Interviews with Daniel Pipes
Arafat and Mubarak Will Not Attend Arab Summit
CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, and welcome to NEWSNIGHT. I'm Connie Chung, sitting in for Aaron Brown.
Joining us now, Daniel Pipes. He's chairman of the Middle East Forum, a syndicated columnist, and author of many books on the region. He's in Philadelphia tonight. Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. Pipes.
What do you think is the best-case scenario that could emerge from this Arab summit?
DANIEL PIPES: Oh, Connie, I'm not very optimistic. I think the best thing that could happen would be that the aggressiveness that one sees in the Arab world towards Israel would be reduced. As Christiane Amanpour just put it, Israel's not on the map. We just heard a spokesman say how every Arab and every Muslim sees Israel as its enemy.
This sort of temperament needs to be reduced, and...
CHUNG: But Christiane was indicating that she believes that the Arab countries will present a united position.
PIPES: United position, perhaps, but the problem is, what we've seen now for 25 years, since the original Egyptian-Israeli diplomacy, is that leaders can come to an agreement between them, but it doesn't translate into something that's real for the countries.
CHUNG: Now, do you think that Arafat's decision not to come will affect the summit?
PIPES: Not much. As Christiane and you and others pointed out, he is part of a consensus that this is a time to make an offer to Israel, an offer that Israel pretty much for sure cannot accept.
Look, you know, basically I think what's going on here is posturing on everyone's side. The Israelis are saying, OK, we will offer things to the Arabs that they don't really intend to do. The Arabs are offering things to is it doesn't-they don't really intend to offer. We are trying to have this theater quiet because our real interest is Iraq. I see a lot of posing going on now...
CHUNG: Well, you're giving us a very very pessimistic view of this Arab summit.
PIPES: Well, do you have any reason to be optimistic? I mean, we have seen 10 years of degeneration in Arab-Israeli relations, and it's going to be hard to turn around on a dime here.
CHUNG: But what's wrong with the Saudi plan, then? I mean, the whole idea is that this could very well be a breakthrough.
PIPES: Connie, I can't see it. The Saudi plan calls for the Israelis to return to their 1967 boundaries. These are boundaries which one Israeli leader, Abba Eban, once called the Auschwitz boundaries. These are boundaries that Israel finds untenable. At its smallest point, narrowest point, it's nine kilometers wide, Israel would be under that plan.
I see it really as posing. I mean, nobody really expects Israel to go back to boundaries which it left in 1967 and said it would never return to. Nobody expects Israel to give up its holiest places. They-these are not tenable, these are not tenable...
CHUNG: Let me ask you this, then. This was something that Christiane mentioned. No one seems to know why Mubarak pulled out of attending this summit. Do you have any idea why?
PIPES: No better than she does. It could be that he didn't think it's a good idea for him to go when Arafat doesn't go. It could be that he has more pressing business. It's hard for me to speculate.
But my bet with you would be that should we come back a year from today and discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, I suspect we will not be discussing the Arab summit coming up. This is a small event, not something memorable.
CHUNG: Now, the United States is playing down the fact that Arafat is not going to the summit, and it's still putting on the table this possibility of Vice President Cheney meeting with Arafat. Do you think that's realistic?
PIPES: It's certainly realistic if we decide to have the vice president meet him. The question is, what will it lead to? Again, my view is a skeptical one. I think that what is needed now is addressing the basic issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict and what the Tenant plan and the Mitchell plan and the Abdullah plan address are not the basics.
The basics have to do with the existence of Israel. That has been the issue since 1948. Israel, of course, wants to exist, and most of its neighbors most of the time say no to it. And that is still the question that is still on the table. And whether the vice president meets Mr. Arafat or not is not going to further than question along.
What really is at issue now, and what I'm watching, rather than this diplomacy, which you can see I'm not all that impressed by, I'm watching the war that's taking place between Israel and the Palestinians. There is a war. Both sides have declared it.
CHUNG: I think there's no question about it, the violence has been awful.
PIPES: And the question then is, who's winning, who's losing, where is it going?
CHUNG: Do you have an answer to that?
PIPES: I would say a year and a half ago, when this war began, the Palestinians were winning it. I would say today, despite appearances, the Israelis are winning it. I mean, I may be wrong in my assessment. But I think this is what is really the critical thing now. If Israel is winning, then that could lead to a major turning point. If I'm wrong and the Israelis are losing, then that too could lead to a turning point.
But the key question is, is Israel going to be accepted by its neighbors, or are its neighbors going to destroy it? That's the issue on the table at all times.
CHUNG: Daniel Pipes, thank you so much for being with us. Remind me not to talk to you about optimism and life (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
PIPES: Oh, I'm optimistic on other issues.
CHUNG: Are you? Thank goodness. Thank you again for being with us tonight.
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