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Henry Kissinger on Mideast Violence

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, March 29, 2002. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:  Tonight, more bloodshed in the West Bank.  Yasser Arafat remains barricaded inside his compound with no electricity, as Washington pleads with Israel to spare his life.  Is there anything that will stop the violence?

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger joins us now from Kent, Connecticut.

Nice to see you, Dr. Kissinger.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Glad to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Dr. Kissinger, let me go straight to the big issue that many people are thinking about, and that is, is Israel likely to harm or kill Arafat?  The secretary of state has said Israel has assured him that they will not, but do you think Israel will?

KISSINGER:  No, I don't think they will deliberately kill him.  It's conceivable that there's an accident, but I would regret it, and I don't think it's at all in Israel's interests to harm Arafat and make him a martyr.

VAN SUSTEREN:  What happens if the violence does not stop, the violence goes on?  What -- does that push Israel into a corner, do you think?  Do you think they feel that way?

KISSINGER:  The Palestinians are obviously saying that they can put Israel into a corner, and they're following a fairly familiar tactic of guerrillas.  They don't even mind a certain amount of violent Israeli retaliation because that has a tendency to mobilize world opinion against Israel.

But in my view, there are two possibilities.  Either there is a negotiation, on lines that are now well established.  There's the Tenet plan.  There's the Mitchell plan.  But in order to do that, there has to be a cease-fire.  If there can't be a cease-fire, then the parties have to fight it out until one or both of them get exhausted, and then the United States can play a big role.

But for the United States to be running around while they're killing each other, and while in the middle of our mediation, more and more violence occurs, it's going to depreciate our currency.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Is that to suggest, then, that the United States should just sit back, in the short run, and we wait to see whether or not Arafat will stop the violence or whether there'll be a cease-fire?

KISSINGER:  No, the United States should make clear that it's willing to act as a mediator, that it is willing to press Israel to make concessions, and that it -- but -- and that it is willing to try to bring the war to a conclusion.  But there has to be a cease-fire before meaningful negotiations can take place.

VAN SUSTEREN:  How do you force a cease-fire out of someone?  I mean, if the person doesn't want to have a cease-fire or the person can't cause a cease-fire, what do you do then?

KISSINGER:  Then, regrettable as it is, they have to fight it out until somebody wins.  There are two aspects to the cease-fire among the Palestinians.  There's no doubt that Arafat can control the majority of the terrorist acts.  He cannot control necessarily every act of violence that is like having crime committed in normal circumstances.  But Arafat has to bring an end to this killing of civilians because if he doesn't, and if there then is an agreement made, it will be considered a triumph for this sort of warfare and of this sort of tactic, and it will threaten everybody.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Dr. Kissinger, you just said that he can control the majority of the violence, Arafat, but not all of it.  Isn't every act of violence, at least at this point -- don't most Israelis think, "Aha.  That must be Arafat"?  I mean, in some ways, isn't he sort of -- any time there's violence, he's going to be the one who's going to be blamed for it?

KISSINGER:  No, I don't think that Arafat can control Hamas, for example.  But I think he can clearly control the people that are under the so-called Fatah jurisdiction.  The Israelis are focusing on Arafat.  And I also agree that these actions could not be taking place unless Arafat tacitly or actively encouraged them.  Arafat could bring an end to most of the violence if he chose, and...

VAN SUSTEREN:  But you say -- I'm sorry.  But you say that Arafat -- Arafat doesn't control Hamas.  It was Hamas who took credit for the suicide bombing in the hotel the other night, in which about 20 Israelis were killed during a celebration of Passover.  And it was Hamas who says -- who took responsibility, and that's what provoked today's problems with the Israelis bringing their tanks up to his compound.  So the Israelis are blaming him for Hamas.

KISSINGER:  I actually think the Israelis are making a mistake by focusing so much on Arafat.  If Arafat clearly called for a cease-fire, and if the forces that he controls, who are known, obey a cease-fire, and if then Hamas does something, then two things ought to happen.  The other Arab states ought to get after Hamas, and Israel ought to be free to go after Hamas.  And I think under those circumstances, it will be possible to control the guerrillas.

VAN SUSTEREN:  How do you get, though, the other Arab states to control Hamas?  Hamas was represented at the Arab summit in Beirut.  And apparently, after the bombing in the hotel -- at least, according to our war correspondent, Geraldo Rivera -- the Hamas representative was not condemned by the other Arab countries, even though Hamas had taken responsibility for this.  It doesn't sound like the other Arab countries will condemn it.

KISSINGER:  If they don't condemn it, then it's the best proof that they are not serious about their peace offensive.  If they want to have a serious negotiation, they have to be prepared to condemn terrorism.  They cannot have both.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do you think that Arafat really wants peace?

KISSINGER:  I think Arafat is conflicted.  What he really wants is the destruction of the Israeli state, and he may be willing to make some sort of an interim agreement, which he will consider probably as a stage to the ultimate destruction of the Israeli state.  In 1991, after the Gulf war, he started negotiations which in 1993 culminated in the Oslo agreements.  So when he feels sufficiently weak or when he thinks the circumstances require it, he can make an agreement.

One should not, however, believe that he will ever reconcile himself to the existence of an Israeli state...

VAN SUSTEREN:  And I guess, until the...

KISSINGER:  Even if he makes a -- even if he makes a temporary agreement with them.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And of course, that doesn't suggest very much optimism for the future, if, indeed, that is the way it is.  Dr. Kissinger, thank you very much for joining me.

KISSINGER:  Good to be here.

Click here to order the entire transcript of the March 29, 2002 edition of On the Record.

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