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Palestinian Cabinet Minister Expresses Regret for Mob Killing of Two Israeli Soldiers

Aired October 12, 2000 - 4:31 p.m. ET


MIKE HANNA, JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: We heard there from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Now for the Palestinian perspective, I'm joined by Faisal Husseini, a member of the Palestinian cabinet.

Thank you for joining us, sir.


HANNA: Firstly, what is your reaction to the events of this afternoon, the Israeli attacks of Ramallah and on Gaza City?

HUSSEINI: First, I would like to say that Mr. Barak, Mr. Sharon opened the Pandora box nearly two weeks ago. And what we are seeing, these old evils which came out of this box. And it was not secret for them. It was known for them. I myself warned them, "Don't allow this visit. This visit like opening Pandora box. Don't do it. You'll not know what kind of evils can come out of it."

Now they are putting more oil on the fire and creating a new situation in the occupied territories, which is illegitimate, the violence and using more kind of violence, shooting, explosions, by what they are doing here for the Palestinian cities.

What they are doing there has weakened us who are calling for nonviolence, who are calling for the peace negotiations, and they are strengthening those who are calling for going ahead to damage and cause more damage for Israel, not through demonstration, but through fire and through explosions.

HANNA: The Israeli's say that this afternoon's attacks were in response to the killing of at least two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah in the course of this morning.

What is your response to that? And the validity of such a response?

HUSSEINI: Look, I am full of pain, full of pain for two things. First, I am not proud of what happened for these two soldiers. But my pain not only for these two soldiers, but for my people who after 100 Palestinians have been killed, a group of them act in this way.

You must understand the bitterness that is inside the Palestinian people, which is pushing me to feel sorry that my people doing that, but who is responsible for that? Who was the one who killed more than 100 Palestinians within the last two weeks, including children and men?

HANNA: We've seen in the last couple of weeks, Israeli allegations that the violence that we've seen is organized, that it is premeditated. From the Palestinian position, it's been that this is a spontaneous outpouring of anger with a peace process that was showing no fruits, and anger too with their controversial visit by Ariel Sharon to the Haram as-Sharif. What do you think is the reason for this conflict that we have seen, for the ongoing Palestinian demonstrations in particular?

HUSSEINI: I can say the feeling of the Palestinian, the frustration of the Palestinians, that the peace process is not going forward. Not only that, Barak didn't stop settlements, didn't stop confiscating land, didn't stop (UNINTELLIGIBLE)the people. He went on with all these activities.

I can't say that even the building settlements in that time of Barak, was more than settlements that had been built in the time of Mr. Netanyahu, while it was nearly half the time. But this matter, this pushed the Palestinian people to feel that there is no way the peace process is now going on. And then, by coming and having this spark, I can tell you that Sharon visit was only the spark for the explosion of these old materials that this government and the previous government put inside the situation here and inside the Palestinian people. It was only this spark.

HANNA: We've heard much of frustrations among Palestinian people. We've heard of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians before this current round of violence.

What are your experiences? You, yourself, as a Palestinian, in terms of moving, for example, between the West Bank and Israeli territory, moving to Jerusalem. What kind of restrictions generally have there been on you?

HUSSEINI: For me, maybe my fears is not for the Israelis. And maybe their soldiers, they respect me because they know my position toward the peace. But even so, when I would issue any kind of checkpoint, I would be stopped there. Sometimes they would turn me back. I would tell them that I am so and so, but sometimes they will listen, sometimes they will not listen.

Going to Gaza, if I am going to Gaza, I'm supposed to go through the main entrance, which is for the permanent legal and for the VIPs. When Netanyahu became angry about a press conference that we had at the Orient House, he immediately take the decision that I must not go through that way, I must go through the other line which is used by the laborers and other people. I was proud to go there, because I must be with my people and I like it. And my people like it.

But in the mind of Mr. Netanyahu, he was thinking that he is humiliating us. No, he is not humiliating me. Yes, he is humiliating my people. But if I am within my people, I feel that I am like them. They feel the same feeling. So maybe I am lucky that I have certain understanding from the Israeli soldiers, from the officers in these places, but not from the higher...

HANNA: Mr. Husseini, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Faisal Husseini, a member of the Palestinian Cabinet.

Well, the events here have been watched closely in the United States, the U.S. in recent days attempting desperately to mediate a peace to broker an agreement perhaps between the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.

For what's been happening there, we're joined here by a White House correspondent. What's the latest there, Kelly?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Mike, first, we do know that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, were watching Christiane Amanpour's interview with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

We don't have any immediate reaction, although one senior U.S. official telling CNN it was -- quote -- "amazing and incredible."

We do know that President Clinton spoke with the Israeli prime minister this afternoon. They spoke for about 10 minutes. The message was expected to be a similar one the president delivered to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat earlier Thursday morning, trying to encourage both sides to do everything they can to end the violence and to restore calm in the region.

Now, Mr. Clinton has been meeting with his national security team most of Thursday afternoon. He has also been working the phones. In addition, to calling the Israeli and Palestinian leader, he spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Clinton appeared somber and subdued when we came into the Rose Garden a little bit this afternoon. He said that he strongly condemned the murder of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, and said that even if the Palestinians feel anguished over their losses, there can be no -- quote -- "possible justification" for mob violence.

The U.S. leader called on both sides to undertake an immediate cease-fire and to publicly condemn the violence before the situation spirals out of control.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is the time to stop the bloodshed, to restore calm, to return to dialogue, and ultimately to the negotiating table.

The alternative to the peace process is now no longer merely hypothetical. It is unfolding today before our very eyes.


WALLACE: Now, since that event, we mentioned that President Clinton telephoned the Israeli prime minister and the Egyptian president. We also are just learning he spoke again with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and with King Abdullah of Jordan.

For the past couple of weeks, U.S. officials from President Clinton on down have been working to try and end the violence, get the two sides to restore calm, and get back to the negotiating table. CIA Director George Tenet is in the region. The U.S. leader dispatched him there to try and improve support -- security coordination between the two sides.

We understand that the CIA director was to have met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on this day, but that meeting did not happen.

What is interesting, Mike, here at the White House over the past couple of days there was some cautious optimism about the increase in diplomacy and the apparent drop in violence. But most of that optimism is quite gone on this day -- Mike.

HANNA: White House correspondent Kelly Wallace, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

We'll have more on the day's events right after this.



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