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Netanyahu on Track to Win his Fifth Term; Likely Indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu; Anshel Pfeffer, Author, "Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu," is Interviewed About Israel's 2019 Election; Israel and Palestine Peace Much Better Now; Michele Dunne, Director, Carnegie Endowments Middle East Program, is Interviewed About Israel and Palestine. Theresa May Asking for Another Extension; Mairead McGuinness, First Vice President, European Parliament, is Interviewed About Brexit. British Politician Faces Public Hostility Over Brexit; George Freeman, British Conservative MP, is Interviewed About Brexit. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 10, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
All eyes on Israel in one of the countries closest elections. Will King Bibi keep his throne? Hot on his heels, his centrist rival. We ask what
all this means for the U.S. peace plan.
Plus, another ride on the Brexit merry go round. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, again, eyeing an extension. A top E.U. official explains why
Europe is in the driving seat now.
And why traditional American conservatives barely recognize the movement today. Political commentator, David Brooks, sits down with Walter
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to win a historic fifth term. By July, that would make him Israel's longest serving prime minister. Exit poll showed a
tight race prompting both the hawkish Netanyahu and his centrist opponent, Benny Gantz, a retired general, to claim victory. With only 35 seats
apiece though, neither side got close to a majority in Israel's 120-seat Knesset.
But the path to a coalition government is much smoother for the sitting prime minister, including aligning with some extreme right parties.
President Trump has formed a close alliance with Netanyahu, recently choosing to flout the U.N. and recognizing Israeli rule over the disputed
Golan Heights. It's a move which many read as a pre-election gift to Netanyahu.
But the black cloud hanging over all of this is a likely indictment the prime minister faces from Israel's attorney general on bribery and fraud
Now, Anshel Pfeffer is an award-winning journalist at the Israeli daily newspaper, "Haaretz," and he's the author of the 2018 biography "Bibi: The
Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu." He's been watching this election closely and he's joining me now from the center of the action in
Anshel Pfeffer, welcome to the program.
ANSHEL PFEFFER, AUTHOR, "BIBI: THE TURBULENT LIFE AND TIMES OF BENJAMIN NETANYAHU": Good evening, Christiane. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: You know, I'm sure it's been an extremely long night. Everyone is still waiting to see even yet as another, you know, day draws yet to a
close on what the precise alignment will be. But were you surprised by the results? I guess most live by the fact that Benny Gantz really did show
better than perhaps many thoughts.
PFEFFER: Well, I wasn't surprised by Netanyahu winning. He has had a majority, not a large majority. This wasn't a landslide. But he has had a
majority of right-wing and religious voters supporting both his Likud Party and the parties of his coalition. It was going to be a difficult challenge
for Benny Gantz and for the rest of the centre-left opposition to take away enough votes from the right-wing coalition and somehow block Netanyahu's
path to another government.
They took about two seats away from the coalition, which went from 67 to 65 seats in total in the new Knesset but that was nowhere near enough to deny
Netanyahu his fifth government.
AMANPOUR: So, what will this mean? How will the next few days play out? When will we know how, you know, a coalition could be formed?
PFEFFER: Well, Netanyahu's (INAUDIBLE) is quite clear, he's got the parties who already sat with him in the previous coalition, they have the
majority. In the next few days they will meet with the president of Israel, with Reuven Rivlin. That each of the parties will say who they
support as Israel's next prime minister. Once Rivlin has met with all the parties and has collected all the endorsements, he will probably call upon
Netanyahu, give him the first crack at forming the government, the three- week -- he has a three-week period to do so.
They will be into a coalition building period of meetings between the different parties' negotiation teams. We can expect the next couple of
weeks Netanyahu to form his coalition. But this time, it's not just forming a government. Netanyahu doesn't need his coalition only to allow
him to be prime minister and to govern Israel. He needs something extra from his coalition this time.
This time he wants his coalition to shield him in some way from the impending indictments, from the fact that he may be very soon be put on
trial for three -- on three cases of corruption. And he's hoping to get from his coalition some kind of strategy which either legislation, which
will give him immunity or perhaps even that will stand behind him despite being charged in court, that's is an unprecedented situation, an Israeli
prime minister in office while a defendant in a criminal case.
And Netanyahu (INAUDIBLE), if it will reach that, he will not resign and he needs his coalition to stand by him. So, the price that the parties will
be demanding from him will be [13:05:00] especially high this time. It's going to be Netanyahu's most difficult, most fateful negotiation ever, and
he's been through a lot of them.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, if he's digging and in says he won't resign, what exact price do you think the coalition will extract? Because we can see he's
been attacking very, very much to their side, to the hard line, right? I mean, he's even entered into arrangements with a party that is even by APAC
standards unacceptable, Jewish Power. And we see President Trump, his big backer, already agreeing to allow Israel to continue annexation of the
Golan Heights. What other issues would his coalition extract, do you think?
PFEFFER: Well, it's important to know Jewish Power used to be unacceptable by Likud standards until not very recently. Netanyahu's predecessors would
never have anything to do with the Jewish Powers -- the parties from which Jewish Power came. So, Netanyahu certainly crossed a red line there.
His right -- his far right and ultra-religious partners in the coalition want two things from him. They want to minimize the power of the high
court, of the supreme court, to intervene in government and in legislation. That is something that they have set their hearts on for years.
And the other thing, as you mentioned, is annexation. Netanyahu has been prime minister for 13 years. He's certainly no left-winger. Yet, he's
never mentioned, never proposed, never suggested annexing part of the West Bank.
On Saturday night, in an interview for the first time, he dangled that carrot in front of the far right as incentive both for the far right-
wingers to vote for Likud and for the parties of the coalition to join him and give him what he needs.
They will now, after the -- now the election is over, Netanyahu has won, that they have the check in front of him and they will ask Netanyahu to
honor the check. And Netanyahu has been vague in how he plans to annex the -- parts of the West Bank. He hasn't said which parts of the West Bank,
which settlements. He only mentioned one settlement near Jerusalem. He hasn't talked about a time table. And this is where the Trump peace place
comes in. Netanyahu will tell his partners, "I'll do it, but let's see first what Donald Trump says."
AMANPOUR: All right. We will talk about that with our next guest, about this peace plan. But I wonder if he is getting tacit support for that.
I mean, you know, you've written the book, as I mentioned, Netanyahu's longevity. He has portrayed to himself and supporters as the in
dispensable man for Israel on security, on the economy, which has done incredibly very well.
Does he -- I mean, and also, as you have written, he has done what he promised to do 26 years when he wrote his own book and he basically said,
"Israel could have an independent policy, a strong economy, brazing out the precious to make concessions to the Palestinian. The world would accept
Israel's position. Take the Palestinian issue off the agenda and move on." Is he still counting on that?
PFEFFER: He certainly is. And this is now Netanyahu's moment on the global stage because for eight years he had to contend with Obama who is
pressuring him both on the Palestinians and on Iran. Back in the first term in the 1990s, he had Bill Clinton on his case. Now, he has a friendly
president who is not making any -- who is not putting any pressure on him on the pressing issue.
The European Union, which used to be also a major international player and -- would exert its own pressure is focused on its own issues. I know
you're going to be talking about Brexit later. Europe is looking inward, is not looking at the Middle East.
And across the world, he has Putin and he has Modi and he has a whole list of friends, of allies who are populous leaders like him, none of them are
really asking him anything about the (INAUDIBLE). This is the moment for him to try and change the landscape. And he's been saying this, as you
said, for 26 years, that the Palestinian issue is not the center of the Middle East, it is not the main issue confronting Israel. It's a side
show. I have heard it called a rabbit hole down in which foreigners go. But now, he is thinking the foreigners are not the Palestinian issue
anymore. And this is when he can finally start to chance the status quo.
How exactly does he plan to do it? He's going to do it together with Donald Trump or is he going to wait for the Palestinians to reject the
Trump piece plan, as they've already said they will, we don't know. I'm sure he already has a plan, and that is something that he will have to try
to put in the next few months. But he will be distracted and he'll be very much distracted by his own legal problems, and that may throw his span (ph)
in the works.
AMANPOUR: And if there is a span of throwing into the works, I just want a very brief analysis from you, neither the two main candidates, one a
majority, as we said. It is barely a referendum on Netanyahu. Although, it was portrayed as that. He only got 30 percent of the vote. How do you
think -- or do you think Benny Gantz and the Blue and White, you know, party [13:10:00] has any influence going forward?
PFEFFER: Well, the Blue and White party on paper seemed to have scored a significant achievement of having an equal number of seats of Likud. But
if we -- you know, if we look deeper into the figures, basically what happens is that they cannibalized other opposition parties, mainly the
labor party, which has slabbed down to six seats.
They barely managed to take more than two seats away from the right-wing. So, Benny Gantz's big achievement doesn't really look so big when you look
at it closer.
Now, can Gantz be an effective opposition to Netanyahu? It's a brand-new party made up of people who never sat together on the same benches, it's
got four different leaders. Benny Gantz who's the supreme leader, has never been in politics before, never spent a day in the Knesset. He is an
experienced military man but civilian life. And as we saw on the campaign (INAUDIBLE), political life is something he is not really used to.
PFEFFER: Can he be a strong opposition to Netanyahu? I doubt it. Netanyahu has seen off much more experienced politicians than him.
AMANPOUR: All right. Anshel Pfeffer, thank you so much for joining us.
And we turn now to Michele Dunne in the United States. Because as we've said, Netanyahu is politically joined at the hip with President Trump. And
the White House has a long promise to plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, spearheaded by the president's senior adviser and son-in-law,
Here's what President Trump had to say on the White House lawn today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The fact that Bibi won, I think we'll see some pretty good action in terms of peace. Look, everyone said, and I
never made it a promise, but everybody said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians. I think we have a chance.
And I think we have now a better chance with Bibi having won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what are the chances now? In her long tenure at the State Department, Michele Dunne served in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, that's
now become the embassy among many other deployments. And now, she is director of the Carnegie Endowments Middle East program and she's joining
me from Washington.
Welcome to the program, Michele.
MICHELE DUNNE, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENTS MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Just wondered if you could -- let's have you, you know, comment on first what the president said, that he thinks the chances are much
better now that Benjamin Netanyahu has won. I mean, we still don't know the final tally but most believe he will be able to cobble together the
DUNNE: Well, look, clearly, this is the outcome that President Trump was hoping and he did a couple of things, you know, to actually try to help
Netanyahu in this election. I don't know how much of a difference they actually made inside of Israel. But it was clear, you know, President
Trump's leanings and he's been close to Netanyahu all along.
The question now, I mean, we heard National Security Adviser Bolton just said, you know, within the past 24 hours that their peace plan will be
coming forward very shortly. Presumably, that would be after coalition government has been formed in Israel. Because I do think whatever the
Trump administration would put forward in a peace plan, even if it would be very much skewed to the likings of Likud, could cause a problem with
Netanyahu's other right-wing coalition partners.
So, you know, the Trump administration has been, in a way, just implementing its plan, bringing about these changes in U.S. policy toward
Jerusalem, toward the Golan, toward the Palestinians in general. And you know, it might be actually preferable for Netanyahu if Trump would continue
to do things like that rather than try to put out a comprehensive plan that, you know, could cause some static.
AMANPOUR: Well --
DUNNE: Right, the Israeli right.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, they're bound to sort of reject just about everything as they have done in the past. But I guess, you know, the
president says it, Jared Kushner says it, I had Danny Danon, the U.N. ambassador of Israel on the program who said he expects it to be delivered
shortly, as you just mentioned, after the government is in place.
But what do you know that's in it? I mean, we're all speculating but there's all sorts of, you know, diagrams and drawings, I mean,
metaphorically, of realignments and how a bunch of, you know, Arab States will align with Israel, isolate Iran and basically, you know, make this
sort of regional deal.
DUNNE: Well, I mean, in terms of the Palestinians, it does seem what the Trump administration has in mind is to say to the Palestinians, you know,
"You have lost. You know, here's something small that's being offered to you, say some, you know, limited self-rule and communities in the West
Bank, and just accept that." And of course, we have seen already that the Palestinians are of no mind to do that.
In terms of Arab States, it seems to me that that the further Trump goes with these unilateral American measures, and [13:15:00] I have to say, it's
really ironic because the United States has long rejected unilateral steps by other parties related to the peace process.
But the further that Trump goes with this, the more problems it causes for Arab allies. We know that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and
others as well, of course, as Egypt, which has a 40-year peace treaty with Israel, are inclined to be friendly with Netanyahu and cooperate in quiet
ways and maybe publicly in small ways.
But to go much further than that, I think that the more that Trump shows his hand, the more difficult it becomes for them to do. You know,
President Sisi of Egypt was in Washington this week. And this issue did not figure prominently in the public statement around his visit. But I
noticed in the Egyptian press, when Egyptian members of parliament who are very close to Sisi, for example, were discussing this, they were voicing
their opposition to the steps taken by Trump on Jerusalem, Golan, et cetera.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's interesting.
DUNNE: So, it's not going to be so easy, I think, for Arab states to publicly embrace a Trump plan that, you know, looks to the public in Arab
countries like kind of a humiliation, you know, as though the Arabs and Muslims, in a way, are being asked to accept total defeat.
AMANPOUR: And yet, I mean, the reality is a lot of the world, for all sorts of reasons, has sort of put the peace process on very, very much the
back burner, it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do you believe the trend is, whether in the region or the White House, to give up on the two-state solution? I mean, is that something that is just
not in the offing? I mean, you heard Anshel Pfeffer talking about peace being down the rabbit hole and Netanyahu just, you know, hoping he can do
enough sort of tactical maneuvering to just take it off the menu?
DUNNE: Yes. I mean, you know, there was a time, and I as a diplomat worked on this, 20, 25 years ago, there was a time we all believed in the
two-state solution. But frankly, the Israeli settlement enterprise as well as the really, you know, important drift to the right in Israeli society,
Israeli body politic, now make it, you know, almost impossible to bring about.
The question is, what will replace it? You know, we have seen the Palestinians divided, having very weak leadership and so forth. But they
are still very, very numerous. If we look at these territories put together of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, et cetera, you know, Palestinians
are quite numerous or even potentially a majority there already.
So, you know, there will probably be a further move of some kind politically on the Palestinian part, perhaps in the direction of more like
one-state struggle for rights. But we haven't seen that happen. And I think, you know, the rest of the region, the rest of the Arab world, other
Muslim majority countries, their governments are sort of grumbling, but they don't necessarily -- they're not necessarily going to take any kind of
leadership on the issue until the Palestinians decide where they're going.
AMANPOUR: And just, I guess, the last question to wrap up, again, where we started, the way it's laid out right now, how does this affect U.S.
interest in the region?
DUNNE: Well, look, I think you know assuming that Netanyahu does form a right-wing coalition and tries to protect himself from prosecution, he is
going to be under pressure to carry through on his pledge to annex, to extend Israeli sovereignty over Israeli settlements int eh West Bank.
That's going to inflame tensions. Maybe not overnight, but eventually it will.
I think right now, you know, the Israeli -- if there is an Israeli right leaning government, they are going to want to get done what they can get
done while they have Trump is in office.
DUNNE: And they maybe to make that happen for now.
AMANPOUR: All right.
DUNNE: You know, in the longer run, I'm not sure that's going to fly.
AMANPOUR: Michele Dunne, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
So, we turn to the U.K. where uncertainty is the new normal. The country was meant to leave the European Union last month but that got pushed back
to this Friday. And now, Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking another extension from the E.U., unable to get a majority in her own parliament.
This is what she said as she arrived in E.U. headquarters in Brussels today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have been working to make sure that we can leave the European Union. Indeed, we could have left by now, but
Parliament didn't pass the withdrawal agreement. So, we need the extra time to work, to ensure that we can get a deal through Parliament that
enables us to leave in a smooth and orderly way. That's in everyone's interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: On the other side of the negotiation table sits a strong coalition of E.U. states which have seated little ground to the embattled
U.K. leaders [13:20:00]. So, what does the prime minister want and will we see an end to this deadlock? As vice president of the European Parliament,
Mairead McGuinness, is dealing with these questions daily, and she's joining me now from Brussels.
Welcome back to our program. Mairead McGuinness?
MAIREAD MCGUINNESS, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Delighted to join you.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's good to have you because you're a good explainer on all of this stuff and you're dealing with it, you know, on a daily minute
by minute way. So, what is the best, the most Prime Minister May can expect? What is it that Europe wants her to take away from this Brussels
MCGUINNESS: Well, I suppose it is unusual that a country that wants to leave the European Union is actually looking for more time before they
leave the European Union and that is the crux of the problem today. The prime minister wants to extend from this Friday to June 30th.
I think the leaders are going to have a big debate about what is the appropriate date. I don't think they willingly say, "Yes, the June the
30th is fine with us." They will look at all the implications of that date.
At the moment, they're listening to the prime minister, even as I speak, going through, I hope, her plans to get the withdrawal agreement through
the House of Commons. That is the crux of all of this. The negotiations on the divorce settlement, if you like, are finished between the European
Union and the United Kingdom.
But unfortunately, the numbers in the House of Commons are working against ratification of the withdrawal agreement. Because ironically, we have
Brexiteers and Remainers voting against this deal.
Now, I presume that the prime minister will try and, if you like, outline her talks with the Labour Party. As you know, she's reaching now across
the House in these last days only. And I presume she will try and convince the leaders that will come to some good conclusion.
MCGUINNESS: I'm not sure of that. I hope it will. But I think we're not looking at an immediate solution coming by a joint approach through the
AMANPOUR: On the big picture, you know, clearly, you know, Donald Tusk has said that they would prefer perhaps a longer extension, something a year,
some sort of -- as the new term has been calling flextension (ph) but more than what Theresa May wants. That brings in a whole other area of
implications of participating in European elections.
From Europe's perspective, and with the hardline Brexiteers saying --
AMANPOUR: -- "We're just going to --" what does he say, in fact, Jacob Rees-Mogg said, "If a long extension leaves us stuck in the E.U., we should
be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the (INAUDIBLE) E.U. army and block Mr. Macron's integrationist
schemes." Are you concerned, for one of a better word, your flextension (ph) may lead to the Euro skeptics holding the E.U. hostage, so to speak
MCGUINNESS: Well, look, Jacob Rees-Mogg is not the prime minister. So, we have to listen to what he says but I'm not sure we should heed it too much.
On the other hand, I think there are concerns --
AMANPOUR: Now, but she seems to be heeding her right plank a lot.
MCGUINNESS: -- around the leaders' table around Europe generally that -- well, she has disavowed them now because she is talking to the Labour
Party. But on this idea, two issues. What about the long extension? I see merit in it but I also see problems.
The merit is this, that rather than having a rolling date, so June the 30th and that might work maybe July the 30th, and that causes double uncertainty
for businesses and citizens. If we say to the United Kingdom a date of next year, then it allows the prime minister some time in which to get the
withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons. She may achieve that in two months' time. And if she does, all the good.
On the other hand, and you rightly point to the down side, for example, around the council, there would need to be an understanding that the United
Kingdom remains a full member and then cooperates fruitfully and faithfully as a full member.
Here in the European Parliament, if the United Kingdom have elections, and I think they will, we will probably face, you know, MEPs from the United
Kingdom from the extremes, from those who want to remain and those who want a very hard Brexit and perhaps moderates too. We will have to deal with
that. But I do think it has consequences. Not all of my colleagues in the House here today are very happy about that.
For example, we have redistributed some of the seats that the United Kingdom (INAUDIBLE). Two of them which come to Ireland. So, we're not
sure what happens in this case.
Now, there's a lot of technical issues. But I think the politics of this is really important. Both the United Kingdom and the European Union have
said a no-deal is really something we need to avoid. And that's why we are flexible about looking to give the prime minister more time.
On the other hand, we do have concerns around the politics in the House of Commons. Will we ever see a solution? Or if we don't see one in the
immediate term, can a year extra help?
MCGUINNESS: Might there be another elections in the United Kingdom?
AMANPOUR: Well, that's the --
MCGUINNESS: How will that play for this --
MCGUINNESS: -- intractable problem?
AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you, you know, what -- how do you think it would impact these negotiations if another leader/prime minister [13:25:00]
is chosen? Does one go back to the drawing board? I mean, what does that look like?
MCGUINNESS: Well, that isn't the norm when a country does a deal, that it signs up to, it negotiates faithfully and it agrees to a deal. It is then
unusual for another government to come in and unpick that deal. But these are very unusual times.
And I suppose it is just why the European Union has been very firm but also very fair in our dealings with the United Kingdom. We took on board the
concerns of the prime minister and the Irish question and delivered what she requested. Unfortunately, that hasn't met with the demands of those on
the hard Brexit side.
So, we have Theresa to the negotiations very openly and fairly. There is no telling what another prime minister might do and there is no telling who
that might be or from what party. We can only deal with what we are -- have on our table at the moment.
The British prime minister is not in a very easy place. And personally, I don't envy her, her task because she is under pressure from all sides. And
I suppose there is a concern about whether she can survive a long extension of the Article 50 deadline. And some are saying that she cannot and that
there might be changes you predict.
AMANPOUR: All right. Mairead McGuinness, thank you very much. I mean, it seems our conversation, you know, exposes that our uncertainty is the only
certainty right now.
MCGUINNESS: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, as British politicians face public hostility over Brexit, it is taking a toll on their mental health. Here's one example of the kind of
treatment some elected officials are facing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anna, facist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anna Soubry, your facist?
ANNA SOUBRY: Can you just show that there are children over there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that kind haranguing has led to protection for some of these MPs. And in recent weeks, they have warned some who walk the halls of
Westminster may be close to breaking point. It's a worrying prospect considering the future of the country hangs on a cliff edge right now.
George Freeman is a Conservative MP who voted to remain in the European Union but has backed Theresa May's Brexit deal in a show of compromise.
And he joined me earlier to discuss the pressure cooker environment he and the others find themselves in.
George Freeman, welcome to the program.
GEORGE FREEMAN, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: Pleasure.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just ask you on the big picture, we're not sure exactly where this is going. But what really has gone wrong? I mean, in
the eyes of most of Britain now and the rest of the world, not to mention Europe, there is a general frustration with the inability on any level to
organize something as important, such massive and existential change.
FREEMAN: Yes. And not that there is any consolation, I totally share that frustration. Look, I was a business minister in the Cameron government. I
was for remain. That I was the first MP on that side to say, "We have to expect this result, get-together and negotiate a sensible Brexit."
And I look on with horror that here we are nearly three years later and the British cabinet, the Conservative Party, Parliament is gridlocked and
cannot agree on how. And I don't think it looks good, I think it's bad for Europe and I think it's very bad for Britain.
The basic truth is that Brexit divided this country right down the middle, families, communities, parties, Parliament. And MPs are all now feeling an
extraordinary tug of pressures, a need to respect the referendum result, that doesn't mean just the victory, a triumphally Brexit of the 52 percent
sort of U.K. Brexit. That means respecting both sides and finding a departure from the European political union that is orderly and doesn't
disrupt the European project and gives Britain and the businesses in Britain a stable platform to continue to trade.
AMANPOUR: I wonder, George Freeman, whether there's a real problem. Because the vote for Brexit wasn't a massive victory. It wasn't like it
was 90 percent of the country to 10 percent or even 60/40. It was quite narrow. And yet, it appears that the prime minister and obviously her
hardline flank have believed that this was just to honor those who voted for Brexit, that slim majority.
FREEMAN: I think that's right. I think with the benefit of hindsight, I would have voted for, you know, a 60 percent majority as in most of the
companies I have worked in and the articles of the companies, you have a threshold. You don't allow a company to be bought out on only 51 percent
of the shareholders, right? But there we are.
I'm afraid that victory, 52/48, was a moment I think to say to the country, "Look, the 48 might have lost but they didn't lose the right to a voice and
their concerns are perfectly legitimate."
[13:30:00] We have to now reach out and yes, leave the European Political Union but in a way that the 48 percent can respect.
Similarly, after the general election in which the prime minister sort a conservative mandate for a pretty hardcore Brexit and lost it, that again
was a moment where she should have said unfortunately the mandate is now in Parliament, not in any party. This will now have to be across party
And I think if we worked more closely with senior backbenchers for more parties, not just Jeremy Corbyn but backbenchers, chairs of select
committees, we could have I think found a Brexit that would have got through the House of Commons quite easily. This failure is a failure to
find a way that the House could vote for Brexit.
AMANPOUR: Well, you just talked about the incredible stress and pressure that MPs are under, you yourself included. And you have been quoted in
"The Times of London", the newspaper, saying, "I have never seen people so exhausted, so stressed, people bursting into tears at meetings,
particularly the newer members."
And one of your colleagues, also Conservative, has resulted to hiding in a cupboard when things get too much. I mean all to say there is now focus on
the actual stress that you people who are meant to be making these massive decisions are under. How bad is it?
FREEMAN: Well, it's pretty bad. But I don't want to ask for sympathy. I mean you don't go into public office, you don't go into politics expecting
sympathy for the conditions.
This is a national crisis. We started it and we've got to solve it. It is true that the irreconcilable contradictions of Brexit, the promises that
were made, the daft lies, all of the idiotic stuff of the political campaign are coming home to roost.
And in an age when deference for anybody in authority in the west seems to be sliding, this sort of angry post-alterity, post-crash, bank bailout,
globalization, fear of economic insecurity sweeping the whole of the west, here in Britain that is now being focused on Parliament. And I think a lot
of MPs are feeling personally the contradiction between their duty to their constituency, their duty to Parliament, to their party, and to their
AMANPOUR: It does seem more and more obvious, that incredible contradiction. And I wonder -- I know that you're not looking for sympathy
and actually, I don't bring it up for that reason because as many say this is your job, it's a hard job. Parliamentarians pulled all-nighters back in
the 1970s many, many times.
Can you actually make good decisions when you are pulling all-nighters, when there is no recess, when you've been told not to take vacations or any
kind of breaks and when social media is piling onto all of you with a lot of vitriol as we have seen?
FREEMAN: Yes, these are not good conditions for good decision making. I think if this was a company, that's my background, I used to run
businesses, we probably have an away day. We would leave our phones behind, we head for the hills, breathe some fresh air, eat well, and share
And remember what it is we are in this for. Public trust in politics and in Parliament is wafer thin. And there are far too many people exploiting
that lack of trust and that fear of betrayal for their own narrow political victories.
It won't be a victory. It will be a pyrrhic victory because it will lead ultimately to the collapse of trust in Democratic politics in this country.
So this is a real crisis.
And it is one in which all of us are going to have to try and step up to the mark and make a decision that we can look our grandchildren in the eye
and say we got it right for you.
AMANPOUR: I think that's really important what you say and I'd just like to pick up on it because it ties back with something you said before about
all these sort of lies and propaganda that was put into the public and therefore making it almost impossible to come to a kind of sensible
compromise and consensus.
And I wonder whether you think that, as some have said, it's almost like trying to put this square peg into a round hole. It's almost like, you
know, trying to make fantasy a reality. And that's what is the pressure as well.
FREEMAN: I think that's right. And you know, the pressure I feel personally is this. I was for MA. I don't think Brexit in the short-term
is going to be good at all for the British economy or for the strength and security of Europe.
I think it's a massive distraction and possibly a very dangerous one. But I do respect the sovereignty of the [13:35:00] British people. And when
asked in a referendum, they voted 52-48 to leave.
So I'm serious about respecting that. But I take it as a mandate to leave the European Political Union but to stay close to the common market. In
fact, many of my leave voters said, "George, I voted to be in the common market and it's become a political union."
But just to give you an idea of the anger and the viciousness of how this has become now, I have local Conservative counselors in my own constituency
who are running for election and are meeting such anger on the door steps that they are demanding that I stand down as the Conservative MP or come
out and say that I think no deal would be good for this country.
Well, I don't think it would be good for this country. I'm committed to Brexit. And these contradictions that have been put about for two or three
days, it would be easy.
We have 40 trade deals. You could do it easily within a year. And that is not true. This is very complex. And I'm afraid public anger at those lies
is now becoming harder to handle even than Brexit itself.
AMANPOUR: Are you taking any measures to protect your mental health or others? I mean are there things that people can do?
I don't know, speak to the chaplain or I don't know. What are people doing in the building behind you in Parliament?
FREEMAN: Well, unfortunately what tends to happen -- I mean it's an ancient building. It is not set up for modern working at all and I mean
there is a crash. But you know, it's a very old-fashioned institution. It's ran like a cross between a sort of very old-fashioned public school
and a monastery.
And actually what happens in times of stress is it's the same in the playground, right. It's the same anywhere, people gather together in
huddles for security.
And the problem at the moment is I think that we're going to need to compromise. We're going to need to reach out. And it's much easier for
people to cling on to comfortable certainties and truths, binary choices.
When this isn't about that, this is going to require really fine judgment. And this is dangerous times. And getting the balance right between a
decision to end the Civil War but getting the right decision that will last is the stuff of history.
AMANPOUR: George Freeman, thank you so much for joining us.
FREEMAN: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And an update on our top story tonight. We've just gotten news from Israel where Benny Gantz has conceded the election to Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. "We are all democratic. We accept the decision of the nation." That's what Gantz said.
Back now to the United States where the American Conservative Movement has been utterly transformed in the past few years. "New York Times" Columnist
and Intellectual Conservative David Brooks was a proud passenger on the train of traditional Conservatism. But it has long since left the station
and he has been left standing on the platform in some bewilderment.
His new book, "The Second Mountain, The Quest for a Moral Life" is an intimate call for openness in an era of distrust. He spoke to our Walter
Isaacson about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WALTER ISAACSON, CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you for coming. Your new book really culminates a personal journey as well as a political journey we've been
through. Tell me about The Second Mountain and what that mean.
DAVID BROOKS, AUTHOR, THE SECOND MOUNTAIN: Yes, that's where joy is. I haven't quite found it.
But this book is about moral renewal, about how individual and societies turn themselves around. And my view is that the country is in a spiritual
crisis and a moral crisis, as much as in economic and political crisis. The pain is being felt in suicide rates, in opioid addictions, in highest
depression rates, and just we treat each other badly.
And so what we need is to move from a culture of a hyper individual to something else. And the people I've most admired are those who rebelled
against a central liner culture. And the liner culture is I can make myself happy.
If I just make a little more money, a little more fame, lose a little more weight, I can make myself happy. No, it's not -- you can't make yourself
happy. You can only receive happiness as a gift from others, that you can give to others and you receive from them.
And the people who live their life, not for self but for relationship, they glow with an inner light and incandescence of moral joy. And I thought I
have achieved way more success than I ever thought I would.
But I don't have that, I don't have that moral joy. And I want to figure out how to get that.
ISAACSON: Ever since you left college and you worked for William F. Buckley, you have been part of an intellectual conservative tradition, sort
of Edmund Burke tradition. And yet, that seems to have gone astray. Do you feel bad about the way the Conservative Movement moved us to this
society we're in now?
BROOKS: Yes. I would say my conservativism doesn't have anything to do with what we call conservatism. My conservatism has two strands.
One is Edmund Burke who believed in epistemological modesty, the world is really complicated. We have to be very cautious about [13:35:00] what we
think we can now.
And the second hero of mine is Alexander Hamilton who's a Puerto Rican Hip Hop star, who believed in using government to give young poor boys and
girls a chance to succeed. And that was a Conservative tradition but it is not today's conservatism.
And so one of the things that happened to me in my life is that I worked at "National Review", "The Weekly Standard", "The Wall Street Journal"
editorial page. I was in the community.
And I was in that community for many years. And then conservatism sort of shifted and I stayed the same, in my view. It shifted over in the Trump
direction or Newt Gingrich direction.
And my life sort of drifted away and it drifted away from a lot of my friends. And it happened to me at a time when my marriage was ending, when
my kids were leaving college.
So all at once in 2013, I was like alone. And I went through a valley as we all go through valleys. And so I had to figure out what's my life
ISAACSON: You talk about being in a valley. And in the book, you kind of connected to the social valley that we all are in as a nation.
How did we get there? And is your personal path a way to help us get out?
BROOKS: Yes, I'm no one special. Like my whole career is based on the idea that I'm a very average person with above average communication
And so I was going through a crisis of disconnection, a crisis of not being surrounded by really strong relationships. Well, guess what, so is our
If you look at 45,000 people killing themselves every year, 72,000 dying with opioid addiction, if you ask Americans do you trust the people around
you, a generation ago people trusted the people around them. Sixty percent said "Yes, people around me are trustworthy."
Now, it's down to 32 percent and 19 percent are millennials. The younger you go, the more distrusting they are. And that's not because it's
perception, it's reality. People are treating each other badly.
And to me, the cultural problem is the core problem, that we had a culture back in the '50s which was very collective, we're all in this together.
And if you lived in Chicago, you didn't say I from Chicago. You say I'm from 59th in Pulaski because that crossroad was your -- that was your hood
and those were your people, and they had a strong community.
Unfortunately, that culture tolerated racism, sexism, anti-Semitism. So we had to destroy it. And roundabout the '60s, we created a different culture
which is not we're all in this together, it was I'm free to be myself. I just want to be myself.
And it was about personal freedom, self-actualization, and there was a right-wing version which was economic freedom, economic individuals. And
there was a left-wing version which is a social and moral individualism but it was all individualism.
And if you have 60 years of hyper individuals and where it's all about self-actualization, self-expression, liberation from constraints, you're
going to wind up destroying the bonds between people. And that's what we've done.
And so to me, what we do as a society is we create cultures that solve our problems at the moment. Our problem at the moment is bad relationship, too
much individualism and we've got to solve it.
And I think, me personally and the country naturally, it's the same process. How do you get to a spot where you can really live in deep
ISAACSON: Even before Donald Trump hijacked, as you say, the conservative ideology, do you worry that you and others in that movement celebrated
economic individualism that you've now started to decry?
BROOKS: Yes, we had a bad model of human nature and we accepted a bad model of human nature. And that model was we're self-interested
utilitarian driving creatures.
And the three desires we really have, that humans have, is desire for status, money, and power. And that's the kind of philosophy you get where
a bunch of alpha males are running the discourse and they don't even see the nature -- the web of relationships that women are building all around
And so I've spent the last year traveling the country being with people who are building relationship in community. There is a woman who I met in your
city in New Orleans who, her name is Lisa Fitzpatrick.
She was driving. She turned and she saw a 10-year-old kid, an 11-year-old kid who looked terrified. They lifted the gun and they shot her in the
And she just remembers not the getting shot, but the terror in their eyes. And she said we're all part of a war that they didn't start and that I
didn't start. We're victims of this war, which is they were doing a gangland initiation ritual.
And so instead of being angry with what they had done, she said I'm going to work with gang members. And then she opened her home to 35 kids in her
neighborhood who are just part of her second family.
And one afternoon, she's sitting around her home and she went to the 35 kids who were hanging around the den. And she said why are you here? And
they said, "Because you're the only one who opens the door."
And so they're looking for community. And she is building those kind of relationships.
ISAACSON: You have created a project called the Weave Project which sounds like connect and I think you're wearing the logo of it. And my old shop,
the Aspen Institute is supporting it. Tell me why you're doing that and what it is.
BROOKS: Yes. It's part of the same process. And socialization is the core problem in society. [13:45:00] And all around the country, people are
And these weavers are living and they're creating connections with one another. And some of them have been through terrible valleys.
I had a serious interview with a woman named Sarah Adkins in Ohio. She had come home one day and found that her husband had killed their kids and
And she now runs a free pharmacy. She teaches students at Ohio University. She helps moms who've been through violence.
And she said, "I was motivated because I was angry. Whatever that guy tried to do to me, screw you, you're not going to do it. I'm going to lead
a life of purpose and meaning."
And her life is a life of giving herself away. And we find these people everywhere. Their lives are just service. They say I plant myself in my
I met a guy in Youngstown, Ohio who just held up a flag and said, "Defend Youngstown." He was just going to be there for his place.
I had -- when I was in my bad, period, there was a group -- there's a couple named Cathy and David who live in D.C. and they had a friend in the
D.C. public schools. And that kid had a friend who had no home. His mom had some drug and health issues.
So they said, "Well, James can stay with us." And then James had a friend and James had a friend. And then five years ago, when I first went to
dinner on a Thursday night, there are 40 kids around the dinner table and 10 or 15 sleeping around the house.
And I walk in there. And I reach out to shake one of the hands of one of the kids. And he says we don't shake hands here. We just hug here.
I'm and not the huggiest guy on the face of the earth. But for five years, I've been going back every Thursday to that house. And they just offer
love and they turn to you and they demand love from you. And they teach you how to do relationships.
You just have to get -- to do relationships well, you have to get to a deeper level of yourself and be willing to open up that level.
ISAACSON: And if we have that ability to care for each other, do you think that heals our politics?
BROOKS: Yes, I have total confidence. There's a woman who has a theory of social change which she calls the ratchet hatchet, pivot ratchet that
society has problems. So we solve the problem by creating a culture that shapes how we behave and it works for a little while.
But then it stops working. Individuals doesn't work for a while. We needed individualism to give us the feminism, civil rights, Silicon Valley.
But then it stops working and you then have to chop it up, hatchet. And those hatched periods can be very bumpy.
1968 was a hatchet period. We're in one today. 1848, you think everything is falling apart.
But human beings have the ability to figure stuff out. And I see all around the country this movement that doesn't know it's yet a movement,
And they are creating culture and relationship around intimacy, around vulnerability, around community. And it's happening from the ground up.
And as it says in the Bible, the sparks fly upward.
ISAACSON: Tell me about your spiritual journey.
BROOKS: I grew up here in New York City where we're talking about 50 blocks south of here. I grew up in a Jewish home. And my immigrant family
culture, chicken business on the lower east side, that is deep in my bones.
The Jewish story is an Exodus story. It's a story of leaving the wilderness, escaping oppression, and coming into the settled -- the
promised land and trying to settle it. And I was raised with the Exodus story.
Then I went to a school called Grace Church School which is an Episcopal school where I sang in the choir and learned Lord's Prayer. And then I
went to -- for 15 years, really my childhood was spent at a place called Incarnation Camp.
And so I had two cultures I was in. One was the Jewish culture that culture is a home culture of what they call love and kindness.
I always say every church service I go to is more spiritual than every Synagogue service. But every Friday night Shabbat meal is more spiritual
than every church service.
Around the Shabbat meal, the family's gathered. There are 18 people around there. They're all talking at once. They're all correcting the 17 wrong
things the other person just said.
There is a layer of spiritual solidarity that is created by Jewish culture. And that's one kind of goodness.
And but then at camp, I found another kind of goodness which was self- sacrificial love. I know that in Wes Wubbenhorst who was a counselor of mine and then a colleague and he was just pure innocence.
He was like a man-child and he was that way all his life, just filled with delight in the universe, just filled with love for others. Did not think
about himself. Just a life of pure delight.
And in the course of his life, he became an Episcopal minister and he did hard stuff. He worked in Honduras. He helped women survive domestic
violence. But he remained just a life of giving himself away.
And to me, that is sort of a Christian kind of goodness of agape, of sacrificial love and joy is found in the far side of self-sacrificial
service. So I had both things in my mind. And they have pretty much stayed in my mind.
ISAACSON: Is there a way as a leader of the Conservative Intellectual Movement for so many decades that you can see how you could recapture
conservative thought in a post-Trump era?
BROOKS: I wouldn't bet on it. I think the Republican Party is permanently altered. But I mentioned earlier that my hero is Edmund Burke and Edmund
Burke created the phrase "Little platoons".
And by the little platoons, he meant civic society. He meant go to church or Synagogue. He meant your neighborhood association. He meant your
And he also said that what really matters in society is not laws but morals. If you get the morals right, then you get society right.
Somebody else, Samuel Johnson has a couplet, "Of all the things that human hearts endure, how few are those that kings can cause and cure." Meaning
politics does some things in our life. But really important things in our life is our relationships and our character.
And that I think was a conservative emphasis. And so all of these things were conservative emphasis and then institutions, the power of the
institutions of our life.
I was shaped by the place I went to college, the University of Chicago in ways that I don't understand even today. And I just passed for an
institution and it transformed me. And I'm forever haunted and grateful for that institution.
You meet somebody who is a Marine, you always know they're a Marine. A more houseman, you always know they're more houseman. They were shaped by
And so the conservative emphasis is supposed to be on manners, morals, institutions, and local communities. And that's more needed than ever.
Unfortunately, under Donald Trump, conservatism and maybe under "Fox News", it's become white identity, building walls, or economics. And that is
hollowing out what conservatism is supposed to be.
ISAACSON: One of the things that's been part of our politics for many years, culminating with the Mueller report is sort of the scandal nature of
it. There were always fighting scandal versus scandal. Do you think maybe we should take a Sabbath from scandal-mongering?
BROOKS: Yes, ever since Watergate. Watergate was we need to get rid of Nixon. I really was a kid. I love all the Watergate books, I read them
But it held forth the tantalizing prospect that you need to argue against your opponents. You didn't need to persuade people about the rightness of
your side. You could just destroy your opponents all at once through scandal.
And so we have developed -- I saw a "Politico" story, the number of times - - the different scandals where somebody said, "This is worse than Watergate." And so there are 46 of those leading up right to Russiagate
and whatever. It's always worse than Watergate.
And so we just think we can destroy the other side and it turns into this game of moral (INAUDIBLE) and a callout culture where we're not just two
sides of the same argument or different sides of the same argument. I'm moral, you're horrible.
And it's given us the illusion that we can win a final ultimate victory in politics. You cannot win a final ultimate victory. Politics is a
competition between partial truths.
Usually, both sides have some pieces of the truth and you're just trying to find the right balance at that moment. And this scandal culture has turned
us into sort of blood thirsty, we're going to destroy you culture.
ISAACSON: Over the years, you have been a person on the right in the new "PBS Newshour". There's always -- everything got filtered through a left
and a right. And by being that person on the right, do you think that you and that sort of system helped contribute to the polarization we feel?
BROOKS: I'm struck by the power of label. I have the label conservative. And so there are some people that my readers in "The New York Times" and
maybe viewers on the "Newshour" going to think, "Oh, he's conservative, therefore he's on the same team with Laura Ingraham or Ann Coulter. And
there's no difference between them, they're on the same team."
But I think I try to think, I try to explain the world I have a certain world view. And I used to -- when I started my column, I said I have to
represent the team's viewpoint. But then I got so alienated from the team, I said I'm just going to say what I think and I'm not going to try to
represent the viewpoint.
And so I've wondered and some people see me less conservative. In some ways, I'm maybe more conservative, communal. But to reduce each other to
labels and to teams, that is just turning politics into triumph.
And there are so many spots along all the continuums. Each of us represents a spot, not just a click, not just a label. And so many of our
problems in our society are caused by bad stereotyping. We stereotype each other.
And we assume we know one thing, therefore we know everything. Everybody is way more complicated than that stereotype.
ISAACSON: Do you still consider yourself a conservative?
BROOKS: Not in the -- I mean I now -- I think I'm labeled moderate because I do think politics is about partial truths. And the left -- I moved so
far left on economics. I've moved a little right on social issues actually.
But what the world calls conservative, I'm not at. I don't get invited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Committee. I don't get invited
to appear on "Fox News". And so I guess I'm not that. But if Edmund Burke is conservatism, then hell yes, I'm a conservative.
ISAACSON: David Brooks, thank you so much for being with us.
BROOKS: Thank you. Thanks.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: And a political commentator David Brooks pushing back against tribal politics [13:55:00] and for community.
But that is it for now. Remember, you can listen to our podcast at any time and see us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Instagram
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.