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Sen. Joseph Biden on Fox News Sunday

Following is a transcripted excerpt from Fox News Sunday, April 14, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: Now joining us to discuss Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission, Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And also here with questions, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.

Senator Biden, let me ask about something we've just learned about Colin Powell's mission, which is that, in addition to shuttling between Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon, he is also going to be visiting Lebanon and Syria. What should he be saying to the heads of those two states? 

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-Del.): Well, you know, it's hard -- how can I say this? I don't want to second-guess anything he is doing while he's on a mission. I think we should give the mission a shot, let it run its course. And if it produces good results, wonderful. And if it doesn't, figure where to go from here. 

But I think -- if you think about everything everyone's saying, what is about -- can you trust that Arafat's going to keep the deal? Can you ensure -- if there's a deal. Can you ensure that there won't be another blow-up? Can you assure -- and so on. 

If I look at it from afar, it seems to me that -- you look at the Arab states. They've come through with this plan through the Saudi plan. Now let's see if it's real. These are the guys who have been funding. These are the guys that have been giving -- turning a blind eye to the terror. These are the guys that have been actually harboring, in some cases. 

Everybody seems to, allegedly, be in the same page. You have Sharon saying he'd like to see an international conference with us spearheading it happening, like Madrid 10 years ago. You have the Saudis saying essentially the same thing. You have us saying the same thing. 

I think unless you take this above the tactical, like should he go to this country, should he -- should the president invest his prestige in this initiative, should he insist on this change -- I think as long as you stay on that ground, this is bound to ultimately fail. It's got to move a notch up. 

SNOW: So what -- you have said before that the Tenet plan and the Mitchell plans, they're nice, but they're kind of irrelevant. What you're... 

BIDEN: Now I think they are basically irrelevant. They are relevant in the sense that if Tenet worked, that is if there was actually a cease-fire, it allows you to get to a different place more quickly. 

But the idea that we're not going to lay out -- as the end of your interview with Mr. Card, you said, "Well, what about Taba?" Taba is where we're going to end up. I mean, the idea that there's not going to have to be an absolute concession on the right of return and an absolute concession on settlements is not... 

(CROSSTALK) 

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: But, Senator, at the end of the day, some leader of the Palestinians is going to have to say yes. 

BIDEN: Yes. Well, by the way, I would assume Arafat's a piece of this. 

HUME: All right, fine, let's assume that. Assume for the sake of discussion Arafat's a piece of this. Don't you kind of have the feeling, knowing what you know about what happened at Taba at the very end of the Clinton administration -- of course, it's not widely known that the conditions that Tony set forth generally, exceedingly generous by comparison with any other offer ever made... 

BIDEN: Absolutely, absolutely. 

HUME: ... was put on the table by President Clinton, accepted by Ehud Barak for Israel and not by Yasser Arafat. 

Now, we've been to -- so we've sort of seen what happens when you get to that point with a very generous offer on the table, in conditions far less violent than the current ones. 

Do you have any reason to believe that whether you elevate this to an international conference or not, when you get right down to it sooner or later at the end, you're still dealing with Yasser Arafat? 

BIDEN: Yes. 

HUME: And will it be any different? 

BIDEN: I tell you why. Obviously, I don't know. But let me tell you why I think that. 

The Saudi leadership, the Egyptian leadership, the Arab leadership generally has looked over the precipice. Never before have they gotten to this spot. They know damn well if this thing keeps up the way it is, escalating, their very existence, which is already illegitimate in terms of democratic governments, is at stake. 

They have a newfound interest. As they say in Delaware, in southern Delaware, they've had an altar call. This is a different deal. I truly believe the one thing that's changed is, they're realizing their continued ability to reign... 

HUME: Apart from that very general offer advanced by Saudi Arabia, what other evidence do you see... 

BIDEN: No, there isn't. That's why I think you've got to call it now. 

Look, you have the Saudis saying to us and guys like me, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I'm sure to the administration, "Hey look, you guys got to get involved. My street is going nuts. I've got a real problem. I'm going to have to make a" -- they don't want to make the choice. They don't want to have to make the choice of going full bore, totally against Israel, or being full bore -- which means against us in the end of the day. Or going with us and/or Israel to try to work out some peace and lose the street. 

And so I just thing, Brit, I may be wrong, but it's a different dynamic. It's a different dynamic today than a year and a half or two years ago because of the nature of their precarious position. 

HUME: Well, you can see the precariousness of their position. 

BIDEN: I think they see it. 

HUME: But, well, if they -- but what is the evidence that they see it in their behavior? 

BIDEN: The evidence they see it in their behavior is that they're not willing to take a chance unless there's an end game here. 

Let me explain what I mean very quickly. I know I'm talking too much here. 

BIDEN: One, when it appear to the 65 percent of the Palestinians that Sharon, even if you got Tenet, wasn't willing to go to anything other than an extended interim agreement, that read "No independent Palestinian state on the West Bank." 

Conversely, when Arafat, when it was clear that he is out there, not only rejecting generous offers, but actually funding and fermenting this terror, the Israelis said, whoa, there's no end in sight here, there's no end in sight. 

You've got to give both sides -- the 65 percent of both populations the notion that there is a possibility here. 

SNOW: OK, so I'm going to translate this because we're throwing around "Tenet" and "Taba" and all this stuff, so let's make it simple. 

The Taba agreement, again, basically offered something like 97 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians. It divided up East Jerusalem: Arab sectors go to the Palestinians, Jewish sectors go to the Israelis. Pretty much the same with religious sites. There were security agreements. So you'd have Palestinian state. You had some guarantees of Israeli security. And finally, on an issue that's highly controversial, right of return, Palestinians going back into Israel. There was a very limited right. 

HUME: But there was a right that would be -- that would go to a Palestinian state... 

(CROSSTALK) 

BIDEN: Absolutely, back to a Palestinian state. 

SNOW: So those, that's what were talking about. 

Now, what you are saying is that you would like to see the modern Arab states take that, own that, and start taking that to Yasser Arafat and say... 

BIDEN: And us -- and this administration own up to that general person. 

Let me ask it another way. What do you think would have happened to Taba if the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and everyone said, "Arafat, if you don't accept this, we're cutting your water off?" 

SNOW: OK. That being the case.... 

BIDEN: What do you think would have happened? I don't know. 

HUME: But we do know this from Dennis Ross and others who were parties to all of that, which is that, all of -- virtually all of Arafat's negotiating team wanted him to accept this offer, and that the sticking point was end of the conflict. 

BIDEN: Yes. 

HUME: Now, that kind of tells you something about him, that he might even be immune, does it not, to even pressure from those other countries. 

BIDEN: Well, see, but look, they have the ability to cut this guy's water off. 

SNOW: So let me ask you, if that's the case, what do you make of the fund-raiser that's been going on this week in Saudi Arabia? $100,000 million now to Palestinians, and they say all for humanitarian aid. 

What do you think? Is that all going to be humanitarian support? 

BIDEN: I doubt it. Let me say it another way. We have not called the Saudi card yet. We've said nice things about this generic plan they've put forward. They have not had to do anything else. I want them on the world stage actually having to sign on, in effect, the dotted line, saying "This is what we're prepared to do." 

HUME: But, Senator, they are on the world stage. They're on the world stage this weekend, they're on the world stage holding a telethon for Palestinian martyrs. Now, you keep you saying it... 

BIDEN: But it's in the middle of a conflict. It's right now where we are... 

HUME: Doesn't that argue then for, under your scenario, that you've got to get the level of violence reduced. In other words, something like the Powell mission has to succeed before you can draw these people... 

BIDEN: Or one of two things. You step above it. You immediately go to another level. One of the two. 

But look, the alternative -- what's the alternative? What's the alternative here? I see no alternative. I see this incremental movement as being a continued formula for disaster for all the parties in it. They know they're in that vortex. They don't know how the devil to get out of it. They don't know how to move, and some don't want to get out of it. 

SNOW: So, do you think the administration understands this? 

BIDEN: Well, it's presumptuous for me to say understand. I think it's a hell of a political chance they've got to take. 

I think there's been an overwhelming reluctance on the part of this administration from day one, from their perspective, understandably, to sort of touch this, to, you know, put their mark on it, put their hand on it. And now they find themselves being drawn in, incrementally. And incrementally, in my view, my unsolicited advice is, get in it. 

HUME: So, should Powell come home now though? Should he get out of this tactical diplomacy? 

BIDEN: The answer is, what I would hope this administration would consider doing is having a specific plan how to get to the next stage. 

It's one thing to say, let's stop the cease-fire. Let's you and I stop fighting. You're going to say, OK. But are we going to do after that? Don't just tell me, generically, we'll then talk. I have to know something more than that. Tell me whether I have a chance of anything happening here. What room are we going to go into here, Brit? I mean we're going to stop fighting, fine. 

So far, the fights kind of equal from my -- from your perspective. And I say let's stop. Well, what next? And I think that's the place you have to give a different sense that there is possibility of something happening. 

Because never before has everyone been willing to put themselves on the line -- United States, Europe, the Saudis, the Egyptians, et cetera -- in terms of one deal. 

HUME: One last question, Senator, on this subject, from me anyway. 

BIDEN: I could be dead wrong. 

(LAUGHTER) 

HUME: Is the world a better place if Israel gets to complete the military mission on which it is now embarked, to attack the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas? 

BIDEN: In a theoretical sense, yes. Is Israel in a better place if it continues having to do it the way it is? No. Because look what's happening to Israel around the world, and look what's going to happen here in the United States of America. 

Mark my words, if this thing continues, more accusations of massacres and the like, mark my words, support in the United States is going to go just like it did when they moved into Lebanon where cluster bombs were used. Israel can't afford to have that kind of jeopardy. 

SNOW: So you would like to see Israel out when? 

BIDEN: What I'd like to see is Israel and everyone agreeing to, we're going to move this to a full settlement stage, not try to incrementally move to this. 

If it means they have to stay in a day, an hour, or five hours, were I president of the United States, I wouldn't be putting my prestige on the line, betting on telling the foreign minister and/or the prime minister of another country, get out by such and such a moment. That's squandering, in my view. It runs the risk of squandering U.S. prestige and power. 

SNOW: All right, Senator Joseph Biden, thanks for joining us today.