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Interview with Judy Barsalou, United States Institute of Peace - 2003-05-29


The success of the U.S.-backed “road map” to peace is dependent upon Palestinians and Israelis working together. Joining VOA-TV’s David Borgida to discuss the challenge is Judy Barsalou of the United States Institute of Peace.

MR. BORGIDA
And now joining us, Judy Barsalou of the United States Institute of Peace. Thanks for joining us.

MS. BARSALOU
My pleasure, David.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's jump right into it. Can Prime Minister Abbas -- we'll begin with him -- do what he hopes to do, which is to rein in the terrorism?

MS. BARSALOU
Well, I think he's going to need some help. He's going to need some cooperation from the Israelis, frankly. It's a tough job under any circumstances, but as long as assassinations and incursions continue to be pursued by the Israelis, I think it's going to be really tough for him to bring his own people in line.

MR. BORGIDA
And I think our reporter used the words "lay the foundation for the President's trip." If that's going to be a real challenge, how can it all lay the foundation for the President's trip if it's going to take the Israelis and the Palestinians working in concert to do just that? It sounds like a tough challenge.

MS. BARSALOU
Yes. And when you have events like these coming up, with summit meetings and visits, high-level American politicians and diplomats and so forth, unfortunately that often provides opportunities for extremists from both sides to act out in an effort to derail the whole process.

MR. BORGIDA
As we've seen the process month after month, year after year, let's face it, that has been the cycle of violence that has plagued the region for so long. Let's talk about what Mr. Sharon can do, what Israel can do, to pave the way for the President's trip.

MS. BARSALOU
Well, I think he can continue to make some statements that indicate a willingness on Israel's side to abide by the roadmap. There have been quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on that subject in Israel, with 14 different reservations being released by the Israeli Government about the roadmap. A clear statement of unequivocal support would really open up the situation I think.

MR. BORGIDA
So, let's move a little bit forward to next week if we could. And presuming that each side can do something to create a better atmosphere in which the President can come in and make some progress, what then must President Bush do to move the process along?

MS. BARSALOU
President Bush is looking I think for a clear statement from each party of a commitment to the roadmap as it has been formulated. And I don't think he is looking at this point for actual steps on the ground, because I think that's too much to expect. He's looking for firm statements of commitment, however, to the roadmap.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk about this expectation game, because clearly no one on any side at this point is looking for peace to break out next week. But certainly there is a sense that this is an encouraging development. There is a sense of optimism that these meetings are taking place. From President Bush's perspective, he goes over there, there is the appropriate rhetoric on both sides, but not much develops. I'm still talking in a speculative way. He comes back. Does that hurt his ability to make foreign policy work, to effect change? How does it affect the U.S. as a mediator in this situation?

MS. BARSALOU
I think the U.S. is in a very good position to mediate this conflict. It's the only power in the world that I think Israel will respond to on this issue. Clearly the Europeans and the Quartet, as a team, is not sufficient. It really takes U.S. leadership. And I don't think that Bush is in danger of expending too much of his capital in this case, because everyone understands that this is an extremely difficult -- maybe you would say an intractable -- conflict. And it's going to be a tough one to resolve. And I think Bush will actually be given some credit for having tried even if he fails.

MR. BORGIDA
The G-8 is meeting in France. The President will be stopping by. Clearly they will be talking about Iraq and events there. But one would think that the Middle East would be coming up as well. Is there anything the G-8 [can do] in the way of statement -- which is often what they do, issue a declaration at the end of a meeting? Is that going to be helpful in any way?

MS. BARSALOU
I think any sort of sign from the international community, from any quarter of the international community at this point, in support of a mediated process is going to be positive.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, we all look forward to some positive steps coming out of this. Judy Barsalou of the United States Institute of Peace, a Middle East analyst. Thanks so much for your views. We appreciate it.

MS. BARSALOU
My pleasure.

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