- To help readers better understand the nuances of foreign policy, CFR staff writers and Consulting Editor Bernard Gwertzman conduct in-depth interviews with a wide range of international experts, as well as newsmakers.
The Charlie Rose Show
This transcript has not been checked against videotape and cannot, for that reason, be guaranteed as to accuracy of speakers and spelling of names. (TW)
CHARLIE ROSE, Host: Welcome to the broadcast. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia went to Crawford, Texas, this week to talk to President Bush. We’ll hear this evening from his foreign policy adviser. Also, two observers of the Middle Eastern scene—Henry Siegman of the Council on Foreign Relations and Youssef Ibrahim.
ADEL AL JUBEIR, Adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah: President Arafat is the elected representative or leader and president of the Palestinian Authority. It is not up to anyone else to decide who their leader should be, just like we can’t decide who Israel’s leader should be. The question is do we want to make a peace agreement between adversaries or do we want to dictate the surrender terms from one party to another?
In the first case, the peace would be permanent and will hold. In the second case, it will never happen.
HENRY SIEGMAN, Council on Foreign Relations: Sharon is clearly focusing not on what is happening on the Arab street. He is not focusing on what is happening in Palestinian towns, many of which are now in a—have been reduced to rubble. He is focusing on the next election in Israel. That is his main focus.
CHARLIE ROSE: And what’s happening?
HENRY SIEGMAN: And he has decided that if he is to win that election he must move to the right.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM, Council on Foreign Relations: When I was in Saudi Arabia, Secretary Powell was touring the region talking about a Palestinian state. He was asking for an end of the incursions. And at the same time you get a message from Washington where our president describes Sharon as a man of peace. This is confusing, to say the least, and affecting our credibility in the region.
CHARLIE ROSE: Also this evening, former CBS News correspondent John Laurence on his book about Vietnam called The Cat from Hue.
JOHN LAURENCE, Author, “The Cat from Hue”: For 30 or 40 years most German people just couldn’t even think about World War II.
And America, in the shadow of the Vietnam War, has had the same kind of problem looking at it accurately, looking at what actually happened there and living with our conscience for what we did.
CHARLIE ROSE: The Middle East and John Laurence. And later, we remember Jay Chiat—coming up.
Analysts, Adviser Discuss Mideast Politics, Arafat
CHARLIE ROSE: Today, President Bush repeated the message he delivered to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at their meeting in Crawford, Texas.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH (R): Well, I told the Crown Prince that we’ve got a unique relationship with Israel and that one thing that the world can count on is that we will not allow Israel to be crushed. And I think that’s an important statement to make. It’s a part of our foreign policy. It has been a part of our foreign policy. It will continue to be a part of our foreign—The Saudis understand that.
I also reiterated what I told the country and the world on—early April. And that is all parties have responsibilities in order to make sure there’s peace. The Crown Prince is interested in peace in the region and so am I. And I said to the Crown Prince and he—and we had a good discussion about the obligations of the Arab nations. The Crown Prince was clear in his denunciation of terror. Chairman Arafat has got obligations and so does the Israelis. And I, once again, enunciated what those obligations are.
And I—so that the Crown Prince understands my foreign policy. And it’s important that we speak with clarity. And I will continue to do so.
CHARLIE ROSE: In their five-hour meeting yesterday, President Bush addressed Crown Prince Abdullah’s warning that American tolerance of Israeli action in the West Bank was threatening American ties to the Arab world.
Adel Al Jabeir, adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, joins us. Also with me here in the studio, Youssef Ibrahim, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a former Energy Editor of the Wall Street Journal and was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times for 20 years.
Also with me here in the studio is Henry Siegman, Senior Fellow and Director of the U.S. Middle East Project at the Council on Foreign Relations.
We begin with this question, Mr. Al Jubeir. You were there in Texas. Can you tell me today on this Friday, the last day of the week after the Crown Prince visits with the president, the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and how it’s changed, if at all, because of this meeting?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: The relationship is excellent. It’s solid. It’s strong. And it has been so for the past 60 years.
The visit was important because it gave the two gentlemen a chance to acquaint themselves with each other and to take each other’s measure. I think that the personalities are very similar. They’re both very sincere, very direct, very frank. They value honesty. And I think the—I know that the—on a personal level they got along extremely well, and also in terms of the issues that are of concern to the two countries.
CHARLIE ROSE: Clearly, the Crown Prince made this admonition based on what we’ve heard coming out that the—and you have given voice to it, that the United States ought to do something about the Israeli defense forces within the territory formerly controlled by the Palestinian Authority. And that if not, Sharon will drag the region over a cliff if left to his own devices. Is that essentially the message that was given to the president?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Well, I don’t know that I would characterize it as a message. It was a tour de force. It was a conversation about issues of concern to both countries. We have no problems in our bilateral relationship. The problems that exist are problems that affect both of us and that we both want to find solutions for because it’s in our interests to do so.
We firmly believe that the continued violence in the territories, that the continued inability to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict does grave damage to America’s interests. It does grave damage to our interests. And it causes further instability in the region. And therefore we’ve always maintained that it’s crucially important for the United States and everybody else to do all they can to try to bring out a—to bring about a settlement.
CHARLIE ROSE: The United States has asked Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw. Has Saudi Arabia asked Yasir Arafat to make sure that he has done everything he can to stop suicide bombings?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: We have been weighing in with the Palestinian Authority for—since the inception of the peace process. We have encouraged them to pursue the path of peace. We have encouraged them—we have provided support for them when they needed it. And we have provide admonition to them when they—when it was required.
CHARLIE ROSE: So what’s the next step?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: We not—because we strongly believe that this problem needs a solution, we also are convinced that the vision that the president has for a settlement is very similar to the vision that the Crown Prince; a Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel. An end to settlements. An end to the occupation. A shift from incrementalism to final status talks and doing it as quickly as possible. And we have on our side the peace plan put forward by the Crown Prince, which became the formal position of the Arab League.
We not—we don’t just complain about the need to do something. We’ve offered some proposals to try to break the impasse around Ramallah and to break the impasse around Bethlehem. And also we’ve provided some ideas in terms of how we can jumpstart the peace process and put it back in its proper track so it can lead to the vision that both leaders want to see accomplished.
CHARLIE ROSE: There have been a lot of stories this week about how close Prime Minister Sharon came to expelling Yasir Arafat, Chairman Arafat, from Ramallah and that he was only dissuaded by a last-minute telephone call from Secretary of State Powell.
What happens if Prime Minister Sharon does that?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: It would be a grave mistake on the part of Prime Minister Sharon. President Arafat is the elected representative or leader and the president of the Palestinian Authority. It is not up to anyone else to decide who their leader should be, just like we can’t decide who Israel’s leader should be. The question is do we want to make a peace agreement between adversaries? Or do we want to dictate the surrender terms from one party to another?
In the first case, the peace would be permanent and will hold. In the second case, it will never happen.
CHARLIE ROSE: Is it possible that a peace conference will come out of this meeting between the Crown Prince and the President?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: The—that was one of the issues that was discussed. The important thing is what does it require to jumpstart the process? What does it require to speed up the political process to arrive at a comprehensive settlement. If a conference is the way to go, then so be it. But we have to be careful, Charlie, because people have used the term “conference” many—in different versions.
If it’s a conference in which the attendance is dictated by one side, that’s a non-starter. If it’s a conference in which people will discuss modalities and time lines, that’s, frankly, a waste of time.
But if it’s a conference in which people accept the principles of a final settlement and the outlines of a final settlement and the attendance to that conference is to reconfirm those and to start serious negotiations towards that end, then it will absolutely be useful to have one.
CHARLIE ROSE: What if it’s a conference without President Arafat?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: It will be not a conference.
CHARLIE ROSE: No one will go?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Why should they?
CHARLIE ROSE: Because they Palestinians may send another representative.
ADEL AL JUBEIR: They will not.
CHARLIE ROSE: So it’s a non-starter?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Absolutely.
CHARLIE ROSE: No one from the Arab world will attend?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Absolutely. Nobody from the Arab world will allow Prime Minister Sharon to dictate who he—who he negotiates with on the Palestinian side. Can we decide, can we dictate to the Israeli public who our Israeli interlocutor should be?
CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me how your government and the Crown Prince, how do they see Yasir Arafat? What’s their deepest sense about him?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Yasir Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian Authority. He has been a symbol for the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence since the 1960’s. He is—there is universal support for him among the Palestinians. His—the strength and the depth of the support that he enjoys, if anything, went sky high over the past three or four months.
Yasir Arafat, we are convinced, wants to make a deal. He will not surrender to Sharon or any other prime minister. The deal has to be fair. The deal has to be supported by the international community. And if those elements are met, we are confident that he will make the deal.
CHARLIE ROSE: But I hear you believing that somehow the Crown Prince and the President sought together a deal that they would like to see, that they think could work.
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Yes, because we know the—what is acceptable in terms of the—from the Palestinian side.
CHARLIE ROSE: And the President knows what’s acceptable from the Israeli side?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Yes. And they both know what the—what the universal consensus is.
CHARLIE ROSE: And they believe a deal is possible, notwithstanding all those people who’ve seen what’s happened in the last 18 months and don’t believe that as long as Ariel Sharon is prime minister of Israel and Yasir Arafat is president of the Palestinian Authority there can ever be peace?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: We have to work with the cards that are on the table. And we will have to make the best of it. And we will have to test people’s seriousness and test their resolve. And we have to see where the negotiations lead.
But ultimately, yes, there—peace is possible. Even though this appears to be the darkest hour in terms of the peace process, I do not believe that there was a time when we had a universal consensus of what a deal should look like.
CHARLIE ROSE: And we do have that now?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: I believe so, yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. One last quick question before Henry joins in. You—there was much criticism of the president when he said that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace. Let me just turn it around and say do you believe Ara—Yasir Arafat is a man of peace?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: So why did you get so upset because Sharon was characterized as a man of peace?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: We didn’t get upset. We just—we were asked about our views and we said that we had a hard time believing that Sharon himself believes that he’s a man of peace.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. Henry Siegman?
HENRY SIEGMAN: Adel, how are you?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Fine. How are you?
HENRY SIEGMAN: OK. You indicated that—and I was delighted to hear it—that you thought there was a shared conception—shared by the president and by the Crown Prince—of what the outline, the parameters of a permanent peace would be. Do you have reason to believe, therefore, or can we conclude from that observation, Adel, that the president has indicated he supports the Crown Prince’s notion that those parameters must fundamentally—on their most fundamental level must include a return to the ‘67 borders?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Well, we have said in terms of the ‘67 borders that the details of the negotiations are left to the parties. The 1967 borders were the basis.
At the Taba agreements, the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to certain minor adjustments in those borders that were acceptable to both sides. If that’s what the Palestinians accept, then that’s what we would accept as the definition of the ‘67 borders.
When I say—the president was very gracious in his support for the Crown Prince’s vision when the Crown Prince first stated it to the world. And the president and the U.S. government were very supportive of the Crown Prince’s vision when it as adopted as an Arab peace initiative at the Beirut summit.
So, yes, I believe that the U.S. government and this administration, in particular, supports the principles that were put on the table by the Crown Prince.
HENRY SIEGMAN: Including the return to the—essentially to the ‘67 lines? The reason I come back to this is because so far on our end in the United States we have received no indication whatever that the president is prepared to make that kind of a commitment.
ADEL AL JUBEIR: Well, Henry, when you look at the U.N. resolution 242, it talks about the occupied territories. That’s 1967. When you look at the principles of the Madrid conference and the principles of Land for Peace, it talks about the occupied territory. That’s essentially 1967.
When you look at the Oslo agreements; the same thing. When you look at the Taba agreements; the same thing.
So I think when—if we want to split hairs and say 1967 exactly, people can disagree. But if we deviate by a foot here or a foot there, is that such a big deal?
CHARLIE ROSE: Youssef?
ADEL AL JUBEIR: If it’s acceptable to the two parties.
CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you very much. Adel Al Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
So you had a conversation today with the foreign minister? And you recently were in Saudi Arabia a couple of weeks ago?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Yes. I was there a couple of weeks ago. And I think one of the things that struck me most, Charlie, is how angry people are. We have had in the past five years what I call “satellite revolution” in the Arab world. We have had—you know, you wish for something and you get it. We always wished for an Arab satellite station that actually gives real news. And we got Al-Jazeera. You like it; you don’t like it. It has made a big difference. Now it’s imitated by all the other satellite stations.
And we have a situation where the Arab people—all 250 million of them—from Algeria to Amman, are now getting some real news from Arab stations that transcend, goes over the head of their leadership. And what these stations are showing is what’s happening in the occupied territories, in Israel, in Palestine. And they are showing it because it’s—the Arabs disagree on a lot of things, but they certainly agree emotionally on this issue.
And it has created what Adel was speaking about—an Arab public opinion that is putting tremendous pressure on the leadership. I think Crown Prince Abdullah is visiting this country having transcended his role as ruler—or a ruler of Saudi Arabia. He is here as a spokesman for the Arab world. He is here to get a clear answer from President Bush, from our—
CHARLIE ROSE: And express face to face the things that you’re talking about.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you agree with this?
HENRY SIEGMAN: Well, I certainly agree that there’s a very angry Arab street. I think the expectations of the Arab world were that a very strong message, an adversarial message, would be presented by the Crown Prince, not just on behalf of Saudi Arabia, but on behalf of the entire Arab world to the president because the Crown Prince—the Crown Prince met with the president just two days after the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Sharon, said that he will not remove even a single settlement anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza as long as he is in office.
Now that clearly removes the political horizon that everyone was talking about. That the president, that the secretary of state was referring to as essential for a cease-fire, for progress towards ending the conflict.
CHARLIE ROSE: So you believe that because of what’s happened in the last—how long has it been? Not 18 months, but since the Arabs—since the Israelis went into Ramallah and went into Bethlehem and went into other cities, do you believe that Sharon’s attitude has hardened with respect to what’s acceptable for peace?
HENRY SIEGMAN: Sharon is clearly focusing not on what is happening on the Arab street. He is not focusing on what is happening in Palestinian towns, many of which are now in a—have been reduced to rubble. He is focusing on the next election in Israel. That is his main focus.
CHARLIE ROSE: And what’s happening?
HENRY SIEGMAN: And he has decided that if he is to win that election, he must move to the right, which—of where he has been. There isn’t all that much right left considering where he has been. But that’s where he’s moving.
In terms of who he’s bringing back into the cabinet, the most extreme right-wing parties. And he’s looking at Bibi Netanyahu. And that accounts for the statement he made yesterday or the day before yesterday that he will not evacuate even one settlement.
CHARLIE ROSE: And that they will not leave either Ramallah. And also there have been many more reports about the idea of expelling Arafat.
HENRY SIEGMAN: Well, I don’t know about that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, if it’s towards the president—I’m not suggesting that he’s thinking about it. I’m not suggesting how reliable they are. But, you know, we now have the account that it appeared about Sharon prepared to do it and only an all-night cabinet session only circumvented by Powell’s urgent 2:00 p.m.-- 2:00 a.m. call.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Charlie, you’ve got to appreciate how much this is affecting our credibility in the region.
When I was in Saudi Arabia, Secretary Powell as touring the region, talking about a Palestinian state. He was asking for an end of the incursions. And in the same time, you get a message from Washington where our president describes Sharon as a man of peace. This is confusing, to say the least, and affecting our credibility in the region.
There is a question as to exactly our—What Henry is saying is there is a Sharon agenda, but there should also be an American agenda and we are honest brokers—or we’re supposed to be—in this conflict and it doesn’t look like this at the moment if we go along with the Sharon agenda. Or it actually looks like we’re giving this government cover to continue what, in effect, a sort of total destruction of Palestinian civil society.
CHARLIE ROSE: Two things. One, about either of you, but, Henry, were you surprised about what he said about how they feel about the Bush administration? Or was that just flattery for the president?
HENRY SIEGMAN: I’m glad you characterized this. In fact, what I was thinking as Adel was describing the president’s views that the Bush administration ought to steal him away from the Crown Prince.
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, I was listening to that thinking that—my question, if I wanted to get you in, my question at the time was are you prepared here to say that George Bush has been the best president for Saudi Arabia and the Arab countries that there’s been in a long time? You certainly seem to be saying something akin to that by saying—talking about a Palestinian state, by talking about—these are terms that they hadn’t heard before.
HENRY SIEGMAN: I suspect that when the Saudis go back to Saudi Arabia and give their accounts of what happened here and their views of the conflict itself, a somewhat different story will be heard. It won’t be quite as complimentary to the president.
CHARLIE ROSE: I want to ask this because there’s also the Israeli side. What—has any damage at all been done to Israeli-U.S. relations?
HENRY SIEGMAN: With this administration up until now the answer is no. I don’t think there has ever been an Israeli prime minister who could have dreamed that an Israeli government can do the kinds of things that this prime minister has done that must be seen as complicating American relations with the Arab world, with Saudi Arabia specifically, while on the subject of Saudi Arabia. And that the president would continue to be so supportive and so uncritical of such an Israeli government, that’s really quite, quite bewildering.
CHARLIE ROSE: You know, at one time in your life you were head of the American Jewish Congress, were you not?
HENRY SIEGMAN: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: I mean, are you surprised though?
HENRY SIEGMAN: Yes, I’m very—
CHARLIE ROSE: Because of the political pressure that—[crosstalk]
We saw the rally in Washington and the—
HENRY SIEGMAN: I’m surprised for many reasons. But, first, the most important reason I am surprised about is this is not a favor to Israel.
I understand and endorse—
CHARLIE ROSE: What’s not a favor to Israel?
HENRY SIEGMAN: To continue to give a green light to the policies of—the current policies of Prime Minister Sharon is not a favor to Israel. It is essentially to destroy the possibility of achieving an end to the conflict.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, but then let—then the question is, is that the message of American Jews to American leadership?
HENRY SIEGMAN: No, it is not.
CHARLIE ROSE: What is the message of American Jews to American leadership?
HENRY SIEGMAN: The message of American Jews—
CHARLIE ROSE: If they can speak as one. I don’t want to suggest that there is—
HENRY SIEGMAN: Of course, you can’t. But those who are the activists, those who got to Washington to demonstrate, their message is—
CHARLIE ROSE: Or lobbyists.
HENRY SIEGMAN: Their message was expressed when the administration’s representative, Wolfowitz, spoke at the rally. And after expressing full support for the state of Israel and for this government, when he said that remember also that there are Palestinians who are being killed and were being—and that, too, was a great tragedy, he was booed. That was their message to the administration.
CHARLIE ROSE: That was their message to the administration. Booing Paul Wolfowitz when he said—
HENRY SIEGMAN: To—here’s a man who, if anything, has played—well, he has played the key role in persuading people in the defense department and at the White House to provide this kind of full support, uncritical support, and he is booed for showing some sympathy, some empathy for Palestinian sovereignty. That’s not a good thing that all the Jewish—
CHARLIE ROSE: I have to get out of here. But say something, I have a question. Go ahead.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Charlie, there’s another—the other side of this. The point is I feel we are risking a rupture in an important relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Despite all the nice talk that’s going to come out of this meeting, I think we are in a—this may—we may look back and say this is a defining moment in Arab-American relations. And we shouldn’t talk about Saudi Arabia as though it is a relationship we can dispense with easily. This is a country that has been friendly to the United States for 70 years.
More importantly, it is sitting on one-third of the world’s oil reserves. The other third belongs to Iran and Iraq and we are on no—we are not on speaking terms with either of them. Saudi Arabia has been a moderating force in OPEC on oil prices. And it is giving us a strategic military dimension.
A lot of pundits here have been saying why do we need Saudi Arabia? Why don’t we just pull our forces out of Saudi Arabia, put them in Qatar; put them in Kuwait; put them in Amman.
Saudi Arabia is the godfather of the Arab Gulf. If Saudi Arabia were to rupture a strategic military relationship with us, how long do you think it will take for Bahrain, which has our largest Naval base in the region, before it follows suit? And how much would Kuwait or Qatar be able to do all by themselves?
In other words, we need this district. We need Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia needs us. We need to nurture this relationship.
CHARLIE ROSE: The only thing that I would ask at this time is that, I mean, all the parties—whether it’s Saudi Arabia or Egypt or the United States or Israel or the Palestinians—didn’t they have any sense that if they didn’t do more it was coming to this?
HENRY SIEGMAN: Good point. And let me stress that perhaps the greatest failure of leadership is on the part of Arafat himself. This man, by failing in his responsibilities, probably has done more damage to the Palestinian cause than Israel’s adversaries.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, but my question again—my question also, though, is who had leverage and influence and how well was that exercised?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: We did.
CHARLIE ROSE: With respect to Arafat?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: We did on everybody. I mean, with respect to Arafat, Arafat perhaps should have been out of the scene a lot earlier. I’ve covered him for 25 years.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah, but that reality didn’t happen, so—
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: But he is here. Nobody really has that kind of leverage on Arafat. Arafat is a loner. He works on his own.
CHARLIE ROSE: Where does he get his funding?
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: He has had funding previous to arriving in Gaza, as you know. And he does—like Saddam Hussein—has kept a large amount of money outside the country. Arafat doesn’t have—doesn’t need that much money.
CHARLIE ROSE: So that means the support of the Saudis, Egyptians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Iraqis, anybody.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Absolutely. I don’t think—[crosstalk]
CHARLIE ROSE: He can stand alone in defiance of the world—[crosstalk]
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: I think he liberated himself from the Arabs some time ago. But what Henry said about his failure in leadership is absolutely correct. He has failed. Having that liberty, having that position, he has failed to really use it.
Sharon, I don’t think has done much better.
HENRY SIEGMAN: But wouldn’t you agree in all fairness that that failure was also surrounded as it were by the failure of the wider Arab world? Because there was a time when he was dependent and was lavishly supported by much of the Arab world. And the view—the view that he had of Israel was, up until a certain point in history, was widely shared in the Arab world.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: I think that’s why we have—that’s where we are. I think what the Saudi initiative really says is we’re all exhausted.
HENRY SIEGMAN: Exactly.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: We are exhausted. Let’s make a deal.
HENRY SIEGMAN: That’s what makes it important.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: We’ deliver—we’ll deliver the Arab world to you; you deliver the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians. Let’s just cut the deal and let’s move on because we haven’t had any economic development. We’ve had a problem with Saddam Hussein, who has paralyzed our politics for 10 years. We’ve got to deal with all of this, let’s just—[crosstalk]
HENRY SIEGMAN: And the U.S. failed, so far, in responding to that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Or to encourage it. That was my point in making the last point.
Thank you very much. Good to have you here.
YOUSSEF IBRAHIM: Thank you, Charlie.
CHARLIE ROSE: Good to have you.