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Interview With Condoleezza Rice

Aired August 3, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, on Israel's bloodiest day yet in these three weeks of escalating warfare, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells us whether a Middle East ceasefire is anywhere in sight.

Also, potential presidential candidate Senator John McCain; Her Majesty Queen Noor returning recently from Jordan; the father and wife of one of those Israeli soldiers who was captured by Hezbollah and who started all of this; plus the latest with reporters on the front lines. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening. Earlier today I talked with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. We had just learned that the United States hoped to have a deal on a U.N. resolution to end the Middle East violence and that that resolution could happen tomorrow. So, I began by asking if that was true.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I wouldn't want to put tomorrow on the date but we're certainly getting close. We're working with the French very closely. We're working with others. We've wanted very much to see an end to this conflict.

We need to end the hostilities in a way, though, that points forward a direction for a sustainable peace. And we are working -- we have worked with the parties when I was in the region to come up with those principles, with those elements. We're now working on a Security Council resolution and hopefully we can get that passed and I think it certainly will be within days, Larry.

KING: So imminent would be a good word?

RICE: Well, I would just say within days.

KING: All right, what do you make of this? Just in this morning, the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, vows to strike Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israel's bombardment of Lebanon's capital.

RICE: Well, Hezbollah is a very dangerous organization and they do have, thanks to Iranian supply and the Syrian land bridge, they do have some very significant long range weaponry but that's what we're trying to deal with.

We have to remember how this began. This began with Hezbollah, without the knowledge of the Lebanese government, crossing into Israel, abducting soldiers, launching strikes against Israeli populations.

And what we're trying to do now is to create an end to the hostilities or a situation in which you can not have a return to the status quo ante. If we simply return to status quo ante, if there are no principles going forward that would preserve a situation in which Hezbollah can not do these kinds of things then we're going to have war again.

KING: How seriously do you take this threat?

RICE: Well, I think everyone should take it seriously and I'm quite certain that the Israelis take it seriously. It shows the kind of threat that they face but the Israelis also have their own capabilities to deal with these threats.

The international community needs to say to Hezbollah that these kinds of threats are also not helpful in a time when the international community, the Lebanese people, the Israeli people, all want an end to the hostility.

KING: Has the strength of Hezbollah and their ability in all of this surprised you?

RICE: I don't think there's any doubt that over the last several years since the last ceasefire in this area that Hezbollah has improved its capabilities greatly. This is largely because of this relationship with Iran that has been able to finance it that has been able to get more sophisticated technologies than were available to it before.

I understand that they have a rather -- have gained a rather sophisticated command and control network in southern Lebanon and, of course, they do this mingled in with civilian populations so it's very difficult to deal with.

But since we've had the terrible and tragic and unfortunate circumstances of war over the last several weeks, it's our obligation now to make sure that we have a process going forward that will not allow Hezbollah to recoup those capabilities and to be able to threaten this kind of war again.

KING: Will the deal at the U.N. will it have a ceasefire? What -- can you give us any of the particulars?

RICE: Well, I can't really discuss the particulars at this point. We are moving, Larry, toward being able to do this in phases that will permit first an end or a stoppage of the hostilities and based on the establishment of some very important principles for how we move forward.

It's obviously going to take the parties some time to come to a full understanding of how they might live in peace but we want at the very beginning for there to be elements, for there to be principles so that everybody knows the basis on which the hostilities are stopping.

KING: Is that why the United States has generally opposed a ceasefire up to now?

RICE: Well, what we've opposed -- we've never opposed a ceasefire. We wanted a ceasefire. We've always wanted one urgently but what we've opposed is anything that is somehow unconditional, that does not make clear that there are certain circumstances that are going to have obtain, some of them immediately, some of them over a longer period of time in order not to have a return to the status quo ante and just a ceasefire that like so many ceasefires in the Middle East, falls apart practically the minute that it's in place.

I think the work that we're doing with the French, the work that we're doing with the parties, will ensure that there are some principles in place that make this the basis for an enduring -- first of all an enduring ceasefire but more importantly an enduring peace.

KING: Frankly, could this get worse?

RICE: Well, certainly, if we don't do our work well, it could. But everyone is working very urgently to find a way to stop the violence. The Lebanese people have suffered, the Israeli people have suffered.

Everybody wants to stop the violence. This time we just want to stop the violence based on principles that will help us not return to the violence sometime in the -- I can almost guarantee in the fairly near future.

KING: Is it true that the president has not spoken to Prime Minister Olmert?

RICE: Well, we've had many, many conversations with the Israelis and the president has stood ready to talk with whomever he needs to at whatever time he needs to.

I, of course, was just in Israel and I met with Prime Minister Olmert twice during that period of time so there isn't any absence of contact there and I'm quite certain that the Israelis have every access to us that they need.

KING: Is there a reason why President Bush, though, hasn't spoken to him?

RICE: The president has spoken to leaders when it's been necessary to do it. It isn't necessary for him to call to let the Israeli people or the Israeli prime minister know that we consider Israel an ally and a friend. It isn't necessary to state what he's been stating, that they have a right to defend themselves.

It's also absolutely clear, I think, to everyone that it's time for an end to the violence and so we're communicating those messages directly and in other ways. I think that when the president needs to speak to people, he speaks to them.

KING: Is the United States in an unusual position here? You are friends of Lebanon, right?

RICE: We are indeed friends of the Lebanese people.

KING: And you are friends of Israel?

RICE: Yes.

KING: And Lebanon is critical of Israel. Do you have to walk a line?

RICE: Well, clearly our friends here unfortunately are in a conflict. But let's remember, it wasn't Lebanon, it wasn't the government of Lebanon that launched this attack against Israel. It was a state within a state, so to speak. It was Hezbollah that without the knowledge of the government of Lebanon launched this attack.

And so we really believe that there is a lot in common here to provide for a peaceful and democratic future for the people of Lebanon. The United States was, of course, one of the principal movers in getting Syrian forces out of Lebanon so that Lebanon could have complete control of its sovereignty.

And now the answer to how Lebanon remains sovereign, how we don't have incidents like we've just had that plunged the area into war, is that we have to extend the sovereignty, extend the authority of the Lebanese government throughout the country, get Lebanese armed forces into the south where they belong and to make sure that these armed groups are not operating outside of the authority of the Lebanese government and there will be ultimately -- a part of that will have to be an international force that will help the Lebanese do that.

KING: Does the United States want Hezbollah destroyed?

RICE: The United States wants terrorism to stop and Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Hezbollah has a political wing. One of the unfortunate circumstances is that that political wing, which is a part of the Lebanese government, didn't somehow prevent this military or militant wing of Hezbollah from launching attacks even though Hezbollah sits as a part of the Lebanese government.

So this just shows the problem when you have one foot in politics and one foot in terror. Eventually Hezbollah has got to reconcile this but what we want is we want terrorism to stop and we want the Lebanese government to have full authority over the territory of Lebanon.

KING: Which would mean -- does it mean the end of Hezbollah to you or not?

RICE: This will be a decision for the Lebanese to make but the Lebanese to have obligations under the Taif Accords, which they signed in 1989. It's an intra-Lebanese agreement signed in 1989 in Saudi Arabia.

There are -- through Resolution 1559, Lebanon has an obligation to disarm militias and to make sure that all arms are in the hands of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese security forces and when that is done it will be a matter of anyone who is a part of the Lebanese government will be in politics and that will be just fine.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State. She's at the State Department. Don't go away.



KING: More now with my interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. When we resumed I began by asking her how she copes with so much going on in the world right now.


RICE: Well, you do have to be a bit of a juggler because there is an awful lot going on in the world but I really think we have a very strong focus on a set of principles that's guiding our policy. We know that we believe that the importance of democratic institutions and the growth of democracy, for instance, in the Middle East, is going to be a part of getting to a more peaceful and democratic Middle East and so we spend a good deal of time on those issues.

I also of course have extraordinarily good people who handle a lot of the issues. But I would have to say, Larry, it's a time when the international system is changing, changing very rapidly and I rather like the challenge of the changes that are going on in international politics right now. If you're going to do this job it's great to be doing it at a time of consequence.

KING: How do you handle the critics? Senator Biden yesterday described the administration's Middle East policy as a failure.

RICE: Well, I don't -- obviously Senator Biden is a very fine voice in international politics. I talk to him all the time and there are going to be times when people disagree but I have to say that what has been a failure in Middle East policy is the last 60 years, in which we decided that we would try and trade democracy for stability and we got neither.

And that policy produced the circumstances in which al Qaeda came into being, not just threatening our interests but literally threatening the homeland and so now we are on a difference course in the Middle East and it is a course that because it is different, because it insists on major change in the Middle East, is going to produce some turbulence. That's the nature of large-scale change.

But I would have to say that this is a better Middle East in which you have Syrian forces out of Lebanon. We have to remember that Lebanon, unfortunately, had violence 10 years ago of this kind. We're trying this time to make sure that that can't be repeated.

It's a better Middle East in which Saddam Hussein is not still repressing his people though obviously the Iraqi people have a difficult transition to peace and democracy. And it's certainly a better Middle East where the rights of women and the rights of people to express themselves are being upheld. We forget that in a place like Kuwait, women have the right to vote now.

So I will stack up this policy in the Middle East against any. I think that we have made more progress under this president toward a Middle East that will be different and better than at any other time in recent memory.

KING: Madame Secretary, when people are in conflict, I mean generally we think that if you're having a disagreement with someone on a small scale or a large scale, you talk to them because by non- talking you don't know what they're thinking. Why don't we talk to Syria?

RICE: Well, Larry, there's this misconception somehow that we've not talked to Syria. Secretary Powell talked to Syria a couple of times. Bill Burns, the then assistant secretary for near eastern affairs went to Syria several times. Just before the president's second inaugural, Rich Armitage, the then deputy secretary of state, went to Syria.

The problem isn't that people haven't talked to Syria, the problem is Syria hasn't been responsive. Syria has not acted in a responsible way and so we have no problems to talk to people but when you talk you'd like to get a response.

KING: Would you talk to them -- would you go and talk to Assad?

RICE: Well, I think the time is for Syria to act and there is widespread concern and widespread agreement that Syria has not acted in a responsible way. We have, by the way, a charge d'affaires in Syria. We have an open embassy in Syria. And so I want to correct the misperception that somehow we don't have a relationship or relations with Syria.

The problem is that Syria has not responded to numerous entreaties not just from the United States, to change its behavior, to not support terrorist organizations that sit on Syrian territory and cause problems for the Palestinians or cause problems for the Lebanese, that's really the issue with Syria. That behavior could stop any time.

KING: Do we also talk to Iran?

RICE: Well, Iran we have a long history with, of course, going back to the really brutal treatment of our diplomats in the taking of our hostages -- of hostages. It is also an Iran, of course, that has supported terrorism around the world, including the support of Hezbollah that has caused this latest problem. It is an Iran that has been active in trying to get a nuclear weapon under cover of civil nuclear power. We made an offer to Iran that if it is prepared to live up to the obligations that it undertook several years ago, a couple of years ago, to the European Union to suspend its uranium enrichment activities we're ready to show up at the table and talk because if Iran is serious about finding a civil nuclear program that would not allow them to develop a nuclear weapon, we are more than happy to participate in that process.

And so the offer is there but Iran, of course, has not responded positively and a couple of days ago, as a result, the U.N. Security Council voted to make that suspension of uranium enrichment activities mandatory. The diplomatic track is still open to the Iranians should they choose to take it.

KING: Do you talk to former secretaries of state when in conflict? Do you talk to Powell or Baker or Albright?

RICE: It's funny you should mention, I saw -- I've seen them both very recently, the two that you mentioned, Secretary Baker and Secretary Powell. Madeleine and I have talked, not during this recent crisis but I do, of course, talk to former secretaries of state. They are always wise and good people to talk to, not just in times of crisis but in general.

KING: You just saw Secretary Powell?

RICE: Yes, I just did. We try to get together every once in a while.

KING: What does he say about this?

RICE: Well, I don't think he would want me to divulge his advice to me through a television program but we're good friends. We've been good friends for a long time. We were before we started in this administration and we remain and he is somebody whose advice I value and value greatly.

KING: Is this a United States war? What's the United States' role in all of this? Is it the peace maker? Is it on the side of one of the parties? What is it?

RICE: Well, our role is clearly to be on the side of peace and to be on the side of the development of a more stable and democratic Middle East. And that means that we, in this particular conflict, are very much focused on the future of a Lebanon that can be indeed sovereign, that doesn't have foreign forces controlling its territory, that doesn't have a state within a state that causes wars that then devastate both the territory of Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

And it means, too, recognizing that we have a relationship and a friendship with Israel, and we want Israel and Lebanon to be able to live in peace. And so it's not as if we're on one side or the other, here. We're on the side of certain principles certain kinds of behavior that we really believe will lead to a peace for both the Lebanese people and for the Israeli people. KING: A couple of other things. Secretary Rumsfeld on the Hill today, explaining what's going on in Iraq. At the same time a Gallup poll comes out today, 55 percent now back the United States pullout from Iraq within a year, 54 percent say the whole thing was a mistake. Is there going to be a civil war? What's happening?

RICE: Well, it's a tough situation in Iraq, of course. They're going through a really major transition. These are people who -- for whom democratic institutions are new. These are people for whom the way of doing things for so many years was to solve their differences either by violence or more likely by repression.

And now they're trying to learn to solve those differences within and to promote interests within democratic institutions. And it's difficult, because there are determined enemies that don't want to see a democratic Iraq emerge because a democratic Iraq is going to change the Middle East. But they will succeed, Larry, and what they deserve from us is that the United States is prepared to support them and to finish the job.

KING: Are you surprised that there has been as much of them as there are, that there's been as much of a hostility on the minority side?

RICE: Well, I think the hostility is coming from a few people who want to stop progress. Either they see no future in a democratic Iraq or they are people who see everything in zero-sum terms, or they are terrorists, still quite a few foreign terrorists in Iraq.

But this is a system that's also made tremendous progress over time. This is a country that has had free elections and has a freely- elected prime minister, a freely-elected parliament. This is the most legitimate government in that sense, in terms of elections, in the whole region.

And so we have to remember that our security is inextricably -- American security is inextricably linked to a different kind of Middle East that cannot produce the kinds of -- the ideology of hatred and people who will act on that hatred, of the kind that costs us -- caused September 11th. And so this is -- the security of Iraq and the security of the United States are inextricably linked.

KING: And finally, what happens, Madame Secretary, if Castro dies?

RICE: Well, we're watching very carefully, that situation, and of course a transition is one way or another appears to be underway there and transition will have to come.

What we want for the people of Cuba is what every person in the world deserves, and that's to be free, to be able to live in a land in which you can educate your children, boys and girls, and say what you think and worship as you please, and have just the human dignity that comes with controlling your own future and being able to chose those who are going to govern you. That's what we want for the people of Cuba. The time will come when there is going to be a free Cuba. The time will come when we are no longer talking about the only state in the entire Western Hemisphere in which you don't have an elected leader. That time will come, and the United States will be there to support the aspirations of the Cuban people.

KING: So the United States might be involved in a transition.

RICE: Well, the United States will certainly support a transition, because, as we're doing around the world, people deserve to be free. And perhaps the people of Cuba, because they live in a hemisphere that is essentially free, feel that lack of freedom more than most.

KING: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.

RICE: Thank you.

KING: Always good talking to you.

RICE: Good to be with you.


KING: The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. John McCain is next.

Don't go away.


KING: Now our interview with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. I begin by asking him about Secretary Rice's hopes for a U.N. resolution within days. And I asked him why it's taking so long.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think that it's pretty obvious that Hezbollah had continued their attacks on Israel and it's very difficult to have a genuine ceasefire that will be permanent if you have a terrorist organization aided and abetted by the Iranians that continue to attack Israel.

So, I think we are, as she said, reaching a point where we can get an international force in there. We can have a ceasefire and help the government of Lebanon repair the country and regain control of its entire nation.

KING: Might she and the administration be overly optimistic here?

MCCAIN: They might be but I think that it's -- this has to come to a stop. There have been terrible casualties on both sides as far as civilians are concerned. There is now the weight of the world, including the Arab world, calling for this to happen. But it really is a vital ingredient that you have to have the Lebanese government control its own territory and they can do that if we have an international force in place to keep Hezbollah from continuing their attacks on Israel.

KING: Are you surprised that Secretary Rice confirmed that President Bush hasn't talked with Prime Minister Olmert yet?

MCCAIN: I am a bit surprised to hear that because I know they talk regularly but I know that they have a very good relationship.

KING: What about this threat by the Hezbollah leader to bomb Tel Aviv?

MCCAIN: Well, to tell you the truth I think he would have done it already if they had the capability to do so. They are inflicting significant damage just by the sheer volume of the rockets that they're launching into Israel.

We've also been surprised. I think we should have a little straight talk. We've been surprised at the depth and complexity of their -- of their weapons systems and their defenses which have been quite, quite more than many of us thought there would be and they have put up a pretty good fight.

But whether this thing is brought to a successful conclusion or not, in my view, will be directly related as to whether Hezbollah can be prevented from reopening and restarting those attacks on Israel, and that can only be with a vigorous force in the region, helping the Lebanese government restore its credibility by controlling its entire country and enforcing Security Council resolution 1559.

KING: Let's talk about today.


KING: Secretary Rumsfeld testified to your committee today?


KING: You expressed at that meeting frustration, you called it a whack a mole here about the shuffling around in Iraq. Was that a disappointing day to you?

MCCAIN: It's disappointing that we have to take troops from one area that are still not under our control, places like Ramadi and Fallujah, and put them into Baghdad, and as they testified, they had not anticipated this turn of events so the level of sectarian violence in Baghdad. I want to emphasize again, Larry, I believe we have to prevail and I believe we can and we will but it's very dispiriting when we see these problems arise and these difficulties in maintaining control of the capital city of six million people.

KING: What if an all out civil war breaks out?

MCCAIN: Well, I asked both generals, General Abizaid, the commander in the region and General Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and they said it's possible, I don't think it's probable. I think it is possible. I think that's why we're having to send American troops in there to assist, but I do think it's a very, very serious situation.

KING: What do you make of Senator Clinton, could well be the Democratic nominee for the presidency, could well be running against you, calling for Rumsfeld's resignation today?

MCCAIN: I believe that one of the consequences of elections are that the president gets to pick his team. And that's what happens when you win elections and you become president. If the president maintains confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld, then that's the defining factor in my view.

KING: When is someone's time to go?

MCCAIN: When you lose the confidence of the person you work for, in this case, the commander in chief, the president of the United States.

KING: What if, though, the public is turning against you, Gallup Poll, 55 percent against this whole war. Doesn't that question the job performance?

MCCAIN: Oh, I'm sure our failures in Iraq require us to exercise congressional oversight and question, which is our responsibility, our constitutional responsibility. I want to repeat my belief that if we fail, that chaos would ensue and we must win and we're making progress in some areas. I do believe that it's important to note that a majority of the American people want us out. I want us out. You want us out. But they don't want a scheduled withdrawal because they realize that conditions on the ground are really what would dictate the withdrawal.

KING: Senator, always good having you talk with us. Look forward to it again soon.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. We'll be back with our panel of George Mitchell and Queen Nor right after this.


KING: Before we meet Queen Nor and George Mitchell, let's go to northern Israel. John Roberts standing by, our senior national correspondent. This has been a very bloody day for Israel, right John?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has, Larry. It's the worst day of the war in terms of casualties for Israel. Eight civilians killed in rocket attacks in the city of Malut and as well in Acca, right there along the Mediterranean and they lost four soldiers. Two of them were killed in fighting toward the western side of the front. Another one, a third, later died of his wounds just west of where I am in the town of Taiba, which appears to be part of the northern-western push that the Israeli army is engaged in. Another soldier died when his armored personnel carrier was hit by an antitank missile.

So, it's been a terribly deadly day here and it looks like things are only going to get worse in terms of the intensity of the fighting. The Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, yesterday, Israeli time, today there in New York, told the army to et ready for a major push all the way to the Litani River, to grab as much territory. That push has not yet been approved by the Israeli Security Cabinet but the army is all prepared to go all the way to the Litani River, Larry, and in terms of the amount of territory that they might hold, it would be just about exactly the same amount they held for 18 years while they were occupying south Lebanon.

KING: Thanks, John. Let's go to Beirut and Michael Ware, our CNN international correspondent. We're hearing about more activity in Baalbeck, is that true?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Larry. There has been reporting on all the Arab networks that apart from parts of Beirut and its outskirts or outer fringe, the town in the Baalbeck in the Bekaa Valley, very much the heartland of Hezbollah, is also receiving bombardments. We've heard as many, reports of as many as six strikes there. It's a town where we were just a few days ago in the aftermath of a lightning Israeli commando deep strike operation targeting Hezbollah leaders.

KING: Thanks Michael. Let's go to Anderson Cooper in Haifa. He'll host "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at the top of the hour. Is there much optimism there about the apparently soon to be U.N. resolution?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know that optimism is really the word I would use. People are certainly watching it closely. There is a lot of concern. There is not a lot of confidence in the U.N. based on past experiences here with the U.N. force that's currently in south Lebanon that's failed to disarm Hezbollah and has allowed the rockets to continue to come into northern Israel. Certainly after today, I mean, after this deadly day as John Roberts was talking about, just north of here, five people dead. Closer to the Lebanese border, three other civilians killed by these rockets. And Larry, more than 200 rockets fell today and within the space of 30 minutes, 100 rockets rained down killing people and hitting cars. It was a very deadly day. Blood in the streets and that's something which, it's hard to have much optimism and confidence in peace talks when there are pools of blood in the street.

KING: Well put. That's Anderson Cooper and he'll host "ANDERSON COOPER 360" for two hours at the top of the hour. That's 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We'll be back with her majesty Queen Nor, who's with us in Los Angeles and George Mitchell. Don't go away.


KING: It's a pleasure to have her here with us in Los Angeles. And she's become one of our expert panelists and what a one to have. Her majesty Queen Noor, the widow of his majesty King Hussein of Jordan and in northeast Harbor, Maine is George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader and international peace negotiator. All right, your majesty, Secretary Rice says the resolution in the U.N. is within days of happening. Are you encouraged?

HER MAJESTY, QUEEN NOOR, QUEEN OF JORDAN: Well, we hear many different things from different sources including Israel, so one has to pray to God that it will happen as soon as possible for the sake of the civilians on both sides that are paying such a heavy toll for this conflict.

KING: But Anderson Cooper says there is not much hope?

QUEEN NOOR: I know, and that's because I think there are so many different stories that one hears within these different communities. I mean, on the Israeli side there seems to be a split within different, the statements of different Israeli officials, and the tit for tat across the border is terribly concerning because one side is provoking the other and back again. I think Ghandi put it best. He said an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

KING: George Mitchell, if you watched the secretary of state, did she give you encouragement?


KING: Did she give you encouragement or not?

MITCHELL: Not really, Larry, because earlier this week, the secretary said that the cease-fire would be established this week. In response to your questions it seems clear that it will not occur this week but it will be sometime later. I like and respect Secretary Rice but what really surprised me and what I strongly disagree with is her blaming the problems of the Middle East on previous administrations and claiming that this administration has made more progress in the Middle East than did previous administrations.

In fact, I think the opposite is the case, that previous administrations, Republican and Democratic, handled the situations in that region better than has the current administration although the problems are not identical. No administration faces exactly the same issues and questions. Overall, though, I don't think the policies the administration has pursued have been effective in the region.

KING: If you share that view, your majesty, do you think they have the wrong perspective?

QUEEN NOOR: I also believe that previous administrations, because of their direct engagement with and many of them attempted to be far more balanced in their approach to both sides of the story, because both sides have stories of tragedy, of fear, of generations that have built up a great deal of distrust and anger, and I think there is one example, which is, because I keep going back, as so many others do, to believing that the heart of this problem is the Arab, the larger Arab-Israeli conflict which started in 1948 with the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, as the state of Israel was created. Those refugees have never been addressed properly, nor the ones that were forced from their homes over the next several decades, '67. There are now six million outside. So the annexation of, the occupation and annexation of Arab lands by Israel, the refugee issue and the prisoners that are held in contravention of international law --

KING: You're therefore blaming Israel for this?

QUEEN NOOR: I'm saying that those are issues that lay, are the root cause and what the militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, who also have political roles, were elected in legitimate elections in their communities, in Palestinian territories and in Lebanon, what drives the militancy and what would sap all the energy and justification for this militancy, would be a resolution of those core issues, that are a driving force of the militants.

KING: John Roberts in northern Israel, would you say that in that part of the world, in Israel at least, this administration is popular?

ROBERTS: Oh, absolutely, Larry. This administration is very popular because this administration has taken more or less a hands-off policy toward Israel and let Israel do what it wants in terms of military campaigns, in the West Bank, Gaza, and now in Lebanon, and doesn't really try to reign it back in. The Clinton administration spent so much time trying to work on peace. This White House, I don't want to say it's been a policy of disengagement, but it certainly hasn't been an engagement to the same level of the previous White House, Larry. Israel is quite happy to have the full support of the United States and be able to operate all on its own.

KING: Yet, are you surprised, I was going to ask you, George, are you surprised that the secretary confirmed that the president has not spoken since all of this outbreak with Prime Minister Olmert?

MITCHELL: I was, Larry. I do not know whether that's deliberate or not but I was surprised. I just wanted to add to the comment to what John said, that the Clinton administration and President Clinton personally were also very popular in Israel. It is true that, of course, the people of Israel are very grateful to the current administration and strongly supportive of President Bush, but it's not as though previous presidents were unpopular there. My concern, Larry, I should make it clear, express my own views, is that the Bush administration conceived the idea that the way to resolve the problems of the region, including the Israeli Palestinian conflict, was through Iraq. And there has been a single minded focus on Iraq to the exclusion of other problems in the region. And one consequence of that, and clearly there are benefits. We're all better off and certainly the people of Iraq are better off without Saddam Hussein in power but one of the consequences of that is that the major counterweight to Iran in the region has been removed. Iranian power and influence in the region is now greater, much greater than it was at any time in recent history, and growing rapidly as a result of current events. KING: Let me get a break and come back. We'll talk briefly will Schlomo and Karnit Goldwasser, the father and wife of the captured Israeli soldiers, one of the two captured by Hezbollah and then come back with our panel. Don't go away.


KING: We're back, joining us in Bethesda, Maryland, Shlomo and Karnit Goldwasser, a return visit with the father and wife of captured Israeli soldier Ehud Goldwasser. Ehud was one of the soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah. Karnit, you made a plea earlier today to the wives of Hezbollah soldiers, asking them what?

KARNIT GOLDWASSER, WIFE OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER: First of all, I want to thank the people who brought us here to speak to you. I ask the wives of Hezbollah to help me to get a sign that Ehud and Dan are still alive and to know if something happened to them, if they are injured or not.

KING: Shlomo, you've heard nothing?

SHLOMO GOLDWASSER, FATHER OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER: Nothing. It's now the 23rd day since Ehud was kidnapped. We've heard nothing.

KING: Shlomo, what are you doing in the United States?

S. GOLDWASSER: You know, there is no school in the world to teach you what to do when your son is kidnapped. And I was thrown into this situation in the fraction of a second on the 12th of July. And judging what to do, what are the tools to bring him back, I found that there is not so many tools in my hand, and the only one that is in my hands, with the help of you, is the media. I am using it and I'm going everywhere, everywhere that I can raise my voice and have some people to hear me. And you're doing a great job.

K. GOLDWASSER: And we also came here --

KING: Well we're all over the world. I'm sorry, go ahead, Karnit.

K. GOLDWASSER: I said that we also came here to meet some politicians, maybe they could help us, the Israeli people, the families, to bring them back home.

KING: I'm sorry, Karnit, do you talk to the family of Gilad?

K. GOLDWASSER: Of course, we're all the time in connection. Their family and our family, of course.

KING: What would you say, Shlomo, assuming that the captors are watching, and that's a good possibility because we're seen all around the world, what would you say to them?

S. GOLDWASSER: I say, it's impossible to speak to them directly. We try. We try via the Red Cross and via the official channels. It's impossible. I hope, I hope they are watching me and I hope they hear what I say and we're repeating it every interview and every interview. We asking to have a sign of life for our children.

KING: If you're watching, at least let them know what the situation is, knowledge is precious. We'll keep in close touch with Shlomo and Karnit Goldwasser. They are in Bethesda, Maryland and they will be traveling in the United States. We'll be back with our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


KING: Unfortunately we have less than a minute, any hope, any optimism, your majesty?

QUEEN NOOR: As I said before I'm always an optimist. I have spent so much time with Israeli and Arab young people through a program called Seeds of Peace and through another program I am president of, the United World Colleges. Both of these bring young people together from across different conflict divides. And I have seen the hope and it still exists and it's still active even through the horrors of this crisis. But I have seen how young people coming face-to-face can overcome these horrific obstacles.

KING: Her Majesty Queen Noor, she will return to us Sunday night. We'll have a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

George, do you see any optimism?

MITCHELL: Well Larry, the words of the Goldwassers were deeply moving and remind us that this whole cycle of conflict was initiated by a reckless act by Hezbollah, extremely unwise. I think they didn't anticipate what the reaction would be. The dead cannot be brought back to life but many more deaths could be prevented if they did the right, wise and sensible thing and released the two soldiers.

KING: We're out of time. We'll see you again, George. Tomorrow night we're going to break from all of this and have some fun. A little laughs won't hurt. Will Ferrell, John Riley. "Taladega Nights" opens tomorrow, so Ricky Bobby, one of the great race drivers of all time will be our special guest. Right now let's go back to northern Israel. Standing by is Anderson Cooper. He will host "AC 360," Anderson.


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