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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Palestinian Authority Pushes for Statehood

Aired September 23, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He is responding to the former President Bill Clinton, who blames him for slowing down the peace process.

Plus, the U.S. expands its controversial drone program with new potential targets in its sights.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The elusive quest for Middle East peace taking center stage today at the United Nations, as Palestinians formally, officially ask the world body to recognize their statehood. But in dueling speeches by the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, it was clear that the wants and needs of the two sides remain as polarized as ever.

CNN's Mary Snow is in New York. She's working this part of the story for us.

Mary, how did this all play out today?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With was so much lead-up to this day, Wolf, and so many diplomatic efforts behind it, what was said here in New York today was closely watched around the world, particularly in the Middle East. And the dramatic day ended at the U.N. with international leaders announcing a move to restart peace talks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): As Palestinian president Abbas made a historic request, asking the U.N. to formally recognize Palestinian statehood, crowds gathered in Ramallah in the West Bank to watch his remarks on a big screen. In New York a pro-Palestinian group sailed outside the U.N. with the message, Abbas, stand up to the U.S.

And before the General Assembly, Abbas made his case.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy in what is called now the Arab spring, the time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence.

SNOW: He said it was Israel blocking peace. ABBAS (through translator): the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations that are based on international law and U.N. resolutions. And it frantically continues to intensify building settlements on the territory of the state -- of the future state of Palestine.

SNOW: Crowds cheered his words in Ramallah. But shortly after Abbas' speech, Israel's prime minister addressed the General Assembly, saying Palestinians want a state without peace.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams. Yes, hopes, dreams, and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.

SNOW: Just hours later, another appeal for diplomacy from the Quartet for the Middle East, comprised of the U.S., European Union, Russia, and the U.N., proposing a timeline for the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States pledges our support as the parties themselves take the important next steps for a two-state solution, which is what all of us are hoping to achieve.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And one of the questions being asked this afternoon, what would make this peace effort any more successful than other past attempts?

Now, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is the Quartet representative to the Middle East, said both parties are being given concrete timetables to come up with detailed proposals on both borders and security. And, Wolf, that first deadline he says would be expected within three months, another deadline after that about six months.

BLITZER: Yes, heard these deadlines for years and years. They keep coming up with these deadlines. They seem to simply go away and then they move on, eventually create a new deadline.

Mary, thanks very much.

In the Palestinian territories, meanwhile, there was jubilation at Mahmoud Abbas' speech.

CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney was there. She's now in Jerusalem. She's got more.

Fionnuala, a lot of people in the West Bank seem to be celebrating more than just President Abbas' speech. What else is going on?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially they were celebrating him putting their cause on the map and harnessing it in front of the world.

Mahmoud Abbas is a man who is 76 years of age, Wolf, and he's acutely aware his own legacy and he did more tonight to secure that legacy among the Palestinian people than at any time since he took over from Yasser Arafat.

In fact, the crowd were chanting, "Abu Mazen, you finally filled Yasser Arafat's shoes." Really what is interesting here is that this is seen as a tactic by the Palestinians and the Palestinian leadership, not so much, Wolf, that they expect to get statehood any time soon, but more as a tactic, a means, a strategy to end occupation.

But where their interests diverge is that the Palestinian leadership see what happened tonight at the U.N. as a precursor to beginning direct talks at some stages. We have heard from the Quartet now. But the Palestinian people, a majority of them polled, believe that now the Palestinians should exercise their sovereignty over the West Bank and this is as a way of sort of avoiding talks, as it were.

And of course, that could lead to trouble on the ground.

BLITZER: Fionnuala, do you get a sense that there's a time frame for really tangible results?

SWEENEY: Well, you know, of course, there are very many settlers, up to 300,000 settlers, in the West Bank, and they have been saying this week that what they're worried about is not what Mahmoud Abbas was saying at the United Nations, but what the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, might do in order to get talks going.

So there were some skirmishes in the West Bank today, to be expected, I suppose, but really here there is a sense that Palestinians' expectations have been raised. They have to see what happens in the medium and the longer term, whether these talks get off the ground. But essentially here what has happened at the United Nations today, from both speeches, from both leaders doesn't do anything necessarily to settle the nerves of either side in this conflict.

BLITZER: Fionnuala Sweeney in Jerusalem for us, thanks, Fionnuala, very much.

Even before today's dramatic developments, Republican presidential candidates were reacting by slamming President Obama's handling of the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Listen to what Mitt Romney and Herman Cain said last night in a FOX News/Google presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America. He -- he addressed the United Nations in his inaugural address and chastised our friend, Israel, for building settlements and said nothing about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel.

Just before Bibi Netanyahu came to the United States, he threw Israel under the bus, tried to negotiate for Israel.

The right course -- if you disagree with an ally, you talk about it privately. But in public, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your allies.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This administration has not made it clear how it stands with Israel.

When I was in Israel last month, I met with the deputy prime minister. And he made it shockingly, chillingly clear that, given everything that's going on, number one, Israel will defend itself, with all of the tensions going on in the Middle East.

And he also made it real clear that he wasn't sure how this administration stood when it came to Israel. I made it clear, which -- and I would also make it clear to all of -- our -- the other people in the world, that if you mess with Israel, you're messing with the United States of America. We will stand solidly behind Israel.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, just a little while ago here in New York, I sat down with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. We talked about all of that. I got him to react to what Mitt Romney said, alleging that President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.

We also spoke about whether or not Israel should freeze settlement activity on the West Bank in order to try to jump-start peace negotiations. My one-on-one interview with the prime minister of Israel, that is coming up next.

Also, we will going get immediate reaction from the Palestinians, a spokesman for the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations. He will be joining us live.

Plus, potential new terror targets as the U.S. moves to expand its controversial drone program.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just came back from a sit-down, from an interview with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. We go through a whole range of issues, including Iran.

Is Israel getting any closer to taking action, military action to try to deal with Iran's nuclear program? We get into that subject and a lot more, including the peace process. Is there any hope for reviving the peace process? What does he say about the various Republican and Democratic presidential candidates? There's only one Democratic presidential candidate, as you know, but there are lots of Republican candidates.

Much to discuss. You will see the interview in a few minutes right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But there's some other news we're following right now, including this. They have been a key weapon in the fight against terrorism, and American drones will soon be able to reach new potential targets that previously had been out of reach.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. is expanding its ability to launch unmanned drones, to reach al Qaeda fighters spreading well beyond Pakistan.

U.S. officials tell CNN, the CIA is building a new airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula. And after a brief break, the U.S. has restarted a drone program from a base in Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Reapers have a range of more than 1,100 miles and can reach various parts of Somalia. From Seychelles, a drone could even fly all the way into Yemen, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has become the biggest threat to the U.S.

BRUCE RIEDEL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: And with Yemen deteriorating into civil war, we can't rely on Yemeni government to go after them or the Yemeni government to control them. That's why we need to have as many ways to go after them unilaterally as possible.

LAWRENCE: Brookings analyst Bruce Riedel says AQAP is dangerous in part because jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki is hiding in Yemen.

RIEDEL: They have one of the best bombmakers that al Qaeda has ever developed.

LAWRENCE: From Somalia, Al-Shabab has started to carry out attacks outside their home turf. And less is known about their leaders.

RIEDEL: East Africa's largely a black hole.

LAWRENCE: An official cable leaked to WikiLeaks shows that two years ago American diplomats agreed to get approval to arm the Reapers directly from Seychelles' president, who supported UAV counterterrorism flights into East Africa. The cable describes President James Michel's opinion of Somalia: "That country could prove a nest for terrorism, if the problem isn't attacked head on."

(on camera): But why is it so important to have this drone base out at sea?

MICHAEL SWETNAM, CEO, POTOMAC INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: So that you can react within minutes, 24 hours a day, for the next several months until you find the bad guy. Once again, we found some of these bad guys in the past and not been able to put an asset on target and we end up losing the bad guy because we can't get an asset there.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The U.S. initially used arm droned strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with areas of Iraq.

Moammar Gadhafi's forces were targeted in Libya. And strikes have continued in Yemen and Somalia. As first reported in "The Washington Post," a U.S. official says, surveillance flights are now being flown from a base in Ethiopia as well.

(on camera): U.S. officials say expanding the drone program has been in the works for the better part of a year, since U.S. officials identified more targets outside of al Qaeda's traditional base. The unrest in places like Yemen has only added to the urgency.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Rick Perry and Israel, Mitt Romney and Israel, why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now blasting a member of his own party, the Likud Party, who attended a Rick Perry rally here in New York.

Also, a controversial map of sorts in Texas -- why critics say Republicans are taking power away from Latino voters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, did more than just ask the United Nations to recognize Palestinian statehood today. He also issued a challenge to the world body.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBAS (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, this is a moment of truth. Our people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will it allow Israel to continue the last occupation in the world? We are the last people to remain under occupation. Will the world allow Israel to occupy us forever?

And will it allow Israel to remain a state above the law and accountability? Will it allow Israel to continue rejecting the resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice and the positions of the overwhelming majority of countries in the world? Is this acceptable?

Mr. President, the heart of the crisis in our area is very, very simple and obvious. Either there is those who believe that we are an unnecessary people, unwanted people in the Middle East, or those who believe that, in fact, there is a missing state that needs to be established immediately.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I talked about all of today's developments just a little while ago with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Prime Minister thanks very much for joining us.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

BLITZER: Why not freeze settlements one more time, test the Palestinians, see if they're serious about resuming direct peace negotiations with Israel, because that's their condition.

What would be wrong with that?

NETANYAHU: Well, I did freeze the settlements. I'm, so far, the only prime minister who's ever done that. Gave it almost a year, 10 months, the Palestinians didn't do anything with it. Nine months and one week into this freeze, they finally showed up and said, well, we just want more.

So it's a pretext. It's -- it's not serious. The issue of settlements has to be discussed in the negotiations. It can't be made a pretext for the negotiations.

BLITZER: But at this delicate moment -- Israel is very isolated right now in the region, around the world, wouldn't that help show how you're willing to go the extra mile?

NETANYAHU: I have gone the extra mile. I have called for two states for two peoples. I lifted 400 roadblocks and checkpoints to facilitate the ease of movement and the Palestinian economy. I have -- I froze the settlements for 10 months.

I have done a tremendous amount of things and nobody -- that -- it's not important. See, the cast -- the play is cast. There are characters in the play. No matter what we do or what we say, we're supposed to be against peace. And no matter what they don't do and don't say, the fact that they're not willing to come to the negotiations, they're cast, as well --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But even -- even to just try to improve Israel's image in the region. You see --

(CROSSTALK)

NETANYAHU: How about a simple --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- you see what's happening in Egypt with the Israeli Embassy there, potentially in Amman, Jordan with Turkey. The relationship, potentially, Israel's isolation in the region could be -- could be eased if you were to make that gesture.

NETANYAHU: We'd like to go to negotiations, but here -- here's a simple test, who wants peace and who doesn't. I just said, at the U.N. podium, I called on President Abbas. I said, look, I have a simple suggestion, let's negotiate right now. Let's just stop negotiating about the negotiations, stop piling on preconditions.

I could put preconditions on him. I would say, listen, dismantle some of the refugees camps, just one, to know that you're serious about peace, because you know that there won't be peace if they don't rehabilitate the refugees.

I haven't done that because I know that these are bogus preconditions. So I have said let's start the negotiations without preconditions. I'm ready to do it right now.

BLITZER: OK.

NETANYAHU: If President Abbas listens to your interview or my speech at the U.N. and decides to change his mind and to come to the negotiations, that's the way we'll launch the peace process. And the only way we're going to finish it is by beginning it.

BLITZER: I don't know if you heard my interview earlier in the week with former President Bill Clinton, but -- and he's a strong supporter of Israel, as you well know. He was pretty critical of you. He was suggesting that you've changed the goalposts, if you will, and he would like you to -- to make that gesture, if you will.

Did you -- did you see what he said?

NETANYAHU: Well, I -- I heard what he said, and I respectfully disagree with Bill Clinton. He's an important leader, he's -- he was the American president. But I think on this one, the facts speak differently.

And the facts are that, if anything, I moved Israel's position to something that now is consensual, that we can have a dramatized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. I have made that into the consensuses here in Israel. And I don't think any Likud leader did that before.

I think for the Palestinians to quote Abba Eban or, again, not wasting an opportunity to waste an opportunity --

BLITZER: I --

NETANYAHU: -- they said come -- just -- just put aside all this bickering, all these minutiae. Just sit down, as we're doing right now, and negotiate peace.

I'm ready to do it. Is President Abbas ready to do it?

BLITZER: All right, so you're not ready to freeze settlements again?

NETANYAHU: Well, I think that I have already done that and I think --

BLITZER: OK.

NETANYAHU: -- I have responded to it.

BLITZER: OK.

NETANYAHU: But I am willing to talk about it. And I'm hoping -- are they ready to rescind these demands? What is the sense of preconditions?

You know, for 18 years we've been negotiating peace. I don't remember this ever coming up as a -- as a precondition. I think when you want to avoid negotiations you get a free ride.

You know what the free ride, Wolf, is? That you ask any of these questions. You're not asking him. The fact that there's an -- you know, this easy way of accusing Israel, that's gone for peace, that's done things for peace, that's actually taken steps for peace, and the fact that the Palestinians who refused to negotiate peace for two and- a-half years are getting a free ride, that's how we avoid peace.

BLITZER: All right. Let me just clarify President Obama's remarks from last May. As you well remember --

NETANYAHU: Yes.

BLITZER: -- we met at Blair House afterward.

Has Israel come around and accepted the formula he put forward, that any future Palestinian state should be based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps?

NETANYAHU: Well, look, we -- we haven't rescinded our reservations on this, but there are many good things that were said. The president said -- and others have said -- and I think that -- the main thing is you don't predetermine the negotiations before you begin. That's what you have the negotiations for.

So, you know, we can -- we can agree on most things, we can disagree on a point here and there. But the main thing we agree on is we have to launch the negotiations right away without preconditions. And I think that's the wisest policy.

BLITZER: Some of the Republican presidential candidates -- Mitt Romney, for example -- have suggested that President Obama threw Israel under the bus. You've heard that. Rick Perry goes even further.

Do you believe President Obama threw Israel under the bus?

NETANYAHU: Well, I'm just not going to get into internal American politics. I think there's a very strong bipartisan support for Israel in the United States. It's -- it's, I think, impressive. Probably, Israel is one of the few countries that enjoys this unanimity, even intensity of support in the United States, and it comes from both sides.

BLITZER: That's why I was so surprised --

(CROSSTALK)

NETANYAHU: It comes from both sides.

BLITZER: Mr. Prime -- a member of your party, the deputy speaker or the Knesset, a member of Likud, came and stood next to Rick Perry on the eve of President Obama's speech at the United Nations General Assembly and effectively endorsed, got involved in domestic American politics.

You wouldn't like that if an American politician went to Israel on the eve of elections and got involved in Israeli politics.

NETANYAHU: No. No, I wouldn't. And I don't know -- like this either, but it's -- you know, I have to tell you something, when I get to the point that I can control Knesset, including in my own party, it'll be a good day.

BLITZER: You -- you didn't know he was coming to New York and was going to join Rick Perry at that news conference?

NETANYAHU: I knew somebody was but no, I didn't know that.

BLITZER: Because if you had known, what would you have told him?

NETANYAHU: I would have told him stay out of American politics.

BLITZER: Because that's been Israel's tradition over these years.

NETANYAHU: It still is.

BLITZER: But it didn't look like it then.

NETANYAHU: We're a vibrant democracy. You know what that means? That means that any Knesset member, any member of Congress, any senator can say whatever they -- they want.

Most of them -- most of them are more careful, some of them are more adventurous. But that doesn't reflect the government's position, certainly doesn't reflect my position. We're not going to enter American politics.

BLITZER: Some have suggested that the U. S. -Israeli military- to- military or security intelligence cooperation today in this Obama administration is better than it's ever been before. Is that true?

NETANYAHU: These are very good relations. We enjoy a lot of cooperation.

BLITZER: Better than ever?

NETANYAHU: You know, I haven't taken a history of it, certainly --

BLITZER: You know the history. You know the history.

NETANYAHU: It's certainly -- it's certainly, I think, substantial. I think it's worthwhile. I think it's meaningful and significant in the Middle East as we see it today. It's a very unstable place.

BLITZER: So when Republicans say

NETANYAHU: And Iran...

BLITZER: ... to Israel's friends...

NETANYAHU: And Iran is -- Iran is making it more...

BLITZER: I'm going to get to Iran in a second. The Republicans, whether presidential candidates, members of Congress or others say to Israel's friends in the United States, that President Obama is not a friend, what do you say?

NETANYAHU: I think all American presidents, including President Obama, share the ethos of the American people, which is a deep friendship -- I don't want to wax poetic, but it's at the very least a very deep friendship for the state of Israel and a powerful alliance between Israel and the United States. And that continues to this very day in public ways and in ways that I prefer not disclose.

BLITZER: You saw the story at the Daily Beast, that President Obama sold Israel bunker-buster bombs, potentially that could be used to knock out Iran's underground nuclear facilities. A, is that true?

NETANYAHU: Well, I don't get into the details of our weapons transactions. But there's been -- there's been a very good cooperation between Israel and the United States on defense issues. And my term, which happens to cohere with the president's term, we're both cooperating on this.

BLITZER: Is Israel prepared to take military action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power?

NETANYAHU: I think this is an issue for the world. I think Israel is definitely the one that's most directly threatened. But everyone is threatened. The Arab Spring is threatened.

BLITZER: How much time do you believe there is?

NETANYAHU: Less.

BLITZER: Less than what?

NETANYAHU: Less than we had before, because Iran is progressing in its nuclear programs. It's trying to disguise, even vaguely. You know, they're not even making that big an effort. They're proceeding to develop a nuclear weapons program.

Of course they say that they're developing their enriching uranium for medical isotopes. That's why they're developing ICBMs that could potentially reach this country, to put medical isotopes on it. That's a pretty expensive way to deliver isotopes to patients. But that's this absurdity...

BLITZER: You believe there's months, years? How much time do you think there's left?

NETANYAHU: There's a lot less time. Every day that passes...

BLITZER: Can you give me a little framework?

NETANYAHU: Every day that passes reduces the time and gets them closer to their target. And you know, they're -- they're a very dangerous country. This man, Ahmadinejad, said yesterday in the General Assembly of the U.N., in New York City, he implied that 9/11 was an American plot, an American conspiracy. You want to have this man with nuclear weapons?

You know he supports terrorists all over the world. He supports terrorism in the Middle East. He's -- Iran's facilitating attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, facilitating, actually attacking them with its various henchmen. You can't have this man with atomic bombs, because the specter of nuclear terrorism would be above all our heads.

BLITZER: One final question, on this issue, Iran and a nuclear weapon potentially, are you on the same page with the U.S.?

NETANYAHU: I think that the -- President Obama has made it clear that he's determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. I think this is the right policy.

BLITZER: So no daylight between Washington and Jerusalem?

NETANYAHU: You know, I think that over time, there's been less and less difference about our assessments about the program. There have been fewer and fewer differences about the danger posed to the world and to Israel about this program. And I think the crucial thing is to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

You know, if I had to say what is the biggest challenge to world peace at the beginning of the 21st century, that's it.

BLITZER: Prime Minister, thanks very much.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. We've just heard from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, what he had to say about the Middle East peace process. Up next, we'll get the reaction from the Palestinians. An official member of the Palestinian delegation, the PLO delegation was here with president Abbas, is joining us. Husam Zomlot will be joining us. We'll get his live reaction when we come back.

Also, pieces of a satellite will soon fall back to earth. NASA says the U.S. could be a target. We'll have details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We just had my interview, as you saw, with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Let's get some Palestinian reaction. Husam Zomlot is a member of the official Palestinian delegation to the United States, just came here for these talks of these meetings of the General Assembly. President Abbas has now gone back.

Husam, thanks very much for coming in.

HUSAM ZOMLOT, PALESTINIAN DELEGATION: Thank you very much for having me.

BLITZER: You're a Palestinian. Let me just ask you quickly, an exciting day today? How did it feel when you saw President Abbas tell the United Nations that he would like an independent Palestinian state full membership in the U.N.?

ZOMLOT: Really, it was a great day. We felt the full force of the cause, the righteousness of the cause. We felt the solidarity and the support of the people of the world. And we felt the unity of our people back in Ramallah and Jerusalem and Gaza, everywhere. We've seen them demonstrating in London, in Paris, in New York opposite the U.N. It was a good day.

And it was a peaceful day. The most important thing about it, how peaceful it was, despite the many, many, many threats that we were receiving and complaints by the Israeli government that this might ignite violence. The scene today was so peaceful.

BLITZER: You heard President Obama say early in the week that U.N. resolutions and statements not going to create a Palestinian state. You need to negotiate that directly with the Israelis, and you just heard Prime Minister Netanyahu say he's ready to sit down immediately and negotiate but with no preconditions. What's wrong with that?

ZOMLOT: Exactly. What are we negotiating? We are negotiate the two-state solution, a Palestinian state, as we had for Mr. Netanyahu. So if Palestine goes to seek membership in the U.N., to sit -- to sit next by Israel and the 193 countries, what's -- what's wrong with that exactly? Would it advance the cause of peace? I would answer, yes it would.

BLITZER: So what would you say to the president of the United States who says you're making a mistake right now by going through this United Nations route, instead of direct negotiations? ZOMLOT: I would disagree. I would beg to differ on this point. I would think that Palestine sitting in the United Nations, as a member, would have a fair hearing. While we're negotiating, if we go back to negotiation, then we have the international committee to come and give us a hand.

I mean, we have 20 years of experience where we were stuck in a bilateral process whereby, regrettably, Israel really was much more interested in reflecting its might as opposed to having some sort of a compromise. And the end result is dribbling (ph) the settlements, as you know, and the further erosion of the two-state solution.

BLITZER: What's wrong with negotiations without preconditions? Isn't that better than just letting the stalemate go on and could deteriorate?

ZOMLOT: It's not a precondition. You mean if you...

BLITZER: Precondition being Israel must freeze settlements.

ZOMLOT: It's not a condition. If you are negotiating the end of occupation on the '67 border, and dismantling all settlements, would it make sense to you to negotiate while these settlements are being expanded? Would it make sense to you, if America, the only and the sole arbitrator in this, the sole mediator, cannot even get Mr. Netanyahu to freeze settlements three months? Would you believe in a process that would eventually...

BLITZER: If it were an agreement...

ZOMLOT: It's just about logic. It's about how do you -- and Mr. Netanyahu equating settlements. Our call for stopping this illegal activity, not illegal according to the Palestinians, or illegal according to Mr. Obama, illegal according to the Europeans. One thing, the issue of the refugees. They were forced illegally out of their homes and are living in refugee camps. You know, this is exactly why we're seeking this at the United Nations. We're seeking it because we need to refer to international law, for some universal standards.

BLITZER: If THEY there were negotiations and it led to a settlement along the lines of what President Obama suggested, the pre- '67 lines with mutually-agreed land swaps, then presumably some settlements not only would be frozen, but they would be dismantled as the Israelis did in Gaza.

ZOMLOT: Wolf, we never disagreed on the vision. The Palestinian vision, the American vision, the European vision, the international vision, the Israeli vision. The problem is with the approach.

Mr. Netanyahu wants us to go back to the bilateral process. Nobody should intervene. Only the United States at the will -- and the will of Israel. And we should just sit there and negotiate forever, open-ended, while they are eating up the land.

Now I think -- I think the Palestinian people are growing impatient.

BLITZER: Let's be precise. There won't be a resumed negotiation with Israel unless Israel freezes settlements. Is that your position?

ZOMLOT: That's the position, of course. But it's not the condition, again...

BLITZER: And what the quartet announced today you saw the U.S., the E.U., the United Nations, the Russians, what they announced some sort of time line. You heard Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, announce that with Tony Blair. What does that mean from your perspective, the Palestinian perspective?

ZOMLOT: In the quartet statement it says that the two parties should not be engaged in any activities that would jeopardize the fact of the situation, so it means settlement.

So even in the quartet statement, settlements are mentioned, perhaps not directly. Everybody involved knows it was President Obama who said a year ago -- and said no way. You do not negotiate the end of this illegality white settlements are being expanded.

BLITZER: What is...

ZOMLOT: What's this whole deal? Why Mr. Netanyahu keeps changing the goalpost? As you asked him exactly, why should we shift from the time to time. From the time of talking about an Israeli state and the Palestinian state to the time of talking about a Jewish state and settlers state divided into some control zones.

BLITZER: You heard him say what he's concerned is they withdrew from Gaza, and now Hamas is in control of Gaza and they're firing rockets and all of that. And he's concerned that that could happen in the West Bank, too.

ZOMLOT: He missed an opportunity today. What he said, he blamed the United Nations. He blamed the world. He blamed everybody but not Israeli policies.

I mean, Wolf, our people just want to have an ordinary life. They want a country they can call home. They want a passport. They want an airport. They're not harassed or interrogated. And they want schools and hospitals. And I am genuine. They want to move freely.

And they have been waiting patiently for the last 20 years. How they have been waiting, trying to build institutions. You've heard the international community. You've heard the IMF and -- and the world. You know that we have done a marvelous job of turning such a corner in the last few years. What are we rewarded by Mr. Netanyahu, more settlements, more settling of Jerusalem. Here's what we are rewarded.

So we lean to the world, and we tell them give us a hand. We have to arrive where we want to arrive, peace for the two people.

BLITZER: Husam Zomlot, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck to you. Good luck to the Palestinians. Good luck to the Israelis. We've been hoping for peace for a long time. Maybe, maybe, there can be a peaceful arrangement at some point down the road. We can only hope and pray. Thank you.

Good work.

We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage including other news when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Investigators released their first report on the Reno air race crash. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf.

Well, a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says a small piece of the tail separated shortly before the crash at the Reno air show, but it does not include a probable cause of the crash.

Eleven people were killed when a World War II era plane crashed in the box seats in front of the grandstand of spectators last week. The NTSB is examining memory cards from the plane's on-board camera.

And a jury is deciding whether a Florida millionaire killed his wife in their mansion two years ago. James Bob Ward is accused of shooting his wife between the eyes. Prosecutors say Ward admitted killing her in the 911 call, but then told inconsistent stories about what happened. The defense insists Diane Ward died after a struggle over the loaded gun.

And Italian prosecutors are presenting their closing statements in the appeal of the Amanda Knox case. They urged jurors to put themselves in the place of the victim's parents. Knox and her ex- boyfriend were convicted in 2009 of killing Knox's British roommate. Defense attorneys are expected to present their final arguments early next week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

Satellite about to fall back to earth. No one's sure where it will land, but the U.S. could be a target. We'll bring you the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All eyes toward the sky right now. NASA says the U.S. once again is a potential target for that falling satellite. Chad Myers has the latest from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta.

Chad, what is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The latest is, this thing does not want to fall out of the sky. It is now over India. The track will take it south of Australia this time around the globe and then on up toward Mexico. But where is it going to go from there?

Every hour and a half it goes around again, so every one of the lines you see, an hour and a half in time. The hour and a half as it comes on up. It would probably go right over Honduras. An hour and a half, it would be over Mexico, and then still going around.

But this thing refuses to get low enough to start to skid on the atmosphere. As soon as it gets low enough, it will start to really almost burn up like the space shuttles, when they come in. You see them get very, very hot. All that is drag. That is the slowing-down process of things in space.

Right now it's going 17,479 miles per hour, and it's still 97 miles high. Well, eventually, it's going to get a lot lower than that.

The big deal here, Wolf, is that the earth is not a sphere. It's not a perfect sphere. It's actually bigger at the margins here, bigger along the equator because of the spin.

So as the satellite goes around, it will eventually get close enough to this atmosphere here near the equator, and that would make the splash-down north of that or -- depends on which way you're going, one way or the other.

But there it is. The forecast right now, believe it or not, is for it to be very close to the south shores here of Hawaii. Go ahead and zoom right in there. This is the last pass right there. There's Hawaii. The equator would be around here. That's when it would start to burn up, and it could fall into the ocean anywhere here east of Hawaii.

If it doesn't fall fast enough, then all of a sudden you're on up towards Seattle. Now, that's with this forecast. It has been changing all day, later and later and later, because it just refuses to come down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So -- so Chad, when it finally hits the atmosphere, how much of a warning will there be for folks if it is going to land somewhere over land?

MYERS: It will be 20 minutes from when it really hits the atmosphere, begins to slow down, and then all of a sudden it will come down. It's doing 17,000 miles an hour. By the time it hits the ground it will be doing much less, like 200 or less.

But you will have about 20 minutes' notice. You may have a spectacular show, if you look from the islands of Hawaii and you look southward. That would be about six hours from now, five hours from now. You may actually see something.

But right now it doesn't look like there's any real land in the way. I doubt it's going to make its way all the way -- it just has a very low chance of making it all the way to Seattle. It would fall into the ocean before that.

BLITZER: Let's hope it does fall into the ocean. Thanks very much, Chad, for that.

Democrats and Republicans are sparring over the growing Latino influence in U.S. politics. You're going to find out why the battle might be decided in court. Soledad O'Brien is standing by.

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BLITZER: The Justice Department now says it will fight Texas's redistricting plan passed by state Republicans. Here's CNN special correspondent, Soledad O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The future of politics in Texas might look a lot like this. Or this.

Julian Castro is the mayor of San Antonio. His brother Joachim is running for Congress. They are trying to build a political dynasty by capitalizing on their state's booming Latino population.

(on camera) You have a twin brother, identical twin brother.

JULIAN CASTRO, MAYOR, SAN ANTONIO: He's a little bit uglier than I am. That's how you tell us apart.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): The 2010 census revealed that nearly 65 percent of Texas's population growth over the past decade came from Latinos. It means Texas will pick up four new seats in Congress, the most of any state. Many in the Latino community had hoped these seats would mean greater representation.

CASTRO: You know, there's only 24 Latinos in Congress out of 435.

O'BRIEN: But when the Republican-controlled Texas legislature drew up new congressional maps earlier this year, only one Latino majority district was created. The 35th, where Joachim Castro is running.

NINA PERALES, DIRECTOR, AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: We do believe that there was an intent to prevent more Latino opportunity districts to preserve the incumbencies of the people who are in office now.

O'BRIEN: Republicans defend the maps and say they reflect a new reality in their state.

TED DELISI, REPUBLICAN: I think the idea that a lot of members of a specific minority can only elect a member of that minority, I just think that's an old way of thinking.

O'BRIEN: Nine-term Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Castro's primary opponent, might agree. With his district redrawn to favor Republicans, he decided to run in the heavily Hispanic 35th.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: What the 35th district is an example of Republican carving and dividing one neighborhood after another.

O'BRIEN: The oddly shaped 35th district stretches from Austin to San Antonio, which is about 63 percent Latino. And the home of the Castro twins.

DOGGETT: I'm going to be on the streets and not yield an inch. I know my neighbors have got my back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, Lloyd?

DOGGETT: Latinos are there for me.

O'BRIEN: While they await a decision by the courts to see if the new districts stand, the Democrats prepare for a tough primary.

JOAQUIN CASTRO, RUNNING FOR OFFICE: I want to stay very positive and make sure that we don't pit Hispanic Democrats against white Democrats.

O'BRIEN: Reporting for "In America," Soledad O'Brien, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And CNN's "Latino in America 2: In Her Corner," airs Sunday night, 8 p.m. Eastern with Soledad O'Brien.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.