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Interview With Shimon Peres; Interview With Abdullah Gul

Aired September 26, 2010 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: Now for our "What in the World" segment. What got my attention this week was a claim by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This one isn't about nuclear weapons or Israel or the holocaust, it's about execution.

President Ahmadinejad claims that there is a death penalty double standard. On the one hand, he says the western world is coming down on Iran because it may put a woman to death by stoning.

And on the other hand, nobody protests again the execution this week of a woman in America. OK, so let's do some comparisons. We'll start at the macro and move to the micro.

The United States executed 52 people in 2009. So far, this year, 38 executions have taken place. Now, for those opposed to the death penalty this is obviously 38 deaths too many.

But in Iran in 2009, the regime put more than 388 people to death and has already executed 180 to date this year, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty says that included in last year's grim tally for Iran were one execution by stoning, 14 public executions, 77 killed by mass execution, and five people put to death for crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18.

In the United States, there were no stonings, no public executions, no mass executions, and nobody executed for crimes committed as a juvenile. Amnesty says Iran executes people for political reasons and that they saw a huge spike in executions in the days and weeks after the disputed Iranian elections of last June, June of 2009.

A 112 people were executed, they say, that month alone. The United States, of course, does not execute people for political reasons. So what of these two specific cases? In Iran it is this woman, who has been sentenced to death by stoning.

She was convicted of adultery and is being accused in the complicity of the murder of her husband, a charge she vehemently denies. In the United States, in the state of Virginia, it this woman, Teresa Lewis, who has been executed by lethal injection.

She pled guilty to hiring two men to kill her husband and stepson. Lewis' supporters say she is mentally impaired, but the Supreme Court allowed her execution to continue. So again, whatever your views on the death penalty, you can see that these are different cases. While we're discussing this topic, listen to Bernard Henri-Levy, my guest from last week as he describes stoning.


BERNARD-HENRI LEVY, FRENCH INTELLECTUAL: The men are buried to the waist in order to have a chance to escape. The women have no chance. There's a group of men that gather around them and stone them with stones -- not too big in order that the suffering last as much as possible and not too small in order to kill. And the target is to transform the face of the woman into a pulp.


ZAKARIA: Now, let's go back to President Ahmadinejad's original plan. He said there was much more coverage worldwide of the Sakineh case than the Lewis case.

And you know what? He's right. A Lexis Nexus search for last month showed six times as many articles on the stoning case in Iran than the lethal injection case in Virginia.

But given the differences I've mentioned, I think this is justifiable. All this coverage might actually been having an effect. On "Larry King," President Ahmadinejad seemingly changed his tune, now saying that Zakena has not been sentenced to death by stoning and that nothing has been decided.

So let's hope that Iran makes the right moral decision on this crucial case. We'll be right back. President Peres, if you were to be talking to President Gore as your hope. What would you say to him?

President Gore, if you met with President Peres, what would you say to him?


ZAKARIA: Shimon Peres is the grand old man of Israeli politics. He has been foreign minister, prime minister twice, and is now the president. There since before Israel's founding, Peres has seen it all.

Four months ago, a new wrinkle was added to the complexities of the Middle East when Israel responded voluntarily to a flotilla of aid bound for Gaza from Turkey. Nine activists were killed in the raid. Now once warm relations between Israel and Turkey are almost nonexistent.

President Peres says a meeting he was to have had this week with Turkish President Abdullah Gul was promptly canceled. They wouldn't talk to each other in person, but you'll see them back to back on this show.

First up, President Simon Peres. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAKARIA: President Peres, it's an honor to have you on.

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to meet you.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that the leadership of Iran is deterrable? Does has a very significant nuclear deterrent, why would Iran not be deterred from -- by that? Everywhere else in the world this deterrent works, why does Israel think it wouldn't work with Iran?

PERES: Who's threatening to destroy Iran? Do you know anybody? Iran is threatening to destroy Israel and who cannot guarantee us that we'll be safe? It's not a group that is based on telling the truth.

It's not the leadership that does this. They are introducing terror and killing and hitting, it's a shameful organization. Now Israel saying we have New York bomb -- nuclear bombs. I know we are suspected --

ZAKARIA: I assume on this program you will not confirm that right now.

PERES: No, I think if suspicion - it's enough. If there is terror it's an act and now the secretary over there, used to be foreign minister, we are good friend. I told -- Shimon, we are such good friends. Why wouldn't you take me?

Let me have a look what's going on. I tell him, you're crazy. I'll take you to the Dimona, you'll see there's nothing there. They're still being suspicious, they'll fire me. I want them to be suspicious, that's the purpose.

ZAKARIA: But do you think that anything Ahmadinejad has said in the last few weeks or this week at the U.N., has it worried you more -- there are many people who say this is a very shrewd, calculating risk.

They are trying to assert leadership in the Arab world. They're appropriating the Palestinian issue, this is the game they're playing, and we need to understand that rather than believe than to be mad mullahs.

PERES: I don't believe any word that he says, but we watch everything he does. From hanging homosexuals because they're homosexuals, for shooting at the crowd of people that are protesting with fire, for sending arms to Hamas and Hezbollah, for financing terror.

I mean, the speech is covering in that case and they don't believe and they recommend to the world what it does, I do recommend to watch them on the record what it does, what it's threatening, who is threatening Iran? Furthermore, Iran wants to become the hegemon of the Middle East. Today the choice for the Middle East to remain a Middle East of independent country or to fall under the spell of Iran. They are ambitious.

ZAKARIA: Wouldn't this be -- the fact of the matter is that Israel finds itself on the same side of the great strategic divide in the Middle East right now, which is on the issue of the rise of Iran.

PERES: Right.

ZAKARIA: You are on the same side as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf states. Couldn't this prove to be a strategic partnership that helps solve the Palestinian issue, as well?

PERES: It can, it helps. But we admit it open and clearly, it is not simple to do so because, again, Ahmadinejad is shrewd. He doesn't speak about Shiites and Sunnites, he speaks against Israel. So it's very hard to stand up and defend Israel in this strange debate.

ZAKARIA: But that is why he's appropriating the Palestinian issue.

PERES: Yes, sure. Sure. He used it as a ticket. It doesn't cost much. Speeches. He supports Hamas. It covers part of their budget. We have to have a -- they send missiles, and we caught some missiles and ships and we encourage them to -- he encourage them to terrorize.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the other country that seems to be making a bid for influence in the Middle East, which is Turkey. Turkey has had long relations with Israel. You have had military training exercises together.

There is now a real rupture in the relationship. You were meant to meet with President Gore. Is it your understanding that they asked that you apologize for the flotilla incident, and that is why the meeting was called off?

PERES: Yes. I mean, there was a certain person that took the initiative to arrange a meeting. Usually I sit down with the president, I respect him. He came to me and said, look, we've got to arrange a meeting. The meeting we thought it would be the panel of the Clinton initiative. I said, gladly.

Then I was asked what do you suggest the topic will be, my answer of was the future. I didn't get an answer. All of a sudden I read they first want apologies and compensation. I was very much surprised.

But we didn't change our attitude to Turkey. We were friend s of Turkey. We shall seek friendship with Turkey. Maybe Turkey has changed policies it's held in consideration.

ZAKARIA: But how do you -- how does Israel and Turkey get out this bind because they clearly feel wounded and want an apology. You have said unequivocally that you will not apologize. How do you restore relations?

PERES: We don't think that we did anything wrong on the ship. I mean, we decided to catch the ship. There is permission to catch a ship out of the territory water before it comes in. We checked it very carefully with legal advisers and when our soldier -- there were five ships -- six ships. Five? Well, more or less specific. The sixth ship was a provocation in their behavior.

Now, we said you want to unload the aid you want to send to the Gaza. Come in either to the Israeli port or the Egyptian port and it will be delivered. No, they wanted a provocation. What for?

And, by the way, if you want to really, to help to solve the situation in Gaza, why didn't you tell the Hamas to stop shooting? Why did you close your eyes?

ZAKARIA: And what do you think is the answer to that? Is Turkey seeking also a leadership role in the Middle East and it feels it needs street credibility with - with the Arab strip?

PERES: I wouldn't like to make any comment which may open a debate. I'm not in a mood, I don't think, to debate. I worked upon the Turkish invitation, develop (ph) Turkey to become a member of Europe. We are very friendly. I didn't change my mind.

If there is already a change in Turkey or is a change being developed in Turkey, it's for the Turks to judge. I wouldn't like to make any accusations, any suspicion. I have patience.

ZAKARIA: So if you were to be talking to President Gul, as you had hoped, what would you say to him?

PERES: I said, look, we are friends. We have to continue our friendship. If you want to help in Gaza, start with the reason, not with the reaction.

Tell Hamas to stop shooting. Tell Iran to stop sending missiles. (INAUDIBLE) not to threaten to Israel, or deny the holocaust. If you want to play a role, you have to play a role. But there are two sides to the story.

ZAKARIA: Do you look forward, and do you believe that in two years we might have a - a two-state solution and a - and a peace deal?

PERES: I think it's a fair possibility. We really would like to bring an end to the conflict with the Palestinians fairly, honestly.

For me, the end of the conflict is needed because it's not a matter of political wisdom. It's a matter of pressures (ph).

We, the Jewish people, were not born to govern other people. It stands against everything that we stand for. For me, it's a moral test. We think the better the Palestinians will have it, it should be better for us. We'll be better neighbors. ZAKARIA: President Peres, thank you very much. Always an honor.

PERES: Thank you very much.



ABDULLAH GUL, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY: Can we ignore this? Can we forget what happened in the Mediterranean Sea? Can we forget that eight Turks and one American was - were killed in these ships?



ZAKARIA: You've just heard what President Peres of Israel thinks about the chances for peace and what he would say to his friend -- with whom relations are now strained -- Turkey's President Abdullah Gul. In a moment, you will hear Gul's thoughts on all this.

But first, why is Abdullah Gul so important? He is not just the president of Turkey, he is also the co-founder, with Prime Minister Erdogan, of its dominant political party. Some observers see Gul and Erdogan taking Turkey in new directions, with ambitions to be the new power broker of the Middle East, and some say they are turning away from Turkey's entrenched Western roots toward an Islamic foreign policy.

I asked Gul about that and a lot more. Listen up.


ZAKARIA: President Gul, this is an honor to have you.

GUL: It's my privilege to be here.

ZAKARIA: You come at an interesting moment, because there's a great deal of speculation about Turkey. People look at Turkey and its recent actions in various ways, and, they say, is Turkey still a loyal friend of the United States and of the West?

GUL: You are right. I've been asked all these questions here.

Turkey is part of the alliance, and definitely Turkey is a very strong friend of United States. As a matter of fact, President Obama, he made his first visit to Turkey, and he made excellent speech in our parliament. We really appreciated it. The Turkish people, very much sympathetic.

And don't forget, we are aligned. Look at Afghanistan. Turkey is the only country to increase the number of troops there. We increased 1,000 more, now we have 2,000. And we're supposed to - we throw (ph) 1,000 this year because we want that in additional. We saw that there's no - and the country, you see, ready to take over, so we decided to continue. ZAKARIA: One of the things people look at is that on the issue that the United States has taken as a very strong issue, the issue of Iran. You voted against the United States in the U.N. Security Council.

Now, I've been following Turkish foreign policy for a long time. Turkish foreign minister, Turkish ambassador to the U.N. very rarely vote against the U.S., and very rarely on an issue of core security interests to the U.S. Why did you vote against the Iran sanctions?

GUL: Well, this should not be misunderstood. That vote opened the way for more diplomacy.

How can you solve this problem? Two ways - war or diplomacy. We prefer diplomacy, because if the war happens, the region will be entered more.

ZAKARIA: The other issue, of course, that has come up is your relations with Israel. You are - you have had relations with Israel for a long time. You have had military relations with Israel.

Ever since the - the - the Israeli operation in Gaza, relations seemed to - to get bad and go - get worse. And then, of course, you had the flotilla incident, and, at this point, there seems to be virtually no contact or communication.

How is this situation going to get resolved?

GUL: First, it's not our choice, you see? We did not prefer this deterioration in relationship. But, unfortunately, it was a great mistake from Israel's side, because this blockage, embargo on Gaza, not only Turkey is criticizing this. President Obama, Madam Clinton, all the five countries. European Union. They all called Israel to lift this.

Can we ignore this? Can we forget what happened in the Mediterranean Sea? Can we forget that eight Turks and one American was - were killed in this ship?

This ship, carrying humanitarian aid, they were not - (INAUDIBLE) a crime. In fact, helping them, it is a body (ph) of the - of the west, you see? If there's something humanitarian tragedy there, so you go there, you see? And these were all NGOs. None of them was a government organization.

ZAKARIA: But some Israeli say if you're so concerned about the seizure of Gaza, why don't you use your good offices to talk to Hamas and tell them stop firing rockets at Israel, create a condition in which there's peace and then there wouldn't be a siege?

GUL: Very good question.

I'll tell you something a few people know. How Hamas joined the election, they joined, and they won the election. The next day - I was the foreign (ph) minister that time, called them, (INAUDIBLE) now your responsibility is different. Since you won the election, it will be different.

The next day, they want to - Hamas spoke to us. They came.

ZAKARIA: The representatives of Hamas?

GUL: Yes. Yes. (INAUDIBLE). They came, and Israel knows this, or the detectives (ph), you see? They know.

They came, and we talked to them, all in a day. And we told them that, look, now your direction should be different from now. You are elected democratically. You should act democratically. Terror, sending these nonsense rockets, you stop - stop all these things and try to get - embrace all the American people, the European people. And, also, so I told them, tell them that if you have your state, independent state on your land, you are right to live together with Israelis.

So we are very much helpful to Israel. And not only on previous governments, the current government. I mean, many times I went there, in - and many times the prime minister, everyone went there. Many times they came to us. And we work very good, you see, between -

ZAKARIA: With the - with the - with the Netanyahu government?

GUL: Until the Netanyahu government, yes.

ZAKARIA: Until then?

GUL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: So it's this government you have had trouble with?

GUL: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

ZAKARIA: So - because some people look at this and say Turkey is trying to play a new foreign policy that will win the hearts and minds of the Arab world, so it is - it is forsaking Israel. It is attacking Israel. It is having a more Islamic foreign policy.

GUL: No, no. I mean, the rhetoric in foreign policy is not good, you see? It doesn't get you anywhere.

But definitely the Iraq war is also (INAUDIBLE), you see? If you dare to raise your voice sometimes, then of course the people - I mean, they like this.

But we are not against Israel. We are not the enemy. But we have a right to criticize the foreign policies.


ZAKARIA: We'll be back in a moment with more with Turkish President Gul. We've heard what Israeli President Peres would have said to Gul if they had met this week. What would Gul have said to his one time friend?

Back with that in a moment.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley, and here are today's top stories.

Prominent Georgia Pastor Eddie Long told his congregation and the media this morning that he will fight the allegations of sexual abuse.


BISHOP EDDIE LONG, NEW BIRTH BAPTIST CHURCH: You know, I would want this to be dealt in - in a court of justice and not by public opinion. I will say that I am going to fight - fight very vigorously against these charges. And I've - I've been at this church for 23 years. I - this is the first time I realized that we are as important as we are to give this much attention, and we're going to continue as a church to do the things that we do to touch the world.


CROWLEY: Four young men filed lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long this week, claiming he coerced them into sexual relationships.

I'm Candy Crowley, and here are some other top stories today.

An improvised explosive device killed two NATO service members in Southern Afghanistan today. Officials did not say who was responsible for the attack. This year is already the deadliest of the war, with more than 530 coalition forces killed.

A contentious issue between Israelis and Palestinians is set to reach an important deadline today. Israel's moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank expires at midnight. The Palestinians say new building could derail peace talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that 10-month- old curbs on new settlement construction will not be extended despite appeals from President Obama.

And those are your top stories. Up next, much more FAREED ZAKARIA GPS. And then, on "RELIABLE SOURCES", Howard Kurtz' talk to CBS' Lara Logan about her recent trip to Afghanistan.


ZAKARIA: Israel's close relationship with Turkey has been a vital one for keeping peace in the Middle East. But after the flotilla incident of four months ago, the relationship is tenuous at best.

We heard what President Shimon Peres of Israel thinks of the relationship. What does President Gul of Turkey have to say?

Take a listen.


ZAKARIA: Do you - do you think that if - that there is some circumstance in which your relations with Israel will get back to normal?

GUL: It's up to Israel.

ZAKARIA: You want them to apologize?

GUL: I mean, what international law is saying should be applied here. It's - we are not asking something different, you see?

ZAKARIA: But you wouldn't even meet with President Peres. President Peres says that he had a meeting scheduled with you and that you then said - your - your side said that President Peres would have to apologize to you, otherwise there would be no meeting.

GUL: No. These are not correct. I mean, President Peres sent - all right, we are friends. Even when he was not president, you see, I'm - in Israel, I used to go to his office. When he used to come to Turkey, he used to come to my office. So we know each other.

But, this time, there was no such appointment, you see?

ZAKARIA: If you met with President Peres, what would you say to him?

GUL: I'll tell him that, OK, approach realistically, and be realistic. Of course, not the personal things. Israel, you see, and think what happened and think the value of Turkey. Is it in your interests or not?

ZAKARIA: To have a strong relationship?

GUL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: But you would se him with no precondition? You don't require - you would - you'd be willing to meet President Peres without an apology, with - just a conversation?

GUL: No. I mean, what I see that, OK, they are defending their act and criticizing us as if we acted something wrong. With this understanding, how can I meet?

I mean, the - the method, the approach, the feeling is important, first of all. How can I ignore my people who were killed?

We are the state that we have the state traditions. We are - therefore, this 1,000-year tradition, state tradition, we have, how can I forget all of these things?

ZAKARIA: President Gul, a great pleasure and an honor.

GUL: Thank you. It's my pleasure. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back. (END VIDEOTAPE)


ZAKARIA: Now for our "Question of the Week" - do you think the United Nations is A) a force for good in the world; B) a bureaucracy that has a very mixed record; or C) actively detrimental to peace and justice? Choose one.

Don't forget to subscribe to our free podcast on iTunes. That way, you'll never miss a show.

Now to go along with our U.N. theme this week, our "Book of the Week" is called "Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy" by Michael Soussan.

The book's author worked at the United Nations, and this is the U.N.'s version of a Hollywood tell-all. It's an insider's account of the oil-for-food scandal, breezily written and great fun to read.

And now, for the last look. Take a look at this photo. The key players in Mideast peace, walking in the White House. And you'll note that Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, is leading the charge.

The only problem is that even though this photo ran in Egypt's state-supported newspaper "Al-Ahram" - indeed, it took up half the page - it isn't exactly true. Check out the real photo. You see, Mubarak was in fact trailing behind while President Obama was in front.

I'll say this, Egypt's state propagandists are pretty good with Photoshop.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

Stay tuned for "RELIABLE SOURCES".