Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with Ehud Olmert; Interview with Mustafa Barghouti. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 14, 2018 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNNI: Tonight, the Unites States breaks with 70 years of it's Middle East policy and international consensus as it moves it's
embassy and makes a major statement on Jerusalem, while the Palestinian leader calls for three days of mourning for the dozens of protestors killed
by Israeli forces today. It has been the deadliest day there since the 2014 Gaza War.
My exclusive interview with the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert live in Tel Aviv and live from Ramallah, the Palestinian Political leader,
Good evening everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. The sobering contrast between Israel and the Palestinians
became even starker today, the 70th anniversary of the countries founding.
In Jerusalem, the United States opened a whole new vein of it's foreign policy as it celebrated moving it's embassy there from Tel Aviv, while in
Gaza, just 14 miles away, it was the deadliest day since the 2014 war. Israel killed at least 52 protestors and over 2,400 were injured causing
the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to declare a general strike and three days of mourning.
Earlier, in a recorded message, President Trump said the embassy move was a long time coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel is a sovereign nation with the rights like every other sovereign nation to determine it's own
capital, yet for many years we've failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel's capital is Jerusalem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: This Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already thrilled with his part in Trumps decision to leave the deal, that's preventing Iran
from developing a nuclear weapon, was positively elated today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: What a glorious day. Remember this moment. This is history. President Trump, by recognizing
history, you have made history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what course will that history take now? America is the only country in the world with it's embassy in Jerusalem, but it soon might be
joined by Guatemala and Paraguay in the coming days. So will it, as Trump and his U.S. and Israeli allies insist, pave the way for his deal of the
century? Or will it kill off a two state solution for good, as critics and pessimist predict. Tomorrow, Palestinians mark the nakba, as they call
Israel's founding and the expulsion or the fleeing of thousands and thousands of Palestinians.
Now, that it's thrown it's weight so far to one side, can Washington remain the honest broker there? We get two takes tonight from the Palestinian
Political leader, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, but first on this day from the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
In 2008, he sat face to face with the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, to negotiate the fate of Jerusalem and peace in their region
and he joins me now from Tel Aviv. Prime Minister, welcome to the program.
EHUD OLMERT, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, because you did a lot in terms of face to face negotiations, whether you think this day is a day for elation and for
celebration, not about the moving of the embassy, but for the root of peace now?
OLMERT: Well certainly, Christiane, I think that the American decision has been long overdue and in this respect I think there is a good reason for
Israel to be happy that our capital was finally -- formerly recognized by the United States and hopefully will be recognized by many others.
We should remember, obviously, that the President said that the final borders of Jerusalem will be determined in future negotiations between us
and the Palestinians and I am certainly anxious that these negotiations will start immediately.
I heard that President Trump has a peace plan that he's going to propose and that is very important because if President Trump believes that there
is a chance for peace, then there are two now, he, and if I can say, myself.
I also believe that there can be peace and should be peace and that we should make every possible effort to engage in a serious meaningful process
of negotiations, that unfortunately, was not resumed after my departure that should lead us into full peace with the Palestinians.
AMANPOUR: Okay Prime Minister, let me ask you because you do make that point that the last time there was a serious sort of movement seems to have
been when you were Prime Minister, but can I first ask you to reflect on the enormous amount of blood shed today next door in Gaza in the territory
there that's blockaded, 52 and counting dead, more than 1,000 wounded.
OLMERT: Well that's a very sad event, terrible event which is very disturbing. I mean, let's not forget that Israel pulled out entirely from
Gaza. So, we are now positioned in what is considered by all the international community to be Israel and the attempt to cross the fence and
to enter into Israel with thousands of people is totally unacceptable.
I'm terribly sad, indeed, that the outcome of this is the killing of so many people and the -- so many casualties and we should make every possible
effort, all of us, first of all the Hamas and the leaders in Gaza, to stop this.
To stop the attempt to invade the state of Israel by thousands of people and I hope that it will not be repeated tomorrow because it's enough, it's
really enough. We don't want to kill Palestinians, we are terribly sad that it happened, but we have to defend our borders.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Prime Minister, I'm not going to nit pick with you over numbers, but we heard it was a small number that tried to reach the fence
and the question really again is, whether it was proportionate force and so, I'm not going to argue with that because it's the overwhelming force is
with but one side.
But what I do want to ask you about is the following, that already the Palestinian leadership has said that they will not enter any peace process.
We've heard it from the U.N. representative and we've heard it from others, because they don't believe that the main, I guess, broker or owner, if you
like, of the peace process, the United States can be an honest broker. So, how do you see, today with this move, any pace process moving forward?
OLMERT: Well, I want to say two things Christiane, which to me are very important. Number one, the fact remains is that in 2008, I proposed a
peace plan, which I know and I heard it from many Palestinians, including their leaders, that it was the most far reaching proposal ever put on the
table by an Israeli side and I regret very much that at that time the leader of the Palestinians, Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, whom I respect a lot, has
failed to give me a positive answer.
Now I want -- I can't dwell on the past because it will make no difference now. Now we have to move from where we are and I want to suggest to the
Palestinian leader that Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, why wouldn't you stand up openly in front of all the televisions of the world and say, I'm ready to
negotiate the peace plan that was proposed by the Prime Minister of Israel in 2008 in order to conclude the historical conflict between Israel and the
Palestinians. This plan has not died.
It's alive because this is the only chance within which we can reach an agreement, so why not make the step forward and say, okay, there was a
peace plan which was proposed by a Prime Minister of the state of Israel.
His plan was approved by everyone in the international community and I know that Dr. Abbas himself thought that it was a very meaningful and serious
peace plan. Why not make the first step forward and say, I'm ready to negotiate within this framework in order to achieve peace on the basis of
what was proposed by Israel.
AMANPOUR: Okay, so Prime Minister, let me just ask you .
OLMERT: There can be a meaningful step .
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you to develop that logic, you did propose something far reaching before you, a leader from a different party, Ehud Barak
proposed something that was very far reaching, in each case, if I'm not mistaken, Jerusalem was in play as a last issue and it was for the parties
to decide. Nobody has denied that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but people also say and the international consensus seems to be, that it's the
shared capital of the Palestinians as well. How does a Palestinian leader now come to say I will negotiate for a peace land that appears to be much
less generous than the one that you're talking about.
OLMERT: No, clearly, Christiane, what I proposed was that they are apart of Jerusalem will become the capital of the Palestinian state, and there
was clear and obvious and this is not a secret. I wrote it in my book in the most explicit terms, and I must say that once the President Trump
announced that he recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, which was not done before officially, and the embassy was
transferred, which I'm very happy about, and I think this is a great and important historical event. Yet, at the same time he say that the final
borders of Jerusalem will be determined in negotiations. So I think that there is enough room for the Palestinian leader to say within this
framework besides this, we are ready to negotiate. We are ready to negotiate on the basis of a plan which explicitly said that the basis for
the territorial solution will be the 1967 borders with swaps of territories, and the holy basin within Jerusalem will be administered by
five nations including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Palestinians, America and Israel, and that they are apart of Jerusalem will be the capital of the
OLMERT: This is the plan, it is not a secret, and it can be negotiated, and I think that the Palestinians have an opportunity here to show to the
whole world that something which is reasonable, which is acceptable, which has been approved by so many countries is that which they really want and
that can move things forward. I know it will not be easy. I know it will be difficult for many in my country to accept it as they opposed when I
proposed it, but I proposed it as a Prime Minister of the State of Israel, and therefore the historical move by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem
as capital as the State of Israel does not preclude a solution which will be satisfactory to the desires of the Palestinians if they will catch this
opportunity and move forward together with us.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, you once told me that there is no real alternative than negotiating with Mahmoud Abbas, and you also said that,
you know, you had to - you couldn't push it forward for many reasons including that you, yourself, were under investigation basically. You had
to resign, you did resign before you could -
OLMERT: That's right.
AMANPOUR: - yes, before you could conclude this. You went to prison for that. You've come out, you've written a book. Sorry, Prime Minister
Nethanyahu is also under investigation. You have said, I think, that he should do, as you've said, the right thing and resign. Do you still
believe that, and then who would lead these negotiations forward?
OLMERT: Look, I certainly don't want to go now into any accusation against the Prime Minister of Israel. The Prime Minister of Israel is in power.
He has the authority. He has the wisdom I believe, and he needs to have the necessary desire to move forward to solve the most important, the most
crucial issue that hangs over the skies of Israel, which is to make peace with the Palestinians. If he will do it, I think he will make that
historical impact which he is so anxious to do. And I think that the Palestinians must show from their side the necessary signs that they are
ready to accept this framework.
I'm not arguing now about the past. I'm not blaming anyone, but I say there was a plan which was proposed by a Prime Minister of Israel,
officially with the full authority of the prime ministership. This plan is a reasonable basis for a conclusion of an agreement. It solves the issue
of Jerusalem, it solves the issue of the territories, it solves all the outstanding issues between us and the Palestinians. And the Palestinians
must relate to it, must respond to it. And they can do it, and if they will do it, believe me, it will change the Middle East entirely.
AMANPOUR: All right.
OLMERT: And the pains of the past and the tragedies of the past will disappear. They have to do it and I believe that we will have the power to
create the necessary environment in Israel to be able to go along.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to put that, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Thank you for joining me from Tel Aviv, and I'm going to put that now to a
Palestinian leader, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who's been listening very closely from Ramallah. First of all, welcome to the program, Dr.
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Thank you. I'm glad to be with you.
AMANPOUR: So tell me, you heard Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and you know well because you were there when he did put that proposal to Abu Mazen
Mahmoud Abbas all those years ago in 2008. Is that still doable for you under the current framework?
BARGHOUTI: Well unfortunately, maybe we have to remind Mr. Olmert and the audience that he is not the Prime Minsiter of Israel, and I think he was
sacked and put in prison because of his plan. The real government of Israel today is Netanyahu and his party who are rejecting even what Olmert
has proposed. Let me also remind you that Yitzhak Rabin and the one who signed - the Prime Minister of Israel who signed the peace agreement with
Palestinians, Oslo agreement, was assassinated by an Israeli extremist, and that assassination took place after a lot of instigation by the Prime
Minster of Israel today, Nethanyahu, who himself destroyed Oslo process and destroyed the peace agreement, but Nethanyahu is offering us today is not a
state, it's not a solution. What they are offering us is a system of apartheid, a system where we have one state practically with two systems of
laws, with Israel is oppressing Palestinians with an occupation that has become the longest in modern history, and today you've seen what they have
done - a real massacre.
For years we were told by foreign ministers, by prime ministers of the world, by journalists, why don't you Palestinians march peacefully like
Martin Luther King did? Like Gandhi did? I've been advocating that, the nonviolent, peaceful resistance for 16 years and we practiced this -
AMANPOUR: So Dr. Barghouti -
BARGHOUTI: - and today even Hamas accepts it -
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this -
BARGHOUTI: - and you saw what happened.
AMANPOUR: We did see what happened, and Prime Minister Olmert regretted the bloodshed, and you remind us of Yitzhak Rabin who said enough of blood
and tears when he signed that accord on the White House lawn so many years ago. There was a lot of blood and tears today. And we heard from the
original nonviolent protestors who said when they started that they wanted it to be nonviolent, but it looks like Hamas hijacked it. You have to
admit that. I mean, doesn't that just constantly, constantly play against you? It's enough already.
BARGHOUTI: No, they didn't hijack it because actually this movement -
AMANPOUR: Well, they say - the protestors say they did, sir. They did. The protestors said that their nonviolent movement was hijacked. I'm
asking you not just to be argumentative but to try to figure out where this leads you in trying to figure our a peace going forward. Is it possible
under Trump, Netanyahu, and Abu Abbas?
BARGHOUTI: I think it's possible, but not with the parameters that Mr. Netanyahu's proposing. But let me explain, Christiane. Today, we
demonstrated oh so peacefully in the West Bank, and Hamas was not the leader of these demonstrations, and we were shot at in Calandia and
Ramallah and in Hebron by the same Israeli. What I'm trying to say is that, by the way, Israel did not withdraw from Gaza. Otherwise why it is
really besieging Gaza from air, from all passages from the sea. Most of the people killed today and during the last five weeks in Gaza were killed
in the buffer zone inside Gaza, not at the borders.
So there's some misleading statement here when Israel has said they ended occupation. Their occupation is still there, but can we talk about peace?
Yes. Is there a possibility for peace? Of course. It only relates to ending occupation. If Israel is ready to end this occupation, if they are
ready to accept that we will also have a capital in East Jerusalem and that there is a solution that provides two states which can coexist with each
other, there is a possibility for a solution. But when Israel continues settlements and kills every agreement that exists and tries to impose on us
unilateral actions like the annexation of Jerusalem and now moving the embassy - the America Embassy to Jerusalem, this will not lead to peace.
What we see in front of us Christiane, is that the land we live on is disappearing everyday, with the expansion of supplements. And if you ask
us to negotiate while settlements continue, it's like asking two people to negotiate over a piece of cheese, one side is prohibited from eating it,
which is us, the Palestinians. And the other side is eating while we negotiate. At the end of the day, there would be nothing left to negotiate
about. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump now is supporting this Israeli behavior. And thus he is killing the ability of the United States to be a mediator to
solve this problem.
BARGHOUTI: He's making the United States a participant in violating the national law.
AMANPOUR: So the - that is then the question. So if you the Palestinian, the elected Palestinian leadership of the authority say that you do not
consider the U.S. any longer a honest broker, the mediator, and Abu Mazen has broken with the United States since the December declaration of this
What happen next? I mean, what do you do? What is your negotiating stance today, what do you do in the view of this reality that's on the ground?
BARGHOUTI: I don't think we broke with the United States; it's the United States that broke with us. But it doesn't - it's not important to
negotiate about that. Let's talk about the future. The possibility of having a peace process is related to creating a national forum that is not
biased to one side.
Today, the United States is completely biased to Israel. When I listen to Mr. Greenblatt or Mr. Friedman, they look like they are - they sound like
they are the spokespersons of Israeli government, not for the United States.
What we need is a decent mediator, and that means an international forum, and the process has to be based on international law, and UN resolutions,
Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions. And most important, it should be based on and the occupation-
BARGHOUTI: Because you cannot have peace and keep occupation.
AMANPOUR: What do you understand if you have heard any leads or reports or anything about the U.S. administration's plan, the Jared Kushner plan, the
President Trump plan that allegedly meant to be unveiled at some point. And you heard again President Trump; I believe they're talking about a two
state solution still.
BARGHOUTI: What we heard about is really negative things, unfortunately. No, Mr. Trump was the first American president since many decades that
declared a change in the American policy. He said it's not necessarily two state solution, he said it's what the two sides agree about.
And he knows very well that Israeli's the powerful side here. And so they will never accept a two state solution. It's the United States that
stopped criticizing Israel about settlement building. And he said that he's taking Jerusalem off the table.
So how can we negotiate if the most important issue for us is off the table? He wants to take refugees off the table as well. And he's allowing
settlements to expend so he's also taking settlements off the table. So what is left to negotiate about?
We need a different approach, we need a balanced approach, we need an approach that accepts international law and the rights of the Palestinians
as equal human beings to have a state of their own, sovereign states and not Bantustans that are controlled by Israeli side in a form that is
nothing but an apartheid system with racial discrimination against Palestinian people.
We need a principled position that Palestinians also are entitled to freedom, entitled to their own state, entitled to plan their own future,
and of course cooperate with their neighbors. But first, we have to be free -
BARGHOUTI: So that we can cooperate.
AMANPOUR: Just quickly, do you believe the consensus therefore on the Palestinian side is toward is a one state solution or what does that look
BARGHOUTI: I can tell you there is consensus among Palestinians on popular, nonviolent resistance which I am very proud of being that one of
the advocates of that. And second yes, there is consensus.
If Israel kills two state solution, the only solution available will not be this apartheid, but one state with equal rights. And I mean by equal
rights, equal civil rights and equal national rights, which means that state will not be Jewish only, which means a Palestinian could be its prime
minister, which means we will have total equal rights.
So the choice for Israel is very clear, either they accept two states, or they accept one state with equal rights. But they should understand that
we, the Palestinian people, will never, ever accept to be slaves of a system of occupation or apartheid. That will never happen. We will
continue to struggle, whatever it takes, to achieve our freedom.
AMANPOUR: And the battle lines are still drawn. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, thank for joining us tonight from Ramallah.
So, just a note before we go, today was also a big political victory not just for President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, but for a select
group of American evangelicals, who believe that Jews in Israel are key to their end-times millennial doctrine.
Pastor John Hagee, a highly controversial preacher who's endorsement John McCain had to repudiate back in 2008, delivered the benediction at the
embassy opening today. I actually spoke with Hagee over a decade ago for my documentary God's Warriors. And back then, he explained that he was a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEE: A Christian Zionist is someone that believes that the bible supports Israel. God begins, and the foreign policy statement of Israel in
Genesis 12:3 saying, I will bless those who bless you. And I will curse those who curse you.
AMANPOUR: You said God's foreign policy statement?
AMANPOUR: God has foreign policy statements?
AMANPOUR: And here he's pro Israel?
HAGEE: Concerning the Jewish people, that's his foreign policy statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. We have had all perspectives tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, you can
always see us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.