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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Kerry: There is no Viable Alternative to Two-State Solution. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired December 28, 2016 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a time to stand up for what is right. We have long known what two-states, living side by side and peace and security looks like. We should not afraid to say so. Now, I really began to reflect on what we have learned and the way ahead when I recently joined President Obama in Jerusalem fro the state funeral for Shimon Peres. Shimon was one of the founding fathers of Israel and became one of the world's great elder statesmen -- a beautiful man. I was proud to call him my friend. And I know that President Obama was as well.
And I remember the first time that I saw Shimon in person, standing on the White House lawn for the signing of the historic Oslo accords. And I thought about the last time at an intimate, one-on-one Shabbat dinner just a few months before he died when we toasted together to the future of Israel and to the peace that he still so passionately believed in for his people.
He summed it up simply and eloquently, as only Shimon could, quote, "The original mandate gave the Palestinians 48 percent; now it's down to 22 percent. I think 78 percent is enough for us." As we laid Shimon to rest that day, many of us couldn't help but wonder if peace between Israelis and Palestinians might also be buried along with one of its most eloquent champions. We cannot let that happen.
There is simply too much at stake for future generations of Israelis and Palestinians to give in to pessimism, especially when peace is in fact still possible. We must not lose hope in the possibility of peace. We must not give in to those who say what is now must always be; that there is no chance for a better future.
It is up to Israelis and Palestinians to make the difficult choices for peace, but we can all help. And for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians, for all the people of the region, for the United States, for all those around the world who have prayed for and worked for peace for generations, let's hope that we are all prepared, and particularly Israelis and Palestinians, to make those choices now.
Thank you very much.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You're hearing right there, the applause following Secretary of State John Kerry in an urgent and at times it seems angry message coming from him in a major moment just now giving his candid take as he put it on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict saying very clearly, a two-state solution is the only way to achieve just and lasting peace in Israel. Also saying, that is in serious jeopardy today, and he offered some very blunt comments about the escalating tensions playing out right now between the United States and Israel in just the last week.
I want to welcome once again our viewers here in the United States, and around the world. Back with me now is Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott, Correspondent Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, CNN Global Affairs Analyst David Rohde who is also National Security Editor for Reuters, and CNN Senior Political Analyst and Senior Editor of the Atlantic Ron Brownstien, and CNN Global Affairs Analyst, former State Department Adviser on Mid East affairs to several administrations, Aaron David Miller. All, thank you very, very much.
Elise, he did seem angry at times. What stood out to you in this hour and 10-minute address from John Kerry?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate I think you have take it into the context of what's been happening over the last several weeks, and the context in which Secretary Kerry is giving this speech.
He obviously made a nod to Palestinian incitement, the choices that Palestinians had to make. But a large chunk of this speech was about the settlements which Secretary Kerry made clear, he thought was creating an impediment to peace was making a two-state solution impossible, and was actually driving the Israelis to a one-state solution which basically then they would be responsible for administering all the Palestinians. And he said that obviously, Israel considering itself a Jewish state does not want that.
I want to just single out a few of the toughest things he said here. He basically said that the Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution but his coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements. He talked about the settler agenda defining the future in Israel. They believe in one state. The two-state solution was over, and he said in good conscience, the administration could not protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two-state solution.
[12:35:04] Now clearly, this context of the vote, he said that is why the U.S. had to make this very controversial decision to abstain from that U.N. resolution condemning the settlements because they feel so strongly about it.
BOLDUAN: Aaron, I want to get your take. You've heard more than one speech along these lines. What stood out to you from the Secretary of State?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, initially all I can say is whoa. I mean, I've written speeches for Republican and Democratic secretaries of state on the Middle East before. Never have I heard a speech first of all that went 70 minutes. Second, that was as personal and passionate. It's almost as if this speech embodied sentiments of a man who cares so deeply about this, who was so fundamentally frustrated by the absence of progress, and so convinced that the two-state solution is about to become the one-state outcome. And unless something is done, his efforts and the efforts of the United States is doomed. It is interesting that it is the secretary of state that gave this speech not the president. We had the Reagan plan, we had the Clinton parameters, and now we have the Kerry speech.
BOLDUAN: What does that tell you?
MILLER: I would also argue that the context here as I think Elise has mentioned is everything. The question is, how is this going to be heard, interpreted, and read in view of the U.S. abstention in the Security Council?
MILLER: And I think that is going to diminish I think the receptivity of this clearly on one side for sure.
BOLDUAN: Well, and along the lines Ron, one line that you heard and we had -- all three of us has perked our ears when he said that the current coalition is the most right wing in Israel's history with an agenda coming from the most extreme elements. That's a pretty blunt message.
RON BROWNSTIEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No look, I mean, I thought it was -- as Aaron said, it's a very long speech. But the core that give me summed up pretty I think, you know, a concisely which is, when he said that while Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly supports a two-state solution, with that word "publicly" being underlined, his government is pursuing settlement policies that in effect render it impractical and/or effectively extinguishing it. And that choice, he argued, Kerry argued in the long run will leave Israel less secure at home and more isolated internationally.
It was -- I thought a passionate -- and by the way, he offered not only stick in that sense more, you know, this path is more isolated, but also a carried (ph). Because he repeatedly came back to the idea that a fundamentally different security relationship for Israel might be available if they choice a different direction. This seemed, you know, the question of who the audience is I think is important. This seemed a more a Israeli public opinion. I mean, I don't know if they have -- if he has a lot of hope that he's going to change the mind of the incoming Trump administration which a signals a different course.
BOLDUAN: He seemed to, he seemed to signal not, right?
BROWNSTIEN: Not. But I think this was basically was designed to help seed or perhaps change the direction of the debate inside of Israel as the U.S. begins to move in a different direction.
BOLDUAN: David has you -- what do you think is the most important thing we heard here? DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think how he squarely went at the settler movement. It's just extraordinary to have the United States Secretary of State making this appeal. I agree with Ron largely to the American public.
Netanyahu came to the United States, made a similar appeal to American voters to scuttle the Iran deal. So part of this is this ill-will. But again, I traveled with Kerry three years ago; spoke to him at length about this. He said the exact same things. Whether he's right or wrong, that's the key debate, but he does not believe that a one- state solution can result in a democratic Israel.
You know, you can't have one state have all of those Palestinians living under Israelis and maintain the democracy.
BOLDUAN: Guys, I want to get some reaction from Israel right now. Joining me right now is Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the United States. Former chief and foreign policy adviser to the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining me and thank you so much for sitting with us during that speech.
DANNY AYALON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASADOR TO U.S: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Your reaction to Secretary Kerry?
AYALON: Well, I think it was very idealistic, detached from reality, not very realistic. It failed to mention that it was the Palestinian consistent refusal that did not allow the two-state solution. He mentioned resolution 181 from 1947 which Israel accepted and they did not. But also, only lately they -- Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to free settlements to no avail.
In 2000, Prime Minister Barak offered everything to Arafat to no avail. In 2008, Prime Minister Olmert offered everything to Abu Mazen in the same lines that pretty much was mentioned here by the secretary. It is the Palestinians refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. So what was failing here is the Palestinian side, not only they refused all the offers from Israel before, but also there was no demand, equal demands on the Palestinians, what they need to do.
[12:40:05] There was kind of a tunnel vision, expounding and pouncing only on the settlements which is only one issue of many core issues. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. No demands on the Palestinians to do that. Refugee issues, Palestinian is giving up, inundating Israel with Palestinians. No mention of that that they should give it up totally. Sharing and not exclusive demands of the Palestinians for sovereignty over the holiest sites in history where there's a temple site -- yeah.
BOLDUAN: And this gets to the point that that the Secretary of State, he laid out later on, it's more towards the end of his speech. I do want to get your take, your direct reaction to what you heard though from Secretary Kerry. You have said that this resolution at the U.N Security Council that it undermined Israel. He said very clearly at one point, we reject the criticism that this vote abandons Israel. His remarks today, does if move you? Do you think it moves Israelis and Palestinians any closer to getting back to the negotiating table?
AYALON: I'm sorry Kate, no. It's quite frustrating that what we see here there is no new vision. It was quite academic maybe, but no leadership, trying more of the same which was a failure for the last 23 years since Oslo. And again, here I think that there was no demand from the Palestinians. There was a lip service maybe about the defensible borders was kind of after the fact, but the issue here is Israel's existence and future. And a peace will come not out of just outlining these points, but out of real historic reconciliation.
Palestinians understanding that only peaceful coexistence can endure and not just a piece of paper. And also one important point, it was detached from the geopolitical environment of the region. Something has happened in the region in the last six years. There was no mention about the deal with Iran which jeopardizes the security of Israel and also the Sunni countries. The secretary rightly mentioned that they are converging interests now between the Sunni countries, the Gulf countries, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, but why is it? Because Iran has become so much stronger because of the Iran deal. Also, Iran is a perpetuate supporter of terror and destabilizing the entire region. Syria, and also the Palestinian --
BOLDUAN: You are also disputing with what the secretary said when he said that no American administration has done more for Israeli security than Barack Obama. It seems that you disagree with that point.
I do want to get your take on something important that has been playing out in the last week, and that Secretary Kerry addressed very directly in his speech just now. We've heard from, I have been told -- directly we've all been told directly from Israeli leaders that they've ironclad information that it was the United States that was behind, colluding, pushing this resolution at the U.N. Security Council. Secretary Kerry very clearly rejects that idea. He did very clearly in this speech right now. It does not appear both sides can be right on this.
AYALON: Well, I think it is quite clear that there was a very, very intensive meetings between high level officials, Palestinians and the Americans. So there was no dispute about that. So anybody can infer, you know, what was discussed over there. And consequently, the decision and the vote by the United States. But also --
BOLDUAN: Do you think Secretary Kerry is lying?
AYALON: I think what was letting -- yeah. I don't know. He is saying that, Prime Minister Netanyahu is lying. And I don't think Prime Minister Netanyahu is lying.
Israeli, I would say information. Israeli statements have been known to be quite reliable and quite credible, but I don't think this is the issue who is right here. The issue here, to look at the bigger, bigger picture as long as we have ISIS and al-Qaeda and Hamas --
BOLDUAN: Mr. Ambassador?
AYALON: -- and the many, many Palestinians terror organizations in the west bank, not just in Gaza. It's all very theoretical.
BOLDUAN: The only reason I was cutting off is that your satellite window is about to close on us right now and I don't want to stop, let you go without saying thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. We'll continue the conversation.
AYALON: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
All right. Let's go over to Jerusalem right now. Oren Liebermann is there. Oren, we heard there from the former Israeli ambassador with a very clear message on his reaction to John Kerry's speech. What other reactions are you hearing from Israelis and Palestinians?
[12:45:00] OREN LIEBRMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So let me point out one thing, and it's an interesting point. One of your guests suggested that this was a speech directed for the Israeli public. If so, if that really was the intent, that intent missed the mark. The speech wasn't carried live here. A part of that maybe the language difference, although that's a little hard to believe since it's fairly easy to get a translator and many Israelis understand English. But, I think a bigger part of that is the resolution that just passed and many Israelis, I would say most Israeli simple don't want to hear another Kerry explanation. And that's very much how this speech was viewed.
We're working on getting Palestinian reaction. The speech ended just a few minutes ago. Prime Minister's office also working on their reaction. That is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's. They're taking their time in formulating a response. I think both sides wanted to hear exactly what is John Kerry lay out. But, we did get a response from Naftali Bennett. He is the education minister, the right wing leader that Secretary State John Kerry called out specifically.
He is the one who right after John Kerry's -- right after President- elect Donald Trump's election said the era of a Palestinian state is over and he hasn't backed down on that on that at all. He said that Israel would never allow a terrorist state nearby. He again reinforcing exactly what Kerry said is the problem here. Kerry said the problem is that the Israeli government is led by settler leaders, Naftali Bennett, a settler leader and to the right of Netanyahu. He has doubled down on his comments and his criticism of John Kerry.
MILLER: He, Kate, can I jump in here for a second?
BOLDUAN: Yes. Aaron, Aaron go ahead.
MILLER: I mean, I think there's another reality we have to face up to. George Shultz once said that if you don't have a policy and there's a great tendency to give a speech. And there are two points worth making here. Within three weeks, you're going to see an incoming administration most likely walk away from just about every element in the Kerry speech. And number two, there's another basic reality.
This is Israeli/Palestinian peace process just isn't ready for prime time. You don't have the leadership. You don't have the ownership, and you need at least one of those in order to allow for effective U.S. mediation.
This was a thought experiment in many respects, a way for the secretary of state to put his own views and the views of the United States on the importance and urgency of this process. I just don't think this speech or the Security Council resolution is going to have legs going forward. And that something sobering and quite depressing but I think true.
BOLDUAN: Yeah. Guys, we're going have to get in a break really quick. We're going to -- right after this, we're going to get reaction from a former Mideast peace envoy for the Obama administration. We'll be right back.
[12:50:53] BOLDUAN: We're continuing to gauge reaction, get reaction, to the big speech we just heard from Secretary of State John Kerry, his vision forward with regard to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a blunt, passionate, at times angry message coming from the secretary. Let's get over to the State Department. Elise Labott has been watching this along wit us. What are you picking up Elise?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well Kate, I want to read something that I just got from an Israeli friend of mine that I've been communicating with over the years in my troubles there. And aim that person tells has been very tough over the years against the U.S. and in particular President Obama and Secretary Kerry. This person just e-mailed me and said the speech was very, very good. It was balanced and simply logical and fair. I don't know what "Bibi", that's Netanyahu's kind of nickname will say. But I think rational Israelis will agree with me.
And I think it kind of sets up about what Secretary Kerry was trying to talk to when he talked to the Israeli public about this kind of disconnect between what he calls a kind of direction by the rights in Netanyahu's government and the Israeli people who are very concerned about a two-state solution and what that will mean for their security. But they do want peace with the Palestinians. They do want a two- state solution.
And I think many would say that the settlements might, you know, affect that in some way. I mean, they're not against settlements. But I think that there is a little bit of a disconnect that Secretary Kerry was trying to speak to when he said that the wealth of the Israeli population agrees with his arguments.
BOLDUAN: Elise, thank you so much for that. We're going to go from the State Department now. Because few people know more of the ins and outs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. role like. Our next guest George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy for Mideast peace under President Obama and he's joining me now. He also very openly has a new book out called "A Path to Peace". A brief history of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations and a way forward in the Middle East. If you could sum it up in the sense of on the way forward, you could probably make a whole lot of money. Senator, thank you very much for joining me. Your reaction to Secretary Kerry's speech just now?
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY MIDEAST PEACE: I thought it was a robust defense of the two-state solution, much needed because the two-state solution has not been achieved, despite use of efforts. And therefore is increasingly criticized. And I think support for it likely is declining. Not just in the Middle East, but in the United States and elsewhere.
So, Secretary Kerry has put a lot of personal time and effort. Obviously has a deep emotional commitment and all of that came through in the speech. I think the difficulties are external to Secretary Kerry, and the speech. They have first the speech was made by the secretary of state not the president. By definition, therefore, it won't command the same degree of audience, and as one of your commentators, it's just previously noted that comes in the immediate wake of the U.N. Security Council resolution, which has created some degree of hostility between the U.S. and Israeli governments, so, therefore, perhaps the receptivity is lower than it might have been.
Kate if I might, I'd just like to make a minor correction of something that was said earlier. The ambassador referred to Israel's actions in recent years as a freeze on settlements, and many of your commentators has said the same thing over a period of time. I negotiated that agreement, and it was a very significant action taken by the government of Israel, of that there can and should be no doubt. But it was not a freeze. It was a moratorium on the starting of new housing construction. Settlements continued in construction that had been begun, and other than non-housing continued in any event and it lasted ten months. We wish it could have been extended but it wasn't. As I said, it was a very important step but it was not a freeze. And from the Palestinian and Arab standpoint, since it did not include east Jerusalem it was, therefore, not persuasive to them.
BOLDUAN: Senator, if you're standing in your old position today what did Kerry's speech do for your job? Help, hurt, do nothing?
[12:54:59] MITCHELL: Well, help with some and hurt with others. And it was still others do nothing. I think one of the problems is, one of the reasons I thought the president should have vetoed the resolution was that the purpose of American policy is to bring the two sides together in negotiation.
MITCHELL: And I think they're now both moving in opposite directions that are for both of them self-destructive. The Palestinians now feel validated in their getting a state through international institutions. And to me, that's a mirage. They might get a nominal state. But they can't get a real state on the ground without the full participation by Israel. And that will only come through negotiations. So it moves them away by giving them this other incentive.
For Israel, already isolated in the Muslim world, which now comprises a fifth of the world's population in a few decades it will be a third. The prime minister's actions after the resolution have deepened the isolation and the rest of the world. I may be wrong on this, but to the best of my knowledge there is not a single country in the world out of nearly 200 that has come out in support of Israel's position on the resolutions. And here's the prime minister taking on Britain, France, Spain, New Zealand, countries that are natural allies of Israel. Israel should be getting this debate behind them and trying to move to broaden their base of support in the international community. And it won't come in a debate over settlements because it just isn't national support for that.
BOLDUAN: Senator, I do want to get your take. You mentioned the prime minister. Even before John Kerry took to the microphone today, incoming president, President-elect Donald Trump he tweeted and basically said in summary he said "Stay strong, Israel, January 20th is fast approaching". Meaning he'll have better relations and do better for Israel than the current administration.
Fascinating to me is that Benjamin Netanyahu responded on Twitter saying, "President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel." What do you make of that?
MITCHELL: Well, I think it's unfortunate, but it's a reality, and we should not make too much of it. The fact is that there have been sharp conflicts between presidents and prime ministers going back to the beginning of Israel. President Eisenhower wouldn't even speak to Ben Gori at a critical moment in Israel's history. Threatened to go to the U.N. and sponsor a U.S. resolution against Israel.
Reagan and Prime Minister Begin had a very bitter exchange over Reagan's plan. So, the relationship we have to keep in mind is between the countries and the people. Presidents come and go, prime ministers come and go. They don't get along sometimes, and that does have an affect and it's clearly reflected now. But ultimately, the U.S. relationship with Israel will survive and be strong.
BOLDUAN: Senator Mitchell, always appreciate your time and your perspective. Thank you so much.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: We have much more of our breaking news cover on this. This historic speech, ahead.