JULY 30, 1997
The U.S. has condemned the Hamas "suicide bombers" who killed 14 and injured 150 in a Jerusalem market. Israel has called on Yasser Arafat to arrest those responsible. What's next for peace? A background report is followed by a panel discussion.
ROBERT MOORE, ITN: The two explosions were in rapid succession a few seconds apart--ripping through the heart of Jerusalem's most crowded market. From the first moment it was clear that suicide bombs in such a place packed full of lunchtime shoppers would cause terrible casualties. The dead and the injured were cut down as they shopped.
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
May 28, 1997:
A panel discussion analyzing internal criticism of PLO leader Yasser Arafat's rule.
April 7, 1997:
The NewsHour analyzes a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Clinton to salvage the Oslo Accord.
April 4, 1997:
Middle East Forum: Mohammed Halaj and Amos Perlmutter answer your questions.
March 24, 1997:
Margaret Warner talks with Shlomo Gur of the Israeli Embassy and Khalil Foutah of the PLO.
March 4, 1997:
Charles Krause talks with Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Arafat advisor.
February 13, 1997:
Charles Krause discusses Clinton and Netanyahu's meeting with Dore Gold, foreign policy aide to Netanyahu.
January 15, 1997:
Jim Lehrer leads a discussion of the Hebron deal.
December 18, 1996:
Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski debate a critical letter sent by eight former U.S. foreign policy chiefs to Israel.
October 15, 1996:
Warren Christopher talks about the peace process.
October 2, 1996:
A NewsHour interview with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.
October 1, 1996:
A NewHour look at the emergency White House Peace Summit between Netanyahu and Arafat. Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Middle-East.
The United States and the Search for Peace in the Middle East
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Jerusalem Post
The emergency services were on the scene within a few minutes. Responding to such savage and indiscriminate bomb attacks is well rehearsed in Israel. Amid the shock and national pain it is already assumed to be the work of Palestinian extremists. The attack was carefully timed. After months of bitter recriminations, Palestinians and Israelis were about to resume a dialogue. As was evident by the crowds, the Israelis shouted anti-Arab slogans. The bombings threaten once again to destroy all efforts to restart the peace process.
MAN ON STREET: I don't think it is the peace process. This is war.
YASSER ARAFAT, President, Palestinian National Authority: I condemn completely these terrorist activities because it's against the peace process, against the Palestinians, and against the Israelis.
ROBERT MOORE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the injured in hospital, and his government has again blamed not just the extremists but also the Palestinian Authority, rejecting Yasser Arafat's offer of condolences, saying words of sorrow are no longer enough.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: We expect his action. We expect action to apprehend these terrorists and their leaders. We expect action to collect the explosives and weapons.
ROBERT MOORE: An action is already being taken by Israeli troops, imposing a full closure on the West Bank and Gaza, allowing no Palestinians out, and letting no Israelis into the self-rule areas.
JIM LEHRER: Elizabeth Farnsworth takes the story from there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And we get three perspectives now. Dore Gold is the incoming Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations. He previously served as Prime Minister Netanyahu's foreign policy adviser. Geoffrey Kemp served on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration. He's now a director of the Nixon Center in Washington. And Khalil Jahshan is president of the National Association of Arab Americans. Thank you all for being with us.
Mr. Ambassador, what is known now about who carried out the bombing and why?
DORE GOLD, U.N. Ambassador, Israel: Well, what we know right now, it seems there's preliminary evidence that the Hamas organization has been involved in this terrorist attack; however, we're pointing the finger of blame to the Palestinian Authority. When we did the Hebron agreement last January, both sides undertook very specific commitments. We did our end of those commitments. The Palestinian Authority--in our judgment--failed to fulfill any of its commitments, especially those commitments in the security field. Had they fulfilled those commitments--in our judgment--this type of incident wouldn't have occurred.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What should they have done, Mr. Ambassador?
DORE GOLD: Well, among the things that we spoke about was taking actions to prevent, for example, terrorists from running free. We asked the Palestinian Authority to imprison those involved in terrorist acts. Over the last number of months we've had a number of terrorist leaders freed from Palestinian prisons like Ibrahim Makodma from the Hamas organization.
We also had last month a leading member of the Palestinian police involved in terrorist--planning terrorist attacks against Israelis. And no action was taken. This sent a signal to the Palestinian opposition organizations, to others, that violence is still a part of the peace process. This must change in order to make the peace process work.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Jahshan, do you think that those actions would have prevented this from happening?
KHALIL JAHSHAN, National Association of Arab Americans: Well, I think there's a lot of blame on the part of Israel directed at Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority that is not justified at all. First of all, these unfortunate incidents, the explosions in Jerusalem, took place in Jerusalem, which is under Israeli jurisdiction. It's not under Palestinian jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, Jerusalem is close to Palestinians. So to blame Arafat for security in an area where he has absolutely no sovereignty nor access nor any control of is, I think, laying the blame on the wrong party.
There is a breakdown in the process. There is no doubt that there has not been any coordination on the security level, but that's due to the fact that since Mr. Netanyahu has been elected and particularly over the past six or seven months, the peace process has broke down and Israel chose not to negotiate on political issues that are relevant to the peace process, as well as relevant to agreements that have been reached before and, therefore, cooperation in the area of security has totally stopped on the Palestinian side.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Ambassador, just before we go any further, how do you respond to that; that Yasser Arafat couldn't necessarily have stopped this?
DORE GOLD: Well, first of all, security cooperation between the Palestinian security services and Israel is a requirement, is an obligation that the Palestinians have taken on themselves. Had the security cooperation existed, had it been intensive and strengthened as it was supposed to, according to the post Hebron agreements, we believe we could have stopped this kind of attack.
But what's happened was security cooperation has been used as a diplomatic card in our negotiations. When we have disagreements with the Palestinian Authority, they draw back from security cooperation. They stop security cooperation, instead of increasing it, as they're supposed to. As a result, these types of incidents occur.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ambassador, do you think that this incident was related to the announcement yesterday by Israeli and Palestinian authorities that the negotiations would now begin again?
DORE GOLD: I don't believe so. This type of terrorist attack doesn't just happen out of let's say thin air. This happens because there's an infrastructure of terrorism supporting these attacks. You have to recruit the suicide bombers. You have to bring the explosive materials from Gaza or other places in the West Bank to the area, to the vicinity of Jerusalem.
You have to have people scout the area. I think this required considerable planning that's gone on for the last number of weeks, and, therefore, I could not tie this to the arrival or the planned arrival of the Middle East coordinator of the United States, Mr. Dennis Ross.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Kemp, where do you come down on this question of what the Palestinian Authority could have done to prevent this?
GEOFFREY KEMP, Nixon Center: Well, I think they could do a lot more in the general security arena, and I think this is one of the big strikes against Mr. Arafat. But I think that you're more than likely to get that cooperation when there is trust and confidence between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel. And unfortunately, for the past year, that has been lacking.
So, therefore, I end up by saying I agree with Dore Gold, that Arafat can and must do a great deal more; however, this is not going to stop suicide bombers. I think that even under the best of circumstances these sort of events can and probably will happen until you get an overall resolution to this conflict. Suicide bombing does require some organization, does require some back-up, but it really is not a very expensive operation to conduct, and there are people there who will conduct these operations even as Arafat is locking 90 percent of them of them in jail.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about the question, Mr. Jahshan, of if Arafat does really crack down, is he then open to more charges of violating human rights, which he has been? I mean, how does he deal with that?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: This has already been the case. I mean, we have actual legislation even in Congress and pressure from the U.S. Congress and from the American government. On the one hand, we want Yasser Arafat to crack down on any person opposed to the peace process, and anyone particular espousing violent opposition to the peace process.
On the other hand, when that happens, at the urging and under pressure and under duress, then he is criticized for violating human rights. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. And we want to transfer or transform Yasser Arafat into a policeman for Israel, when Israel, itself, throughout 20 years of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, was not successful, when it has--it's certainly a mightier power than the PA and has a lot more--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The PA being the Palestinian Authority.
KHALIL JAHSHAN: --the Palestinian Authority--and has a lot more in terms of security, experience to stop these types of events and did not, and failed to do so, and continues to fail to do so. After all, this again--the explosions happened under Israeli sovereignty and jurisdiction. So I think the expectations from the Palestinian side is unrealistic. What we need here, we need a vibrant peace process to proceed forward. We need a comprehensive just and lasting peace.
We need Israel to re-engage back into the peace process, so we could move forward. And that's the best guaranteed method to achieve the security that Israel desires. Israel cannot continue to build settlements and harass the Palestinians and oppress them and occupy their territory and expect to enjoy security and stability. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Amb. Gold, just on this point of whether Yasser Arafat can do this and also not open himself to charges of human rights violations.
DORE GOLD: I think the really important point here is that we will have political disagreements with the Palestinian Authority. There are a number of issues where we have very strong disagreement but nothing, nothing can justify the killing of innocent people in that market in Jerusalem today. I think that's the point to stress. When we made peace with Egypt, violence was not part of the political equation. When we made peace with Jordan, violence was not part of the political equation.
But somehow, with the current Netanyahu government and the previous Rabin and Peres governments, violence has accompanied this peace process. Under the previous government we had buses blowing up in the hearts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem when reportedly the confidence between the two parties was very good. Now, the reason for that is because Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism is a political coin, is a political lever in the negotiations between Mr. Arafat and the state of Israel. That has to be put to an end. And it can only be put to an end if the international community says enough--terrorism and peace are incompatible.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Kemp, is the peace process so inherently fragile that somebody willing to commit suicide with a bomb can always throw it off course?
GEOFFREY KEMP: Well, I think for the indefinite future, that's the case; however, I don't think it's going to end the peace process. My view is that the peace process is past the point of no return and that even Netanyahu and Arafat, who clearly don't like each other, have agreed among themselves that they have to get this process going because the alternatives are so dire. So what I think you will see is further progress, much more slowly than we saw under the previous Israeli government.
You will not see a great deal of American involvement, I think, certainly not heavy-handed American involvement. But the parties in the region know that if they do not move forward, then you do move back. And if you move back, you move into an Armageddon, which nobody wants. So I end up saying, yes, the peace process will continue but it won't be anything like what we hoped for.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think, Mr. Jahshan? Could it get worse, for example?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: I don't think it could get worse in the sense that what we have now is really a comatose peace process. I mean, this is like--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: A comatose peace process?
KHALIL JAHSHAN: Exactly. It's like driving a nail in a comatose body, you know, in a way. The damage is minimal in the sense that the process is not moving forward. It's practically dead. And this, I think, many in the mass media today describe this event as an attempt to derail the peace process.
On the contrary, I think this is an attempt because the peace process is not there, and it's not aimed at derailing anything because there is nothing on track to derail, and this is admitted now by the managers of the peace process, if you will, and the only solution, the only way out of this predicament is really to engage the United States again in a proactive way to revitalize the process on the original premises on which it was based in Madrid, which, as we just heard from Dore Gold, the Netanyahu government is not willing to do. It's describing a totally different concept that doesn't even resemble Madrid.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think, Mr. Ambassador? What is likely to happen in the next weeks? Will the peace process--again--will the negotiations begin again, or do you think this derails it for quite a while?
DORE GOLD: Well, I believe the people of Israel have to see that this peace process yields more security and not less security. I believe that the way forward is that we insist that both sides--Israel and the Palestinian Authority--comply with their commitments. We complied with our commitment under the Oslo process. We redeployed from Hebron. We offered a further redeployment. We freed female prisoners, even though they were convicted of terrorism.
We transferred large funds to the Palestinian Authority. We met our commitments. What we're now expecting, before this peace process can move forward, is that the Palestinian side fulfil its commitment--illegal firearms will be collected; that those involved in Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism won't be freed from prison but be put behind bars, and will go through a process of trial and conviction according to law. This is what we're hoping for. If that happens, if there is security, the peace process will work. If there is no security, the peace process will be a sham.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And briefly, Mr. Kemp, what should the Clinton administration do, in your view?
GEOFFREY KEMP: Well, I think after an interval, Dennis Ross should go back. He had some ideas he was going to take. He should make it perfectly clear that the United States cannot impose a peace settlement on Netanyahu or Arafat, but be there as the facilitator. I personally would like to see a more active American involvement, but I think that's unrealistic at this particular point in time, given the Clinton administration's other agendas, the attitudes of Congress, and the fact that there is very little to work with at this moment in the region.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, gentlemen, thank you very much.