Saturday, May. 03, 2003

"Peace Can't Come Hand in Hand with Terror"

Israel's new Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, was the first cabinet minister to call for Yasser Arafat's expulsion from the West Bank. In his first international interview as chief diplomat, Shalom talked to TIME's Jerusalem bureau chief, Matt Rees

What's your reaction to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' inaugural speech, which denounced terrorism?
It had a good opening. He said he won't accept any kind of weapon in unauthorized hands and that he'll do all he can to bring back order. He called on the opposition to stop incitement and act lawfully. It's a good start. On the other hand, he had a very tough second half to his speech. He said the only solution will be to create an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with a capital in Jerusalem. He wants a territorial linkage between Gaza and the West Bank, and the right of return will be negotiated. He said the Palestinian people won't accept any solution less than the clearing of all the settlements.

How do you see Arafat now in light of Abbas' new role?
He is irrelevant to peace. He did much to prevent peace. Even now he's trying to obstruct the resumption of the peace process.

Can Abbas be a partner for peace?
I hope he will be a partner for peace. He looks more moderate than Arafat, who implemented terror to achieve his targets in the peace process. We hope that he will be the guy who will take the Palestinians onto a new track. The question is, what authority does he have? Everyone is waiting for him to destroy the infrastructure of terror and stop the incitement. If he does it, he will find us real partners for peace. We are looking for a partner that realizes peace can't come hand in hand with terror. We won't fight by day and negotiate by night in nice hotels.

Will Israel make any gesture toward Abbas, such as a release of administrative detainees?
We are working on it, to bring confidence back between Palestinians and Israelis. There are a few things we are considering.

When will they be introduced?
If we see he's doing what he has to do, he'll find us there.

But Abbas has to act first?
According to President Bush's vision and the road map, he has to act first. The Israeli people don't accept the idea of negotiating while terror goes on. It's logical to ask that the Palestinians come with clean hands. Is that such a high demand: to negotiate without killing us?

How long must he keep things quiet before you'll make your gestures?
It's not a question of time. He'll be judged by performance and not by time. He has to convince Israelis that there's a change. We think his appointment might be a positive move. [But] if he doesn't take measures against the terror organizations within the first or second month, he won't be able to do it later. Those terror organizations will challenge him, and he has to be ready to fight for a better future.

What are Israel's specific objections to the road map?
The question of right of return is a very important one. If I compare the Oslo accords and the road map, the main difference is that in the Oslo accords the Palestinians would have got their independent state at the end of the process, after solving the question of right of return. In the road map, the provisional Palestinian state will be given to them in the middle of the process. So what will be the incentive later to solve the question of right of return? It might lead to a deadlock that won't allow us to reach a real peace.

What's Sharon's view of the road map?
He's very serious about this. He said that he wants to resume the negotiations. We don't want to do it like Oslo and Camp David [in 2001], which had awful results. The Prime Minister will lead the peace process.

If you met Abbas, what would you tell him?
Be serious and find us serious. Do what Arafat didn't do: show the Israelis that this is the end of 100 years of terror. Educate your people toward peace, in schools and through the media. But words are not enough. We're down to performance now.