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Punishing Russia; U.S. and Israel. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired December 28, 2016 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Kerry's speech is a big disappointment. He obsessively talks again and again about Israel, because, instead of talking about the root of the problem, the Palestinian authorities not talking about a Jewish state.
I have to say that I am surprised. That's what the secretary of state of the biggest empire in the world has to say?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: With the clock ticking down on the Obama White House, Kerry spoke for an hour and 10 minutes about his vision for Israel and peace in the Middle East and what he believes is standing in the way. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.
The result is that policies of this government which the prime minister himself just described as more committed to settlements than any in Israel's history are leading in the opposite direction. They're leading towards one state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The speech happening less than a month before president-elect Trump takes office and with the backdrop of a bitter war of words and major cracks in the once strong bond between the U.S. and Israel. Netanyahu calling it a -- quote -- "shameful ambush" after the U.S. abstained on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, instead of using its veto power to black the vote.
But Kerry defended the decision and rejected the Israelis' claim of some kind of secret collusion to craft the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KERRY: We also strongly reject the notion that somehow the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. The Egyptians and Palestinians had long made clear to all of us, to all of the international community their intention to bring the resolution to a vote before the end of the year.
And we communicated that to the Israelis, and they knew it anyway. The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I'm joined by CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, Kerry's speech was a strong defense of the administration's dealings with Israel. But walk us through Netanyahu's reaction. Did he say anything that came as a surprise to you, Elise?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think -- I think it was a vigorous defense of what Israel sees as its rightful claim to this land where it has -- the speech was primarily about settlements.
And so what he was saying is that what Secretary Kerry was doing in criticizing Israeli settlements is really criticizing Israel's right to this land and right for these families to build their homes there. So it was a vigorous defense of their settlement policy, but it also I think was critical of the fact that Secretary Kerry did kind of pay a little bit of lip service to Palestinian terrorism and incitement.
Israel claims that that's the reason it doesn't have a partner for peace in the Palestinians because of their unwillingness to compromise, of this terrorist action against Israel over decades. And so I think they thought it was a biased attack that really blames Israel for the breakdown of the peace process and lack of peace, Pam.
BROWN: And walk us through Secretary Kerry's six-point brand that he laid out today, the feasibility of his hopeful road map for a two- state solution, of course, with less than a month to go in the Obama administration.
LABOTT: Well, these are the six points really that successive presidents have talked about, recognition of the borders of what a Palestinian state would be, and that's really going back to the '67 lines, as they say.
This was during the war with Israel, when Israel claimed this land. And that's what the international community recognizes as the borders of a Palestinian state. So that's kind of well known. Then there's talk about refugees, that Israel would have to compensate refugees that would not be able to move back to a Palestinian state because it would be very small, and they would kind of give up claims to the land.
So they would be compensated. Then it talks about Israeli security and of course that means that there would be a non-militarized Palestinian state. And there are also other things like two states for two people, a Jewish people and an Arab people. Those are two states.
And these are issues that have been going on and on and on. These are what they call final status issues, the future of Jerusalem. Secretary Kerry says that both Israel and the Palestinians should be able to claim it as their rightful capital.
And then there's what they call an end to the conflict, which means all Arab states if there was a peace deal would then recognize Israel. And what secretary Kerry argued in his speech is that, even though Israel has been improving its relations with Arab states, such as those in the Gulf such like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, because of threats posed by Iran, he said Israel will never truly have peace with its neighbors if it doesn't make peace with the Palestinians.
And then his larger argument is that this settlement policy, Pam, this expansion of Israeli settlements on lands that the Palestinians claim for their state is one of the main obstacles to peace.
BROWN: All right, Elise Labott, thank you for breaking that down for us.
And joining me now, Ambassador Edward Djerejian, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Syria and director of the Baker Institute at Rice University.
In the speech, Netanyahu says Israel looks forward to working with trump to mitigate the damage that this resolution has caused. In your view, what damage has been done with the resolution and what do you see the relationship between Israel and the Trump administration being looking ahead?
EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA AND ISRAEL: Well, on the second part of your question, it's very difficult to see how that relationship is going to evolve.
The president-elect has to get into office, sit in that office, get his Cabinet officers in place and then determine what his policies are going to be. Now, having said that, every American administration, Democratic and Republican, certainly since 1967 have stated as official U.S. position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush -- I'm just citing Republicans. But both Democratic and Republican administrations have done two things. One, they have all worked very hard for Arab-Israeli peace, especially Israeli-Palestinian peace. Each administration had its initiatives, but at the same time, each American administration has considered Israeli settlements to an obstacle to peace.
So what we saw last week, Pamela, at the United Nations Security Council was nothing new. In fact, I can cite one other... BROWN: Well, other than the U.S. deciding not to veto the resolution.
DJEREJIAN: No, but even that is not new, because, in 1980, I can just cite one of several United Nations Security Council resolutions, Resolution 471. The United States abstained against a very strongly worded anti-Israeli settlement resolution. That was in 1980.
And there have been other resolutions. So there is really nothing new in the United States abstaining from a resolution on settlements. I think it's the current context...
BROWN: Certainly new under the Obama administration.
DJEREJIAN: Yes, exactly.
And, as you said, this is a war of words. It comes at a very tense time in Israeli/U.S. relations. The Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration simply have not seen eye to eye on the way forward on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
BROWN: And you heard some really strong words from Netanyahu today. It wasn't really a surprise, given what has happened with the U.N. resolution.
But then you take a step back and look at the big picture and the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. The United States commits more than $3 billion a year in aid to Israel right now. President Obama just signed a new deal that commits $38 billion, I believe, over the next 10 years. So how could Netanyahu say that essentially the U.S. isn't a committed ally?
DJEREJIAN: I think it's a very difficult argument to make.
The United States is Israel's key ally in international support. When I was ambassador to Israel, when Prime Minister Rabin was in power, there was no question of the relationship being fundamental throughout different American administrations and different Israeli administrations. That remains.
The United States remains a strong supporter of the state of Israel, especially politically and on security grounds. You just mentioned a $38 billion arms package over a 10-year period. That's highly significant. It's unprecedented.
So it's not the relationship that's in question now, although it seems to be in this war of words, as you said earlier, but it's really the difference over how to move forward on an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. The United States is committed and has been committed over several administrations to a two-state solution along the lines that Secretary of State Kerry outlined.
That alternative to that is, as he stated, a one state, a state that brings the Palestinians and the Israelis into one state. And the danger of that is that, given demographic realities that the Palestinian population simply just grows in a higher rate than the Israeli population, over years, if there is only state, it will become dominated by a Palestinian population.
And what happens to the goal of Israel, which is a democratic Jewish state?
BROWN: I want to quickly go to sound from Netanyahu in the speech he gave earlier today really doubling down on the claims that the U.S. helped craft the anti-Israel vote. Let's listen.
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NETANYAHU: We have it on absolutely incontestable evidence that the United States organized, advanced and brought this resolution to the United Nations Security Council.
We will share that information with the incoming administration. Some of it is sensitive. It's all true. You saw some of it in the protocol released in an Egyptian paper. There's plenty more. It's the tip of the iceberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Ambassador, do you believe that this evidence exists? You have heard Secretary Kerry and others say the U.S. didn't do anything to orchestrate this resolution. Why didn't doesn't Israel come out and go ahead and share that information, rather than waiting until the next administration?
DJEREJIAN: Frankly, I don't know what's so secret about not sharing that information now. If that information is there, it should be publicized now.
But what Secretary Kerry said -- and all we can do is take our officials at their word -- is that the United States did not introduce this resolution, it did not draft the resolution. But when the resolution was introduced into the United Nations Security Council, it did obviously discuss the resolution with the various members of the Security Council and, according to Secretary of State Kerry, demanded that there be a balanced resolution that cited Palestinian issues, not just Israeli issues.
So, we will see.
BROWN: And just very quickly, I asked my guests this last hour. I want to ask you as well.
BROWN: What do you make of Secretary Kerry coming out and making this speech with less than a month to go under Obama's administration?
DJEREJIAN: Very quickly, when President Obama came into office in 2009, he initiated an Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
He stated that Israeli settlements should be frozen. That was in 2009, Pamela. It's very interesting that over those years, they really tried to reach an agreement under U.S. auspices, and were frustrated by the fact that they haven't been able to achieve that.
And today, as they are moving out of office, they are reiterating their principled position on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It's very interesting.
BROWN: All right, Ambassador, thank you very much. Happy new year to you.
DJEREJIAN: Happy new year.
BROWN: And joining me now from Jerusalem, CNN's Oren Liebermann. Also, Josh Rogin joins us. He is CNN political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Post."
Oren, I want to start with you.
Kerry says Israel's own P.M. publicly supports a two-state solution, but that his coalition is the most right-wing and extreme in the country's history. How does that square? Explain that to us.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What he said there and he pointed at very specific elements. So, for example, one of the people he referenced, didn't name specifically, but the education minister, Naftali Bennett, and the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, opposes a two-state solution.
He has made it very clear that he opposes any Palestinian state, saying Israel will not accept a terrorist state next door. He's also referenced Gaza and saying that's the Palestinian state, look how that's turned out. In fact, to continue this for just one more moment on this point, right after Trump's election, it was Bennett who had one of the first responses.
And his response to president-elect Donald Trump's election was the era of a Palestinian state is over. That's part of what Kerry was talking about, that leading the government. Now, no, Naftali Bennett is not the prime minister, he is not Netanyahu, but Bennett holds tremendous sway in a right-wing government.
Netanyahu himself has said multiple times there is no more pro- settlement government in Israeli history. That was also a red flag for Kerry. And one more note. There's legislation being considered now commonly known here as the legalization bill that would legalize illegally built Israeli outposts in the West Bank.
That was another red flag to Kerry. He mentioned that too and said this is all what concerned us. This is why we allowed the U.N. Security Council resolution to go through. And this is why Kerry chose to give his speech to try to lay out and build some common ground here in the closing days of the Obama administration.
BROWN: Josh, the Israeli prime minister again said today how much he's looking forward to working with Donald Trump. He tweeted it, he said it in his speech. Trump tweeted this today before Kerry's speech. He said: "We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have 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 20 is fast approaching."
So, Josh, how exactly do we expect things to change when Donald Trump officially takes office?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Starting on January 20, that will be the end of the United States using pressures on the Israeli government to get it to do what it wants for at least the next four years. That will be a basic fundamental shift in the U.S. approach not only to Israel, but to the Middle East peace process.
If there's going to be a peace process going forward, the Trump administration will make sure it's on terms the Israeli government is OK with from the start.
Whether or not that is going to be successful I think is questionable at best, but no longer will the United States be in a position of trying to balance between the two sides and come up with a process that forces Israel to do things it doesn't want to do. Those days are now over.
BROWN: All right, Oren Liebermann, Josh Rogin, thank you. Happy new year to you.
Straight ahead: Russia responds. New reaction coming into CNN about the Obama administration's plan to strike back at Russia for meddling in the U.S. election.
And then later, one of the hottest holiday gadgets now at the center of a murder trial. Can the Amazon Echo be used against a murder suspect in court?
Stay with us. We will be back.
BROWN: Some breaking news we're following. CNN has learned the Obama administration is finalizing plans to retaliate against Russia for meddling in the U.S. election.
An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow, and Russia says when it happens it stands ready to hit back. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry tells CNN -- quote -- "Any action against Russia diplomatic missions in the U.S. will immediately bounce back on U.S. diplomats in Russia."
She also added:Well, "Frankly, we are tired about the lies about Russian hackers. It's misinformation by Obama administration aimed at providing an excuse for its own failure."
Joining me now to talk more about this is CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez and CNN contributor Jill Dougherty. She's CNN's former Moscow bureau chief.
So, Jill, first off, what does hit back mean, exactly? What do you foresee Russia doing? What are they capable of doing to hit back as they say they will do?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there could be a number of things that they could do.
They could do it diplomatically. They could do it in a cyber-fashion. And then also this notice that they're putting the U.S. on about any action against our diplomatic mission could be answered in kind. That's kind of the nasty part of what's been going on between Russia and the United States, Russia taking action against U.S. diplomats in Moscow, following people, making it clear that they can get into apartments, et cetera, a lot of really disturbing things.
And the Russians accuse the United States of doing pretty much the same thing. That's worrisome and it really doesn't have a lot directly to do with this hacking and cyber story. But that's what they are saying.
BROWN: So, Evan, what are you hearing about the White House's plans for retaliation against Russia?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, it involves a series of measures, including expansion of existing sanctions.
We expect that they're going to name names of people that they believe are associated with this disinformation campaign. A lot of people forget it goes beyond the hacking of the DNC and other Democratic Party organizations. It also goes to the release of that information through WikiLeaks, D.C. Leaks and other Web sites.
That's what the White House, that's what the Obama administration is now responding to. Look, everybody hacks, right? The United States hacks. China, every other intelligence agency is involved in this type of activity. What's different here and what the administration is trying to put Russia on notice about is the fact that the information that was stolen in these hacks was then released as a way to influence the U.S. election, which is what the U.S. intelligence agencies believe happened here.
BROWN: And what is interesting, too, Evan, is that U.S. intelligence officials believe that the Russians didn't even think they were capable of really influencing what happened in the election.
BROWN: They continued to put out the information.
Jill, we just from Evan what the plans are in terms of retaliation against Russia. And then you were talking about how Russia could hit back. How concerning is this in terms of an escalation of cyber- warfare, something to that effect?
DOUGHERTY: This is exactly what the Obama administration was worried about when they decided that they were going to take some steps that they were trying to formulate exactly how you calibrate this, because you can take it up to the edge, but then you can step over the edge where you actually launch a cyber-war. And that's been the concern.
Nobody really knows exactly who that can end up. There are a lot of steps that could be taken, not just hacking and cyber, but you can use cyber to attack infrastructure, for example, electricity grids, et cetera. This is uncharted territory.
The word has been used a lot, but it really is. And so it's dangerous and you can see with a statement from the Foreign Ministry of Russia that they are threatening to come right back at the United States. It could get very nasty very fast.
BROWN: Go ahead, Evan.
PEREZ: Yes, just to pick up what Jill was saying, I think that's exactly the concern here is, because we have a lot, frankly, more to lose than the Russians.
A lot more of our economy is tied up on the Internet. A lot of the infrastructure of the United States is exposed to the Internet, poorly defended, frankly. And so the concern here is if you do, do something that requires a response in kind, then we might have more to lose than the Russians do.
BROWN: On that note, Evan, is the U.S. -- is the goal for the White House to give a proportionate response, rather than take it up a notch with the retaliation?
PEREZ: Right. Exactly. And I think that's exactly one of the reasons why they have frankly spent months and months behind the scenes wrangling over exactly how to respond to this.
They didn't want to cause an overreaction and they certainly don't -- they want to make sure the Russians can see what they're doing and then it's sort of a diplomatic way of handling this. The U.S. has sanctioned Russian entities before, people in Russia. The Russians have responded by doing sanctions, including of Senator McCain, if you might recall.
So there are ways that the two countries have been able to deal with this type of thing without letting it get out of control.
BROWN: Meantime, Jill, Vladimir Putin continues to deny that Russia had anything to do with the election hacking, right?
DOUGHERTY: Well, actually, Pam, read the fine print.
President Putin, as far as I can really see, they have never directly in let's say a legal way said, we didn't do it. They have said that in kind of a general sense.
But President Putin's have been more, well, even if there was hacking, the truth came out and we learned about the, as he would say, the Democratic Party, et cetera.
So watch this space. In a way, I would argue that there's been some gloating by the Russians about being able to get into the American system. There's part of this -- and Evan knows this as well. Part of this is each side goading the other, saying, well, we can hack you better than you could hack us.
And that's also very dangerous. So, OK, we don't know where this is going. And then you have to fact that the next administration is in, in just a few weeks, and we don't know what they are going to do.
BROWN: Right. Exactly.
DOUGHERTY: All of this could be over or changed.
But I will tell you, when you talk to anybody who knows this field, this is not going away. Hacking is not going away. Cyber-war is not going away. And governments have to find a response.
BROWN: Evan, I have a feeling we are going to be very busy in the months ahead covering hacking on all fronts. Jill, you as well, thank you so much, for both of you, for coming on the show. Do appreciate it.
BROWN: And up next, Secretary of State John Kerry giving a fiery exit speech of sorts on his vision for Middle East peace -- how the president-elect is weighing in.
You're watching CNN. We will be right back.
BROWN: Back to our breaking news.
Secretary of State John Kerry has laid out his vision for peace in a global impasse that has vexed the United States for generations, bringing peace between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East.
And Israel's leader has just fired back. This war of words comes less than a week after the U.S. allowed a controversial United Nations resolution to pass without vetoing it. It condemned Israel's settlements on territory Palestinians believe is part