MARCH 13, 1996
Twenty-nine leaders arrived at the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh with one clear aim, to help restore confidence in the Middle Eastern peace process. Following a report by Peter Morgan of Independent Television News, Jim Lehrer leads a discussion on what was achieved.
JIM LEHRER: Now, some analysis of this summit. James Woolsey was Director of Central Intelligence of the first two years of the Clinton administration. He's now an attorney in Washington. Geoffrey Kemp handled Middle East affairs in the Reagan White House. He's now Director of Regional Studies at the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom. Eric Rouleau was France's ambassador to Turkey and to Tunisia. He was Middle East editor for the French newspaper "Les Mans," for 30 years before that. Mr. Woolsey, what was accomplished by this summit?
R. JAMES WOOLSEY, Former CIA Director: I think the showing of solidarity, particularly with the victims of terrorism in Israel, not only by the President of the United States but very importantly by the leaders of some of these Arab countries, this is the first time, for example, that someone as senior as the Saudi foreign minister from Saudi Arabia has met with the Israelis, and I think that should, at least I would hope it would have a very positive effect on the mood and attitude in both Israel and in the West Bank.
JIM LEHRER: In terms of giving them support to hang, hang tough, to be firm, to do what?
MR. WOOLSEY: Well, former Ambassador to Israel Sam Lewis said at a meeting yesterday that this was a little bit like a wake. It's like neighbors coming around to show that they, they really care, and what's really interesting and important here is how many neighbors and what particular neighbors came. Now, I think the precise mixture of firmness and, and negotiation in the peace process is something that the Israelis and the Palestinians particularly are going to have to work out, but I think this was a very positive step.
JIM LEHRER: Geoffrey Kemp, the President also used the term "remarkable" to describe this meeting. Would you use a similar word?
GEOFFREY KEMP, Nixon Center: Well, in terms of public diplomacy, I think it was remarkable. I had some misgivings that they would not come up with anything, but, in fact, they did, and I think the solidarity that Jim Woolsey mentioned was very, very important, but let's face it. This is only as good as we can avoid terrorism. The next bomb that goes off in Israel, we're back to square one. What this intended to do was to assuage the fear, not just of the Israelis, which is very, very genuine, but also the fear of Arafat and those Arab leaders that were present, that they could be next if this peace process unravels. Everyone is at stake here. This is a really high stakes game, and we just have to hope and pray that between now and May 29th, there will be no more dastardly acts.
JIM LEHRER: Why between May--between now and May the 29th?
MR. KEMP: Israeli election. No one believes that terrorism has ended. There will be more terrorism, but quite frankly, the issue for the Clinton administration is: Will the peace process continue? And they're hoping very much--they won't say so--but they're hoping very, very much that Shimon Peres gets elected prime minister in his own right, because if Likud comes to power, then a miracle could happen, but my feeling would be that we've turned the clock back, and that, and that things will begin to unravel.
JIM LEHRER: Eric Rouleau, first, just on the conference, was this conference a step toward ending terrorism, picking up on what Geoffrey Kemp said, that you are not going to end it at a conference, but was it a step toward doing so?
ERIC ROULEAU, Former French Diplomat: No, I don't believe so. I agree with Mr. Kemp and also Mr. Woolsey that it was a positive step of solidarity with the state of Israel, and I would say solidarity with all people who are threatened with terrorism, because one, we should not forget, I think Mr. Kemp has just said it, that every single Arab leader, and especially Mr. Arafat, is particularly threatened by terrorism. But I'm afraid, to answer your question, that this will not strengthen the hand of the counterterrorist action, because if it is just a security problem, they didn't have to meet all of them in Egypt for that. A security problem can be solved by the Secret Services, by the CIA and the Israeli and Palestinian Secret Services. In fact, what could be said about this conference which is not very encouraging is that there was nothing was said of how to tackle not terrorists but the sources of terrorists, the political reasons which lead to terror or which enhance terrorism. But I suppose they could not, they did not have the time to discuss that.
JIM LEHRER: But if, if Hamas, the terrorist group that's claimed specific credit for these recent suicide bombings in Israel, does this in any way--is this in any way likely to affect their actions?
AMB. ROULEAU: Well, I don't think so. These people are suicide bombers. I mean, don't forget, they all sacrifice their lives while hitting the Israelis. They die with the bomb. So they don't care whether there are ten, twenty, or thirty leaders meeting in the Sharm El-Sheikh. This is why I say that this conference will not be, I think, productive in fighting terrorism. It is productive on a moral basis, on a political basis, to enhance the image of Mr. Shimon Peres before the election and also, why not, let's say it, enhance the image of Mr. Clinton, himself, before his own election--
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
AMB. ROULEAU: --or election. But from the terrorist, strictly terrorist point of view, what I fear is that tomorrow, the day after, there will be another bomb, and that would embarrass a lot all these leaders who just met in Egypt.
JIM LEHRER: Do you share that pessimism, Mr. Woolsey?
MR. WOOLSEY: To a slight extent, but not quite so much as the ambassador stated it. I think the technical cooperation between the intelligence services that will be enhanced by this is relatively modest because it's already rather good and has been, I think, for some years.
JIM LEHRER: You mean between--make sure I understand what you mean--among Israeli intelligence, U.S. intelligence, and even Arab intelligence agencies?
MR. WOOLSEY: Well, I don't want to be too precise about--
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
MR. WOOLSEY: --exactly which countries, but generally speaking, the friends and allies of the U.S. and the Mideast work together on this terrorist issue and have for some years. What is--what's really important, I think, is that people understand that espionage is really just about your only defense against terrorism. It's not as if there are a number of ways to learn what's going on, reconnaissance satellites, diplomatic contacts, and so forth, and it would be nice to have some spies. Spies are really the only way to find out what is happening inside a group like Hamas or Hezbollah.
JIM LEHRER: Somebody has to actually be there when they plan the suicide bombing and know that the suicide bomber is taking bus two to go to train three and to go to a certain shopping center, you mean.
MR. WOOLSEY: Someone has to recruit spies inside these organizations. And there's an idea that's kind of out and about mainly in the American public discourse, I think, hopefully no other countries have really signed onto this, that what we really ought to try to do is only recruit nice people for spies. If you recruit only nice people in the Mideast, you'll know what's going on in the Chambers of Commerce and the PTA's of the Mideast, but you won't know what's going on in Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Kemp, much of the emphasis--in fact, we saw it in our tape from the Israelis today--was aimed at Iran, and, and he said, Shimon Peres said that there's a network with a bank account, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, you heard what he said, is he right?
MR. KEMP: Oh, yes. I think there's undoubtedly a connection between Hamas money and the Iranian activity and certainly in the case of Hezbollah, the group operating out of Lebanon, the direct Iranian link is well made. This doesn't mean to say that by cracking down on Iran or putting Iran in a corner we're going to stop the individual suicide bomber, because that is virtually impossible, unless you have a major change in attitudes. But I think putting Iran in the dock helps. The Iranians, when these events first happened last week, we joyous. They have backed off since then. The French foreign minister, in particular, was scathing towards the Iranian leaders, and that's very encouraging that the Europeans are now talking out loudly and harshly about Iranian rhetoric. Whether this will change their behavior I'm somewhat dubious, but Iran is in a corner. It's being hurt by our sanctions. It's being hurt by our efforts to cut off concessional loans and aid to Iran, and the Iranians have to look at their bottom line like everybody else.
JIM LEHRER: Amb. Rouleau, how do you read the Iran factor in this?
AMB. ROULEAU: Well, I have two remarks to make, one on the Iran factor, and if you will allow me, later on, I will make a remark about the intelligence which Mr. Woolsey spoke about. I don't happen to share the opinion that Iran is behind the Hamas. It's common knowledge--I'm sorry to say that--but money going to Hamas is coming from the United States, is coming from Saudi Arabia, is coming from various sources, usually private people, who send money to Hamas, for so-called charitable purposes. Hamas is a rich organization. It has a lot of--it has a lot of basic services. They have a lot of money, many Muslims--rich Muslims are paying them, so to put the emphasis on iran is something I don't understand, really I don't understand, unless Mr. Peres, in that he would be right, was making an allusion to what the Iranians are doing not into the Hamas but to the Hezbollah in Lebanon, because this is a fact. They are paying the Hezbollah in Lebanon, who are acting against Israel.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Woolsey--
AMB. ROULEAU: That was Hamas necessarily--
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Woolsey.
MR. WOOLSEY: I pretty much disagree with, with that. Hezbollah in Lebanon is pretty much a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran. Indeed, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, Sheikh Mazrallah, said publicly, was quoted in the German press yesterday, that he received money from Iran. It's the first time I think Hezbollah has said that officially. But Islamic Jihad and Hamas definitely get money from Iran. There was some money coming from the United States. President Clinton issued an executive order a little over a year ago that I think has helped limit that.
JIM LEHRER: Well, the director of the FBI testified yesterday that there was money still going--
MR. WOOLSEY: Still going.
JIM LEHRER: --from the United States, but as Amb. Rouleau said, people who give it, give it in the name of charity, right?
MR. WOOLSEY: There's still some, but I think more is coming from individual expatriates in the Mideast, from let's say the Arabian Peninsula, who live in Sudan, and know very well that their money, when it goes to Hamas, is going to help terrorism, even though they also would like to give some for hospitals, I imagine.
JIM LEHRER: Amb. Rouleau, you wanted to say something about intelligence.
AMB. ROULEAU: Yes. I think you, you did say something about it. I'd like just to insist on it.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
AMB. ROULEAU: Those bomb attacks are organized in a very decentralized manner, as far as I--we know. It's not a leadership which gives orders to such and such a man to go on such and such a day to such train and a bus. Uh, I think they have standing orders to do whatever they can do to harm Israel, they will do it, and very often, it's one or two people only who know about it. This is why I think it's very difficult to fight this kind of terrorism through intelligence. Now, remember what happened to Mr. Rabin. He was also killed by a man, a Jew this time, who was acting practically alone, or maybe with his brother, and the Jewish Israeli intelligence, which is very strong, was unable to find out that they were going to kill the prime minister.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
AMB. ROULEAU: And I'm afraid it's very difficult to do that, and I'm trying just to make a point, that are discussing this evening terrorism, we are not discussing the source of terrorism, we are discussing funding of Hamas, we are not discussing the political aspects of Hamas, and I think this is a most important aspect.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that?
MR. KEMP: Look! What counts is: What is it that motivates a young, 24-year-old man to blow himself up? And it is the promise of paradise. There is an environment in which this culture breeds this type of suicide attack. Now, I quite agree that you can deconstruct, if you like, the overall infrastructure of Iranian involvement from the individual acts that we've seen in the past week or so, but someone is, is brainwashing these young men to do these things, and it's the environment in which this brainwashing takes place that we have to attack, and Mr. Arafat has to be the leader in that onslaught.
JIM LEHRER: All right. We have to leave it there, gentlemen. Thank you all three very much.