Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Interview with CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna
September 21, 2001
JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF MIKE HANNA: I'm joined by Israel's Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon. Firstly, do you believe that there is any linkage between the conflict
in the Middle East and the attack in the United States?
PM SHARON: No, I don't think so. I think the attack in the United States is
an attack against the values - democratic values - liberal way of life, freedom
of speech. It's an attempt to impose on us democracies that way of life they
would like to impose upon us.
I was watching President Bush yesterday. That was a very remarkable session.
I would like to congratulate President Bush for his decision to lead the struggle
of the free world against terror. We, in Israel, stand by you, and we are ready
to provide any minute, any kind of help. It can be military, civilian or any
other support which would be needed. And no doubt we participate in your grief.
HANNA: President Bush and the United States has made very clear in the past
10 days that the conflict in the Middle East is an obstacle to forging a coalition
in the war against terrorism. President Bush has personally asked you to expedite
a cease-fire meeting between Israelis and Palestinians to lower the level of
conflict and get back to the negotiating table. This meeting has still not happened.
PM SHARON: I suggested last Sunday a cease-fire. I expected Chairman Arafat
to announce a cease-fire. He declared it last Monday. It lasted for maybe 18
or 20 hours, and then there was a burst of terror that did not stop for the
last couple days.
One must understand we have been facing Arab terror, now Palestinian terror,
Arab terror, now for over 120 years. We suffered thousands of casualties. There
are thousands of broken families, and we have learned a long time ago that one
cannot get into compromise with terror. One cannot negotiate under fire. I hope
that Arafat will understand that and stop the fire.
I believe that next week, if that will happen -- I hope it will happen - and
then it will be quiet, calm, and the meeting will take place.
HANNA: Was there an indication from Israeli intelligence sources of the possibility
of any attack being planned against the United States? Did you have any indications
from your own intelligence?
PM SHARON: We didn't have any indication that it might take that terrible form
of terror. We were mourning here for days. Really, we are together with you;
we stand together with you.
We know for many years that terror is the most dangerous thing for local, regional
and international stability, and we have been fighting terror all of our lives.
My grandfather was fighting terror here - my parents, myself, my sons. I know
Israeli families who have been fighting and facing Arab and Palestinian terror
for five, six generations. We know there is no compromise with terror. One should
It's a kind of war that mankind will not like to conduct, but has to because
there is a danger to our values of democracy and freedom.
HANNA: Is there an imbalance between what the United States is asking of you
- to get back to the negotiating table, if necessary, make concessions to allow
negotiations to happen - and between what you are saying: that you will not
negotiate under fire, that you have said that since you have been prime minister?
Are you under pressure from the United States to step away from your principles?
PM SHARON: No, we are not under any pressure by the United States. There is
a close understanding and close traditional friendship, and I think that one
cannot surrender to terror. What do we ask? We ask one thing: we want to live
a peaceful life here. We are ready to help. I don't think there's any kind of
All together, one must look and understand that Chairman Arafat conducts terror.
His strategy is a strategy of terror.
HANNA: Well, he has, indeed, himself called for a cease-fire.
But to move to another point, and that is, a decade ago, Israelis were wearing
gas masks. They were under attack during the Gulf War. They were on the sidelines,
unable to retaliate. Are you concerned that such a scenario could emerge again
because the U.S. does not want Israel playing an active role in the coalition?
PM SHARON: Look, we offered all our help. We gave all the help; we will be giving
help. We understand this is a kind of war, and it's about Arafat.
We have to remember that Arafat was the one who started with hijacking airplanes
already in 1968. He was the one who was fully responsible for the terrible murder
of our members in the Olympic games in 1968. Arafat, himself, instructed - and
he was monitored - instructed the killing of two American ambassadors and a
Belgian one in Khartoum in the Sudan in, I think, March of 1973.
HANNA: But what you are saying in looking back at the past is that there is
no possibility of negotiating with Yasser Arafat?
PM SHARON: We have a problem there. All together, I believe that they will be
joining the coalition, which I fully support, but they should not support and
not give shelter and not provide any means of training and so on to terrorist
We have to know one thing: Arafat is hosting, training, supporting, sponsoring
terrorist organizations. There is a coalition of terror who are his own forces,
security services, together with the Islamic Jihad.
HANNA: Is negotiation, then, not a possibility?
PM SHARON: I'll tell you what should be done. I believe that every country that
would like to participate in this struggle against terror should get rid or
arrest or dismantle or deport those organizations. Arafat is one of those. No
doubt, Arafat is a terrorist. We have to understand that. He is a terrorist,
a host of terrorist organizations.
But I hope that the day will come that we will be able to conduct peace negotiations
with the Palestinian people. I believe that we can live together with the Palestinians.
When I was born here on one of the farms in Israel, my childhood, I never thought
for one day that we will not be living together with Arabs... But we'll not
live with terror. Because I don't think that the free world should live with
terror. The United States cannot live with terror. We cannot live with terror.
We share the same values, and we should not let terror conduct our lives.
I know it's going to be a very complicated struggle; it's going to be a long
struggle. We are ready to give any help and support, but I believe the day will
come. It will quiet; life will be normal; and we will be able to continue and
develop. That is all that we want, what people want, what people want in New
York, in Washington, in Pittsburgh, in any other place in the United States
or in Europe. People want to live peacefully. That's what we want.
But in order to live peacefully, with our values, we have to struggle against
terror. We have been doing it for many years. We paid a terrible price, a terrible
price for that. But we understand that.
And we are on the side of those who have decided to fight terror. There is no
good terror and bad terror. Terror is terror. There's not terror that you can
accept and terror that you cannot accept. Terror is terror. Murder is murder.
And we have to fight against them.
And what is important - words and declarations are not important - deeds are
HANNA: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, thank you very much indeed for joining us.