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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Interview With Tony Blair; Interview With Turkish Foreign Minister
Aired June 6, 2010 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world.
I'm Fareed Zakaria.
Today, Israel, its enforcement of the Gaza blockade, and the tragedy that ensued.
You know, everybody talks about American foreign policy and its unilateralism, but this recent episode shows that other countries have some of the same tendencies with similarly negative results. Whatever the legal justification for the raid on the flotilla, Israel did something that was politically disastrous for itself.
The great European statesman Talleyrand once described a similar act this way: "It's worse than a crime," he said. "It's a blunder."
For decades now, Israel has been moving towards military solutions to problems that are best solved politically. And the raid of the flotilla is just the most recent example of unilateral military action that has not worked.
Think of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the one that created Hezbollah. Then, the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the 2008 attack on Gaza. None of these large military actions solved the Israelis' immediate problems. All of them caused new difficulties.
In fact, think of the original military action at the heart of all this, the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza itself. What has it given Israel but trouble over the last four decades? That's why, by the way, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding father, was opposed to that annexation from the start.
Now, the convoy to Gaza was a problem, but one best solved with negotiations, not deadly military force. There was no imminent threat to Israeli lives that necessitated military action, but it does seem that Israel has gotten used to a self-defeating spiral in which it shoots first and deals with the fallout afterwards.
But Turkey was also playing a new and potentially dangerous game here. Despite being physically and historically connected to Europe, Turkey's increasingly playing a role that distances itself from those roots. Once a strong U.S. ally, a founding member of NATO, Turkey now looks like a troublemaker than a friend. Having begged for membership in the European Union, having fulfilled every condition placed on it by Brussels, Turkey has been repeatedly rebuffed and humiliated by Europe. So, now, the Turks seem to have decided to go their own way.
The United States, for its part, did not handle Turkish relations well, especially under the previous administration. The Bush team treated Turkey with the usual mixture of arrogance and highhandedness, and then was outraged when the Turkish parliament refused to go along with its war plans in Iraq. Then they repeatedly snubbed Turkey over the next few years.
Now Turkey is returning the favor, moving away from the West and seeking a new role as a Middle Eastern power, centralization (ph) power. It's economically strong, politically stable, and ideologically confident under a government that has roots in an Islamist movement.
The result of all this, the Middle East's two most successful countries, once allies, are swiftly turning into hardened adversaries. Not a good portend for the future.
We have got an important show this week to explore all of it: former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who now represents the U.S., the EU, the U.N., and Russia in seeking a Palestinian state; one of the central figures in the whole conflict, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu; and then a heated debate on U.S./Israeli relations with Elliott Abrams and Peter Beinart.
You don't want to miss any of this. Let's get started.
And now I welcome former British prime minister Tony Blair, who's been playing a key role in the back-and-forth between Israel and the angry war this week. He serves as the representative for the United States, Russia, Europe and the U.N. to prepare the Palestinians for statehood. Mr. Blair met with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday.
Welcome, Mr. Blair.
TONY BLAIR, FMR. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Israel has -- Prime Minister Netanyahu has just rejected the calls for an international commission and investigation that the U.N. proposed.
Where do we go from here?
BLAIR: Well, I think, Fareed, there are two real questions here that have to be addressed. One is obviously the question of an investigation into what has happened as something that's being discussed with the United Nations secretary-general, the Turkish government, the Israeli government, the United States, and so on.
The second part, which is the bit that I'm really focused on, is, what do we now do about Gaza? And, in particular, how do we get a more rational, a more balanced policy towards Gaza that protects Israel's security, because Israel has a right to protect its security, but also allows people in Gaza to lead some sort of more normal daily life, and to start to rebuild their lives, frankly, after the troubles of the past few years?
ZAKARIA: Prime Minister Netanyahu, in your meeting, apparently talked about a proposal that perhaps you could have some kind of international force that would inspect ships that were headed into Gaza, toward Gaza, for the future.
Can you confirm that he actually proposed that?
BLAIR: Well, that's one of the options that he's looking at. And, obviously, the international community is keen to bring as much objectivity, if you like, into this situation as possible.
But the real problem is this -- that what we've got to do is create a situation in which people in Gaza that are ruled now by Hamas, after the Hamas takeover, unlawful takeover, actually, in 2007, where people in Gaza have some sort of hope, some help for the future, some prospect for the future. And then, of course, it's our task to get the overall negotiation for the two-state solution going again, which is what Senator George Mitchell is working on right now.
So, it's, if you like, we both have got to get the Gaza part in a different and better place for the sake of people in Gaza, but then also readdress ourselves to the central question, which is, how do you get that two-state solution that everyone wants to see?
ZAKARIA: Do you think that the United States should call for an end to the blockade in Gaza?
BLAIR: Well, I think the U.S. is calling for what everyone else is calling for, which is a change of policy there. I mean, quite how you define the blockade is sometimes a matter of words.
The central thing is to distinguish between issues to do with security. Right?
The fact is, we know that there are people who would bring weapons and arms into Gaza. There are people who fire rockets out of Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians. So, Israel has a complete right and, indeed, a duty to protect itself against weapons or arms or other material that can be abused for destructive purposes coming into Gaza.
The thing is, to distinguish between that and checking the material that comes in, in order to ensure that Israel isn't threatened with the types of things that people need in Gaza right now. So, we're working on proposals, along with the United Nations, to rebuild the sanitation in Gaza -- power, water, rebuilding homes that have been destroyed in the recent operation there, making sure that legitimate business in Gaza, people who want to grow agricultural produce or produce goods where there's no security threat and no security problem, this part of normal life has to return to Gaza. And if it does -- ZAKARIA: But the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" says that Israel's policy toward Gaza is not simply one of protection, it is a deliberate policy of no development, no prosperity, because what it wishes to do is to show that Gaza, under Hamas, turns into a hellhole and the West Bank prospers.
Is that fair? Is that a fair characterization?
BLAIR: Well, it's precisely the limitations of that policy that are now apparent. And what people like myself have been arguing for, now for the best part of two years, is that it is, of course, right that we make huge progress on the West Bank and, indeed, we are making progress on the West Bank. West Bank growth now is around about 10 percent.
I've just come back from Palestine where, in Bethlehem, we held a major investment conference for people who want to invest in Palestine. The way the Palestinian Authority is handling security on the West Bank is great portend for the future.
So, there is good stuff happening on the West Bank, but it's always been a mistaken belief that you push ahead in the West Bank and leave Gaza completely isolated. In the end, what you have to do is, even with the problems there with Hamas, you have to bring people in Gaza to understand that there is an alternative, it is a better way forward. But if they become completely isolated, the danger is not that they turn then towards a more sensible, more moderate path. The danger is then that extremism grows.
ZAKARIA: Do you think Turkey is handling this situation understandably and responsibly, or is it overreacting?
BLAIR: Look, if your citizens are killed in this way, a government is going to react strongly and fiercely. And that is what Turkey has done. But I really do hope that once this immediate issue has settled down, that we get back to good relations between Turkey and Israel.
This is something I know the Israeli government values. It was one of the factors that really helped towards stability in this situation, that Turkey and Israel had this almost unique relationship, if you like. And I hope the sooner we get back to that, the better. It would massively in the interest of the overall process.
ZAKARIA: And do you that this incident can in some way open up opportunities for Palestinians? The phrase I'm using is from President Obama's interview with Larry King.
BLAIR: Well, I think there is a chance that we both get to a better policy in respect to Gaza. And then, also, we carry on with the policies that we proved actually work on the West Bank, which is the Palestinians doing security, building capacity, the so-called bottom-up approach that I believe so passionately in, the economy then moving forward. And if that happens, then people in Palestinian start to see that the prospect of an independent Palestinian state, living side by side with a secure Israel, is not a pipe dream, it is not an impossible vision, it's something that they can actually attain. And once that happens, once you get an alignment between the on-the-ground reality and the vision people are striving to negotiate, then you've got a prospect of peace.
If there is a misalignment between those two things -- and, of course, there is at the moment in Gaza -- then what ordinary Palestinians feel is, well, this is -- you know, you tell us about a two-state solution, but we're nowhere near one.
ZAKARIA: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, thank you, as always.
BLAIR: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is widely credited with steering his country toward a new foreign policy. Some say a Middle Eastern foreign policy.
He joins us from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the Organization of the Islamic Conference just concluded a meeting to discuss the Gaza situation.
Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us.
AHMET DAVUTOGLU, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, TURKEY: Thank you. Thank you very much.
ZAKARIA: Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected the call for an international commission. So, now where do we stand? What would it take for Turkey to now restore relations with Israel, send its ambassador back? What does Israel have to do?
DAVUTOGLU: I think, first of all, we have to understand what has happened. And a civilianship was attacked by Israeli forces in international waters, high sea, 72 miles away from the Israeli coast. And according to international law and custom, this is a crime. And nine civilians who were killed.
Now, there is a question, who is accountable for this action?
We are acting together against the piracy off Somalia. Now, how can we identify this action?
Turkey has requested an independent investigation for this, and we will insist on this. We are grateful to the U.N. secretary-general because of his effort to establish a commission to investigate the case.
We are not -- we are ready to cooperate with any commission which is independent, transparent and efficient. Therefore, we supported this initiative of the U.N. secretary-general. Yesterday, he called our prime minister, and our prime minister gave full support to this initiative.
We want to know the facts. If Israel rejects these, it means it's also another proof of their guilt. They are not self-confident to face the facts.
We are ready. And Turkey, the international community, many other actors called for this independent inquiry, and Turkey supports this.
And this is not an issue between Turkey and Israel, because there were civilians from 32 countries in these ships. It is a problem between Israel and international community. It is a problem between Israel and international law.
Therefore, it is the mission of the United Nations, based on the presidential statement toward the first of May there should be inquired. We will continue to work for this.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister, is it possible that on this issue, over this issue, Turkey may break relations with Israel all together?
DAVUTOGLU: It depends on Israeli reaction. Look, Israel -- one of the reason why Israel is implementing blockade against Gaza is Gilad Shalit case.
One Israeli soldier was captured by Hamas in 2006. For the last four years, Israel made it an important case, and we respect this. But they also should respect to our request why our nine civilians were killed in international waters in high sea.
Nobody can touch. No country has right to touch ships traveling in international waters, and nobody has the right to kill our citizens.
Therefore, we will follow this case and we will insist to have any independent commission to study this case. We will take all international legal action to defend the rights of our citizens.
Mr. Zakaria, it is very important for Turkey, because in the history of Turkish republic, the first time our citizens were attacked by a state intentionally and being targeted. During the Cold War, we had problems with Soviet Union, and we were members of -- as a member of NATO, of course, we had difficult times with Soviet Union. But Soviet Union did not kill any of our citizens.
Now there are nine Turkish citizens who were killed by Israelis, by state action. It is not a terrorist group, it is a state who acted against our citizens, and we will follow this case in all international forums.
ZAKARIA: One of the citizens had an American passport.
DAVUTOGLU: Yes, that's right.
ZAKARIA: Do you believe that the United States government -- is the United States government responding adequately? You initially said that you were unhappy with the American response.
DAVUTOGLU: Yes, you are right. One citizen has dual citizenship. He was (INAUDIBLE). He was American citizen, as well. Therefore, the American administration has certain responsibility, of course, to respond to the request of the family of its citizen, yes. And, until now, of course, we were expecting a much more proactive approach in responding to this crisis.
ZAKARIA: And so far, you still feel the American response is inadequate?
DAVUTOGLU: No. We had a good cooperation where the America administration.
I had a very good meeting with Secretary Clinton. President Obama called our prime minister, especially regarding to rescue our citizens and other passengers from Israel, taking them back to Turkey.
We are grateful for their support. But, unfortunately, we are very, very upset because of their vote no rejecting the emotion in human rights council in Geneva for establishing a fact-finding mission. We were expecting full support from our American allies, of course.
ZAKARIA: There are some reports, Mr. Foreign Minister, that there is going to be another flotilla, a Turkish flotilla, that approaches Gaza. And Prime Minister Erdogan is going to be on it.
Can you confirm that?
DAVUTOGLU: No. No. No, no, no, no. Prime Minister Erdogan doesn't have such an intention.
And, again, let me underline, this freedom flotilla was absolutely an NGO activity. As the Turkish government, we didn't encourage them, but it was a civilian activity. We are a democratic society. We cannot stop any protester, even in the streets of Istanbul.
So, it is absolutely an NGO activity. It was a civilian and international activity. Therefore, we cannot say anything against them.
If there is a new attempt again within the framework of this civilian approach, we cannot say anything against them. But if another country attacks this civilian convoy, and kills our citizens, of course, we have full right to ask why.
Did they send a rocket to Israel during this protest, or during this convoy to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza? Did they send rocket to Israel? No.
Did they violate Israeli territory? No.
Did they violate (INAUDIBLE) territorial seat? No.
Did they harm any society (ph)? No.
Why were they killed? This is a very good question, and we will ask this question all in international forums.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back in just a moment with more from the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Mr. Foreign Minister, an Israeli official has described the Turkish NGO that sponsored this flotilla as an organization with ties to terror groups.
Can you confirm or deny that?
DAVUTOGLU: How can we call them a terrorist group if there is one Nobel winner in the group and there is a very high level representative of the Catholic Church and there are members of parliament from Europe? There are several leading intellectuals and journalists.
If anybody wants, I think they should look at the list of the passengers. And I am challenging -- there's a very good question here. If somebody argues that there is a terrorist in the ship, they can give the names to Turkey and we can follow the case. But if they are not terrorists, and civilians, then Israel must be accountable for it.
But if there is an acquisition of any of the passengers, let us share this. We are ready. If there are any terrorists, we are ready to investigate and to look at it. But if there is no terrorists among the passengers, then there's a question to be asked -- why did they kill them?
ZAKARIA: For decades, Mr. Foreign Minister, your country and Israel described themselves as allies.
Are you currently an ally of Israel's?
DAVUTOGLU: Not only for a long time. In 2008, Turkey was mediating in the indirect talks with Israel Syria, and I was the mediator. And Prime Minister Erdogan had several meetings with Prime Minister Olmert in 2008. And, in fact, one week before Gaza attacks by Israel, Prime Minister Erdogan, on Monday, was in the residence of -- Prime Minister Olmert was in the residence of Prime Minister Erdogan to discuss the details of the indirect talks.
So, what happened? The main change was the change of Israeli politics. When they changed their policy from the negotiations to the violence, from the peace to the tension, then, of course, we had to respond. Otherwise, both sides --
ZAKARIA: So, your problem is more with Prime Minister Netanyahu than with Israel, you think?
DAVUTOGLU: No. Any administration which uses violence and tension in our region, we will be against it. Let me share one -- another interesting issue.
In fact, on Tuesday, last week, I was supposed to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington. I changed my -- even the appointment was fixed to discuss the details of indirect talks between Israel and Syria. And we got the confirmation from Syria inside (ph), so that I was planning to come to Washington to discuss the details with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
But, on Monday, they attacked these civilian ships, civilian convoy, and they destroyed again another possibility of negotiation in our region. So, our policy is clear.
In the history, Turkish/Jewish relation was excellent. Turkey has been safe haven for many Jewish generations throughout the centuries.
Turkish relations with people of Israel is very good, as well. Israeli tourists, when they come to Turkey, they feel at home. And Turkey -- there are many Turkish origin Israeli citizens living in Israel.
But we have problems with the existing Israeli administration and policies. And Turkey was one of the first countries recognizing Israel.
But now we cannot tolerate the policies of tension, the policies of blockade against Gaza, the policies of punishment, collective punishment, of the Palestinian people, and the policy of attacking civilians in international sea, international waters. That we cannot tolerate.
Turkey has responsibilities in the surrounding regions, in Middle East, in (INAUDIBLE), in Balkans. We have historical ties, and we will not tolerate these policies. But when they are back to the negotiation table, when they are ready to implement policies in order to achieve sustainable peace in our region, Turkey will be ready to work with such an administration in Israel.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister, there are many people who believe that Turkey is turning away from the West. And I know in the break we discussed the comments I made at the beginning of the show, and you said that you wanted to comment on them. There are many people who believe you are the architect of this shift away from a Western foreign policy.
DAVUTOGLU: Let me say a few words about the assumptions you mentioned.
One is the perception that Turkey is a troublemaker. Is that right? I will give you some examples.
Turkey, as I mentioned, started and mediated in direct talks with (INAUDIBLE) Syria. Turkey organized Afghanistan/Pakistan/Turkey (INAUDIBLE) summit and regional summit this year.
Turkey has been very active in politic reconciliation in Iraq and (INAUDIBLE) elections in 2005, when there was a huge tension between Sunnis and Shiites. Turkey was very influential in the (INAUDIBLE) reconciliation. Therefore, our prime minister was invited for the ceremony, presidential ceremony of Michel Suleiman in 2008.
Turkey has been very active in Balkans, and only last month, Turkey organized a big event summit between Bosnian and Serbian presidents. Presidents Tadic and President Silajdzic met in Istanbul with our president.
Turkey has been very active when there was a war in Gaza, and, in fact, through Turkish negotiations. I am declaring here through Turkish negotiations, Hamas was convinced to accept a cease-fire.
So, in all this, again, even Croatia (ph), Turkey has been very active during the war between Georgia and Russia, and proposed a --
ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister --
DAVUTOGLU: Only two weeks ago -- just one second. Only two weeks ago, we had Somalia conference, peace conference, in Istanbul.
So, Turkey has been promoting policies of mediation, multilateralism and engagement (INAUDIBLE) resolution. We never -- in no place we made any trouble, and we are not troublemakers at all.
And Turkey is not moving away from the West. In the last seven years, Turkish/European Union relation become a relation of negotiation and full membership -- in the direction of full membership.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister, here's -- I'll make you a deal, Mr. Foreign Minister.
ZAKARIA: This is a very important topic, and you will come to New York, or I will come to Istanbul, and we will continue talking about it. But we have to get out at this point.
I should mention we had asked for an interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman, any Israeli official. Unfortunately, we were not given one. We hope to have someone on next week or the week after that.
We will be right back.
ZAKARIA: We've talked a lot about the world's reaction to the Gaza flotilla incident, but Israel's actions have also sparked a fierce internal debate among American Jews and supporters of Israel. Joining me now on either side of that debate, Elliott Abrams, the Republican foreign policy veteran of two administrations, former deputy national security adviser; and Peter Beinart, the author of a terrific new book, "The Icarus Syndrome."
Elliott, let me ask you -- Peter, in a recent article -- I think it was in "The Daily Beast" -- points out that the Gaza blockade which Israel has imposed is not simply a blockade against munitions and arms. It blockades, among other things -- these are the things Israel will not permit to enter into Gaza: cilantro, jam, sage, chocolate, dried fruits, notebooks.
What is the purpose of a blockade of such goods?
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The purpose of the blockade of Gaza, of course, is to prevent Gaza, which is already "Hamastan," from firing another 10,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.
ZAKARIA: And how will the jam and cilantro help them make those rockets?
ABRAMS: You know, I'm sure that you can find equal examples in the U.S. and U.N. blockade of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. You can always find in any government action some marginal activity, some list that you don't like. That's not the point.
The point is that Israel has stopped two Iranian ships from carrying arms to Gaza. Israel interfered, thank God, this week with a group of armed Turks who came prepared for a fight with iron bars, night vision devices, ceramic vests, despite what, frankly, are the lies that the Turkish foreign minister told on this show today.
Why is it that only Turks out of the 32 nationalities got hurt? It is because only Turks were involved in the violence.
If there is to be an international investigation, it needs to start where the ships started, in Turkey. We need to know what the Turkish government did in helping this armed group of men hijack what was supposed to be a humanitarian effort.
ZAKARIA: So, in that case, why wouldn't Prime Minister Netanyahu sign on to an investigation that would have looked into this?
ABRAMS: Because it won't. I mean, who is kidding whom, Peter? Peter knows, you know, Fareed, and Davutoglu knows himself there isn't going to be a fair international investigation.
There wasn't a fair investigation of the Gaza war. There isn't going to be a fair international investigation of the Turkish role in this. Let us not kid ourselves about this.
Israel, if it followed the whims of the international community, would have disbanded long ago after the international community voted at the U.N. that Zionism is a form of racism. It is not going to get fair treatment.
I think everybody knows that. And the attitude of the Turkish foreign minister on this show today, simply denying the fact that there was a group of 40 or 50 armed Turkish jihadis on the largest ship, proves that there is really no room here for an international investigation that is going to be at all fair.
ZAKARIA: Armed Turkish jihadis, Peter?
PETER BEINART: Well, look, I'm not making apologies for people on that ship. Some of them do seem to be armed.
But the larger question for me is not Israel's action in this particular incident, it's the context that forced Israel back into a corner into this situation. And that is a blockade that is, according to a very important investigative report by the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz," is arbitrary -- in fact, corrupt -- and far, far broader than a blockade that Elliott and I might agree would be OK if it were really focused on rockets.
In fact, what "Haaretz" and what Israeli human rights organizations have found is the Israeli agricultural lobby has a lot of influence on which goods are permitted to get in. Ninety percent of the water in Gaza is now not drinkable. Ten Israeli prize winners, Israeli academics, have protested the fact that students from Gaza are not allowed to study in the West Bank.
What on earth does this have to do with preventing Hamas rockets? All it does, it seems to me, is it blackens Israel's reputation in the international community and it violates Israel's own best tradition. And it doesn't hurt Hamas one bit.
Mahmoud Abbas, himself, says he's going to go to Gaza to try to reconcile with Hamas. How is Hamas being hurt by this?
ABRAMS: Well, I think if you look at opinion polls, it is actually hurting Hamas. Opinion polls in the last few months have suggested that people of Gaza, while they blame Israel, also blame Hamas, because they see what is happening under the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. And they know that in the Hamas-ruled area in which they live, there is no political freedom, there is no freedom of expression, and there is no economic development.
ZAKARIA: But that suggests you accept, Elliott, that the blockade is not nearly to prevent weapons from coming in, but to deliberately starve the people in Gaza to make them feel worse off.
ABRAMS: No, I would suggest that the purpose of the blockade is actually twofold.
First, security. And second, to get the kidnapped corporal, Gilad Shalit, out.
You know, those people on those ships last week were asked by Israel, by Israelis, to carry messages or food or solidarity to that boy who has been four years in solitary confinement, and they said no. That's a real measure of what kind of humanitarians they are.
Can this blockade be improved, can it be better run? Sure. And it will be.
I have no doubt that there will be changes made. But let us not turn our selves into useful idiots here and make believe that those 50 or 40 or 30 armed Turkish jihadis were there because they believe in the cause of peace any more than the people on those ships who refused solidarity to Gilad Shalit were there because they believe in international solidarity. This was an anti-Israeli activity, and the Israelis had every right to prevent it.
BEINART: With all due --
BEINART: That report about Gilad Shalit and them refusing aid has been denied pretty roundly by people involved in the Free Gaza Movement. I share your deep concern about Gilad Shalit. I believe that, in fact, we should make his return a priority, but just for the record, it's not entirely clear that that report in "Haaretz" is true.
ZAKARIA: Peter, you wrote a very powerful essay, I thought, in "The New York Review of Books" on how young American Jews are finding it very difficult to support the actions of Israel on issues like this.
Is this case one more where you think the interests of American liberalism and of American Zionism, if you will, are at odds?
BEINART: Very sadly, yes. I mean, if you look at the work that has been done on this, Zionism amongst younger secular American Jews -- and the large majority of young American Jews are secular -- is really in collapse. Partly, that's a product of simple assimilation.
But the studies have clearly shown that it's beyond assimilation. That, in fact, the series of policies that Israel has been pursuing are contrary to the best traditions of American Jewish liberalism. And it seems to me it's imperative that the leadership of the American Jewish community accept the idea that you can be a public critic of Israel and also be a Zionist. If they don't, what they will reap will be apathy, on the one hand, and more support for a non-Zionist alternative on the other.
ZAKARIA: Elliott, you can briefly respond to this, and then we've got to go.
ABRAMS: OK. I think it's quite historical.
What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn't support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.
Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn't due to anything that is going on in Israel, it's due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.
BEINART: In fact, that's really not true.
ABRAMS: Well, it is really true.
BEINART: The Democrat Party, for generations, was a bedrock of support for Israel. And it's these kids parents and grandparents. There is a significant generational shift going on.
ABRAMS: The significant generational shift is that more and more young American Jews are now Orthodox. The percentage under the age of 10 or 20 that is Orthodox is increasingly going, and they are fervently Zionists. If the Jewish liberals want to walk away from Israel, they're free to do so, but not to blame Israel for it.
ZAKARIA: All right. We have to go. We probably have to come back to this one, as well.
Peter Beinart, Elliott Abrams, thank you very much.
And we will be right back.
ZAKARIA: And now for our "What in the World?" segment.
What caught my attention this week was a topic that used to be radioactive -- nuclear energy. Nobody was for it. But recently, the secretary of energy, Steven Chu, wrote a "Wall Street Journal" editorial about the nation's nuclear future that was -- well, glowing.
OK. I'm going to stop with the nuclear puns.
But Steven Chu is not alone in praising nukes. It's amazing to see how many people are now lining up in favor of nuclear energy.
In his State of the Union speech earlier this year, President Obama called for a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants. And most of the congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle has come out in favor of nuclear energy.
You know who else is in favor of it? The American public.
A recent Gallup poll finds 62 percent of the American public is now in favor of nuclear power. That is a new high.
So, the question is, with so many people in favor, why haven't we made any progress?
No nuclear plants have been built in the United States since the 1970s. Two new reactors are planned for Augusta, Georgia, but construction is mired down in hearings, arguments over costs, lawsuits, et cetera. The expected completion date, without any further delays, which is, frankly, unlikely, 2016 for the first reactor, 2017 for the other.
The funding for those reactors was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2005. That is at least 11 years from funding to actual completion.
There is new funding coming down the pipe. President Obama's 2011 budget calls for $54 billion for 10 new plants. By the Georgia timeline, it will be at least 2022 before any of those plants start heating your home or providing electricity for you.
In the meantime, China has as many as 20 new nuclear plants under construction. Unlikely countries like Jordan and the UAE and Vietnam and Venezuela are building their own. And the United States continues to rely mostly on coal for electricity, which means we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the air. The U.S. is even shutting down nuclear reactors, like this one in Vermont and this one on Long Island was built 26 years ago, but never actually came online.
What is the problem? Basically fear. Even though nobody has ever been killed by a nuclear accident in the U.S., after the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, the American public has been scared to death of something like it happening in their own back yard.
Well, if we are going to move into the 21st century of energy, we are going to have to put nuclear reactors in someone's back yard.
We will be right back.
ZAKARIA: Coming back in just one moment on GPS, we're going to turn to something a little lighter. Lighter than air, you might say.
Just what does a volcano do after a day of angrily blowing steam, ash and hot air? You won't want to miss it.
We will be right back.
ZAKARIA: Now for our "Question of the Week."
Here's what I want to know: Do you support the new direction President Obama has taken American foreign policy in? Let me know.
Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. That way you'll never miss a show. And you cannot beat the price. It's free.
Now, as I do every week, I want to recommend a book. This one is called "The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris."
It's a wonderful book by Peter Beinart. He describes the run-up to three wars: World War I, Vietnam and Iraq. And he shows how each time, policymakers were blinded by arrogance.
Like Icarus in the title, they each flew too close to the sun. An important book with important lessons for the president.
And now for "The Last Look." What does an angry volcano do after wreaking havoc on the world, grounding millions of travelers and costing the global economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue? Well, it sits backs, relaxes, and blows a smoke ring.
American geologist Joe Licciaridi caught the rather astonishing and very rare phenomenon last month while observing the eruptions of the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano.
We all need a way to wind down after a long day at work, right?
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.
Stay tuned for "RELIABLE SOURCES."