August 24, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN Sunday Morning

In an effort to stop the violence, Palestinian police have closed three tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt into Gaza. So what else can be done for peace?

Mark Perry wrote the book, “A Fire in Zion.” He joins us this morning from Washington, along with Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Good morning to both of you, gentlemen. Thank you for being here.

I want to start this morning, now that all of the latest action has happened, particularly the bus bombing, what needs to be done to bring the situation back to where it was prior to this latest violence.

Mr. Perry, we begin with you.

MARK PERRY, AUTHOR, “A FIRE IN ZION”: Well, I think the United States needs to get involved a lot more than they have. Right now, there’s a lot of diplomatic pressure on the Palestinians. I think that’s good after the terrible tragedy of last week.

I think there needs to be some pressure brought on Israel to restrain its decisions in the weeks ahead, to ease the closures and the curfews that are on the West Bank, and to re-begin the political process.

It’s going to be very hard to do, but I think the United States is the only player in this current drama that can really do that.

COLLINS: Mr. May, you agree with that?

CLIFF MAY, FDN. FOR THE DEF. OF DEMOCRACIES: Basically, I do. Heidi, I think what you just talked about could be important, the idea of closing down the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, through which weapons have been smuggled to the terrorists.

I think we all understand at this point that the terrorist organizations that right now thrive in the West Bank and Gaza are the biggest obstacles to peace. And up to now, from the new Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, has been reluctant to even attempt to close those terrorist organizations down. Those terrorist organizations kill Israelis, but they also kill the possibility for a real solution to this problem. And that’s bad for the Palestinians as well.

COLLINS: Let’s talk about the situation in relationship, I guess I should say with Yasser Arafat. Now things have changed at least a little bit with the announcement from Colin Powell that he has actually invited Arafat to Washington to speak and to talk about the government with Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, otherwise known as.

What do you think about this decision, Mr. Perry?

PERRY: I think it’s a good decision. It’s — it frankly acknowledges reality. Mr. Arafat’s been demonized over the last three years. Whether you like Mr. Arafat or not, he’s the president of the Palestinian people. He’s been elected by the Palestinian people. And he’s the one who can be the best arbiter of this.

While we keep saying, and Israel keeps saying that he’s undermining his prime minister, without Yasser Arafat, there would not have been a prime minister. He arranged his appointment. He supported this cease-fire. And I think we need to get him involved in the process again.

Israel won’t like it, but if he can deliver peace, then we need to acknowledge that.

MAY: My disagreement with Mark is that he can’t deliver peace and he won’t deliver peace. He had that chance. He was offered a Palestinian state at Camp David with President Clinton. He said no to it because he, like Hamas, like the other terrorist organizations, doesn’t want a Palestinian state that would live in peace side by side with Israel. He wants to destroy Israel.

President Bush said very clearly June 24, 2002, important speech, the Palestinians can have a state, but it must not be a terror state. And they need a leadership uncorrupted by terrorism.

Yasser Arafat has been a terrorist for all his career. Fatah means conquest. Fatah was formed before the Israelis held the West Bank as a result of the 1967 war against Israel. I just do not believe that going back to Arafat one more time is a good idea or is going to produce a road to peace. Arafat doesn’t want it.

COLLINS: So what should be done?

MAY: Well, I think the road map is very clear. And President Bush has been very clear. Powell said it’s not an easy thing, but what we need to do, what needs to happen is that the terrorist groups in the West Bank need to be disarmed, the terrorists arrested, and the infrastructure of terrorism, the factories that build the Kasum (ph) rockets and the suicide belts that the young kids are strapped into before they’re sent into Israeli cities and villages, this needs to stop.

And then, when you have an end to terrorism and you have a democratic leadership, and by the way Arafat was not elected in a democratic election. There are no — there can be no opposition parties to Arafat then you can decide, okay, where are they borders going to be between Israel and Palestine?

But with the terrorists out there threatening not only the Israelis, but any Palestinian who’s really in favor of peace, I just don’t see how you get where you want to go.

COLLINS: And Mr. Perry, let me also ask you about the decision by President Bush on Friday to freeze all Hamas assets. Do you think this will help?

PERRY: This is window dressing it. I don’t think it will help. I’m not opposed to the action. I think the United States has to do something, but it’s not a real substantive move.

What we have here today with the United States being very clearly upset about what’s going on in Iraq is two different types of occupations. Let’s take a look at them.

In Iraq, we are spending $4 billion each month to help the Iraqi people set up their local councils. I dare say we will not occupy Iraq for 35 years. And we are fighting terrorism there.

Let’s look what Israel has done. They’ve occupied the West Bank and Gaza for 35 years. They’ve confiscated land, uprooted orchards, set up barricades. And this situation is — has just gotten worse.

The problem here is the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. If you want to stop terrorism, and I think we all do, and I know the Israeli government does, you have to change facts on the ground. You have to ease this occupation. You have to give a political horizon and some hope to the Palestinian people.

MAY: I think President Bush did that in his speech. President Bush said very clearly to the Palestinian people. You can have a state or you can have terrorism. You cannot have both.

Now the question is, how has Palestinian society reformed itself? I’ve talked to Palestinian leaders here who are opposed to Arafat and opposed to terrorism. And they’ve said things that I think any Israeli would be thrilled to hear. When I’ve said to them can you say things like that in the West Bank or in Gaza, they’ve told me yes, and I’ll be shot in the head as a collaborator with Israel.

We don’t really know how to get that from where we want — where we are to where we want to be. We hope that Abu Mazen and Mahmoud Abbas, as he’s also known, would be able to do it. He has so far — and I understand — been afraid to take on the terrorist organizations. Look, he can killed like anybody else.

COLLINS: In fact…

MAY: Yes, go ahead.

COLLINS: …let me just go ahead and say that I know you, Mr. Perry, say that Mahmoud Abbas actually really brings nothing to the table. Why is he there? And when will his role grow?

PERRY: Mahmoud Abbas brings nothing to the table because he has 1.5 percent of the Palestinians behind him in public polls. Listen, I think he’s a nice man. I know him personally. He’s very, very dedicated to peace. And we support his efforts, but he doesn’t bring much to the table. He can’t deliver.

We can go back through Camp David and the elections. And it wasn’t a legitimate election. Isaac Rabin thought it was a legitimate election. He was able to deal with Yasser Arafat. He was able to deal with the facts on the ground.

Yasser Arafat runs the political structure of the Palestinian nation. We have to deal with the facts on the ground. We have to end the occupation.

COLLINS: All right, and this will be the last word quickly, please.

MAY: Just that we have to understand that realistically, one of the facts on the ground is that for the past 35 years in the West Bank in the schools, in the mosques, in the media, they have been teaching that Israel will be wiped out, that Jews, Israelis are the enemy, and they must be pushed into the sea. I’m not sure quite yet everybody is prepared for peace. And it may be a long process.

COLLINS: All right, Cliff May, this morning, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Thank you so much. And Mark Perry, author of a “Fire in Zion.” We appreciate your time, gentlemen.