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'Peace Will Prevail Because, in the End, There Is No Alternative'

October 13, 2000|Nathan Gardels | SHIMON PERES, Israel's minister of international cooperation, is the former prime minister of Israel and shares a Nobel Peace Prize with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. He spoke with Nathan Gardels of Global Viewpoints this week. The following article is adapted from that interview

GV: When Israel calls on [Yasser] Arafat to stop the Palestinian violence, do you mean he controls it in a military sense or as a political leader trying to guide his people?

Peres: In both ways. Militarily, because part of his police force is participating in the violence. And they are under his direct control. Politically, his people listen to him. And he hasn't called for an end to violence.

On the contrary, Palestinian radio and TV are calling for the renewal of the intifada and for the use of force. This is in complete contradiction to everything done since Oslo.

Clearly, Israel didn't initiate this violence. We are reacting. We are trying to stop it. We cannot sit down at the negotiating table with Arafat without bringing back the minimum of tranquillity.

GV: But, as the Palestinian leaders say, they have mainly rocks and a few Molotov cocktails against heavily armed troops, tanks and helicopter gunships.

Peres: Why should they use even rocks? We had an agreement since Oslo that all disagreements will be aired out by dialogue, not by stones.

GV: The level of weaponry--tanks and missiles--used by the Israelis to attack Palestinian targets in Ramallah has not been seen since the 1967 war. Isn't the Israeli reaction excessive?

Peres: That is not the question. The question is: Why do we need to react at all? Why are they throwing stones and beating people to death?

All parties have reached the brink. It ought to be worrying to everyone that we are once again seeing the face of outright belligerency.

GV: Palestinian leaders have called the Israeli attacks "a declaration of war." Is it?

Peres: A war without declaration--which the Palestinian leaders have done by encouraging a new intifada--is not a better situation than a declaration of war.

To compare this uprising with the original one nine years ago--then we had Israeli soldiers and police in Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah and Jericho--now, there is no Israeli presence in their lands, in their cities. Why are they throwing stones again and firing bullets? What for?

Again, the question is not whether our reaction is excessive. The question is why we have to react at all.

As I have asked, what does Arafat expect to get from this intifada? A better offer?

GV: Is the peace process dead?

Peres: You cannot kill peace any more than you can kill life, just as you can kill a person but you cannot kill life. You can kill a policeman, you can kill a terrorist, but you cannot kill the need for peace.

The two sides have had a glance at what we can expect when peace is no longer an option. Only from this despairing perspective am I assured that peace will prevail because, in the end, there is no alternative.

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