Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, the Middle East boils over. We will talk to the key officials involved. As the fighting worsened in Israel yesterday, Prime Minister Barak issued an ultimatum to the Palestinians: stop or else. What next? We'll ask him. And we'll get the Palestinian side from their top negotiator, Nabil Shaath. What can the United States do? We'll talk about that with National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.
Then we'll turn to Campaign 2000 and a roundtable with Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, and Gloria Borger. I'll have a final thought on what the vice presidential candidates showed us they know. But first, the Middle East again on Face The Nation.
And we start this morning with the prime minister of Israel. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for joining us. You laid out an ultimatum to the Palestinians yesterday. I suppose I would ask you what happens if they don't respond?
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak: I didn't lay an ultimatum. I said the obvious, almost self-evident consequence. If Arafat that can easily order an end to the whole violence that we are facing is not doing it within reasonable time frame, let's say two days, we won't have but only way to conclude that he deliberately has decided to abandon the negotiation process and is preferring a confrontation. We will not yield to negotiation that goes simultaneously with waves of violence, kind of launched at us in total contradiction to all the agreements he had signed in the last seven years.
Schieffer: Mr. Prime Minister, do you believe, in fact, that Mr. Arafat is in control here and could stop this violence?
Barak: First of all, he's in control. I am confident that if he gives the right orders loud and clear to the right individuals in his Tanzim, which is a street organization of Fatah, which is armed against the agreements - if he gives such an - orders within 12 hours, we will have a calm situation. He proved it in the past. It's the same right now. And in a way, may I say that if he - totally out of control of his own people, what is the essence of making him a partner and a future head of state?
Schieffer: Already we're seeing this spread. Three Israeli soldiers were taken captive yesterday by Hezbollah. You suggested in a news conference earlier today that Syria may be behind that. What can you tell us about that? And would you be willing to release some of the Hezbollah people if it could be in exchange for your Israeli soldiers?
Barak: I think that the Hezbollah want this operation, not the Syrians, but since the Syrian is the prominent power player in Lebanon out of its own choice, I have no way but to see this reality and identify the Syrians as the source of responsibility for any attack against Israel from the soil of Lebanon, whether directly through the border like the last one or indirecly. But let me tell you more than that. If Syria would take all necessary acts or steps in order to put an end to the violence of Hezbollah, I would not hold them responsible. This is the same way that I don't hold responsible King Abdullah for what comes from Jordan since I know that he takes all the measures to put an end to it. I don't hold Mubarak responsible for what comes from Egypt since I, you know, it takes all steps to avoid it. But we cannot say this about Syria. They are the power player, they are responsible and they might be that ... (unintelligible).
Schieffer: And what about that possible prisoner exchange? Would you even
entertain such a thing?
Barak: I don't want, at this delicate moment, to discuss it in front of the camera.
Schieffer: Is there a role for the United States to play here, Prime Minister?
Barak: I believe that the United States is deeply involved in the peace process in the Middle East. I should tell you that I highly admire the contribution of Secretary Albright in the last few months, but especially in the last few days and weeks and - as well as the contribution of the administration under President Clinton. Of course, if the United States can tribute, but ultimately, the decision should be made by the - locally. There's no - no, no one can impose peace upon Arafat, no one can impose peace upon the young president of Syria, Bashir el-Assad, and no one can impose peace. It takes two to tango and it takes two to peace, and only one is enough to initiate confrontation.
Schieffer: Prime Minister, how close, at this point, are you to war?
Barak: I do not know. I hope we are not close to a war. But, look, we have to understand, we have a tough situation. We lived through tough situations in the past. Israelis are young and encourage democracy, open society, pluralistic one, that lives in a neighborhood that does not resemble the - the neighborhood of North America or Western Europe. We are living in a place where there is no mercy for the weak and no second opportunity for those who cannot defend themselves.
And so when we come to make peace, we stretch our arm, I committed myself to leave no stone unturned on the way to peace. I was ready to contemplate ideas that were - never were contemplated by any previous Israeli prime minister, neither Natanyahu, nor even Rabin in Paris. But I'm not going to make a - a price - a peace at any price or at any cost. I am for the peace of the brave. I am against the peace of the ostriches that might put their head of - the sand in the toughest moment. Let the wave storm them and say afterwards, 'OK, that's what's happened.' I'm not ready for this kind of peace. We will stick to our vital interests. We will show openness and readiness to contemplate the interest and the rights of the other side.
Schieffer: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Thank you. And o get the other side of the story now, we go to Gaza. Nabil Shaath, who is a top negotiator for the Palestinians is standing by. Thank you, sir, for coming. You heard what the prime minister said.
Nabil Shaath, Senior Palestinian Negotiator: Thank you.
Schieffer: He said that Mr. Arafat has the power to stop this, and if he doesn't, he says, why should we even consider him as a partner in a peace process? What's your response to that?
Shaath: Well, this is really very, very confusing, because I don't know that there are any Palestinian forces inside Israel or there are any Palestinian Tanzim people attacking Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It's the other way around. It is the Israeli army in very heavily populated Palestinian areas shooting at Palestinian young men demonstrating. And at best, in self-defense, sending back rocks, facing rockets and heavy artillery and the live ammunition and even gunships using live rockets against the demonstrators. I think it's the other way around. I think it's - Mr. Barak is the one who should give orders to his forces to pull out of Palestinian populated areas and really end this very, very costly massacre that have cost us 100 killed and 2,900 injured so far to almost no Israeli casualties.
Schieffer: Well, do you think, though, in fact, that Mr. Arafat could tell the people on this side, 'Stand back here. Let's try to cool things off.' And will he try to do that?
Shaath: He, I'm sure, is in full control of every action that takes place on the military front. You don't hear of policemen shooting at Israelis. You don't see any action of any military nature. What we are talking about are strictly demonstrations of people who are very angry at the loss and very provoked by the existence of a very, very heavily armed occupation force.
I'm sure what is needed is for these forces to be pulled out of these population areas. Mr. Barak bravely pulled out all his army from Lebanon, even without an agreement with the Lebanese, to save both Lebanese and Israeli lives. And I think that's the first step before really the rage co - cools down and nerves cools and calm is restored.
Furthermore, we suggested a - an international fact-finding commission so that we all know what exactly went on and try to avoid it in the future, so that we don't really spend our lives laying blame. Let an international commission of very respected jurists come investigate, while we go back to the peace process.
Schieffer: But, in fact, let me just go back to the other question. Do you believe that Mr. Arafat would have the power to tell the demonstrator to stop demonstrating, at least for a while, regardless of the fact that the Israeli soldiers are there in - in your neighborhoods? I understand your point on that, but can he tell them, 'Just cool it for a little bit'? Do you think he - it's possible for him to do that?
Shaath: He went to Pars in order to do that. And Mr. Barak could not take a few hours of negotiations and refused to go to Shadamashir to complete these negotiations that would have really, hopefully, have brought us into calm even two, three days ago.
In order to really bring calm to young people demonstrating is different from ordering your army troops. These young people need to at least see a way out. They see that their lives that have been lost have some meaning, that the value of Palestinian life is not less than the value of an Israeli life. And that is why we ask for the - for the fact-finding commission and for some disengagement by the Israelis. Then, of course, Arafat would be able to really instruct, advise and have everything in control, because these people then will listen to him and will really find it in the interest of peace to listen to him.
Schieffer: All right. Mr. Shaath, thank you so much for joining us. We want to wish you the best of luck in trying to bring this to some sort of resolution. We're going to turn now to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who's come over from the White House to join us this morning.
Mr. Berger, what can you - what's your take? You heard both sides here pretty well lay out their position. And it sounds to me like the Israelis think the Palestinians started it and the Palestinians think the Israelis started it. And here we go again. Where are we?
Samuel "Sandy" Berger, National Security Adviser: Well, it's a very difficult and - and - and dangerous situation. There is a - a cycle of violence that has developed over the last 10 days. As you can tell, emotions and feelings are - are running high. I think what's critical now is to break that cycle. That requires even greater efforts on the part of the Palestinian Authority to try to control the crowds, to keep them away from Israeli fixed positions. And on the Israeli side, that would enable them to restrain the use of live fire. Basically, we need increasing disengagement, rather than escalation.
Last night, we were able to activate a - a mechanism that came out of the Paris talks with the security people of the Israelis - on the Israeli side and the security people on the Palestinian side, sitting together, our people there to facilitate that, so that location by location, hot spot by hot spot, we can try to help them gain some control over the situation.
Schieffer: I know the president has been on the phone several times trying to work this problem. Is there any sign that things may be getting better or are they getting worse? How would you - how would you characterize it?
Berger: Well, I think it's hard to - hard to read. It's - you know, each day has its own rhythm. In the early part of this, things were - tended to heat up in the earlier part of the day. Now they tend to heat up in the later part of the day. So far, my understanding is things have been better today, but it's - we're jut heading into the evening hours. But I think in a larger sense here, we have to work with them and - and encourage them to try to break this - this cycle, because this is a very dangerous situation.
Schieffer: Well, we've already seen these things as - started out as riots in the streets. They're now spreading into Lebanon. You had three Israeli soldiers taken captive yesterday by the Hezbollah. There are now - the Hezbollah people are saying we want a release of some of their prisoners in order to release the Israeli prisoners. Should Israel talk about that kind of negotiation? Is that possible or is it out of the question?
Berger: Well, I - I - you know, I - I think that's a difficult proposition. We - Secretary Albright yesterday talked to Foreign Minister Sharah. I believe President Clinton today may seek - get to talk to - to President Assad. This is a - as president - as Prime Minister Barak said, this is Hezbollah's activity, but we need to press all countries that have influence on Hezbollah, Syria being one, to try to use their influence to defuse the situation.
Schieffer: And as always happens when something happens in Israel, it reverbe - reverberates all over the Middle East. We now see Iran telling Israel not to invade Lebanon and making other fairly bellicose statements. Do you take any of that seriously?
Berger: Well, emotions are - are - are - are high in the area. And I think they're - that's - that's all the more reason why it is so important now to - to - to try to end this violence and get back to the peace process. It's the peace p - it's the prospect of peace which gives people hope and which creates stability. It's the despair about the future which creates the kind of emotion that creates the confrontations.
Schieffer: Well, In fact, some people are already saying, 'Well, obviously, the peace process is now dead.' Do you buy that?
Mr. Berger: You know, the peace process has cycles. It's had cycles over the last seven months. This obviously makes a difficult situation more difficult in the short term. But it also indicates very sharply the urgency o - of stopping the violence and getting back to the negotiating table and seeing whether we can paint a different future for the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians than the - than the future th - that they've - that this generation's had.
Schieffer: National Security Adviser Sandy Berger - you, obviously, have your work cut out for you for the rest of the day and probably for many days to come.
Berger: Thanks, Bob.
Schieffer: Thanks so much for being with us. When we come back, we're going to turn to Campaign 2000. We'll talk to Pat Buchanan, and we'll talk to Ralph Nader when we come back.
Schieffer: So we tu - turn to campaign 2000. Joining us from New York City, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader; here in DC, Reform Party cadidate Pat Buchanan. Joining in the questioning, Gloria Borger.
Gentlemen, it seems to me that what happened here is just sort of a metaphor of what the presidency is all about. Until late yesterday afternoon, Buchanan and Nader debating Campaign 2000 was the lead story on Face The Nation, and then something happens in the Middle East. Isn't that what the presidency is all about? Unexpected events that are totally out of the control of the president.
So I would ask you, Ralph Nader, what in your background would qualify you to handle a situation like what's going in the Middle East ri - going on in the Middle East right now?
Ralph Nader, Green Party Presidential Candidate: Well, they're intangibles. They're the desire for peace and justice without which you can't have one or the other. And the use of proper leverage by the United States in that area, which ha - has a - has quite a bit of leverage - political, economic, military - and we have to use it. And we've got to be very, very equitable about it. The Israelis need and want security, and they have overwhelming military su - superiority, while the Palestinians need justice. And the two parties are as close together to a settlement as they've ever been in - in five decades.
Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Mr. Buchanan, you heard Mr. Barak, you heard the Palestinian representative here today, who do you believe provoked this violence?
Pat Buchanan, Reform Party Presidential Candidate: Well, it's quite simple. All this dynamite was out there for a long time, for decades, but the individual who ignited the dynamite was Ariel Sharon when he walked up in that stupid and provocative act on the Temple Mount, or the Noble Sanctuary, with about - hundreds of Israeli security guards and triggered this event. What's followed from that is a popular uprising, or people's revolution, which is very much running out of control, but it's understandable, because, look, the Palestinian people have been occupied, persecuted and oppressed for decades and now they are responding to that. And certainly, Americans, quite frankly, who drove the British out of our country in a violent act for offenses far less than what are taking place here, ought to understand this.
Let me respond to your question now. I was with Richard Nixon in the Middle East within a week after the Six-Day War. I met with General Rabin, and Ben-Gurion, and Moshe Dayan, and all of them, so I've been knowledgeable and been in the White House for eight years while these things were going on.
Schieffer: Well, let me ask you, Mr. Nader, to come back to what Mr. Buchanan just said. He seems to lay the fault for all this at the - at the doorstep of the Israelis. He says that had Mr. Sharon not gone to the Temple Mount this probably wouldn't have happened. Would you agree with that analysis?
Nader: I think a lot of Israelis agree with that analysisand a lot of commentary in the Israeli press agrees with that analysis. It was not a called-for situation. And the - the tinderbox that occurs there and the level of ...(unintelligible) outrage can be easily provoked by people who aren't really interested in establishing a two-party s - a two-state solution with peace and normal relationships.
Borger: Mr. - Mr. Buchanan, let - let me ask you this. There was a UN resolution that was passed, which condemned the excessive use of force by the Israelis against the Palestinians. The United States abstained on that. If you were president, how would we have voted?
Buchanan: I think the abstention was the right thing to do, quite frankly, and let the - let the resolution go through. Let me say this. I think General Rabin was a great man, and I think Barak is a good man. He made a very excellent explanation on your program of why he's doing what he's doing. And his offer has been extraordinarily forthcoming, more generous than any I've ever seen. The problem is partly the United States. For years and years and years, we have allowed the Israelis to build up these illegal settlements on the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, on the Golan Heights, in Gaza. This has put all that dynamite down there. We did it because, quite frankly, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is held hostage to special interests in the United States, the Israeli lobby, quite frankly, and those who sustain and support it, which someone famously called the Amen Corner about 10 years ago.
Borger: Well, what would you do then? What would you...
Buchanan: What would I do now? There is nothing much you can do right now while this goes on. I think Barak is right. He drew back from his ultimatum. The ultimatum was stupid in this sense: you don't give a 48-hour ultimatum and deal cards to Hamas and Hezbollah to take action on Tuesday and destroy the peace process. So he did the right thing in backing away from it. I don't think Arafat controls this entirely. He's obviously got some influence, but clearly, he does not control it.
Schieffer: Let me just shift away from - from foreign policy and start with Ralph Nader. Did you hear anything in the debates this week, either with the presidential candidates or the vice presidential candidates, that changed your mind in any way?
Nader: No. I was very surprised how the mention of the poor escaped all these candidates on the debates. Forty-seven million workers are working poor in this country; they're not making a livable wage. And Vice President Lieberman and Cheney, the nominees for the presidency ignored that. They talk - Gore ignore - talks about the middle class all the time. And I think this is a major issue that's being ignored. A booming economy and the majority of the workers slipping behind in real purchasing dollars, inadequate health insurance for 46 million people...
Nadr: ...20 percent child poverty.
Schieffer: Let me qu - stop you right there to give Mr. Buchanan a chance.
Mr. Buchanan:: I - I thought Mr. Gore was his usual unctuous self through 90 minutes of intolerable discourse. Mr. Bush st - astonished me when he did not stand up at all for life. Rhetorically, Mr. Bush is pro-life. Objectively and in reality, he has ceased to be a pro-life candidate. He would not denounce RU-486. He would not even commit to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade. Three of his judges to the Texas Supreme Court turned out to be pro-abortion.
Schieffer: We have to stop it there. Thanks to both of you for an abbreviated but very interesting debate today.
Schieffer: Finally today, when they got the chance, the good people of Yugoslavia voted the war criminal Milosevic out of office. But he wouldn't leave until they threatened to burn down the parliament building, literally. Like most of us, I'm sure I was cheering them on. But as I watched them pour into the streets, I was also reminded of what we take for granted, that such a thing would never happen here. We're in the middle of a presidential campaign, and once it's done, some will be delighted, some will be disappointed, but all of us will accept the results. At the appointed time, the president will leave voluntarily and the winner of the election will be sworn in. He won't have to check with the Army or the rich people or the labor unions, and for no other reason than this: we are a nation of laws and civility, and we simply wouldn't tolerate it. Americans play by the rules. We founded our country on that principle, we respect each other and we like it that way.
That's one reason the vice presidential candidates' debate was so refreshing last week. After so much gotcha politics lately - maybe 'juvenile' is a better word - two intelligent men held a civil discussion of the issues. Their obvious respect for each other was a way of showing respect for the rest of us, as well as an understanding of what makes this country what it is. Let's hope the men at the top of the ticket were watching.
That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face The Nation.