August 19: Fox News Foreign Affairs Analyst and Former Special Middle Eastern Coordinator Dennis Ross Reacts To The Latest Middle Eastern Violence

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This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, August, 19 2003  that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST:homicide bomber (search) attacked a crowded bus in Jerusalem (search), leaving at least 20 people dead, including a number of children. Both Hamas (search) and Islamic Jihad (search) have claimed responsibility for the attack. But can the peace process go on or will the road map to peace lead to more violence?

We're joined by FOX News foreign affairs analyst and former special Middle Eastern coordinator for President Clinton, Dennis Ross.

Dennis, good to see you, buddy.


HANNITY: I happen to be of the belief system, Dennis, and I wish it weren't so, if you want peace, you want a road map to peace, you first have got to win the war against groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are fighting for credit of these dead children and these children receiving CPR today. How can you ever negotiate with that?

ROSS: Well, I don't think you negotiate with Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The question is not so much do the Israelis win the war against Hamas and Islamic Jihad? The real issue is do the Palestinian people win the war against Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

Until the Palestinian Authority, with Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, and Mohammed Dahlan, the security minister, until they basically make the choice, make the decision that they can no longer tolerate this kind of behavior, it doesn't matter how good their intentions are. I know these people very well, and their intentions are good. But ultimately there's a moment of truth and they're going to have to take these groups on.

HANNITY: But Abbas has said he will not take them on.

ROSS: If he does not take them on…and part of the reason he says that is because you have a kind of ethos among Palestinians to avoid a civil war. But the fact is, if Hamas and Islamic Jihad do what they did today, which in effect is to say, ‘We don't care about the ceasefire. We feel free to do this whenever we feel it's our need, our duty to do it.’

HANNITY: Let me ask you this, Dennis. And I respect your opinion tremendously. You obviously know a lot about the region. But why don't we treat it the way we fight our war on terror?

I'm a big believer in the Bush doctrine. Why don't we say that, first of all, stop telling Israel to show restraint, which I think we have done far too often, having a double standard in the Bush doctrine. But why don't we allow Israel themselves to go after those people that are supporting terror, and that is Hamas, Hezbollah (search), Islamic Jihad. Let them fight the war.

And then, when the war is won, which ultimately they will win, then we can negotiate a peace with a position from strength with people that want to live at peace with Israel and not push it into the sea?

ROSS: You know, one of the interesting issues here is that you have an Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who is hardly seen anywhere in the world as being a softy, and yet he believes that it's in his interest to see if he has a Palestinian partner in Abu Mazen.

HANNITY: He's trying.

ROSS: So if that's the case, he himself has made a decision that Israel should restrain themselves.

Has he been under pressure from the administration? Absolutely. Has he tried to say, ‘Look, restrain yourself because you want to give Abu Mazen a chance?’ Absolutely.

But, in effect, the administration was pushing on an open door, because he wants an alternative to Yasser Arafat (search). He understands the only way Israel can fulfill its own promise and live not only in security but also have peace is if they have a partner who is prepared to live that way.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Ambassador Ross, it's Alan Colmes. Good to have you back on the program.

ROSS: Thank you.

COLMES: Isn't part of the problem that there is movement toward peace and Hamas had a meeting with Islamic militants to get them to halt the attacks and just the other day Israel reached agreement to turn over four West Bank towns to Palestinians.

Isn't that the case that every time there's this kind of movement toward peace these extremist groups take action, and that's part and parcel of moving toward the peace process?

ROSS: Well, it is and it isn't. I mean, the fact is, if every time they take action, then we know that there's a pattern here. And the pattern basically has to be recognized.

As a veteran of more than 12 years of working on this process, I can tell you, you are right. Every time we reached the threshold, suddenly we'd see an act of terror.

In the end it is a Palestinian decision that is going to have to be taken. There's no escaping it. There's no way to do this and somehow finesse the issue of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.

COLMES: So what does Abbas have to do?

ROSS: What he basically is going to have to do is take advantage of what happened today and say Hamas, Islamic Jihad themselves declared that they are not accepting what everybody agreed to, which was a ceasefire.

They are now putting at risk everything we're trying to achieve. They are putting at risk the Palestinian cause that we all cherish. We cannot achieve an independent Palestinian state if Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others are free to use terror.

COLMES: But how is he going to get them to change their behavior?

ROSS: He's going to have to confront them. And I'll tell you something that's very interesting.

In 1996 there was a period of confrontation and Hamas backed down. In 1995 there was a confrontation for a short while and Hamas backed down.

One of the realities is Hamas, every time they've actually truly been confronted have backed down. What is required is the readiness no longer to avoid the confrontation. There is a moment of truth that's going to have to be faced. If you don't face it now you have to face it sooner or later. If you don't face it...

COLMES: Why has he not done it?

ROSS: Sorry?

COLMES: Why has he not done it?

ROSS: I think he's hesitated in doing it because he's wondering about does he have the capability himself? Will he have sufficient support to do it?

COLMES: Right.

ROSS: And he's facing a certain reality, which is Yasser Arafat still controls half of the security apparatus and he undoubtedly will try to prevent him from doing it.

HANNITY: Dennis, I am not optimistic. I don't believe there will be peace nor that Mazen or the Palestinian Authority can control them. But we can all hope for the best.

We appreciate you being with us. Thank you for being on board.

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