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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 political act.

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 without negotiations.

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)