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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Soon: Kerry To Speak On Mideast Peace; Trump Rips Obama For "Inflammatory Statements" Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 28, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, they only seem to be growing farther apart. Now with the administration leaving office, Secretary Kerry wanted to lay out I think what he had offered the parties, what he tried to get them to agree to. He will outline the deal as he sees it.
Of course, previous presidents and secretaries of state tried to do this as they walk out the door. I think the parameters of the deal are very similar, but you have to take that into context of the vote last week by the U.N. Security Council in which the United States by abstaining allowed this resolution to pass, effectively calling Israeli settlements illegal.
The administration has seen those settlements as really one of the main obstacles not just to a deal but to peace in general. And the argument is that the expansion of these settlements the U.S. says is creating a reality on the ground, which makes the Palestinian state not viable.
Obviously a lot of tension between the U.S. and Israel who is accusing Secretary Kerry himself of being a covert actor on what he calls a shameful ambush at the U.N. So a lot of context and symbolism in the remarks but also a lot of recent tensions that certainly Secretary Kerry will try to address and deny those charges.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe not unprecedented that he's giving a speech on his way out but maybe unprecedented in terms of the environment that he's giving this speech today. Why we are all watching it so very closely.
We are watching it here, of course, but you know who is also watching it very closely, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. Everyone in Israel. Let's go over Jerusalem right now where Oren Lieberman is. Oren, what are you hearing? What are Israelis watching for when John Kerry takes to the stage?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think at least nailed it in the fact that John Kerry will lay out his plan for peace, and yet I think there's very little he can say that will endear him to Prime Minister netanyahu or any of the Israeli government right now.
They see what happened at the U.N. as effectively a back stabbing. It's unlikely Kerry can present some plan that will be any more acceptable to the Israelis, especially given what happened in the last few days. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who up until now over the last week hasn't hesitated to bash President Barack Obama and Kerry along with the rest of the Netanyahu government or many in the Netanyahu government bashing the official administration.
Netanyahu has gone quiet today. Now it seems he's waiting to hear what Kerry has to lay out. Other ministers, other Israeli politicians haven't hesitated to put out a preemptive strikes against Kerry but Netanyahu is waiting on this one.
What do we expect to hear? As Elise pointed out, we heard a speech like this before. Bill Clinton in the year 2000 who gave his Clinton parameters just a couple weeks before he left office.
He tried to find some sort of framework, some sort of common ground to solve the most complex and difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, borders, refugees, the status of Jerusalem and a few more issues.
I suspect we will hear much of the same from Kerry. Although the Clinton speech is known as the Clinton parameters, it was effectively thrown out just a few weeks later when George W. Bush came into office.
It seems President-elect Donald Trump may be setting up to do the same thing here. There was a bit of tweet love going back and forth between President-elect Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just a few minutes ago today.
That's the most we have heard from Netanyahu once again, just another statement that he's effectively done working with Obama here and is ready for President-elect Trump in just a few weeks. Kate, these few weeks can't go quickly enough for the Israeli government here.
BOLDUAN: As Oren mentioned, this is kind of a fascinating element as we are waiting to hear from the secretary of state, Errol. We have already heard from the incoming president, kind of a preview of -- preview review of what he thinks he's going to hear and Netanyahu responding to him.
For our viewers, let me read this, coming from Donald Trump this morning. "We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. There used to be a great friend in the U.S. but not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal and now this U.N. Stay strong, Israel. January 20th is fast approaching."
That coming from Donald Trump. Netanyahu retweeted it, responded to him, saying "President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel." This seems to also be a bit of a clear-cut message going back and forth on Twitter right now.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Very interesting. I think when it comes to understanding this dispute, I find it helpful to take out the world Israel and put in Netanyahu government. Because this is not within Israel a universally accepted position, this road that Netanyahu is going down for political reasons that are internal to Israeli politics.
His bare majority that he got which is the basis of his administration, involved putting in settlement groups, religious groups, strong defense groups, all of which have an aggressive stance toward the settlers. That is not all of Israeli public opinion, it is certainly not international opinion.
It doesn't square with international law. It is a very tricky, difficult kind of situation. Donald Trump has clearly signaled he's going to stay with the Netanyahu government, full steam ahead with the settlements, U.N. be damned, and peace process be damned.
[11:05:08]If that's what John Kerry believes, I think we can hear him sort of denounce that in advance today.
BOLDUAN: You covered John Kerry extensively, David. You traveled with him, profiled him. What do you think in this late moment not unprecedented, but maybe against the backdrop he's giving this speech, very unusual. What do you think realistically John Kerry hopes to achieve with this speech at this very big moment?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think he hopes to burnish his legacy. He talked with me privately and talked publicly about how passionately he believed in the need for a two-state solution. That is what this is all about. If the settlements continue to grow the Obama administration argues there cannot be a two-state solution.
I think Kerry, this is his last ditch effort to save that solution. I agree with Errol, this is also very important domestically in Israel. It's a plus for Netanyahu, criticizing Obama helps him with his base. In Israel, all politics is local. That's why Netanyahu is being so vocal about this.
BOLDUAN: David and Errol, hitting on really interesting point here Jackie. It's always important to try to understand who exactly the audience is for John Kerry today do you think?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: His audience seems to be more global because if you look at the political trends and back home in the United States right now, they seem to be trending firmly behind Israel because of the incoming Trump administration but this also cuts across party lines.
Chuck Schumer wasn't happy with what happened at the U.N. last week and Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, minority whip, he issued a scathing statement directed at Kerry today in regards to his speech.
So this also is exposing a rift in the Democratic Party, which is still trying to get themselves back together after this devastating election. So it doesn't seem like Kerry is talking as much to people back home as he is to folks watching abroad.
BOLDUAN: Elise, trying to help facilitate, trying to help negotiate Mideast peace was a top priority for John Kerry coming in. So now as he is leaving, does he count this as a failure? LABOTT: Well, it's funny, Kate, I was just going to say I spoke to Secretary Kerry recently in an interview for a piece we have today on CNN.com and he was very defensive about the idea that he failed in the peace process. He got very animated and said I didn't fail, the U.S. didn't fail.
The parties failed to make the necessary concessions that they needed to make, not only in terms of the deal itself, but did not prepare its people for those compromises that needed to be made.
Now, Secretary Kerry's critics would say that he was a little bit naive in terms of it being the right time, that the climate was not ready, there was so much mistrust between the parties that it was really doomed from the start for him to try.
But when he came to office and don't forget, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for a long time, he had seen this in action, he had very close relationships with the parties, and he felt that if he didn't make an effort that this two-state solution, the idea of a Palestinian state side by side would be, you know, would be lost, would be at risk.
So that's why he said I'm not afraid to fail. We need to try and that's what he continued to the last day. Now, I don't think he thinks that this deal or these parameters that he might lay out today are something that the Trump administration or the parties are going to take on right now.
But what he will say is that the parties needed to get back to the table at some point. A deal is really the only way to resolve the conflict. Unless they do that, this will continue. He hopes this could be the basis for those talks in the future, when the parties are ready.
BOLDUAN: David, do you get the sense that -- John Kerry wanted to give a speech like this for quite a while. I was reading the White House had held him back from doing that. Do you get a sense the speech has changed in the last week?
ROHDE: I think it will be more blunt. In his mind maybe he thinks if he lays out a possible solution, maybe there were things, concessions made in private by both sides that they don't want to make public themselves, that he thinks this could be a road map.
You know, Bill Clinton tried the same thing and it didn't work. One of the problems here is I think the administration was very cautious, there was this overriding sense that Clinton was leading in the polls and would win the election so they didn't want him giving this kind of speech in 2016 at all.
Now it's coming very late, it might help in the long run but in the short term, clearly Trump is going to declare it irrelevant.
BOLDUAN: Oren, from your perspective, everyone has pointed out the parameters of a deal, parameters of a peace deal are relatively well known. It's having the will and leadership to get there and do it. If that's the case, why then has the prime minister of Israel been so opposed to John Kerry giving a speech like this?
[11:10:06]LIEBERMANN: Well, it's not only John Kerry, it's sort of the international community trying to weigh in on the peace process that Netanyahu has repeated over and over again should just be between Israelis and Palestinians.
Both sides, it's worth pointing out, the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have said they are ready to come to the table right now, anytime, anywhere, then point the finger at each other. That is why the international community has felt that now is the time to step in, behind the Obama administration and Kerry.
No surprise here, we will say this again, we said it 100 times before, there are just bad relations between Netanyahu and Obama and perhaps Netanyahu feels that any peace deal that Obama tries to weigh in on wouldn't be pro-Israel, might be pro-Palestinian and that may be some of the animosity here.
It's the fact Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he doesn't want this to be internationalized. He wants it to be direct negotiations and yet the Palestinians have made it clear they don't trust him on that.
As further evidence of that point, there's an International Peace Conference scheduled for January 15th in Paris, some 70 nations coming together to find an international consensus on how to solve these issues. Netanyahu has said he's not attending.
BOLDUAN: So Errol, if it's known Netanyahu didn't want a speech like this to happen, if he thinks this would tie Israel's hands in terms of any movement in negotiation, and Kerry you would assume knows that, is this another parting shot? The U.N. vote, U.N. Security Council vote was widely seen as a parting shot from the Obama administration on the way out. Is this speech then another parting shot from the Obama administration?
LOUIS: I don't know if it's entirely that petty or that sort of focused just on this moment, but it is certainly a legacy statement. Both President Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton for that matter, architects of the Obama foreign policy over the last eight years, they want to make a statement about what they intended.
And if you go all the way back to the Cairo speech from 2009, when he tried to reset, the president tried to reset the relationship, the entire Muslim world, one part of that entire doctrine was to try and make the peace process move forward to try and take it off the table as an irritant, as a rallying point for jihad and radical extremists.
That was what they wanted at a minimum. It looks like they didn't even accomplish that minimum. I think they will try to make the case that what they did made sense and that while they failed, it wasn't entirely sort of a bad idea. I think that's what we will hear.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating will be the reaction abroad, of course, but on Capitol Hill, Jackie, I mean, you touched on this a little bit, how do you -- what do you expect reaction's going to be and on this issue of we heard this from Senator Lindsey Graham and others, this kind of idea gaining steam of now pulling U.N. funding from Washington because of what happened at the U.N. Security Council. Is that gaining more steam? Is that likely to happen?
KUCINICH: Well, you know, the pro-Netanyahu parts of Congress certainly have a foothold. No one really changes their mind on this unless you are Donald Trump and are in the middle and now you actually have an opinion because of the people you are surrounding yourself with.
But for sure, the folks in Congress that are more aligned with Netanyahu are going to have a foothold. I wanted to add something to what Errol said about John Kerry and actually, it was in Elise's fantastic piece that posted today about how John Kerry just doesn't give up.
He's not going to let this go. I think what Elise wrote was he's going to work until the whistle blows and so I think that's also part of this. It's something he wanted to do and it's going to be done because John Kerry is not going to stop until he's out the door.
BOLDUAN: What impact that will have, we will see. Any minute now, that's exactly what we are waiting for. Everyone, stick around with me. We are keeping an eye right there at the State Department. Any minute, Secretary of State John Kerry as we have been laying out his vision for a path to peace in the Middle East.
Possibly the most important speech of his career. His legacy on the line. We will bring you that speech live, the fallout here in the United States and abroad will be swift. We will see.
Plus this -- President-elect Donald Trump never far from Twitter even though he's on vacation right now. Just this morning telling Israel to stay strong, January 20th is fast approaching. Again, taking another hit at President Obama over what Trump called a not so smooth transition. We'll have much more on that ahead.
BOLDUAN: We are standing by right now watching the State Department in Washington, that room right there where Secretary of State John Kerry will be taking to the stage any minute now.
It looks they are just checking the shot right there -- to give maybe the speech of his career. He will be laying out his vision for the Middle East, for peace in the Middle East, the last major chance for him to shape history as a top diplomat for the United States.
As he will be heading out of office in just a few weeks. We are watching for that. This is a major moment for the United States. Watch very closely here and around the world. We are keeping an eye on that for you.
And even before Secretary Kerry takes to the microphone, the president-elect is already offering a bit of a review of his speech, of the situation, I guess on Twitter, writing this.
"We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a good friend in the U.S. but not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal and now this, U.N. Stay strong, Israel. January 20th is fast approaching."
Senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining me now from Palm Beach where the president-elect is staying. Jeff, what else are you hearing? Are you hearing from the transition or are we hearing from the president-elect on this?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, certainly Donald Trump is making it clear that trying to send a message to Israel that he will have a different policy. Now, the secretary of state's speech today is not designed to refute any of the president- elect's comments, but that's essentially what we are going to see play out in real-time here.
The divergence of views on Israel and the Middle East, but we are also watching an extraordinary back and forth between the president-elect and the current sitting president, the 44th president, Barack Obama, over rising tensions and Donald Trump a short time ago this morning tweeted out this about President Obama.
Let's take a look. He said, "I'm doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President Obama statements and road blocks. I thought it was going to be a smooth transition. Not."
[11:20:04]It appears that the president-elect was referring to a speech that President Obama gave yesterday in Hawaii when he talked about the rising acrimony and vitriol in U.S. politics. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: I have to cut it off. Let's go to the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry giving his major address right now. Let's listen in.
[11:20:43] JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Happy Hanukkah. And to everybody here, I know it's the middle of the holiday week. I understand, but I wish you all a very, very productive and happy new year.
Today, I want to share candid thoughts about an issue which for decades has animated the foreign policy dialogue here and around the world -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout his administration, President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security. And that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in the Middle East. This is an issue which all of you know I have worked on intensively during my time as secretary of state, for one simple reason, because the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors.
It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people, and it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region.
Now, I'd like to explain why that future is now in jeopardy and provide some context for why we could not in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.
I'm also here to share my conviction that there is still a way forward if the responsible parties are willing to act. And I want to share practical suggestions for how to preserve and advance the prospects for the just and lasting peace that both sides deserve.
So it is vital that we have an honest, clear-eyed conversation about the uncomfortable truths and difficult choices. Because the alternative that is fast becoming the reality on the ground is in nobody's interest -- not the Israelis, not the Palestinians, not the region, and not the United States.
Now, I want to stress that there is an important point here. My job above all is to defend the United States of America, to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world. And if we were to stand idly by know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold, which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities. Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles, even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.
Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the vote last week, quote, "It was to be expected that Israel's greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share, and veto this resolution." I am compelled to respond today that the United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us.
They fail to recognize that this friend, the United States of America, that has done more to support Israel than any other country, this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values or even the stated democratic values of Israel.
[11:25:17] And we cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes. And that's the bottom line.
The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That's what we were standing up for.
Israel's future is a Jewish and democratic state living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That's what we are trying to preserve for our sake and for theirs.
In fact, this administration has been Israel's greatest friend and supporter with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel's security and protecting its legitimacy.
On this point, I want to be very clear; no American administration has done more for Israel's security than Barack Obama's. The Israeli prime minister himself has noted our quote unprecedented military intelligence cooperation.
Our military exercises are more advanced than ever. Our assistance for Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives. We have consistently supported Israel's right to defend itself by itself, including during actions Gaza that sparked great controversy.
Time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel's back. We have strongly apposed (ph) boycotts, investment campaigns, and sanctions targeting Israel in international for a (ph).
Whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked, and we have fought for its inclusion across the U.N. system.
In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than 1/2 of our entire global foreign military financing goes to Israel. And this fall we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country at any time.
And that will invest in cutting-edge missile defense and sustain Israel's qualitative military edge for years to come. That's the measure of our support. This commitment to Israel's security is actually very personal for me. On my first trip to Israel as a young senator in 1986, I was captivated by a special country, one that I immediately admired and soon grew to love.
Over the years, like so many others who are drawn to this extraordinary place, I have climbed Masada, swum in the Dead Sea, driven from one biblical city to another. I've also seen the dark side of Hezbollah's rocket storage facilities just across the border in Lebanon, walked through the exhibits of the hell of the holocaust at Yad Vashem, stood on the Golan Heights, and piloted an Israeli jet over the tiny airspace of Israel which would make anyone understand the importance of security to Israelis.
Out of those experiences came a steadfast commitment to Israel's security that has never wavered for a single minute in my 28 years in the Senate or my four years as Secretary. I've also often visited West Bank communities where I met Palestinians struggling for basic freedom and dignity amidst the occupation, passed by military check points that can make even the most routine daily trips to work or school an ordeal, and heard from business leaders who could not get the permits that they needed to get their products to the market and families who have struggled to secure permission just to travel for needed medical care.
And I have witnessed firsthand the ravages of a conflict that has gone on for far too long. I've seen Israeli children in Sderot whose playgrounds had been hit by Katyusha rockets. I visited shelters next to schools who carry out Shmona (ph). The kids had 15 seconds to get to after a warning siren went off.
I've also seen the devastation of war in the Gaza strip where Palestinian girls and (inaudible) of that (ph) rubble (ph) played in the rubble of a bombed-out building. No children, Israeli or Palestinian, should have to live like that.
[11:30:01] So despite the obvious difficulties that I understood when I became Secretary of State, I knew that I had to do everything in my power to help end this conflict.