George Stephanopoulos' One-on-One with Benjamin Netanyahu
Full Transcript of Interview with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
April 19, 2010—
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down for an interview with "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos on April 18, 2010. The following transcript of their interview has been edited for clarity.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for doing this.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Thank you. Good to be with you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's pretty clear that the U.S.-Israel relationship has & hit some hard bumps in recent weeks. Who's to blame for that?
NETANYAHU: Oh God. I think with any family, with any relationship, the relationship of allies, even your relatives, you have ups and downs. You have disagreements. But I think this relationship between the United States of America and the people of Israel is rock solid. We & have a great & I would say a great conformity of interests and values that will & get us through this. And we'll try to work out the disagreements in a way that is commensurate with that spirit.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about some of the disagreements. The President -- you met with the President on March 23rd. It was an extraordinary visit-- to the White House and no public pictures. The President apparently kept you waiting-- while he went up and had dinner and left you waiting in the Roosevelt Room.
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By Steven J. Rosen | April 21, 2010 | Permalink
Obama's Counterproductive Settlements Ultimatum
History shows that progress toward Middle East peace happens when U.S. presidents use finesse, not unreasonable demands, to move negotiations forward.
BY STEVEN J. ROSEN |
FOREIGN POLICY APRIL 1, 2010
U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to confront Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israeli construction activity in East Jerusalem has been greeted by a hail of praise, especially from people impatient to proceed with peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The belief seems to be that meeting this issue head-on will accelerate progress toward an agreement ending a conflict that has festered for generations. The historical record suggests a different conclusion.
The assumption that a faceoff over construction in Jerusalem will advance negotiations has not been subjected to much scrutiny. But the last two decades show that progress has occurred not when this issue was put first, but when it was finessed and left for the final status negotiations on Jerusalem.
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By Steven J. Rosen | April 14, 2010 | Permalink
Laura Rozen Politico
March 28, 2010
Fierce debate on Israel underway inside Obama administration
Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tense visit to the White House last week, an intense debate inside the Obama administration about how to proceed with Netanyahu to advance the Middle East peace process has grown more heated, even as Israeli officials are expected to announce they have reached some sort of agreement with Washington as soon as tonight.
Sources say within the inter-agency process, White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross is staking out a position that Washington needs to be sensitive to Netanyahu's domestic political constraints including over the issue of building in East Jerusalem in order to not raise new Arab demands, while other officials aligned with Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell are arguing Washington needs to hold firm in pressing Netanyahu for written commitments to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
POLITICO spoke with several officials who confirmed the debate and its intensity. Ross did not respond to a query, nor did a spokesman for George Mitchell.
"He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu's coalition politics than to U.S. interests," one U.S. official told POLITICO Saturday. "And he doesn't seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration."
Last week, during U.S.-Israeli negotiations during Netanyahu's visit and subsequent internal U.S. government meetings, the official said, Ross "was always saying about how far Bibi could go and not go. So by his logic, our objectives and interests were less important than pre-emptive capitulation to what he described as Bibi's coalition's red lines."
Ross, the U.S. official continued, "starts from the premise that U.S. and Israeli interests overlap by something close to 100 percent. And if we diverge, then, he says, the Arabs increase their demands unreasonably. Since we can't have demanding Arabs, therefore we must rush to close gaps with the Israelis, no matter what the cost to our broader credibility."
A second official confirmed the internal discussion and general outlines of the debate.
Obviously at every stage of the process, the Obama Middle East team faces tactical decisions about what to push for, who to push, how hard to push, he said. Those are the questions.
As to which argument best reflects the wishes of the President, the first official said, "As for POTUS, what happens in practice is that POTUS, rightly, gives broad direction. He doesn't, and shouldn't, get bogged down in minutiae. But Dennis uses the minutiae to blur the big picture … And no one asks the question: why, since his approach in the Oslo years was such an abysmal failure, is he back, peddling the same snake oil?"
The surfacing of the fierce internal debate underway comes as sources said that the Israeli government is expected to announce as soon as Sunday or Monday that it has struck a deal with Washington on U.S. requests for confidence building steps to advance peace talks.
But officials even disagreed over the nature of the deal or understanding reached.
"There's no deal as would be understood by most," the first U.S. official said. "That is, there's no shared, negotiated and agreed document. Instead, the Israelis have told us a few things we accept as positive, along with much we don't. So I expect you'll see us put out something that emphasizes our acceptance of only part of whatever the Israelis say."
On Friday, before details of the internal administration debate surfaced and in response to Israeli news reports that a spokesman for the Prime Minister had suggested an understanding had already been reached between the Israeli and American governments, a White House spokesman said there was no deal yet.
"United States policy on Jerusalem has not changed," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said by email. "We have not reached any understandings on this issue with the Israeli Government. This is an issue on which the US government has had long-standing differences with multiple Israeli governments and the President believes that the only way for the parties to resolve these issues is by returning to negotiations. That's why we've been talking to the Israelis about how to create an atmosphere that will allow the negotiations to succeed. Those conversations have been productive and will continue, as will our conversations with the Palestinians, about how to make the talks successful."
By Steven J. Rosen | March 28, 2010 | Permalink
Here is the transcript of an interesting debate about Iran, between Michael Ledeen, the leading advocate of a strategy of regime change, and Flynt Leverett, the leading proponent of the theory that a grand bargain with Iran is possible.
By Steven J. Rosen | March 4, 2010 | Permalink
Those who found my recent piece, "Barack Obama: More AIPAC than J-Street" interesting, may find further evidence in the fact that J-Street was not invited to Vice President Biden's meeting with community leaders yesterday. Accoding to Politico, "Among those who attended the powwow yesterday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations's Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein, the Orthodox Union's Nathan Diament, the Jewish Federation of North America's Kathy Manning, AIPAC's Lee Rosenberg, the Reform Jewish Movement's Rabbi David Saperstein, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's Rabbi Steven Wernick, former Congressman Robert Wexler, as well as long-time Biden friends Jack Rosen, formerly with the American Jewish Committee, and philanthropist and Democratic donor Haim Saban. Among those who attended from the White House: Dennis Ross, the NSC's senior Iran and wider regional strategist, NSC Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Daniel Shapiro, Biden and his longtime advisor Tony Blinken.
By Steven J. Rosen | March 3, 2010 | Permalink
Josh Rogin, who took over The Cable blog at Foreign Policy when Laura Rozen defected to Politico, just published a handy guide to the key people working the Iran issue in the Obama administration.
Here are key excerpts:
Bill Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs
Burns is the administration lead on the multilateral process to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions. His primary, but not exclusive role is to lead the U.S. in the P5+1 talks (the permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany). A skilled diplomat, he was previously
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By Steven J. Rosen | February 12, 2010 | Permalink
Mideast Envoy George Mitchell made some interesting observations in an interview with Charlie Rose.
Obama's Demand for a Settlement Freeze
Charlie Rose: The New York Times editorial [says] that the past year has not been successful because the administration stressed a settlement freeze....By focusing on a settlement freeze, which Israelis were unlikely to agree to, you created disappointment from the beginning, because it was an unachievable objective.
George Mitchell: If you want to get 60 percent, do you begin by asking for 60 percent?
Charlie Rose: No. You ask for a hundred.
George Mitchell: Oh, there you go, Charlie. You've already figured out negotiations. So what we got was -- what we got was a moratorium, ten months, far less than what was requested, but more significant than any action taken by any previous government of Israel for the 40 years that the settlement enterprise has existed, ten months of no new starts in the West Bank, less than what we asked, much, much greater than any prior government has done. And we think over time it's going to make a significant difference on the ground.
Getting Talks Started
Charlie Rose: You hope to accomplish this in two years. The moratorium is for ten months....That gives you an incentive to say to the parties ...better get something done before the moratorium ends because I don't know if we can get it again.
George Mitchell: Charlie, will you come with me on my next visit and make that little spiel? Because it might sound better coming from you. I have made it several times....We have suggested to the Israelis .. a series of steps and actions that they could take that would encourage President Abbas to enter the—
Charlie Rose: So why can't you tell me what they are, that's my question.
George Mitchell: Well because I want to discuss it with them before I discuss it you.
George Mitchell: ...Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1980....for the Israelis, what they're building in, is in part of Israel. Now, the others don't see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject. ...The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in or construction in East Jerusalem. They don't regard that as a settlement because they think it's part of Israel....
Charlie Rose: So you're going to let them go ahead even though no one recognized the annexation.
George Mitchell: When you say let them go ahead, it's what they regard as their country. They don't regard -- they don't say they're letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan or in the Bronx or --
Charlie Rose: But don't the international rules have something to do with what somebody can do to define as their country?
George Mitchell: There are disputed legal issues. .. And we could spend the next 14 years arguing over disputed legal issues or we can try to get a negotiation to resolve them in a manner that meets the aspirations of both societies. .
Deadline or Target Date
George Mitchell: We think that the negotiation should last no more than two years, once begun we think it can be done within that period of time. We hope the parties agree.
George Mitchell...Until now, the Syrians want to complete the indirect talks through Turkey that began in 2008 ... The Israelis prefer immediate and direct negotiations with the Syrians, not completing the indirect process through the Turks. ..And I will be going to both Israel and Syria on my upcoming visit to try to further this process. And we are prepared to do it in any manner which is acceptable to the two sides. So far they have not found a formula that would enable them to get into it. ... And we believe that an Israel-Syria track could operate in parallel with an Israeli-Palestinian track on discussions.
Prisoner Exchange with Hamas
Charlie Rose: There is the talk of a prisoner exchange. Would that build confidence in the Israelis could get the Hamas prisoner back?
George Mitchell: Well, that will not build confidence with the Palestinian authority because it will, in fact, be seen as a validation of Hamas' tactics, which is violence resistance. ...It's an excruciatingly difficult decision because it does send the message that their violent resistance has paid off. And of course it will lead others around the world to seek more hostages. And that's one of the toughest things that -- decisions that the prime minister has to make. And we accept the reality that he's got to keep making this effort. But what we think is that there should also be actions taken with respect to the Palestinian authority, which believes in peaceful negotiation. And that's the approach that ought to be rewarded.
U.S. Pressure on Israel
George Mitchell: The reality is that, yes, of course the United States has both carrots and sticks, you have to be very careful about how and when you use them and apply [inaudible] -- ...Under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel. President George W. Bush did so...On one occasion... That's one mechanism that has been publicly discussed, there are others. And you have to keep open whatever options, but our view is that, we think the way to approach this is to try to persuade the parties what is in their self interests.
Obama's Popularity in Israel
Charlie Rose: Why is President Obama's popularity so low in Israel? It's four percent.
George Mitchell: No, that's completely false...Several polls that I've seen in the past month show that he is—I'll give you the numbers, 49 favorable, 45 unfavorable, 43 favorable, 37 unfavorable; it's a reasonable. A plurality support him in Israel and a small plurality oppose him.
By Steven J. Rosen | January 7, 2010 | Permalink
Special Envoy George Mitchell, in an interview with the Center for American Progress published on December 1, 2009, raised the possibility of "parallel talks between the U.S. and Israel and the U.S. and the Palestinians on key issues ." Here are excerpts of the interview:
Framework for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
Q: You've spoken about multiple levels of negotiations, whether bilateral, multilateral, or back-to-back between the U.S. and each of the parties. Can you tell us more about what kind of negotiations you envision if you can get the parties to the table?
A: We have always intended for negotiations to proceed on a variety of tracks. These will include high-level direct talks to establish a framework for the negotiations and set a positive atmosphere in which they can proceed; parallel talks between the U.S. and Israel and the U.S. and the Palestinians on key issues, such as security; and lower-level direct talks in which negotiators work through the details of the
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By Steven J. Rosen | December 28, 2009 | Permalink
Haaretz reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Asharq Al-Awsat, "I negotiated with [Olmert] and felt we could have reached an agreement." Abbas said a meeting had been scheduled to take place between negotiators Shalom Turgeman and Saeb Erekat, but that the start of Israel's offensive in Gaza effectively ended negotiations.
By Steven J. Rosen | December 20, 2009 | Permalink
Netanyahu's New Agreement with Mitchell
BY STEVEN J. ROSEN
Foreign Policy DECEMBER 18, 2009
For a year or two at an early stage in his career, I commuted to and from our adjacent offices each morning and evening with Martin Indyk, later a top peace-process official of the Clinton administration at the Camp David negotiations and now vice president for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. I had just left the Rand Corporation to work at AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington.
Even in those pre-Oslo days of 1982 to 1983, Martin was a True Believer in the idea of a grand land-for-peace bargain between Israel and moderate Palestinians. Reviewing each day the latest installments in the Middle East epic as we rolled down Rock Creek Parkway, we argued all the way. I heaped scorn on any solution that required Israel to trust Palestinian intentions, and I held that Israel's security could only be based on a qualitative military edge and the balance of power. I told Martin that he and our mutual friends Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, and Dan Kurtzer, though with the noblest of intentions, were pursuing an illusion.
Martin emphatically thought I was wrong about the Middle East, and he also thought I was blind to an enduring reality in Washington. He said that Democratic and Republican administrations of the left and right may come and go, and some presidents will have less confidence in Middle East peacemaking than others, but no U.S. president will be able to sustain a policy of benign neglect of the peace process for long. The American people, the United States' European allies, and U.S. friends in the Arab world all need to have a ray of hope. They need to believe that active diplomacy under U.S. leadership is bringing closer a resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, because it is a conflict that roils other American interests and destabilizes U.S. relations in the region and throughout the world. Martin often cited our friend, the late Peter Rodman, who taught us that U.S. policy in the Middle East is a bicycle. You can keep your balance if you roll forward even at a snail's pace, but if you try to stand still you will fall off.
Martin never did succeed in converting me to the peace camp, but over time I saw the undeniable evidence that he was right about the imperatives of U.S. foreign policy. Sooner or later, every president turns to the peace process, and the Mideast advisors who move to the president's inner circle are the ones he thinks have the best ideas about how to move forward toward a contractual peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
I think Benjamin Netanyahu has gone through a personal evolution a little like my own. He continues to be profoundly skeptical that signing a piece of paper can put an end to this conflict. He is a fierce advocate of defensible borders and military strength as the true guarantors of Israel's security. Nevertheless, he has come back to a second term as prime minister with a deeper appreciation of the reality that his relations with the United States, Europe, and moderate Arab neighbors depend on the perception that he can be a partner in the search for diplomatic progress with the Palestinians. And he certainly knows that many harbor doubts about him.
That is why Bibi agreed to do something unprecedented, something that six previous
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By Steven J. Rosen | December 19, 2009 | Permalink