Powell Interview with Israel Television Channel 2
Interview with Israel Television Channel Two
Colin L. Powell
David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem
May 12, 2003
QUESTION: Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, Shalom and thank you for this interview.
SECRETARY POWELL: Shalom, thank you.
QUESTION: You have just returned from a meeting with the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen. In your opinion, is he able to deliver? Can he really crack down on terrorists?
SECRETARY POWELL: He intends to deliver. He intends to serve effectively as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian people. I was impressed by his commitment to moving forward with the peace process. He knows that in order to move forward there must be an end to terror; there must be an end to violence. I think he knows it cannot just be a temporary thing; it has to be a permanent choice on the part of the Palestinian leadership that the militant activities, the terrorist activities, and organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others have to come to an end. So, he understands that and we will have to see in the days ahead how he acts, how he puts together his security forces and whether he can convince the Palestinian people that this is the correct course for them to take in the future. He will also have challenges ahead as he deals with these strong organizations. I am convinced that he will take the message to the Palestinian people and then as he gathers authority and strength he will deal with these kinds of organizations.
QUESTION: But how can he do it if Arafat still controls most of the Palestinian security organizations?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Arafat controls some, he controls some. There is a bifurcated situation right now, which I would rather not see, but this is the way it is. He does have a very accomplished and effective Minister for Security, Mohammed Dahlan, who has experience and has dealt with these kinds of problems before. He has other members of his cabinet who have experience in these matters. And so, we will be doing everything we can to assist him and provide him with support. U.S. organizations will be helping rebuild their security apparatus, and he has made the commitment. We will see how it turns out. But, obviously, there are some challenges between the authority that he has and the authority that Mr. Arafat still retains. What is important here is that the Palestinian people have spoken and said we want transformed
leadership. It was quite a debate within the Palestinian legislature about what kind of authority this Prime Minister should have. The very fact that they have a Prime Minister is a step forward. Abu Mazen was able to fight off pressures for him not to be the Prime Minister. So, you take it one step at a time. I think the steps we have seen recently with the creation of the position, with the appointment and confirmation of Prime Minister Abbas, these are all important steps, but they are initial steps and now we have to support him as he moves forward.
QUESTION: Today, you heard from Prime Minister Sharon at length about the necessity of settlement activity and settlements. In your opinion, is he really capable of dismantling even one settlement? Have you ever heard him raise that option?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don’t want to speculate on what the Prime Minister is capable of or not capable or doing. He is a very capable man. He has demonstrated his leadership over the many years of his service to the State of Israel, to the people of Israel. But, what we talked about was the fact that the settlements are a problem. There is a question in the minds of Palestinians and questions in the minds of many people around the world as to whether or not one can actually bring into being a viable Palestinian state without doing something about the settlement activity and the outposts and the settlements that are there. This will be one of the most difficult issues we have to deal with. I think dealing with the outpost is easier than ending settlement activity and ending settlement activity is easier than what one might do about settlements in the future as you try to create a state. So, I am not in any way underestimating the difficulties ahead. President Bush believes, and by the way he is firmly committed to moving forward, he is committed to the roadmap, he is committed to his vision of June 24, and he expects to speak to the Prime Minister in very open, straightforward, honest, candid terms about settlement activity and settlements in general when he sees Prime Minister Sharon next week.
QUESTION: Is a meeting between both Prime Ministers possible while you are still here in the area? Are you working to arrange such a meeting?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it is unlikely since I will be leaving in the morning. But, I spoke to both Prime Ministers about the importance of the two Prime Ministers, Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon, getting together as soon as possible, and I leave encouraged by my conversations with both of them that this can happen in the near future.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, following your short visit here, are you able to confirm to Israelis and Palestinians that are listening to you right now that America is just as determined to end this conflict as it was to remove the dictatorship in Baghdad?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, there is no question in my mind. In fact, now that the dictatorship in Baghdad is gone, we have an opportunity to build a better life for the Iraqi people under a democratic form of government. The threat to Israel is also gone and, with the appointment of Prime Minister Abbas, we have a new situation here, and with roadmap we have a new element, and so the strategic situation has changed. The President has made it clear to anyone he has spoken to recently that this now becomes the focus of his attention with respect to foreign policy. He has said all along that the Middle East peace process is something he is going to invest time and energy and political capital in. Coming out of the Iraqi conflict, he has more political capital that it is possible for him to invest. So, there is no doubt in my mind, and he and I have spoken quite frequently about this over the past week or so, that he is committed to moving this process forward. He will do what it takes with respect to his personal involvement to make that happen.
QUESTION: Including sending a presidential envoy to the area?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we’re looking at how best to move the process forward, what participation should we be having, should have? He will be involved. I will be involved. Of course, our Ambassador and our Consul General here will be involved, and we’re looking at others who might play a role, coordinators here on the ground, special envoys. All of those options are open to us, and we are looking at now.
The important thing, though, is to get started, to get started with moves on both sides, and Prime Minister Sharon indicated to me a number of steps that the Israeli government will be taking in the very near future, over the next several days.
In my conversation with Prime Minister Abbas, I made it very very clear that we are all expecting action on their side, to bring down threats and terrorism and violence, in order to create the proper atmosphere so that both sides can then take the next step. So a lot of discussion about very difficult issues, with respect to settlements, with respect to the right of return, with respect to the final status of Jerusalem. All of those are difficult, they’ve been difficult for decades. Let’s put them in proper place and proper perspective, and let’s get started now, because if we don’t get started now, if we don’t deal with these immediate issues that are before us, then we’ll always be grasping at something in the future that we can never really reach.
QUESTION: Previously, the United States, President Bush and yourself, asked Prime Minister Sharon not to physically harm Yasser Arafat. After what we see in Iraq, including the assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein, is that still valid?
SECRETARY POWELL: It is still valid in the sense that Mr. Sharon has not changed his position on that and he has not communicated his position to me or to President Bush in any way that he’s changed his position. But frankly, in the course of my conversations today, we did not spend much time at all on Mr. Arafat.
QUESTION: In the operation in Iraq, the United States used targeted killings, roadblocks, and also there are many civilians that were injured and killed. At the same time, the United States criticized Israel for using the same standard here. Don’t you think that this is a double standard?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think there is a difference between the two sorts of activities in Iraq. We were in an active war, declared conflict, and we were going after command and control. I recognize that Israel has a position that if it sees somebody coming at them with the intent of conducting a terror act, that it is a legitimate act of self-defense to do that. But when it goes beyond legitimate acts of self-defense and a real and present danger of somebody coming at you, to a more expansive set of targeted assassinations, as they’re called, how effective is this in terms of actually moving forward with the process? So, we have always spoken out against these kinds of actions, and we hoped that they can be contained in the future. If both sides move forward down the first stages of the roadmap, hopefully confidence can be built, and the Palestinians can become more effective in dealing with these kinds of threats, so that this kind of activity won’t be necessary.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, last week you said that President Assad of Syria lied to you. What makes you believe that he doesn’t do it again, especially after an interview to Newsweek when he said that he is not going to close the terror organization offices, and he’s not going to crack down on Hezbollah?
SECRETARY POWELL: He did mislead me once before. It is not a matter of me believing him or not believing him now, it’s a matter of what he does. What I said to him very clearly is there are things that we believe he should do if he wants a better relationship with the United States, if he wants to play a helpful role in solving the crisis here in the region, and frankly if he wants to have good relations with a neighbor of his that will have a new government, a government that I believe will be very pro-American, very pro-Western, and will not view with favor any efforts on the part of Syria to either destabilize Iraq or to continue its terrorist support activities in Israel and in the territories.
So I believe that President Bashar al-Assad has every incentive to respond to the issues that I put before him last weekend. If he chooses not to respond, if he chooses to dissemble, if he chooses to find excuses, then he will find that he is on the wrong side of history. He will find that he will not have better relations with the United States, and he can take his choice. Does he want to have good relations with the United States? Or does he want to have good relations with Hamas? His choice.
QUESTION: You enjoy impressive popularity in the United States. Is the presidential race in 2008 an option for you?
SECRETARY POWELL: 2008?
QUESTION: After President Bush, is that something that you consider?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. Do you know how old I will be in 2008? It will be time for, I will be well into retirement by then. I have no political ambitions, but thank you.
QUESTION: Last question. I know that you grew up in Brooklyn, and I heard that you know some Yiddish, and people here are dying to hear it from you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Abissalleh, Abissalleh [a little]. I don’t know much Yiddish.
QUESTION: Is there an item in Yiddish that can describe the situation here in the Middle East, in Yiddish?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don’t think I want to speculate on what single Yiddish word can capture the whole situation in the Middle East, but I would say that I’m proud of the fact that in my youth, I lived in a neighborhood that had a large Jewish population and during that period, I worked for a wonderful Russian Jew in a toy store, and I learned a lot about the Jewish culture and faith. And I learned a few words of Yiddish in my youth, most of which I’ve now lost, but it still forms one of the fondest, fondest parts of my childhood memories, and it is for that reason that when I come to Israel, those old memories are revived, and I am revived, in my desire to do everything I can to help the people of Israel, to help the Jewish people find peace in this land, living side by side, in peace, with the other people who occupy this land, the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on May 12, 2003