Palestinian and Israeli security forces exchanged gunfire in Ramallah on Friday, October 13 in the violence that threatens to end the Mideast peace process. Israel tightened security in response to the deaths of at least two Israeli soldiers at the hands of Palestinian protestors on Thursday. International leaders proposed a summit on Saturday in Egypt but no decisions have been made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak or Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.
Daniel Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. A former official in the Departments of State and Defense, Dr. Pipes was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993. He is the author of twelve books on the Middle East, Islam and other political topics.
Chat Moderator: Welcome to CNN.com Newsroom, Daniel Pipes.
Daniel Pipes: I'm delighted to be here.
Chat Moderator: What are the latest developments in the Middle East?
Daniel Pipes: Well, I think yesterday's events really were very dramatic but, in fact, probably less than initially met the eye. The lynching of two Israeli soldiers prompted a response from the Israeli authorities that was very dramatic, but specifically targeted uninhabited buildings and led to no fatalities. Today things seem a bit quieter, so far. And there is renewed talk of negotiations.
Question from JrTyD: What reparation is Israel demanding for the desecration of the Tomb of Joseph?
Daniel Pipes: So far as I'm aware, the Israeli demand is for the Tomb to be returned to its prior state as a Jewish holy place. I don't know of any demands for reparations.
Question from David: Mr. Pipes, is there a viable alternative to Arafat's leadership?
Daniel Pipes: At this point, there is no rival to Yasser Arafat. He has dominated the Palestinian movement for 35 years. And, despite appearances, he is in fairly good health. So, no, I don't think there is any alternative of leadership at this point.
Question from DCDilemma: Daniel Pipes, is there any word yet on what Arafat is planning to do next? I heard a rumor that The WIRE picked up an encouragement from him to "march on to Jerusalem." Is this just posturing?
Daniel Pipes: Whenever Mr. Arafat meets with a setback, he talks about marching to Jerusalem. I don't think his rhetoric and the events of the past three months show that Palestinian control of Jerusalem is a very high priority.
Question from TheMuslim: Do you think the media is biased in its coverage towards Israel?
Daniel Pipes: I think the media attempts to portray the parties in conflict in a balanced way. That leads to difficulties when the story is inherently tense and full of conflict and even deaths. No one is satisfied with such an effort. I have my own specific complaints but, on the whole, I do think there is an effort to be fair. That said, there is a lot of ignorance and that creates its own problems.
Question from JrTyD: What is the danger that others such as Saddam Hussein are going to rush into the conflict?
Daniel Pipes: The mood in the Middle East is dangerous. For the first time since 1967, there is a sense that one more Arab effort against Israel could succeed in destroying the Jewish state. This is an inflammatory situation and one highly threatening to American interests. Saddam Hussein could well see an opportunity to lead the Arab world against Israel.
Question from Insider: Who would be a part of the negotiations, after the two partners said they have no partners and after Barak is forming a unity government with right-wingers who strongly oppose the peace process?
Daniel Pipes: Well, two thoughts: First, the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have often criticized each other, yet gone back to the bargaining table. So this current round of invective is not necessarily fatal for the Oslo process.
Second, the inclusion of the Likud party is also not necessarily that significant. If you remember the 1996 to 1999 period when Likud was in power, it also signed agreements with the Palestinians. In short, the Oslo process has nine lives.
Question from Dagon: Do you think Israel is using excessive force?
Daniel Pipes: No, I don't. I think any state faced with massive civil disobedience that includes stoning of automobiles, lynching, desecrations of holy places and other acts of violence would respond in the same forceful way.
Question from Bored: Do you see an escalation of these actions into a full-blown Arab-Israeli-U.S. war?
Daniel Pipes: The possibility exists of such an escalation. I don't think it's likely but that possibility, plus the attendant implications for the oil markets, are why we are so focused on this issue right now.
Question from Anxiouslywaiting: Has there been a security threat all along the Green Line, or only in selected areas in the Bank and Gaza?
Daniel Pipes: The uprising has been both in the territories ruled by the Palestinian Authority and in Israel proper. Indeed, perhaps the most shocking aspect for Israelis of this violence, has been the Israeli-Arab participation in it.
Question from Bush2K: Dan, if they marched to Jerusalem, that would be their demise in my opinion. What is yours?
Daniel Pipes: I gather what you mean is a massive pedestrian assault on Jerusalem. If so, I would expect that the Israeli authorities would prevent this through routine police measures. That would work unless the demonstrators insisted on moving forward in large numbers, at which point there could be real violence.
Question from Drolling: Given that a majority of Palestinians live outside Israel, namely in Jordan, if we are to have peace, it would seem to me to be critically important that all parties involved sacrifice land to generate a new homeland. Why is it that Israel, which is smaller than the size of San Diego County, must make all the land concessions?
Daniel Pipes: Good point, but I would look at it somewhat differently. The many Palestinians living outside of Israel don't need territories of their own. They do need to be integrated into the countries where they or their family have been living for as many as 50 years. In other words, preventing the Palestinians from integrating has been seen as a weapon against Israel. It's time for that weapon to be laid down.
Question from IDBI: Mr. Pipes, will Israel ever allow a sovereign Palestinian state?
Daniel Pipes: Oh yes, the negotiations underway until two weeks ago were explicitly heading towards Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state. The question in play was: What are the terms of such a recognition in such a state?
Question from Wesley: If there were an Arab-Israeli war, would Egypt sit it out?
Daniel Pipes: Well, it depends on what you mean by an Arab-Israeli war. If it is low intensity conflict such as is the case today, street riots and the like, then yes, the Egyptians would not become militarily involved. If, on the other hand, Iraqi forces jumped into the fray, I am less confident about the Egyptians' actions.
Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?
Daniel Pipes: I think the really key decision to be made by the Palestinians is whether they continue this violence or bring it to an end. Israelis need to decide whether they go back to the negotiations that were premised on a Palestinian willingness to live at peace with Israel or not.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Daniel Pipes.
Daniel Pipes: Thank you for this opportunity.
Daniel Pipes joined the World News Chat via telephone from New York. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the chat, which took place on Friday, October 13, 2000.