Accessibility links

Interview with Ambassador David Ransom - 2002-04-18


NARRATOR:
Ambassador, thank you for joining us.

Your assessment, please, of the just completed mission to the Middle East of Secretary of State Colin Powell?

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
"My assessment is that it was not completed and that what he went out there to do he didn't do, and that there is a great deal of disappointment on the American side about this outcome. I'm very sorry to see this, because it could well, as things have a way of doing, turn worse in the Middle East rather than turn better."

NARRATOR:
So, you had high expectations? There were a number of analysts and diplomats who have said he goes into this with low expectations, that one shouldn't expect things to turn around.

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
"I never want to make the best the enemy of the good in the Middle East, because then you would get no place. But I did think that an agreement might be possible, a limited agreement that would take us on to another stage."

NARRATOR:
A cease-fire agreement?

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
"A cease-fire agreement in particular. And I felt that that was something that had to be matched by a promise to withdraw on the part of the Israelis. Now, maybe this is a chicken and the egg situation, in which one side didn't want to go before the other. But the net result is that Mr. Arafat is left in an isolated position in Ramallah, when he refused to go along with proposals the Americans had made for a cease-fire.

I'm not privy to all of this, but I would point out that in the run-up to this effort the American President had offered many things -- support for a Palestinian state, even a vote for it in the Security Council; words calling for an end of occupation; words calling for an end of settlements; a clear reengagement in the whole process in dealings with President Arafat. So there was more than enough in the way of U.S. initiatives, and I am only sorry that the reaction on Mr. Arafat's part was not what I had hoped."

NARRATOR:
Ambassador, both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accuse the other of being a terrorist.

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
"That's right."

NARRATOR:
And clearly, as you say, the Powell trip was not as successful as you would have hoped. Is there anything that you have thought through, being a veteran diplomat in the region, that could jump start things? Or are we on a slope now that doesn't see any fruit at the end of this?

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
"The basic problem that the President faced at the outset of this was that neither party really seemed to want to talk to the other or make commitments to the other. And the President's initial reaction was not to engage in a situation in which failure was the inevitable outcome. He reversed that position, and I think he was wise to do so. And I think he must continue to stay involved in this way.

The peace process has not nine lives but many more than that, and it will come back, I think, in other forums. But I think, in the short term, the outlook is very grim right now."

NARRATOR:
Can the moderate Arab states -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, I believe Mr. Powell's last stop on his way back to Washington -- can they do more to stop terrorism; in particular, this notion of providing funds to those Palestinians who died, which has really been a tough issue for the Israelis to deal with?

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
"One of the things that Mr. Powell was talking about is the rehabilitation of the destruction on the West Bank and the recovery of the people who have been affected so brutally by the occupation of their homes and cities and towns by the Israeli Army. So I think there is clearly a role for Arab money in that area, as well as for other outside funds. But the issue really is, how do you get a political process started when both sides are so angry at each other and so embittered, when neither side seems to be able to take the demands of the other side seriously?

I think that in the Arab world today there is a basis for going ahead, for a kind of process that would result in a two-state solution, one is an Israeli and a Jewish state, the other is a Palestinian and an Arab and a Muslim state -- by and large, Muslim. And that is a basis on which to erect talks and discussions. And I hope it comes to that again."

NARRATOR:
Ambassador, thank you.

AMBASSADOR RANSOM:
Thank you very much.

XS
SM
MD
LG