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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Ehud Barak

Aired August 12, 2003 - 20:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's turn now to the situation in the Middle East. A pair of deadly suicide bombings has broken the cease- fire there and further shaken the fragile peace process.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas have claimed responsibility for the attacks in which two Israelis were killed. A U.S. official calls the bombings the most serious challenge yet to the peace process.

I'm joined now here in New York by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Mr. Prime Minister thanks very much for joining us. Is it all over, the peace process?

EHUD BARAK, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It's very fragile. It brings home once again the point that the Palestinian leadership has to crack on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and dismantle them and you mentioned the martyrs of Al Aqsa, these are a picked terror organization of Chairman Arafat, so it's, you know, it's a war on two fronts but they have to launch it. Otherwise they are worthless.

BLITZER: The Hamas organization in saying that they took responsibility for this suicide bombing they said they're not breaking the cease-fire they're only responding to what they say the Israelis did the other day in killing some Hamas militants on the West Bank.

BARAK: Yes, but that's the whole difference. It's not the militant. When we target certain individuals it is always a murderer. You can not draw moral equivalence without losing ground, you know. They hit innocent civilian women, children, and elderly people. That terror we cannot yield to it period.

BLITZER: But no one knows these Palestinians better than you. You've lived with them. You know them. You've studied them. You know that whenever the Israelis take an action against a Hamas leader, whether in Gaza or in the West Bank, you know they're going to respond tit for tat.

BARAK: So, what's your recommendation (unintelligible)?

BLITZER: I don't have a recommendation. I'm asking you.

BARAK: There is no way but to keep struggling against them. Only when you have a real target the same way that you would do now with al Qaeda, it's clear that al Qaeda they could run right now an explosion out of the street, out of this studio they would do that and it would not stop you from doing whatever you can to put an end to al Qaeda terror operations (unintelligible).

BLITZER: Is Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas doing everything he can together with his security operation, the minister Mohammed Dahlan and others could get the job done to fight terrorism?

BARAK: Not until now. He's clearly a serious man and a courageous Palestinian but he has to act to believe it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and until now we have not seen action.

BLITZER: Is there anything the United States, the Bush administration should be doing to promote the peace process that it isn't doing yet?

BARAK: I think that basically they are doing almost whatever they can. Of course, we would expect them to keep pressing the Palestinians to deliver and keep pressing the Europeans not to suggest any exit strategy for Mr. Arafat.

BLITZER: President Bush wants the Israelis to stop building the security fence. You were a big proponent of building that fence. He says it's an obstacle in the peace process.

BARAK: No, it's not an obstacle. In fact, I initiated it and Sharon was against it until several months ago. It's needed for security. It is needed for political reasons in order to signal to the whole world, to the Palestinians, to our own people, that we are determined to put an end to this intermingling between us and the Palestinians.

And, I believe that if Sharon would just put on the table an open door for resumption of negotiations based on acceptable plan for the world, basically on the same principles that were on the table at Camp David.

Even if you call it now Bush-Sharon-Abbas plan this would occupy for us the moral high ground since the Palestinians refuse to see this fence built they can enter into negotiating room and negotiate this and that's basically what we expect. We had to put a border within which we'll have a Jewish solid majority for generations to come.

BLITZER: Ehud Barak, thanks for joining us.

BARAK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck to you.

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