Roadmap to Peace: Daniel Ayalon
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RAY SUAREZ: And for reaction to the road ahead, envisioned by the document released today, we hear from each party, first from Israel. Joining me is that country’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon. Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
DANIEL AYALON: Good evening.
RAY SUAREZ: It’s been widely called a road map. Is this a destination that Israel wants to arrive at? Is all of the information there in the map?
DANIEL AYALON: Ray, we would like to arrive at peace as soon as possible. For us, peace is not just a strategic choice; it’s a moral obligation and we are willing to take painful sacrifices like we have done in the past. When we had negotiators like Sadat and late King Hussein, who were committed to peace, trustworthy and effective, we made peace and we made sacrifices.
So far the problem was a lack of a partner on the Palestinian side. Once we see that there is a partner who is effective, who is in control, who is dedicated to fight terror and does do the fighting, then we will seek to negotiate and arrive at a mutually consensus. And what’s important is to have direct negotiations and to mutually arrive at a peaceful settlement as soon as possible.
RAY SUAREZ: Taking a look at the document that was handed over to both sides today, what do you see as the main obligations for both parties?
DANIEL AYALON: The obligation is really to make good on the commitments that have been done all along. For the Palestinians, the most important thing is to have real reforms on the security front, and when we talk about real reforms and really fighting terror it is not merely a cease-fire, it’s not just cosmetic changes; it has to be concrete steps against violence and terror, thereby collecting and confiscating illegal arms, outlawing and dismantling terrorist organizations like Hamas, like Islamic Jihad, like the brigade of Al-Aqsa and other terror organizations that are rampant there in the Palestinian Authority.
And to take also concrete steps on the political reform, namely, not just new faces, but new institutions. Once we have this accountability, transparency, rule of law, I think it will be much easier to move forward.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, there is already a rejectionist front on the Palestinian side. The leaders of groups like Hamas have said, no way in reaction to the road map. But it sounds like you think that the Palestinian Authority, as currently constituted, would be able to suppress these organizations.
DANIEL AYALON: Of course. They do have the power to do it; otherwise if they are not effective on that what use is there to negotiate with them? And there are some things they can do immediately and rightly so. The president applauded the talk that is coming from the Abu Abbas, the new prime minister, and we see it as a positive step in the right direction, but, Ray, it’s not just the talks, actions speak louder than words. Now it remains to be seen what he does on the ground now. He was challenged severely, all of us last night.
We had a very sad day in Israel. Three Israelis were killed, fifty-five injured in a most brutal terror attack, Palestinian terrorists. Now we’ll see what action he takes and how he fights it. Now it isn’t within his power to do things immediately, first and foremost to stop the incitement. He can do it immediately with the state-controlled media, radio, television and papers of the Palestinians. He can stop the incitement in the textbooks of the Palestinians, calling for the destruction of Israel, not recognizing Jewish birth rights to our homeland — things like that he can do right away. He has the power to do it.
Now he also has to take steps against the terror organizations. If Hamas is unwilling to voluntarily give up the arms, he will have to do it in other means and I do not wish on the Palestinians, civil war or any other violence domestically, but for him the choice is clear: he either fights Hamas or he fights us. There is no in between and indeed, if he wants to become effective leader to really assert his sovereignty, he should monopolize the authority over the arms. There cannot be three, four, five, six, seven armies there that fight us, and terrorist organizations. This is his clear choice, his clear mandate and the clear expectations from this road map.
RAY SUAREZ: Already emerging from the responses from the region, there’s a difference over the phasing of this document. The road map itself calls for it to be performance-based and goal-driven. The minister of information of the Palestinian Authority says the philosophy of the road map depends on parallelism, but the spokesman for Ariel Sharon says Israel wants each step to be completed before moving to the next. Is this going to be a sticking point?
DANIEL AYALON: It’s very important Ray to remember, you know what has really derailed the Oslo Pace Accord? Was there was no accountability, and turning blind eye to let’s say, violations of the agreements, which brought the collapse of it. Also in the road map, I think the overriding principle is not just a timeline which is suggested there as an ideal, but the overriding principle and assumption is that it will be performance driven. Otherwise, nothing can work.
Now, in the road map that we have already a timeline which suggests that — don’t forget that it was written and concluded last year December 20, so there, there is a date for the first phase to be completed by May 2003. Ray, May 2003 is tomorrow. Nobody would expect that to hold.
So I wouldn’t really focus on rigid dates which nothing happens by them and creates just undue tension and friction. That’s why we say let’s measure by performance. They’ll have to perform, we are ready to perform and we are already performing and have made many gestures towards the Palestinians just in the last few weeks.
RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Ambassador, should the Palestinians take away from what you just said? What the road map calls for: provisional state hood in 2003 and full and complete state hood by 2005, you are already behind schedule, is that what you’re saying?
DANIEL AYALON: Well, I guess the facts speak for themselves. I’m not saying anything. I say, well let’s do it as fast as possible. Hopefully, you know what if we can do everything in an ideal world before 2005, that would be even great… would be great. Let’s not hold the dates or the emphasis on the dates. The emphasis should be on performance because this is what could make or break any peace plan.
RAY SUAREZ: Are you ready to accept the document as written very briefly?
DANIEL AYALON: We have mentioned with the Americans, and they accepted, that they are serious comments which would be seriously accepted, but the most important thing, Ray, is to work directly between the parties. We are ready to engage with Abu Abbas; Prime Minister Sharon said he’s willing to meet with him any time and work out the differences directly. This is the best way. By the way, we have experience already in the region. Wherever there was a peace agreement achieved it was by direct negotiations, whether it was Egypt, whether it was Jordan and this is what we will expect with the Palestinians. So, again, I wouldn’t really look into the details and dates and other things which are merely going to shift attention from the real thing. The real thing is to fight terror, to make good on commitments and to perform.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Ayalon, thank you for being with us.