARET WARNER: So how would you get Sharon to accept that?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Certainly by not endorsing what he’s doing or winking at it or acting in a way which contradictory, which is on the one hand in effect giving him the green light and on the other hand voting in the U.N. asking the Israeli troops to withdraw.
That I think creates not only incoherence but in effect gives him the option to move forward and forward. And if he is then killed, Arafat, if he is killed in some encounter, he will become a martyr to the Arabs. And in the meantime, we can’t ignore the fact that no one in the world — no country in the world endorses what are doing or endorses what the Israelis are doing.
Now that means that in some fashion either the whole world is seized with some total misunderstanding of the situation or that perhaps the course that is being pursued by Sharon with tacit American accommodation is not all that productive and is not all that desirable.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Kissinger, your view on the U.S. role so far. One, do you think it’s been contradictory, as Dr. Brzezinski says, and secondly, what do you make of the fact that the U.S. and Israel seem to be… I think he said earlier almost isolated in their views here?
HENRY KISSINGER: Almost every peace process that has gone on between the Arab side and Israel, the United States has been somewhat isolated because most of the countries in the world, what they really want is to accept the Arab peace plan or so-called peace plan, which in its present form would lead to the destruction of Israel.
MARGARET WARNER: You’re talking about the Arab League plan that was adopted last week?
HENRY KISSINGER: No, the Arab League plan was a great step forward in the sense that Arab countries that did not have borders with Israel and that were not directly involved committed themselves to some sort of peace.
But they didn’t define what they meant by normalization. They didn’t define what they meant by security. It is sort of senseless to say that Arafat can make peace but he cannot have any influence on the outcome of this terrorism.
I do not believe that Sharon is wise in making Arafat the principal target. It is not for Israel or for us to define who should be the negotiator for the Arab side.
On the other hand, I also do not believe that the United States can let itself be driven into a political role by escalating terrorism, and therefore, the leaders of the Arab world and Arafat should do their utmost to put an end to this and then the United States should do its utmost to produce a political solution. I agree with Zbig on the point that the United States will have to play an active role in the negotiations.
And if… if other nations want us to play an active role other than simply imposing their ideas on Israel, they should first put… do their utmost to put an end to violence and then we will have to come up with some ideas that are fair and just to both sides.
MARGARET WARNER: Very briefly, do you think the U.S. could enlist the other Arab states to essentially lean on Arafat here?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Oh, absolutely. If we were to move towards the political process, I’m sure they would. And incidentally the international community supported Henry when he acted very energetically to bring the Sinai issue under control. It supported President Carter in Camp David. It would support us if we stepped in. What the world is worried about is American pacifity and incoherence.
MARGARET WARNER: Gentlemen we have to leave it there. Thank you both.