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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Arafat 'not a partner for peace'
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Danny Naveh
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Danny Naveh
A member of the Israeli cabinet has claimed that as long as Yasser Arafat remains the leader of the Palestinians "there is no real hope for peace" in the Middle East.

Danny Naveh, Minister without Portfolio and member of the ruling Likud party, launched a personal attack on the Palestinian leader, calling him a "man of war" and claiming he had gone too far in his support of terrorism.

Yasser Arafat
Mr Naveh has called Yasser Arafat a "man of war"
"The main obstacle for peace and reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians is Yasser Arafat," he told Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk.

His comments come at a time when the Israeli Government has decided to step up its military action with troops occupying three more areas in the West Bank.

Tanks and troops have entered the town of Bir Zeit, the refugee camp of Ein Beit Elma near Ramallah and Daharyeh village near Hebron, and are reported to be carrying out house-to-house searches in the hunt for suicide bombers.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is also on his way to the Middle East in preparation for difficult truce talks.

Obstacle

However, Mr Naveh maintained that negotiating with Yasser Arafat would be fruitless because he had "turned his back on peace".

"To my mind Arafat cannot be a partner for peace again," he said.

"Arafat chose the path of terror and he cannot become a partner for peace for the simple reason, he broke every promise that he gave."


Arafat chose the path of terror and he cannot become a partner for peace

Danny Naveh
Mr Naveh also condemned the use of suicide bombings in the region, maintaining that no political group could justify the use of suicide attacks "to kill innocent people to get peace".

Eight Israelis were killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing on a bus near Haifa in northern Israel.

The bomber was also killed and at least 14 people were wounded. The Islamic militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility.

Mr Naveh denied that Israeli retaliation to suicide bombings was too aggressive, stressing that Israel was the victim in the struggle.

"We are defending ourselves," he said.

"We are trying to save the lives of our kids. Our only aim is to stop terrorists, those kind of killers that are terrorists, that Arafat released from his jail. This is our only agenda."

Protection

Mr Naveh paralleled British intervention in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan with the Israeli Government's aims, suggesting that both countries were doing whatever was necessary to protect their citizens.

"Can you imagine the life here in London for example if there are going to be, God forbid, suicide bombers every day," he said.

Eight Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing on a bus near Haifa
Eight Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing on a bus near Haifa
"Terrorist attacks every day, hundreds of people getting killed. People are afraid to go to shopping malls, to send their kids to school. This is impossible. We have tried almost everything else."

Despite Israel's use of military action, Mr Naveh said that working towards peace still remained a priority for his country.

"I really hope that we find courage and a Palestinian leadership that will be ready to take responsibility and to understand that in order to put an end to the suffering of both communities - Israelis and Palestinians - they have to stop the terror and to get back to negotiations for peace," he said.

You can watch the HARDtalk interview in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
11 April 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
11 April 0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Danny Naveh
"No political group can justify the use of suicide bombers."
See also:

11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel steps up Palestinian arrests
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Haifa bus bomb
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
'I saw bodies everywhere'
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Suicide bomb fears haunt Israelis
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Powell plans to meet Arafat
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Aid held up outside Jenin
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israelis back Sharon
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Vatican outrage over church siege
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