Skip to comments.Russert: Peace opportunity exists, Bush must shift scrutiny and focus to Arafat and Arabs
Posted on 04/04/2002 9:29:30 AM PST by Oldeconomybuyer
WASHINGTON, April 4 Tim Russert, NBCs Washington Bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press, spoke with MSNBC.com, assessing President George W. Bushs statement Thursday on the Middle East situation. The timing may be right, Russet said, for the presidents call for Israel to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and withdraw its forces, as well as sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region to revive cease-fire talks.
MSNBC: Tim, whats the key concern now?
TIM Russert: I think its the delicate balance that exists in this situation. The president felt that, from both a moral and political perspective, it was time to move. The Israelis have had seven days to deal with the terrorist attacks against the people of Israel. Israelis and Americans have pointed out that in the last 48 hours there have been no suicide bombs and they think that some of the Israeli actions have in fact brought about some results. I do think that the president tried very hard to put forward an even-handed approach.
MSNBC: And the United States will play a bigger role in that?
Russert: The United States is back in the region in a big way. The presidents own personal responsibility now is clearly carved out. Hes sending his top diplomat Colin Powell. The president understands that his prestige, the prestige of the United States, is now in the balance. Because he realizes that if he wants to continue his war on terrorism globally, if he wants to continue his war on terrorism against Saddam Hussein, he has to bring peace at least a cease-fire to the Middle East. Thats why he moved forward. Thats why he talked boldly about Yasser Arafat stepping up or the other Arab nations and why he encouraged the Israelis to begin to limit their incursions.
MSNBC: Would President Bush be calling on Israeli President Ariel Sharon and the Israelis to back off if he hadnt already picked up a phone and spoken to Ariel Sharon this morning?
Russert: Theres no doubt theres been a lot of groundwork laid, over the last three days particularly Colin Powell, on the telephone, directly with Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat and Gen. Anthony Zinni in the region. The president realizes that timing now is such that people on both sides realize this could spin out of control and it was time for the United States to move. The vice president said as recently as two Sundays ago that its only the United States that has both the moral and political power and ability to broker a peace in the Middle East. If we dont, no one else will. The president did give the Israelis time to address the terrorist issues, to try to bring some semblance of relief to their people. The fact is the Israelis were petrified to go out to their restaurants, to the bus stops, to leave their homes, because of fear of suicide bombers. The president gave the Israelis some leeway. Now, however, he believes its time to try to bring people back to the peace table, hoping both the Palestinians and Israelis are fatigued from all the violence and difficulties. Well see if his timing is right, but I repeat, from both a moral and political perspective, he felt he had no longer had any choice but to move forward and to move forward in a bold way.
MSNBC: What was the last straw that made the administration say it had to act? Could it have had anything to do with the pictures coming out of Bethlehem?
Russert: I think there are several factors. One is obviously the pictures of the Church of the Nativity surrounded by Israeli soldier, Palestinians holed up, trying to hide if you will, in the altar of the birthplace of Jesus Christ more than ironic, the Prince of Peace being used in that regard. Also, the pictures, I think from Cairo, Egypt, and Amman, Jordan two Arab countries that are friendly to the United States, but with growing demonstrations in those areas. I would think also the fact that the Israelis had begun to stabilize the situation in their mind and stop these suicide bombings.
MSNBC: What are the chances of success?
Russert: I think that with a confluence of all these various pictures and realities, that maybe there is now an opportunity. Maybe now the Unites States could step forward and say to both sides, Stop. Now is the time to put things behind you and at least get a cease-fire that we can kind of build upon, if the president can successfully shift the scrutiny and shift the balance, if you will, of focus to Arafat and the Arabs and say, OK, I stopped the Israeli incursions. Now, you stop the terrorists and come back to the bargaining table and be realistic about what you want. I think it is imperative that the Arab world demonstrate that the crown prince of Saudi Arabias offer is real, is legitimate and is meaningful. And that means that the terrorism has to stop from the Palestinian and Arab side, if in fact the Israelis stop their incursion. Thats what the president put forward. I believe its a balanced approach. Well see if it works.
MSNBC: How does this undermine Americas war on terror right now and is this situation really intertwined with the war on terror? Can we not separate the two, one from the other?
Russert: Its very, very difficult to separate one from the other. Remember, prior to about a week or 10 days ago, Osama bin Laden was Public Enemy No. 1 the world was focused on him and al-Qaida, focused on Afghanistan, focused on the war on terrorism and routing out the cells in the Philippines, Indonesia, Yemen, wherever. Suddenly the worlds attention has moved to the Middle East, that battle, that conflict is center stage along with a debate about is it the Palestinians, is it the Israelis? Whos at fault? A sense of moral equivalency is beginning to resurface. The president wants to readdress that debate and say, Wait a minute. There is no moral equivalency between the United States of America and its allies and the terrorist. So lets try to bring some resolve, at least a cease-fire to the Middle East so we can once again refocus the worlds attention on this war against terrorism. And, whos a central player in all this? Saddam Hussein. Its extremely difficult to get the world to focus on Saddam Hussein and his role in terrorism, if people are distracted, if you will, by the crisis in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Its difficult to get the world to listen to the president on Saddam Hussein, even though they know the reality.
And that's why Iraq, Iran, and every terrorist group such as Hammas, El Aqsa, Hezballah, Islamic Jihad etc. will do everything in their power to undermine any ceasefire or negotiations. As soon as there is any progress, one or more of these groups will commit fresh atrocities and derail the process again. They need to be wiped out, period.
Please repeat in English. Thank you.
And, this, IMO is the essence of the president's actions.
Isreal has had 7 days to round up the Palestinian terrorists and the suicide bombings have stopped (for now).---And, Isreal may even be looking for a way out at this point.
It's time to refocus the world on stopping the source of terrorism: Saddam Hussein.
I'm just really disappointed our representative will be Powell.
Gotta love Russert.. When Israeli civilians are being killed by suicide bombers, then its normalcy, but when Israel strikes back its things spinning out of control.
Right, they get only seven days and we get seven months
Israelis and Americans have pointed out that in the last 48 hours there have been no suicide bombs
And since 9-11 there have been no suicide bombers here, yet we have not stopped our incursion into Afghanistan.
and they think that some of the Israeli actions have in fact brought about some results.
All the more reason NOT to cut them short
I do think that the president tried very hard to put forward an even-handed approach.
I wonder how we'd feel if someone offered us an "even handed" approach with Al Qaeda? I wonder how we'd feel if our friend(?) told us that Osama is not a terrorist, but rather a "partner for peace"? and that we need to stop our incursions in Afghanisan?
Oh paaaaaalease already the hypocrisy is making me sick!
I admit, its not easy watching our President look like he's kowtowing to terrorists for a short while, but any lies he wants Powell to tell Arafat in order to ultimately help our troops in the coming battles is OK with me. I don't worry, any Pallie who even thinks about cooperating with Israel will be shot by the militant ragheads. Sharon is smart enough to keep his troops safe during the "negotiation" period, besides, they probably could use the time to reload for the final battle.
No he does not, for if he did, he would never put Our Beloved FRaternal Republic's Prestige and that of his office on the line and especially would not let the appeaser, Colon Powell, anywhere near the islamanazi-Israeli battleground.