WORDS OF WARNING
DECEMBER 18, 1996
PLO leader Yasser Arafat has called Israel's plans to offer financial incentives to Jewish settlers on the West Bank ''a ticking bomb"; eight former U.S. foreign policy chiefs concur in a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kwame Holman presents a background piece followed by a newsmaker interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger
JIM LEHRER: Now the story of a letter and a debate over how best to encourage peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We start with some background from Kwame Holman.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
December 18, 1996:
Jim Lehrer conducts a newsmaker interview with Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.
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KWAME HOLMAN: Last Saturday, eight former U.S. foreign policy officials, including three former secretaries of state, dispatched a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter called on Netanyahu to stop encouraging Israelis to settle in the disputed West Bank territory. Only days before, Netanyahu attended the funeral of a West Bank settler and her 12-year-old son, killed in a drive-by shooting apparently by Arab gunmen. In an emotional statement, Netanyahu promised expanded government funding for new and bigger Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: (speaking through interpreter) Our first answer to these murderers, to these human monsters the response of the Israeli government and the Israeli people. We're staying here, we're building here, we're living here. You will not uproot us from here. You will not achieve your aims.
KWAME HOLMAN: In addition to that promise last week, since his election in May, Netanyahu also has not been able to reach agreement with the Palestinians on withdrawing Israeli troops from the West Bank city of Hebron. In their letter to Netanyahu, the former U.S. official said, "We write because we are concerned that unilateral actions, such as the expansion of settlements, would be strongly counterproductive to the goal of a negotiated solution and, if carried forward, could halt progress made by the peace process over the last two decades."
Such a tragic result would threaten the security of Israel, the Palestinians, friendly Arab states, and undermine U.S. interests in the Middle East. We, therefore, urge you as prime minister of the state of Israel, just as we also urged all on the Arab side, not to take unilateral actions that would preclude a meaningful negotiated settlement and a comprehensive and lasting peace."
Among the signers were former Secretaries of State James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Cyrus Vance, and former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, and Brent Scowcroft. Two other former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, declined to sign the letter. On Monday, President Clinton was asked about the letter and whether new Israeli settlements would be an obstacle to the peace process.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: They've had an agreement within grasp, with very little difference on Hebron for sometime now. The time has come to make that agreement, but I don't think that, that on the settlement issue that anything should be done which would, in effect, be seen as preempting the outcome of something they've already agreed to should be part of the final negotiations.
REPORTER: The West Bank settlement issue--actually an obstacle to peace, do you agree with that?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Absolutely.
REPORTER: It is an obstacle to peace.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Absolutely.
KWAME HOLMAN: In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu has not responded publicly to the letter, or to President Clinton's comments.