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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
DROR ZEIGERMAN ISRAELI AMBASSADOR and AFIF SAFIEH PALESTINIAN ENVOY TO THE UK OCTOBER 8TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST

Your Excellency, good morning. Let me start with a point I just put to Hilary to give you a chance to respond. To a lot of people I've been talking to about this in the last 48 hours they say, you know, as I said to Hilary, it's a bit much for Yasser Arafat to be demanded to stop the violence when most of the deaths have been caused by the Israelis and by the early visit of Ariel Sharon of course as well, I mean why, that must mean there's been over-reaction, the use of live bullets and so on, if we have a death toll of what? 80 and people saying numbers from six to nine Israelis or whatever, I mean doesn't that prove that there has been an over-reaction, just those figures?

DROR ZEIGERMAN

It's not a good morning for us, it's a difficult morning.

DAVID FROST

Yes.

AFIF SAFIEH

I'm deeply sorry about all the casualty, a terrible loss of life, Jews and Arab. We chose the peace, we offer peace, Arafat is choosing war, it's his choice, he instead of stopped this violence, he started this, it's not our interest to go to any violence in the Middle East, we offer peace, our Prime Minister offer huge concessions in Camp David, you know there was no Prime Minister of Israel who offer what Barak offered to Arafat. Instead of this he encourages his people to shoot Israeli soldier, the ¿ which part of Fatah is participate part of the PLO, he choose them, he send them to participate in the violence.

DAVID FROST

Yes but, but at the same time we've even got the, what was it 14 votes to 1, the US, the UN Security Council say that you've used excessive force, that's why there's a huge death toll among the Palestinians and not among the Israelis?

DROR ZEIGERMAN

We have to defend ourselves, I know you know there would be more Israeli casualty and more Israeli blood on the street, maybe you get less sympathy from the world, will go better decision from the United Nation. I am as Israeli prefer that there will be less sympathy for Israel and less casualty and less Israeli blood. We have to defend ourself, they're shooting Israeli soldiers, they're throwing stone, they are entering to the Israeli settlement and try to kill them. You know just yesterday they burn Joseph's Tomb which is very religious site in Nablus and then destroyed. I would like to see what you will react if the Israeli or settlers or Israeli people will do the same to Muslim site. All the world will condemn Israel including the United Nation, that's why we are against international inquiry because we know that before they, they have the result before the inquiry and this is part of it and we have to defend ourselves, look what happened yesterday, Lebanon, they killed three Israeli soldier, we don't know what happened to them. I know what would be the reaction of Great Britain, of the American when they have hostages in Sierra Leone or in, in Serbia, Bosnia¿

DAVID FROST

This deadline, this 48-hour deadline, I mean could it really bring an end to the peace process?

DROR ZEIGERMAN

It's Arafat's choice, if he would like to return to negotiations we are ready to do it immediately and to continue to negotiate for peace. If he don't want, if he says he don't want peace and he prefer to go to war we will have to defend ourself and we will do everything to defend the Israeli people, that is why we have our Army and that's why we have our government.

DAVID FROST

But why, I know the UN is not your favourite place, or you're not the pin-ups of the UN, but why do the UN come down so strongly about excessive use of force?

DROR ZEIGERMAN

You know this is not, we are not one to escalate the situation in opposite, we move our tanks from, from ¿, from Nablus, from Hebron, we withdraw from the Temple Mountain, you know what happened? After we withdraw the soldiers from Temple Mountain instead of talking of peace in the way peacefully they throw stone on the Israeli worshippers which is praying on the Western Wall, on the eve ¿ so what you would like us to do? Not to defend ourself, to let them to continue this violence.

DAVID FROST

Right at that point Ambassador, we'll come back to that, let's talk to Mr Afif Safieh, who has been for some time the Palestinian Envoy to the UK and he's joining us from the Millbank studio of the BBC. Well you heard what's been said, your comments Afif?

AFIF SAFIEH

Well I'd like to say that sometimes when I listen to Israeli spokes persons I have the impression that it's not Israel that occupies Palestine but Palestine that occupies Israel. Let me tell you sir, we have been having the peace process for nine years already and only 65 per cent of the Gaza Strip were evacuated and only 40 per cent of the West Bank has been evacuated. So there is a lot of exasperation from the population and what we have witnessed the last five, six days was the sort of Palestinian referendum to end occupation, it's our cry for freedom out of captivity and bondage. Number two, Sir, you're not unaware that Ariel Sharon went to the Islamic Shrine as a sort of provocation, irresponsible, unscrupulous provocation, not to be out-bid by Mr Barak and the come back kid Mr Netanyahu who that day was being released from prosecution and he's now expected to do his comeback so Mr Sharon didn't want to be eclipsed by his political rivals and he inflamed the situation. Number three, Sir, I'm really distressed that the American role is not what it is supposed to be, America is supposed to be the facilitator and the mediator yet because of American elections which is never America's finest hour, there is no American foreign policy in the Middle East. America is the only remaining super power all over the world except in the Middle East where it has abdicated this role in favour of the Israelis¿

DAVID FROST

Well let's, let's just come in with a point there Afif, which is this 48-hour deadline for Yasser Arafat to stop the violence which we've been questioning here and so on, but in fact does he have the power over the Palestinians to stop the violence if he wanted to, or are they out of control?

AFIF SAFIEH

Sir David I can tell you very easily that the confrontations will stop if Israel was to withdraw 300 metres from Palestinian urban zones. All these confrontations are taking place in Palestinian habitation zones, it's the Israeli troops that trespass on our residential quarters and on our refugee camps. If Israel were to withdraw 200 metres only the confrontations would stop and we could go back to the peace negotiating exercise and this is what we desire¿

DAVID FROST

Alright¿

AFIF SAFIEH

¿ So I thought that the ultimatum is again the deployment of the arrogance of power¿

DAVID FROST

Alright let me put that point, 200 that's a clear reaching out from Afif?

DROR ZEIGERMAN

No I don't think that Afif Safieh know exactly what happen in the ground, Israeli withdraw the tanks, it's not in the area near the populate, which populate by the Arab but they continue to throw stones, to shoot the Israeli soldier with the heavy weapon which we gave to them, you know, to control the Hamas now they shoot the bullets against us. And they continue the violence, they have Arafat, if you would like, he can stop the violence, it's in his hands if he want to stop the violence we are ready to negotiate, don't forget Afif didn't mention, forget maybe reminded that in Camp David our Prime Minister offered to talk about every issue including Jerusalem, including the territory, including the border and, and Arafat instead of continue the peace process and accept this demand which the Americans support, President Clinton support Barak and say that he, Barak made this concessions instead of this he start violence.

DAVID FROST

Okay thank you very much indeed, just, just one sentence and then a last sentence from, one sentence in response to that from Afif?

AFIF SAFIEH

I would like to say that Mr Barak in Camp David surprised us by offering us to give us back one out of every three neighbourhoods Israeli occupies illegally in East Jerusalem and claimed sovereignty on the Islamic Shrines for the first time, this was never an Israeli claim throughout the 33 last years and you're surprised that ¿ Barak claimed sovereignty on the Islamic Shrines¿

DAVID FROST

Thank you, thank you¿seconds to go?

DROR ZEIGERMAN

You mention about the visit of Mr Sharon at the Temple Mount and I would just say he visit there, he didn't shoot there, he didn't kill people, he came to visit the temple and this is not justified, even they are not like it, it's not justified, five day of violence, 100 of casualty and thousands of wounded.

DAVID FROST

Ambassador, thank you very much. Afif Safieh thank you very much indeed.

END

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