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Kerry Talks Two-State Solution; Kerry Defends U.S. Abstention at U.N.; Israel Claims Proof of U.S. Involvement; Hamas Responsible for Incitement to Violence. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired December 28, 2016 - 13:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jake Tapper in for Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you for joining us.

Right now, we begin with a rather stunning speech from secretary of state, John Kerry, in which he harshly criticized the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, suggesting that Netanyahu's government is pursuing policies that would preclude a two-state solution and any sort of peace in the region.

He outlined the Obama administration's vision for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This comes five days after the U.S. allowed that controversial United Nations security council resolution to pass which condemned Israeli settlements from being built in east Jerusalem and the west bank.

Kerry suggested that the U.S. vote was in opposition to the most extreme elements of Israeli's society, the settlers.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: 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. Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.

The truth is that trends on the ground, violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation, they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides, and increasingly cementing and irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.

Here is a fundamental reality. If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic. It cannot be both.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Now, to Mr. Kerry's critics, the speech coming less than a month before president-elect Trump takes office was an unwelcome shot at an American ally, Israel. One that attempted to make a moral equivalence between the construction of settlements and acts of terrorism against Israelis by Palestinians.

In addition, it, of course, gave attention to a relatively small issue in the view of the Israeli government, compared to other more pressing issues in the region, including the mass murder in Syria by Bashar Al Assad and the rise of ISIS.

For more on all of this, let's bring in Correspondent Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem along with Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott at the State Department and National Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Oren, let me start with you. The city of Jerusalem today canceled a vote to approve new construction in east Jerusalem at the request of prime minister Netanyahu. What is the reaction to the speech from Israel?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, interesting point here. The speech actually wasn't carried live on Israeli television. I think part of that maybe just the decision that many here didn't want to hear what Kerry had to say after the U.N. Security Council resolution vote.

I think many Israelis are simply content to read about it tomorrow. As for a reaction from the leaderships here, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, they're taking their time to formulate their reaction. They weren't aware of what the speech would say in advance, even if they had an expectation. So, they haven't responded yet.

One of the responses we have gotten is from the education minister here, Naftali Bennett. He is leader of the right wing Jewish home party, an outspoken critic of the two-state solution. One of the quickest responses, saying, basically, it's a one-state solution and Israel will not accept a terrorist state next door.

So, that is exactly who Secretary of State Kerry called out in this speech when he said it's the settler movement that's leading the Israeli government. That is something that Bennett has already responded to and something, I think, we can expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to expect too.

As to the rest of this, one of the things we were listening for here was what are Kerry's ideas? What are his specific solutions on how to solve some of the complex issues, refugees, Jerusalem? That's where I think we were looking for a lot more detail and some specific answers on what he would do.

In fact, in comparing this speech, Jake, to Clinton's parameters from 16 years ago, Clinton gave a lot more detail on how he would handle that than did Kerry. Just now, kind of, sort of saying, we'll find a solution and here's kind of how you make it work. So, we'll get more Palestinian and Israeli reaction as the night goes on here as they have time to look over this 70-minute speech from Kerry.

TAPPER: Elise, at the State Department. There's really very little the Obama administration can do with just 23 days before President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry leave office. What was Kerry hoping to accomplish with this speech today?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a couple of things, Jake. First of all, I think it was a dose of tough love. You know, in this speech, he talks about the U.S. support for Israel.

But he also said that doesn't mean that we agree with every policy and that we can't let friends know when we think they're taking actions that are against their national security or what they say that they want.

[13:05:09] Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he wants a two-state solution. And so, I think Secretary Kerry is -- you know, his primary argument was these expansion of settlements, and that's why the U.S. has agreed to abstain from that vote and let it pass, are really hurting the chances of what he says he wants, a two-state solution.

I don't think Secretary Kerry expects that the parties will get back to the table immediately and take up his ideas. He knows that the Trump administration is also going to want to come in. But he did work on this four years. He led those peace talks for a year between Israelis and Palestinians.

They did kind of move for -- the ball forward on some issues, not all. But he's hoping that this could, perhaps, be the basis for where the parties pick up when they decide to get back to the table. Because he says that's what's really going to be the only thing that solves the conflict is a peace negotiation.

TAPPER: Although, Suzanne, obviously President-elect Trump and his team come at this from a very different direction. The president- elect criticized the U.N. following the Security Council vote.

What are we hearing from President-elect Trump today about the future of relations between the U.S. and Israel?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPODENT: Well, Jake, for Donald Trump jumping to the role of president January 20th is more like a suggestion. He's been weighing in heavily over the issue the last week.

He tweeted this morning, this is just hours before Secretary Kerry's speech, in two parts because not everything can fit into 140 characters. Saying, 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 20th is fast approaching.

And then, this morning, Jake, Netanyahu tweeted him back thanking him for that support.

Also this morning, I was on a conference call with Sean Spicer, incoming press secretary, who said that the U.S. relationship with Israel under Trump, in fact, would be stronger.

We have seen signs that Trump wants to go in that direction. He has selected David Friedman as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel. He supports Israeli settlements, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state. And also defunding the U.N. for the resolution that was critical of Israel.

Also today, House Republican leaders announced that when the new Congress does come back in January, they're going to introduce a measure that's denouncing the U.N. for that very resolution.

I've also been told this morning that Trump received his intelligence briefing. He met with his national security team. And Spicer says that Trump is going to make some kind of statement later this afternoon on the economy. But we're going to be looking to see if he has more reacting to Kerry's speech -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, Oren Lieberman, Elise Labott, thank you so much. You can read Elise's profile of Secretary Kerry and his mission to save diplomacy on

Let's talk about Secretary of State Kerry's assertion just a short time ago that, quote, "the two-state solution is in serious jeopardy." Let's discuss it with our panel, Hala Gorani is the anchor of "THE WORLD RIGHT NOW" on CNN International. Laura Rozen is the diplomatic correspondent for Al Monitor. And Jon Alterman is the director of the Middle East program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Hala, let me start with you. Do you think Secretary Kerry's speech did anything to change the chances of peace in the Middle East or is it possible that it might have even made it tougher?

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, at this late stage, perhaps in the Obama administration with three more weeks to go, I think it's difficult to argue that a speech would make really a tangible difference on the ground.

Because three weeks from now, of course, we have an administration -- the administration of current President-elect Donald Trump that will take over with very different views on what needs to be done.

In fact, the president-elect already tweeting his opposition to what President Obama and John Kerry have been saying and the U.S. abstention at the U.N. Security Council.

And so, I don't think that's really what the administration is trying to do here. Perhaps the audience is an Israeli one here as far as John Kerry is concerned. Perhaps, also, it's simply putting it on the record at this very late stage with just weeks to go, where the Obama administration stands on settlements, in particular. Because 70 minutes of this speech, most of it devoted to these settlements in east Jerusalem and these outposts that the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, are voting to legalize.

So, I think that really was the intent. Not with really kind of the idea that this would make any difference on the ground, especially with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, coming out, so sort of like an aggressive way, criticizing the Obama administration for the statements that it's made and its moves in the U.N. -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Laura, Suzanne Malveaux, just minute ago, alluded to the tweet that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, wrote in response to Donald Trump's tweets.

Let me just bring that up. And he wrote, President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel. He even put the U.S. and Israel flag emojis.

[13:10:05] I guess the question is, with this obviously very fastly solidifying relationship between Netanyahu and Trump, why even bother giving the speech today? Everybody knows the Obama administration position on the settlements and the U.N. vote last week made it pretty clear.

LAURA ROZEN, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, AL MONITOR: Well, I think, partly, Kerry wanted to push back a little at the Israeli criticism that the Obama administration was betraying Israel. You know, Kerry indicated he's had hundreds of calls with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and all of this was quite predictable.

And he said, you know, look, in the end, we could not, in good conscience, protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it destroyed the two-state solution which he said is in U.S. interest.

TAPPER: That's interesting. And obviously, John, you know, the idea of the settlements, they're very controversial. But I think one of the -- one of the points we keep hearing from the Israelis, and it's -- and it's -- they have a point which is this is what the Obama administration wants to go out fighting for? I mean, Syria is in tatters. There's a war going on in Yemen. I could go on but you get the point.

Why make Israeli settlements the focus of your foreign policy on your way out the door?

JON ALTERMAN, MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM DIRECTOR, CSIS: Right, and I think that the Israeli response has been the Obama administration has been consistently misguided and naive. The Obama's administration's response is the Israeli government has been consistently shortsighted.

Each one going out arguing the case they've been arguing for quite some time. I think Laura's exactly right that the president -- or that John Kerry wanted to make the point to just correct the record, to push back.

But, in some ways, a lot of the speech was either talking to the historical record or digging out some talking points from two years ago that they had on the shelf that were sitting there. And they just said, well, for the record, we're going to put that out, too.

TAPPER: Yes. And, Hala, let me -- let me read for you the statement from the spokesman for Netanyahu, David Keyes, which we just got. Quote, "Like the security council resolution that Secretary Kerry advanced in the U.N., his speech tonight was skewed against Israel." Obviously, it's night in Israel. "For over an hour, Kerry obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict, Palestinian opposition to a Jewish state in any boundaries."

What's your response?

GORANI: Well, that's the criticism, of course, from the Netanyahu government. It's one we've heard time and time again.

It's important, though, to note that several months ago, of course, the U.S., the Obama administration, and under the Obama administration, that the largest ever security aid package to Israel was authorized. We're talking $38 billion over 10 years.

So, you do have this spat. It could have, perhaps, some of its roots in a very difficult personal relationship between the U.S. president and Benjamin Netanyahu.

But strategically speaking, it's difficult to argue that the United States is somehow turning its back on Israel under President Obama, because the aid, the strategic relationship is still very much there.

So, coming from the Netanyahu government, it is expected that we'd hear from David Keyes say something like that. But, really, practically, the relationship is still, in terms of the strategic financial -- in terms of the security aid package, still very much there -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Jon, one of the points that Secretary Kerry was trying to make was in the long term, Israel can't be both Jewish and Democratic, unless there is also a Palestinian state. We have some of that sound. Let's roll that.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians.

And nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose virilitive (ph) tax against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: That was, obviously, the wrong sound. Why don't you respond to that? That's actually President Obama speaking at the United Nations in 2009, first broaching the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

ALTERMAN: Look, I think the president feels that he's been even handed, he's been right on this. So, I think there are two interesting consequences of a different U.S. policy towards Israel.

One is that Israeli governments have relied on the United States to restrain the right wing in Israel. That you want the opposition to the U.S. government to have to avoid having to capitulate to the right wing.

And it seems with a Trump administration, the Netanyahu government, which has relied on that as much as any, won't have that.

The other thing is I think you're going to have greater polarization in the American-Jewish community because there are a lot of people who agree very much with what Kerry said today.

[13:15:08] I think, in my view, that speech was really directed more at Americans than at Israelis, and there are a lot of Americans who agree much more with John Kerry than they're going to agree with Donald Trump or with his ambassador to Israel. I think the future of U.S./Israeli relations when the American Jewish community is more split is one of the really important things that we may be looking at in the years to come.

TAPPER: Laura, let me run the sound that I actually wanted to run and then get your reaction. This is John Kerry talking about the challenge, or if not impossibility, of Israel without a Palestinian state next to it staying both Jewish and democratic. Let's run that sound.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Here is a fundamental reality. If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both.


LAURA ROZEN, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, Al-MONITOR: You know, this is the argument that, as Jon was sayings, that the Netanyahu government and Obama administration have been having for eight years, which is, you know, the U.S. saying the status quo will not hold and Israel saying, let's just kick it down the road and we'll be ready later. And so you saw, you know, Kerry answering, you know, well, what is the status quo going to lead to but permanent occupation and --

TAPPER: Yes. And he came very close, although he didn't use the world "apartheid" --

ROZEN: Right. TAPPER: But he came very close to saying it and -- although I think he's used the term in the past talking about a separate but unequal society in the West Bank.

Hala Gorani, Laura Rozen, Jon Alterman, thanks, one and tall, for being here.

Up next, Israeli politician Naftali Bennett, who says Secretary of State Kerry may have had good intentions but, quote, he is "divorced from reality."

Plus, President-elect Trump has been tweeting his support for Israel, telling Israel to stay strong and wait for his inauguration. We'll dig into that as well when we come back.


[13:20:10] TAPPER: Welcome back.

Secretary of State John Kerry this morning saying that the two-state solution for Mideast peace is in jeopardy. Kerry saying that Israeli settlements are not the only obstacle, but he seemed to focus on them as the main part of the problem. Kerry says that's why the United States chose to abstain rather than veto the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the settlements on Friday.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: In literally hundreds of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I have made clear that continued settlements activity would only increase pressure for an international response. In the end, we could not, in good conscience, protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two-state solution. We could not, in good conscience, turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence. It is not in U.S. interests to help anyone on either side create a unitary state, and we may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them.


TAPPER: Naftali Bennett is Israel's minister of education and he joins us now live from Jerusalem.

Thank you so much for joining us.

What's your reaction to Secretary of State Kerry's argument about the necessary way forward in his view?

NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI MINISTER OF EDUCATION: Well, Secretary Kerry's speech was not unlike the Obama policy. It's divorced from reality, but with good intentions. It's left the Middle East in flames, a genocide in Syria, Iraq falling apart, Iran on a path to a nuclear weapon, and abandoning the only free democracy in the Middle East, Israel. It's wrong, it's immoral, but we will prevail. We're strong. We're fighting against radical Islamic terror in the midst of the Middle East, and we expected back wind and we hope to get some.

TAPPER: So let's focus on the settlements issue since it is what Secretary Kerry was talking about and it was the focus of the United Nations Security Council resolution on Friday. What is the justification for building settlements deep into the West Bank area? Not the part of the West Bank or east Jerusalem that is likely to become part of Israel in any sort of two state solution after a negotiated peace, but the parts that will not become part of Israel, if there ever is a two-state solution? What's the justification for building those settlements?

BENNETT: There is already a Palestinian state formed in 2005 in Gaza and they turned it into a terror state. You know, we pulled back to the '67 lines, pulled out all the Jews, handed it over to Abu Mazen (ph) and they turned it into a terror state. Anyone in their right mind cannot imagine forming another one right here in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. That would be insane. So I oppose forming a second Palestinian state in what you call the West Bank, i.e. Judea and Samaria. Judea and Samaria has been a Jewish state for roughly 3300 years, well before, you know, the first Americans reach the new continent of America, and we're going to stay here forever.

TAPPER: Secretary of State Kerry today saying that in that one state solution that you are suggesting -- let's remove Gaza from the equation -- Israel can become -- Israel can be Jewish or Israel can be democratic, but it cannot be both. How do you solve that problem of the fact that there will be millions of Palestinians that I don't presume you would be giving voting rights or travel rights to, to the extent that they would seek?

BENNETT: Of course they would have voting rights. They would have voting rights for their entity. They can exercise it in the Palestinian state in Gaza, or in the autonomy in the West Bank. That's up to them. They have voting rights like any other person in the world.

I profoundly disagree with this -- this stark vision of Secretary Kerry. We're the ones fighting -- out there fighting for the defense of the free world. And within smaller Israel, it's quite the contrary. We have supreme court judges that are Arabs. We have members of our parliament that are Arabs. So the only free democracy in the Middle East is, in fact, Israel. And sort of abandoning Israel while we're out there fighting ISIS and Hamas and Hezbollah is simply wrong.

TAPPER: Your government says that Israel has, quote, "ironclad information" proving that the Obama administration orchestrated the U.N. Security Council vote and that you will turn it over to the Trump administration. That seems odd. Why not just present it to the public? It's a rather stark charge to make, especially considering the Obama administration disputes it.

[13:25:04] BENNETT: Well, we know that it's a premeditated plan. But, you know, the bonds between the American people, who seek freedom and democracy, and the Israeli people, which are in the midst of the toughest area in the world, goes so deep, way beyond one administration or another. It's unfortunate that Kerry and Obama have decided to go down this track, both vis-a-vis Iran and the Security Council. We're out fighting to prevent terror attacks in Orlando, in Brussels, in London, because we're the ones -- I've been fighting Hezbollah and Hamas for, you know, over 25 years, myself. I've lost friends. We want peace. But the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East is by being strong and fighting the bad and evil forces of Iran and ISIS. And that's exactly what we're doing.

TAPPER: Minister Bennett, the vote in the U.N. Security Council resolution, as you know, was 14 in favor of the anti-settlements resolution, one abstention, the United States. Now your government, the Netanyahu government, is taking steps to curb diplomatic relations with countries that include the U.K., France, Spain, Ukraine and on and on, New Zealand, Egypt. Are -- is Israel not isolating itself from the rest of the world by not taking the message that people think that these settlements are a true impediment to peace?

BENNETT: You just said twice the term "settlements." You know, we're not occupying any land. One cannot occupy his own home. This city behind me is Jerusalem. It's been our capital for 3,000 years, way before London was the British capital --

TAPPER: You dispute the idea that these are settlements?

BENNETT: And way before Washington, D.C., was the American capital. These are not settlements. We've got about 650,000 Israelis living in Jerusalem, in east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. Big cities. You know, one might imagine a small tent on a hill. That's not what we're talking about.

We've been here for thousands of years. We're staying here. We're going to live side-by-side in peace with the Arabs here. But not by forcing our hand and not by a Security Council decision that's giving back wind to the worst terrorists in the world because they say, here, the only free democracy at fighting terror is being thrown under the bus.

TAPPER: Minister Bennett, you're proving my point because you're even disputing the idea that it's occupied territory or settlements, which the entire international community, with the exception of the Netanyahu government, thinks it is.

BENNETT: But -- absolutely I'm disputing that. How long have you -- have Americans been living in America?

TAPPER: How long have Americans been living in America?

BENNETT: A few hundred? That's correct. A few hundred years. How long have Jews been living in the holy land? Four thousand years. So how dare anyone call the land of Israel occupied territory. How dare anyone. This has been our home forever, and will be our home forever. Yes, there's Arabs here. Some of them are in our parliament. And we have freedom that no other Middle East country has. And we're proud of it. We will prevail, even when we're trying to be forced down a bad path.

TAPPER: Well, I think a lot of people who live on the West Bank would dispute the notion that they have freedom, but, Minister Bennett, we thank you for your time. Happy Hanukkah. We appreciate it.

Secretary Kerry argued today that both he and President Obama have not only been critical of Israel, but Palestine as well and the role that it must play in ending violence. Here's what he had to say about Hamas.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Most troubling of all, Hamas continues to pursue an extremist agenda. They refuse to accept Israel's very right to exist. They have a one-state vision of their own, all of the land as Palestine.

Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit forms of incitement to violence. And many of the images that they use are truly appalling. And they are willing to kill innocents in Israel and put the people of Gaza at risk in order to advance that agenda.


TAPPER: Let's talk more about this with political analyst Diana Buttu. She's a human rights attorney. She is a former legal advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Diana, thanks for joining us.

What is your response to Secretary of State John Kerry just then in the speech he said that Hamas is part of the problem as well, they are demanding a one-state solution, and they are perpetrating violence against innocent Israelis?

[13:29:40] DIANA BUTTU, FORMER ADVISER TO PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRES. ABBAS: Well, you know, violence wouldn't exist if it weren't for the fact there are Palestinians who are being denied their freedom. If it weren't for the fact that Palestinians have been living under a brutal military regime that even your previous guest, Naftali Bennett, denied even exists. This is the root of violence. And I believe that if we want to address violence, we have to address the root causes, and that is ending the occupation and giving Palestinians their freedom.