Reacting to Terror

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", March 16, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: My next guest knows all too well about constant fear of terror in the region. But are there any answers? Joining me now, Israel’s vice prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

Mr. Olmert, good to have you back.


CAVUTO: Now, your government has said this was really necessitated by the violence on Sunday. And tit for tat and back and forth. Do you worry the whole peace process is off now? Obviously, Ariel Sharon has cancelled the meeting with his Palestinian counterpart indefinitely. Is it fair to say everything is off?

OLMERT: Not everything is off, but I don’t know that there was a peace process. I mean, that is part of the problem. There is no process.

There is a desire for peace by Israel. There is a genuine desire to make compromises by Israel. But there is no partner.

Palestinians are not prepared to sit down seriously and talk. I mean, all that happens is terror and more terror and more and more and more terror everywhere. So what we are trying to do now is actually two-fold.

On the one hand, we keep fighting terror. That will not stop. We’ll continue fighting terror everywhere there is terror.

Now, it’s not tit for tat, honestly. As someone who is partner to this decision of the security cabinet I can tell you what we are trying to do is reach out for those who are trying to operate terror, to preempt it, as much as we can. Sometimes, we fail. Although, almost every day, every single day, we succeed in stopping one or two or three or four suicide attacks. Just imagine what may have happened had we not succeeded so much.

CAVUTO: But this falls on a day, as you are aware, we were mentioning at the outset, Prime Minister, what is going on now in France, this heightened security alert. Now, we don’t know the source of it. They expect it was Islamic extremists. But it is ironic that it hits France, a country that was against our widening war on terror.

What do you read into that?

OLMERT: We kept telling western people all the time, don’t be misled to the strong conclusion that it is all because Israel has a certain problem with the Palestinians, therefore there is terror there. And once you will convince Israel to make some huge political compromises, you resolve all of this.

The twin towers had nothing to do with the Middle East. Spain had nothing to do with the Middle East. Bali had nothing do with the Middle East. Turkey had nothing do with the Middle East. And I don’t know yet where else it will happen. This is a comprehensive, fundamental, basic war of Islamic fundamentalism against the basic values of the western life.

CAVUTO: So what do you make in Spain, that the prime minister-elect, who essentially has said, we are pulling our forces back?

OLMERT: I think it is a mistake. I don’t want to intervene, of course, in Spanish politics. Maybe he interpreted the outcome of these elections as a signal to him that the people want him out of Iraq. But this is a short-lived strategy.

It may be good for one day or two weeks. But at the end of the day, there is terror, which has nothing do with a particular political event anyplace in the world.

CAVUTO: Well, you and the Israelis know more about terror than I think most people on the planet.

OLMERT: I think so.

CAVUTO: Having said that, what do you think of the strategy that terrorists might use now to force government changeovers?

OLMERT: Well, it may not always work the same way. You know, they try -- if they tried to do the same in Israel, it would work the opposite. The Israeli people...

CAVUTO: God forbid it happened here, Prime Minister, what do you think the reaction would be?

OLMERT: Well, first of all, it already happened here.

CAVUTO: Right. But if it happened again?

OLMERT: I think that the reaction of the American people -- first of all, I don’t want to suggest to anyone in America what to do politically, of course. This is not my job. But I think that the American people are strong enough and resolved not to surrender to any attempted pressure by any terrorist to influence American politics for terror.

CAVUTO: But would it prompt then a change in the administration? Something in light of what happened to Spain, I always wonder, well, gee, could that happen here?

OLMERT: Well, I pray for America that it will not happen. First, I pray for America that nothing like this will ever happen again to America.

CAVUTO: Right.

OLMERT: But, whatever, Americans are strong, and I don’t think that they will be seduced by any such event to punish their leadership instead of punishing the terrorists who are perpetrating these atrocities. And as I said, again, and I think this is the main message to the western world.

And maybe we Israelis are in the best position to be able to say, this war is against all of us. In the Middle East, or in Spain, or in other parts of the world, it stems from the same reasons, total intolerance to something which is different, and hatred to the values which all of us represent. And, therefore, we have to join forces together and fight it until we can destroy the sources of this war.

CAVUTO: All right. Ehud Olmert, always good seeing you, Israel’s vice prime minister. Thank you for making it through the snow today. We appreciate that very much.

OLMERT: Thank you.

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