PrimeTime: Sawyer Talks to Arafat

— -- Following is an unedited, uncorrected transcript of Diane Sawyer’s entire conversation with the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Portions of the interview aired on PrimeTime Thursday on Oct. 26, 2000.

Diane Sawyer: I think people in the United States wonder, if Prime Minister Barak were to call you tomorrow and say let us meet and talk about peace, would you do it?

Yasser Arafat: Don’t forget, we have a Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, President Clinton and Barak and Kofi Annan and me were the guests of his excellency President Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh, and before that we were at Paris, do you remember?

Diane Sawyer: Yes

Yasser Arafat: And the most important thing which has been mentioned at the Arab Summit Conference, the communique which has been declared, it was clear that the peace process has been accepted by all of them as a strategy.

Diane Sawyer: And if Arial Sharon became part of the government …is that the end of the peace process ?

Yasser Arafat: We don’t interfere in their interior affairs.

Diane Sawyer: Do you control what is going on in the streets? And if you said “stop, stop the violence,” would it stop?

Yasser Arafat: Can you do it if you were do it if you were in my place?

Diane Sawyer: I was never in your place.

Yasser Arafat: There is no switch for the, for all the people — small children, youth, students, workers, women…how to control all the of them? What we have been asking is to convince them.

What they have to be convinced by? By the peace process. Not by tanks surrounding their cities and towns everywhere. Not by rockets and missiles … not by 200 which have been killed until now and about 6500 which have been wounded.

Diane Sawyer: But if you make a public statement, stop, I want you to stop, what will happen?

Yasser Arafat: Before I give them the instruction to stop—because I haven’t the right to give them that instruction when they are very angry and very confused … and surrounded by tanks and helicopter over them, and missiles ….

Diane Sawyer: Would it help in the name of peace if they stopped?

Yasser Arafat: They’re attacking against our people, against our students, against our women, against our children. Its not a part of the peace process. It is completely against the peace process. You know that this headquarters have been shelled in the last ten days? And some of my guards have been killed out here, beside me?

Diane Sawyer: Were you here?

Yasser Arafat: Yes.

Diane Sawyer: How close were they?

Arafat Aide: He didn’t leave his office. It was so close, the helicopters were here above the office.

Yasser Arafat: I saw the helicopters and they were trying to take me out …

Arafat Aide: We tried to convince him to evacuate the office but he refused.

Diane Sawyer: How close did the firing come?

Yasser Arafat: They were firing against this place. And they have killed some of my guards.

Diane Sawyer: I just want to make sure that I do understand that you say you don’t have the the right to stop people who are taking to the streets, throwing the stones and at least play a role in increasing the tension here, you have no right to tell them to stop?

Yasser Arafat: First off all, I have give them and to put them in a clean atmosphere and a correct atmosphere and a healthy atmostphere — not searching for medicine and not finding it, or to eat and not finding it. And under seige. They are under seige.

Diane Sawyer: But would the children be safer if you said “stop everyone go back to your houses…”

Yasser Arafat:I tried but they refused,.because they are angry, some of their brothers, some of their colleagues have been killed, have been wounded, still in the hospitals.

Diane Sawyer: What did you mean when you said “go to hell”?

Yasser Arafat: Anyone who don’t accept the peace process, he has to go to hell ….

Diane Sawyer: Were you talking about Barak specifically?

Yasser Arafat: No, no. It is, I had used it in the Arab language something different: anyone who don’t accept our right to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, he can go to the Dead Sea and drink from the Dead Sea.

Diane Sawyer: That’s the right phrase in Arabic.

Arafat Aide: It’s nothing personal, he never criticized Barak …

Yasser Arafat: Personally.

Diane Sawyer: In the United States some government officials have said that if President Arafat wants it to stop in the streets, it will stop. If you really said it and meant it, that it would stop.

Yasser Arafat: First of all you have to remember that they are human beings, and not toys. We have to respect them, their feelings, their claims, and they are under siege, complete siege. And an attack, with different kinds of missiles, and bombs and rockets, and forbidden, internationally forbidden, bullets.

Diane Sawyer: Are you worried that other groups are talking control of the streets and that you can’t …

Yasser Arafat: No they are participating.

Diane Sawyer: But you’re not worried

Yasser Arafat: No. Why to be worried ?

Diane Sawyer: …and maybe they’re out of control and that at some point it can’t be contained, it can’t be stabilized.

Yasser Arafat: Not to forget that our people made their intifada before my arrival seven year continuously. Did you foget it? Nobody can forget it. When Mahatma — when the Indians made their intifada, their uprising — for six months, they wrote many books about. The most important is that we, all of us, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the other Arabs, the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians the other co-sponsors and the non-aligned countries: to help us to follow the acurate lines of the peace process.

I am not asking the moon. I am asking for what have been agreed upon to be implemented and . This is what has been agreed upon at Sharm el-Sheikh, recently, the last one. President Clinton, Mubarak, King Abdullah, Kofi Annan and the European Union …

Diane Sawyer: What do you think of Ehud Barak, what kind of man do you think he is?

Yasser Arafat: What I am looking for is to find the man I used to respect his signature, like my partner Rabin who lost his life for the peace of the brave.

Diane Sawyer: Your trip to the United States — what you hope to accomplish?

Yasser Arafat: To continue what we have agreed upon in Sharm el-Sheikh.and before Sharm el-Sheikh. To push forward the peace process and to protect it in the accurate line, not under the threat of the tanks and the missiles and the the artilleries and the rockets and the helicopters.

Diane Sawyer: We have today met with many people. We met with the brother of one of the soldiers who were killed at the police station.

Yasser Arafat:Yes. And you know that I had arrested those who did this crime. And I was completely against it. And we declared our official condemnation. And don’t forget that also a bus full of Israeli soldiers and one officer, about 32 persons, I sent my people to Tulkarim to save all of them. And 34 of the settlers, armed settlers who returned back to occupy Joseph’s Tomb, I saved all of them. The American Administration contacted us to save them.

Diane Sawyer: And in the United States, when they say that Barak went very far out on the limb … that went very far proposing things that are in fact were fairly perilous for him…

Yasser Arafat: No, they are wrong. Sorry to say it. What we had agreed upon in Madrid conference, land for peace according to (242) and (338) — this had been agreed upon with Egyptians, with Jordanian, and a part of it with the Syrians and completely withdrawal from all the south of Lebanon. Except with us they are not implementing what had been agreed upon. And that was what was the platform of the Madrid conference when President Bush invited us.

Diane Sawyer: We also talked to the Rabin women, and they said that if they could ask you one thing it would be this: Would you publicly call for the end of violence in the street at least until the anniversary of their father and husband’s death?

Yasser Arafat: First of all before asking me this she has to ask Barak to take over and take away all his tanks and rifles and artilleries and rockets far away from our children and our people.

Diane Sawyer: And to clear up, so if Barak called you tomorrow and said let’s meet togther, you me, again…

Yasser Arafat: Yesterday I heard that he is specially envoy in this office.

Diane Sawyer: So would meet with him if he called?

Yasser Arafat: If it necessary why not. I am ready to go to Sharm el-Sheikh again.

Diane Sawyer: And if you could send message to him tonight what would it be?

Yasser Arafat: Stop the war against our people.