JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Sharon gets the go-ahead. U.S. President Bush backs Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. Israelis will depart from Gaza and dig in to parts of the West Bank. Hello and welcome.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says direct negotiations between the United States and Israel without the Palestinians could end the possibility of the peace process advancing at all.
Joining us now to talk about that is Daniel Pipes, an author and scholar as well as director of the Middle East Forum, which promotes U.S. interests in the region.
Thanks so much for being with us.
Let me ask you, was this a step forward today for the peace process or a step back, do you think?
DANIEL PIPES, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Jonathan, this is perhaps the most complicated diplomatic maneuvering I've ever seen in my lifetime. There's so many things going on today. I would say on balance it's a step forward, but with many, many caveats.
MANN: Can you tell us why you have those reservations?
PIPES: Well, do you have an hour or two for me? There are so many issues under consideration. Refugees, settlements, the politics of the region, U.S.-Israel relations. But by and large, what we saw today was President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon coming together and working together, although they have their differences, they essentially put those aside, endorsed each other, endorsed each other's plans and initiatives and said we're going to work together. It was as though President Bush said Mr. Sharon is my ally in this key part of the world.
MANN: Weren't the Palestinians supposed to be part of these decisions, though?
PIPES: Well, the Palestinians were very much part from 1993 on. You remember the handshake on the White House lawn on that late summer day in September 1993, and from then on, for the next eight years or so, or even longer, ten years, they were a part, but the unremitting violence and the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat's responsibility for that violence and role in that violence has led the United States and Israel presidents both to decide that the Palestinian leadership, as such, is not interested in any kind of negotiations, is interested in destroying Israel, interested in using force rather than diplomacy as a way to end the conflict. And therefore, is not a suitable partner, and thus the Palestinian exclusion at this point.
MANN: Isn't there a catch-22 at work here? The United States and Israel exclude the Palestinian leadership because of what they see as its ties to extremists, and when they do that they take measures, like the ones today, that infuriate and undermine the moderates in the Palestinian community, which only helps the extremists even more.
PIPES: One could turn it around. I think it's more likely to be the opposite.
As the Palestinians see that violence is not serving them, that they are far further from the Palestinian state than they were 3-1/2 years ago, their enthusiasm for violence will diminish. I think that's more likely. Also, it's interesting to note that in the course of diplomacy, the violence increased. I think the Palestinians need to come to understand that you can't do both diplomacy and violence at the same time. It's one or the other.
MANN: Speaking of one or the other, the president seems to be trying to balance between two apparently contradictory U.S. policies. One of them continues to be support for a Palestinian state. The other is the continued establishment, or I should say the continued existence, of thriving and growing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Can he have both of those? Can Israel have both of those, a peaceful Palestinian state with settlements in the middle of it?
PIPES: Sure. Why should a Palestinian state be without any Israelis in it? There are plenty of Arabs, in fact about 1/5 of the Israeli population is Arab. Why can't there be some Jews or Israelis living in a Palestinian state? Once there is peace, that is to say once there is a recognition by the Palestinians that Israel is there and is permanent and they're not going to use force, then it's perfectly possible for some Israelis to live in the West Bank or even Gaza. They need not have sovereignty. Nobody says that in advance is a necessity. But they surely can possibly live there. You don't have to make the area completely free of Israelis in order to have a Palestinian state.
MANN: Daniel Pipes, thanks very much.
PIPES: Thank you.