SEIZURE OF ORIENT HOUSE SAYS JERUSALEM IS NOT FOR SALE
Shimon Peres is the foreign minister of Israel. He spoke on Aug. 12 from
Israel with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels.
GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: Why was it necessary to take
Orient House -- the symbol of Palestinian presence in Jerusalem? This
was akin to Ariel Sharon's walk on the Temple Mount, which ignited the
emotions that unleashed the current protracted episode of violence.
SHIMON PERES: Well, they almost forced us to do it. We had to respond
to the terrible incident in Jerusalem. We had to show that Jerusalem is
not for sale, that it is under Israeli sovereignty. And there was a desire
to respond in a way that would not kill more people. So we chose this
You know, Orient House was never supposed to have PLO institutes. But
for years, we looked the other direction and didn't delve into the details.
GV: Palestinian leaders are saying this is the beginning of the
''reoccupation." What do you say to that?
PERES: Jerusalem is under Israeli sovereignty now. If they want
to talk about it, we can talk. But the status of Jerusalem cannot be changed
GV: Palestinian leaders say that only negotiations without preconditions
to solve the outstanding issues like Jerusalem and return of refugees
can restore peace and calm, that calm cannot be expected if there are
no ongoing talks.
PERES: This is against the Mitchell Report, which calls for the
cessation of violence, a cooling-off period, then confidence-building
measures before negotiations. All parties have accepted that.
GV: But if Arafat and the Palestinian Authority leaders can't control
the Islamic Jihad, which reportedly blew up the pizza restaurant in Jerusalem,
then there can never be a return to the table.
PERES: If they don't control them, what do they control? Right
now they can't seem to control their own forces. Arafat has to demonstrate
that he is an effective leader, that he can tranquilize the situation.
GV: You have been saying that for eight months. You are not convinced
Arafat is trying his best?
PERES: No. He has to show his capability. If he has no capability
as an effective leader, what is the sense of negotiating with him? He
has to show he is in charge. In a democracy, which they claim to be, you
give freedom to words but you control the rifles and bombs. If you can't
do that, there can be no peace with us. He has to show he controls the
rifles and bombs.
GV: You still see Arafat as the solution then, not the problem?
PERES: I don't know if he is the problem. I don't like these easy
juxtapositions of words. He has to show he is effective or there is no
way to get back to talking instead of shooting.
(c) 2001, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate
International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 8/13/01)