Should Yasser Arafat Go?
CNN's The Point
THE POINT. Now from New York, Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight on THE POINT. Israel wants him to go. His defenders say no way would it really make a difference.
"Flashpoint": Arafat's fate. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today suggested Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat can take a one-way ticket into exile anywhere he wants. Arafat wants to stay, even though he remains besieged in his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
About 200 people emerged from the compound and surrendered today. Israel says it is going after the Palestinian terror infrastructure. Palestinians say Israel is practicing terror by occupying and attacking their land.
Should Arafat go? If he won't go willingly should he be forced to go, and does anyone have the right to make him leave?
Joining us from Philadelphia, tonight, Daniel Pipes, he's director of the Middle East Forum. And in Washington, James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute. Thank you very much for being with us, both of you. Tonight, there is basically two questions that I think we want to get to. Should Arafat be exiled and could he be? Would it be effective? Would it do more harm than good? Would it actually do any good at all?
Daniel, I want to start off with you, Colin Powell says Arafat is a player there, that the U.S. should not label him a terrorist and that removing him in effect wouldn't do any good. Colin Powell says it would-that Arafat could-quote-"conduct the same kind of activities from a different place." Sound sensible?
DANIEL PIPES, THE MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Mr. Powell's statement today was actually very interesting. Because he said we will not designate Yasser Arafat a terrorist, implying all the while that we know he really is one, but we're not going to designate him as one, because we think he can still be politically useful. Well, I differ with that. I think that that's like saying that Saddam Hussein could be politically useful.
In fact, like Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat is someone who has shown his true colors time and time again. He's someone who is irredeemable, he is a terrorist, he is someone on the other side of our war on terrorism. And...
ANDERSON: Would exiling him have any effect? Couldn't he conduct the same activities elsewhere?
PIPES: Perhaps. I really don't have an opinion on that. My point of view would be, we have an ally in Israel. And we should let the Israelis deal with this terrorist as they see fit. And I'm not going to give tactical advice to the Israelis. They should figure that out. Personally, I don't particularly see a great advantage of having him outside rather than inside. But that's not...
PIPES: ... the key issue.
ANDERSON: James, let me bring you in. Israel says Arafat is a terrorist. They have security reasons for wanting him to go.
JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB-AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, I think Secretary Powell is right. And I don't think he meant what Daniel Pipes thought that he meant. The fact is that Arafat has been involved in the peace process, has been a partner for peace, was a partner of two previous Israeli prime minister and felt the process turned against him.
COOPER: Do you believe he did everything-he has done everything he could to stem the tide of terror?
ZOGBY: I think the negotiations that went as far as Taba really made a significant difference. If you read "The New York Times" on Sunday, Yosi Beilin's article, really puts a lie to this entire narrative that said Arafat gave up the best deal and didn't go further. Arafat did go as far as he possibly could go. It was Ehud Barak that walked away, and finally lost an election in the middle of the first intifada.
The simple fact right now is that calling names as Mr. Pipes wants to do is not going to help the situation go away. Israel tried to deal with Arafat in the way they're dealing with him now in 1982. And you know what? Twenty years later, nothing changed, the simple fact is the that we need a negotiated settlement. We need an independent Palestinian state, Yasser Arafat is the representative of the Palestinian people. Israelis may not like Arafat, and you know what? Palestinians and Arabs don't like Ariel Sharon and think he's a terrorist. But at the end of the day these enemies have to make peace, and America as a bigger responsibility than just letting these guys fight it out.
We can't just say to Israel, you do what you want and we'll walk away from it. We have interests, we have allies, we have concerns in the region. We have to provide forceful leadership and make this thing, I think, a process that will work. I think we can do it.
COOPER: Daniel, if as you say, Arafat should leave, who fills the void? I mean, if he exits the stage, who is going to take his place?
PIPES: Well, I didn't say he should leave Israel. I just think he is a terrorist. And by the way...
ZOGBY: Daniel, he is not in Israel. He's in the West Bank, which is Palestine.
PIPES: Mr. Zogby referred to-there is no Palestine, Mr. Zogby. You are in the illusion that is exists. It doesn't exist yet.
COOPER: Who would fill the void? Let's stick to the question. Who would fill the void?
PIPES: I don't know who is going to fill the void. I'm not an Israeli tactician. I don't know what they are up to. But let me put it this way. Mr. Zogby said I called Yasser Arafat names. Today it just came to light that he has been actually himself signing on the vouchers to pay for the implements for the suicide bombers, and he's been paying for-he's actually been signing off on the vouchers to pay the families to reward them for the suicide. I mean, this man is...
ZOGBY: That's not true, Daniel.
PIPES: Well, it just came to light. You didn't catch it.
ZOGBY: I did. It came from Israeli intelligence sources...
PIPES: Let me finish.
ZOGBY: and frankly...
ANDERSON: James, James, let him finish and then we'll come to you.
ZOGBY: Your turn.
PIPES: Looking at Arafat, we should look at him like we did Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. This is someone who is an avowed enemy of ours, as well as Israel's. He's a terrorist and can not be someone who is acceptable to the United States government.
ZOGBY: Well, Mr. Pipes wants to say he is Saddam Hussein, he is Mullah Omar, he's the Taliban-he's whatever. The simple fact is that he is the head of the Palestinian people. Their striving for national liberation is one that he has headed now for many years, many decades. And the fact is we have to recognize and respect as President Bush is apparently moving to respect is that that right of self-determination is one that is essential.
Violence isn't going to work, Palestinians have to know that. But neither is occupation going to work and Israel has to know that. Israel's not going to end the problem of terror by more occupation. Neither will Palestinians end the occupation with terror. We have to have a political solution and America has to provide, I think, courageous leadership that pulls these people apart and provides for, I think, protection and security for both.
But calling Arafat names or using Israeli intelligence sources to demonize and discredit, that simply isn't going to wash right now because it's the not the point. The point is how do we make peace between these enemies and create security and stability so American interests are protected. I think that is what Colin Powell is working toward now.
ANDERSON: And on that point, we are going to have to leave it. James Zogby, Daniel pipes, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
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