Assessing the Zinni Mission
CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown
AARON BROWN: There's one story that quietly dropped off the front page in recent days, and in a way that's good development. Things have calmed down in Israel. No peace to speak of, to be sure, but less bloodshed than there had been.
And tomorrow the U.S. envoy, General Anthony Zinni, will be back in the region for a four-day visit. You might recall that his visit last month was overwhelmed by some of the worst violence we've seen in the Palestinian uprising that began 15 months ago.
General Zinni will again try to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree on a formal cease-fire plan. But as one official put it today, "all it takes is one suicide bomber and this visit is history."
Joining us now from Philadelphia to talk about the mission and the considerable roadblocks ahead, Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and a contributor to "the New York Post." Good evening to you.
PIPES: Good evening.
BROWN: Well, at least they're not killing each other in the numbers they were. That's hopeful. Any sign that the two sides are willing to take the next step?
PIPES: I'm afraid not. I don't think that-I don't think that General Zinni's mission is really one that has great hopes. He-he's there to administer a Band-Aid when the patient has cancer.
By that I mean, that he's there to try and get a cease-fire, but the real issue is, should Israel exist? Palestinians say no. Israelis say yes. A cease-fire doesn't address that question.
BROWN: So we are no further along 53 years later-almost 53 years later, I guess-than we were back in 1948?
PIPES: No, we've regressed. Israel had, by dint of its really tough stance over the decades, managed to establish itself to a considerable degree.
But over the last ten years what we've seen is a lot of regression. What we see is a lot of people who over the decades said, "Well, Israel is there. We don't like it but there's not much we can do about it."
In the last few years they said, "Well, there is something we can do about it. We're going to do something about it."
So that's the problem now. It's a much more angry and ambitious Arab operation to Israel.
BROWN: So just dismiss out of hand-we should, I hear you saying-this notion that if Israel would simply withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, and take its settlers and its settlements with it, all would be fine.
PIPES: That's what Barak offered a year and a half ago at Camp David in July in the year 2000. He was smacked in the face and told, "No way. We won't accept that."
So my reasoning is that if ever Barak offered so much, from the Israeli point of view, Ariel Sharon is not going to offer so much. And if Yasser Arafat rejected a year and a half ago, now when things are much more radicalized, he's certainly not going to accept it today. So there's really no chance, at this moment, of a breakthrough. None. None.
BROWN: And therefore what purpose is served by the American envoy going back, or any American involvement in this at all right now?
PIPES: The purpose is very clear. It is that the American government is interested in maintaining a coalition and the Arab states would like some activity, some diplomatic activity. So what's the harm in sending somebody over?
So no particular harm, I guess, but at the same, as you pointed out of this section, the last time General Zinni went to the Middle East the reception was explosive. 26 Israelis dead and hundreds injured. I hope the same won't happen this time.
BROWN: And there's just no sign that this convulsive wave of violence that affected both sides here has had any salutary effect on them at all.
PIPES: I think that may be coming up. My sense is-and this is speculative, I have no-but my sense is that the Palestinian and Arab opinion-which as I say, has become inflamed and is much more angry and much more radicalized, we might see a swift shift.
We might see a-a sense this isn't going anyplace, and this violence that we've been using, this economic decline we've been experiencing, is miserable. The situation we're now in is too much and we've got to do something else.
I wouldn't be surprised to see-and it could be rather soon-a real shift. And that, I believe, would be progress. And then we can go back to negotiations.
BROWN: Daniel, thank you. Thank you. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. Thank you for joining us tonight. Come back and see us again. Thank you. Daniel Pipes in Philadelphia tonight.
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