FTN – 6/23/02

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation, can the cycle of violence in the Middle East ever be broken? In the wake of more suicide bombings last week, Israel is moving back into the West Bank and threatening to stay there until the attacks stop.

But will that work? We'll ask the Israeli defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

Can Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership stop the attacks? Do they even want to? Those are questions for the Palestinian cabinet minister, Nabil Shaath.

Then we'll get the perspective of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman on all of this. More and more, he's being mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for president. And he is playing a key role in hearings on whether the government should create a cabinet-level department of homeland security.

Gloria Borger'll be here, and I'll have a final word on investigating news leaks.

But first, the violence in the Middle East on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation, with Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer, and now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. We begin this morning in Jerusalem with the Israeli defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

Mr. Minister, thank you very much for joining us. I must ask you first about the latest news coming from there. Reuters reports this morning that the Israeli army pushed into another West Bank city on Sunday and called up reservists in an emergency mobilization.

Many people here say that Israel is planning to reoccupy the West Bank. What can you tell us about this operation? What does it mean?

BENJAMIN BEN-ELIEZER, Israeli Defense Minister: Well, the last thing that I can think about is reoccupation. It's the last thing that we want to do, not reoccupation.

All that we have done, and this is the consequences of the late wave of terror that everyone in the world have seen that. In fact, only in the last week, 33 people of -- innocent people have been killed. More than 200 have been wounded. In the last month, more than 100 people have been killed. Suicide bombers, in fact, infiltrating almost every day to the main cities, and the results, as you can see that.

Now, this brings us to a point where we didn't get any other solution rather than to get back to the main cities to try and to fight against the infrastructure, the terror infrastructure there. This is the minimum that we can do in order to guarantee the security of our people. This is the minimum that we can do in order to defend our people. That's our right. And I don't think that anyone have to complain about that.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: A senior Israeli official, though, said today that the military is preparing what he called, and I quote, "a decisive and crushing response." What does that mean?

BEN-ELIEZER: I don't know. I know what I'm trying to -- what I have ordered the army to do. All our goals in this operation, in this coming operation is to try and to prevent any possibility of more infiltration to our country; therefore, we are deployed every place and everywhere, trying to concentrate on how to prevent more massively the possibility that every day another 20 or another 30 or another 10 will be killed.

And, as you know, all of them, or most of them, are innocent people -- families, whole families, and kids and women and others. So that's what we are intending to do there.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what exactly -- how long do you anticipate this will take, Mr. Minister? And in what numbers are you moving into the West Bank at this point? Is this the kind of operation we saw recently in the last operation? Is it smaller, larger? How long will this go on, do you think?

BEN-ELIEZER: Well, I don't think that the question of how large is the force. The force that have been put there is exactly the force that is required to prevent, to block, and to do everything in order to prevent any possibility that they will continue to infiltrate to our country.

Now how long time, it depends on how things will develop in the area. I mean, if things will come cool, and if things will get down, and if I will feel, within a short time, that everything is under control and the whole thing get to calm, then I don't think that we have any more reason to remain there in the cities.

BORGER: Mr. Minister, where did you stand on this Bush administration idea that's been floated to establish a so-called provisional Palestinian state?

BEN-ELIEZER: We will have to sit around the table and begin a negotiation.

In better words, whatever will be, I think that someone have to think -- and mainly the Palestinians -- that we are willing and more than willing to get back to the table and to begin to talk.

So in this aspiration, I would say that the offer of President Bush will be welcomed if this will be under the feeling that all of the terror activities is get somehow calm, or at least someone have done something in order to bring it lower than it is right now.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning. And we will keep in touch, as they say.

Thank you.

BEN-ELIEZER: Thank you, sir.

SCHIEFFER: And now, in our studio is Palestinian negotiator, cabinet minister Nabil Shaath. Mr. Shaath, thank you very much.

I'd just ask you simply your reaction to what you just heard.

NAABEL SHAATH, Palestinian Cabinet Minister: Well, Mr. Eliezer really tries to apologize for a very harsh situation. Occupation has really never stopped. It has now turned from occupation on a revolving door basis to occupation on a continuous basis.

And under that occupation, we have now 13 separate cantons of Palestinians towns and cities subdivided into 262 small enclosures, all controlled by the Israeli army. Absolutely, no mobility is allowed between one place and the other.

And this has been going on now for three months. And Mr. Eliezer talks about four incidents yesterday, which meant that the Israeli army's occupation and more violence have produced absolutely nothing.

I think what will produce an end to violence is not more violence. It's really heading back to the peace process, heading back to ending Israeli occupation and siege and therefore rebuilding a Palestinian security force, and rebuilding hope for the Palestinians to get the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, not the Israeli army to reoccupy and reoccupy and reoccupy.

BORGER: Mr. Shaath, what is your response to this administration proposal we think we may hear about this week, although we're not sure, for a provisional Palestinian state?

SHAATH: I mean, my only problem is the word provisional because we've heard about a provisional government, a provisional cabinet, but not a provisional state. It's either a state or not a state. You cannot be provisionally pregnant. And I think this is the same thing.

The idea is it's a state that does not have full control of its territory now. That's the idea -- in other words, a state that will negotiate with the state of Israel, the release of the rest of the territory, most of the territory that's still occupied by Israel.

Part of the total peace package that will be done, and if that is the situation, if we would be recognized as a state as such and become a member of the United Nations, and we would be negotiating the end of occupation, of course we will accept it.

SCHIEFFER: It is no secret that the reason that you are in this country is because you expected the president to outline his proposals for at least a path to peace in the Middle East. It didn't happen last week. We now are hearing that it may happen this week. What do you want the president to say? And is it -- how important is it for the president to become involved in this?

SHAATH: We want really three things. One of them is for the president to say it, in other words, for the President of the United States, to commit the United States to end this violence and to continue to the peace process and to get international backing behind him and, if needed, to have some presence on the ground to provide at least temporary protection for the two parties.

Second thing, we would like the president to set a timeline so that we're not just negotiating forever. We have been negotiated since 1990, 1991. So it's now 11 years, where five years were really set for the whole thing.

And thirdly, we would like to set the terms of reference, including the borders of 1967, allowing an independent Palestinian state eventually, to be in all of this border with East Jerusalem as capital.

SCHIEFFER: Well, now let me just ask you this. Why will the violence stop if the president makes a speech? I mean, obviously, it's not going to stop just because he makes a speech. But how does that stop the violence?

SHAATH: Well, the speech will unleash a program of action. It will start a series of actions that Mr. Colin Powell, for example, explained to be three separate tracks -- security, politics, and economic reform.

Every one of them has a program of actions. So when you start ending Israeli occupation, providing a political hope, support for rebuilding the security services, and reforming our government and economic reconstruction, this will create a new climate and a support by the populace.

SCHIEFFER: It all sounds good, but, with all due respect, every time somebody gets set to talk about peace, you have another suicide bomber. Why won't that happen this time?

SHAATH: Well, I reiterate, it's not just the talking. It's not just the speech. The speech will set in motion a program. As the program gets implemented, it will stop the suicide bombings.

SCHIEFFER: All right. I'm sorry. We have to end it right there.
When we come back, more on the Middle East with Senator Joe Lieberman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And joining us here in our studio in Washington, Senator Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, a man very much in the spotlight lately, overseeing these hearings on whether to create an office of homeland security.

But I want to talk to you first a little bit, Senator Lieberman, about the Middle East.

You heard the Israeli defense minister. He says they're not moving in the West Bank to stay, yet you're hearing from the Palestinians that that in fact is what they believe the Israelis are preparing to do. What is your take on this?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, D-Connecticut: The truth is, I don't know. And the Israeli justification for taking the actions they're taking is to essentially perform the police function; the law enforcement function that they believe the Palestinian Authority is not performing, to protect them against suicide bombers, terrorists. And the Congress of the United States has gone on record as supporting Israel's right to defend itself in exactly that way.

But the problem here is that this is going nowhere good. People are dying on both sides. And the United States, unfortunately, remains, for the moment, on the sidelines. Nothing good will happen between Israelis and Palestinians if it's left to themselves. The U.S. is the one country that both trust. And I think it's very important that the president get back on the field here, that the administration get back on the field.

Obviously, there are disagreements of opinion within the Bush administration about what to do, but that can't go on very much longer.

The president, respectfully, has to make a decision, send Secretary Powell to the region, and try to get these parties back at the table, as hopefully around the Saudi plan, which has something in it for both Palestinians and Israelis.

SCHIEFFER: Well, as you well know, there was talk all last week that the president was going to make a speech outlining some sort of road to peace, perhaps calling for a provisional Palestinian state. That was put off. We're now told that it may or may not come this week.

What do you think he ought to say?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the president has to say something, in my opinion.

In other words, he should reach a decision. I don't know what a provisional state means. I'm for a permanent Palestinian state. And that will come only as a result of negotiations between both sides.

It was really tragic in a lot of ways, to hear a few days ago that Yasser Arafat now says he would accept the offer of statehood made a year and a half ago by President Clinton, supported by former Prime Minister Barak that -- if he had only done it then, I would say that there would not be the suicide bombers in control of the field of the Palestinian movement as there is now.

What I would do, I'd try to get the parties back to the regional conference that both the Palestinians and Israelis have talked about. I'll tell you something else I would do. I would initiate a major proactive program directed at the Palestinian people to try to separate them from the suicide bombers and the terrorists, and to give them some reason for hope.

And what that would be, would be aggressive economic aid. I'd bring more Palestinians to the U.S., not fewer. I think we have to say to them, "Don't allow yourselves to have your legitimate aspirations for a better life and for statehood taken over by suicide bombers who want to destroy Israel." It will never happen that way.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this question. When Prime Minister Sharon was here in this country, it was pretty clear that he has no intention of negotiating with Yasser Arafat on anything. He says, "We have to have a partner before we can negotiate."

Can you envision any way that Yasser Arafat can be a part of this, or is he irrelevant? Does he have to go? What part can he play in this?

LIEBERMAN: Bob, this is a very important question. And, you know, I've met with Yasser Arafat regularly over the years. I believe I know him well. And I think he's at a point where he has lost control and leadership of the Palestinian movement. He's in a situation where the Israelis don't trust him and won't deal with him. The president of the United States won't meet with him.

So I think it's time for Yasser Arafat, in the interest of the Palestinian people, about whom, toward whom he's dedicated his life, to ask himself whether it's not time to step down and to allow a new beginning and a new generation of Palestinian leadership.

There are some extraordinarily able people there within the Palestinian governing group who are able to take over, who the Israelis, I think, would trust, and who the United States feels that we could deal with.

So it's time for a change.

BORGER: Do you think the United States can encourage him in any way to step down?

LIEBERMAN: Ultimately, just consistent, Gloria, with our own belief in democracy, it's up to the Palestinian people who their leader is or their leaders are.

What I'm really saying is, to Yasser Arafat, at this moment to ask himself what is in the best interest of the Palestinian people? What is in the best interest of having their -- the quality of their lives go up, to have them achieve statehood? And I think it's to step aside and allow a new generation of leadership to come to control of the Palestinian Authority.

BORGER: But one more thing about this provisional Palestinian state. I take it you are opposed to it, that idea then?

LIEBERMAN: I don't know enough -- it's such an unprecedented idea of a provisional state. It's hard to -- either you're a state or you're not a state. But in fairness, I want to let the president make his case, if in fact, that's what he's going to decide to do.

I think the whole aim here is to give the Palestinian people some hope. I think a better way to give the Palestinian people hope is to say what we're for is a permanent Palestinian state, and for now, we're going to give more aid to improve your lives, your health, your economic opportunities, and we're really going to do everything we can to encourage the Palestinian Authority to hold new elections and give you democracy.

SCHIEFFER: This week you were presiding over hearings on the president's proposal to create a department of homeland security to combat terrorism. I must say I found the -- while it seemed to me that Tom Ridge got a fairly cordial reception from your committee, over and over, I heard senators appear rather skeptical that this might be the answer. They seemed to think that yes, some reorganization may be in order, but it doesn't really address the fundamental problem that we found before 9/11; that was this lack of cooperation between the FBI and the CIA.

Do you think that the president's proposal goes far enough, and where in fact do you think it's going? Is Congress going to eventually approve it?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. Bob, I think on our committee, there's -- and in Congress in both Houses and both parties, there is a widespread acceptance of the fact that we've to better organize ourselves for homeland security.

The fact that the attacks of September 11 occurred is evidence enough that we didn't have our act together. The American government failed to protect the American people from those attacks. We have the strength, we have the wealth, we have the technology and the talent, the power to do it, military power to do it. But it's not going to happen unless we organize.

So I think we're going to adopt a department of homeland security and it's going to make the American people more secure.

The one critical element that there was unease about on our committee is have we worked out how to bring together the intelligence and law enforcement, CIA, FBI and all the rest, so that we avoid what now looks to be the most glaring pre-September 11 failure, which is the failure to share information, to put all the dots on the same table so somebody would have had a chance to put them together and prevent September 11?

The proposal the president made on that is a good beginning, to have an intelligence center in the new department. I want to see our proposal, our committee proposal would have had a anti-terrorism coordinator in the White House.

I think the important thing to say here is not that we're at loggerheads.

We're actually all on the same team now, thank God, because this is about our security. And the question is we're all working together to figure out what the best way is to organize this.

SCHIEFFER: Well, for example, what part should the U.S. military play in the defense of this country? That is not addressed in this proposal.

LIEBERMAN: You're absolutely right, and this is where I think the president's proposal is deficient, and we have to work together to fill that gap.

Look, we're spending $393 billion a year on defense. We've got a million and a half people in uniform, most of them here in the United States of America.

We've got a National Guard over a million people that's not involved in this. I think we would be foolish, as we now focus in a new chapter of our security history, domestic security, homeland security, not to better bring together the assets of the Pentagon to work with the new department of homeland security to provide the best possible security we can for the American people. And I hope to make sure that that's in the bill that comes out of my committee.

SCHIEFFER: So it sounds to me like you're with the president so far but you think there's more that needs to be done down the road.

LIEBERMAN: There's -- I think the president's endorsement of a concept of a department of homeland security, which our committee endorsed about a month ago, was a critical turning point. We're going to get this done, but we've got some work to do before we feel we're doing it as best as it has to be done.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator Lieberman, thank you so much.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Finally today, I have seen some weird stuff in my time, but nothing quite like last week.

It was a week a forest ranger admitted she had set one of the worst fires ever in the West. Go figure.

It was the week an unidentified plane headed toward the White House, and the place was evacuated, except someone forgot to tell the president. Good thing the guy in the plane was just lost.

The Middle East got worse again. Nothing funny about that.

And there was that peculiar development at the Capitol when the vice president complained that a congressional committee investigating the FBI and the CIA was leaking classified information to reporters.

The committee asked the Justice Department to investigate the committee itself, which created this scene in my mind: There's FBI Director Mueller being questioned by senators and congressmen behind closed doors. When they finish, he says, "Well, as long as I'm here, could I ask you some questions?" And over there in the corner sits CIA Director George Tenet, who smiles and says, "You boys take as long as you like questioning each other. If you don't get around to me, I can sure live with it."

That is sort of funny, except it's too close to the truth. Maybe it would be better if all involved just took a deep breath. Congress has not disclosed anything that has compromised security, and everyone really does need to get back to work, because there is some real work to do. For one thing, figuring out a way to tell the president the next time an unidentified plane poses a threat to the White House.

That's it for us. We'll see you right here next week on Face the Nation.




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  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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