Return to Transcripts main page
Fareed Zakaria GPS
President Biden Holds News Conference Before Leaving G7 Summit; What The Future Holds For Israel. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired June 13, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're going to provide up to $2 billion to support developing countries as they transition away from unabated coal-fired power.
In addition, we also agreed to tackle corruption, which is a threat to societies everywhere. I pointed out in the conversation I had with one of the leaders of -- well, actually with China. And I was -- it was a request for me not to try to -- when I was asked what I was going to be doing after being elected, I said we're going to reestablish the strength of American relationships. We can be counted on again, alliances.
And suggested that, well, maybe you shouldn't get the Quad, meaning India, Japan, Australia, and the United States working together. And maybe you shouldn't be pushing on strengthening the European Union to deal with the West not just to have -- and so on.
And I said for an American president to -- every president to be sustained or prime minister has to represent the values of their country. And I pointed out and I mean it sincerely, we're unique as a country. We're built on -- we're unique in the sense that we're not based on ethnicity or geography or religion. We're one nation that said we organized on an idea. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men were created to be equal. It sounds corny but it's real. And any president that doesn't act consistent with what the -- the reason (ph) they taught (ph) for the nation is, cannot be sustained at the support of that country.
And so what we're able to do is, we know that corruption undermines the trust in government, siphons off public resources, makes economies much less competitive and constitutes a threat to our security so we're going to work together to address issues like the abuse of shell companies and money laundering through real estate transactions and we've agreed that we're going to work together to address cyber threats from state and non-state actors like criminal ransomware networks and hold countries accountable that harbor criminal ransomware actors that don't hold them accountable.
And over the past few weeks, the nations of the G7 have affirmed that democratic values that underpin everything we hope to achieve in our shared future, that we're committed to put them to work. One, delivering vaccines and ending the pandemic. Two, driving substantial and inclusive economic recovery around the world. Three, and fuelling infrastructure development in places that most badly need it. And four, and fighting climate change.
The only way we're going to meet the global threats that we're -- is by working together and -- with our partners and our allies. And I conveyed to each of my G7 counterparts that the United States is going to do our part. America is back at the table. America is back at the table.
The lack of participation in the past and full engagement was noticed significantly. Not only by the leaders of those countries but by the people in the G7 countries. And America is back and in business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values.
And so the bottom line is, I was very pleased with the outcome of the entire conference. And, you know, I noticed there was a lot of coverage of my individual comments made by my colleagues about how we were all getting along together, but the truth of the matter is we did. It was a -- I felt it wasn't about me but it was about America. I felt a genuine sense of enthusiasm that America was back at the table and fully, fully engaged.
And now I'm going to be heading off to Brussels to NATO and the same -- many of the same people are going to be at that table in NATO. And to make the case we are back as well. We do not view NATO as a sort of a protection racket. We believe that NATO is vital to our ability to keeping (ph) American security for the next -- the next remainder of the century.
And there is a real enthusiasm. I made it clear and I pointed out and I thanked them, we -- Article Five is an attack on one is an attack on all. Well, what Americans sometimes don't forget, you remember what happened on 9/11. We were attacked. Immediately NATO supported us.
NATO supported us. NATO went until we got Bin Laden. NATO was part of the process. And I want them to know on like (ph) whether they doubt it, that we believe that NATO and Section Five is a sacred obligation.
Bottom line is, I think we made some progress in reestablishing American credibility among our closest friends and our values.
Now why I don't take some of your questions. And I'm told, Jonathan (ph), I'm supposed to recognize you first.
QUESTION: Well, I appreciate that, sir. Thank you very much. Mr. President, Vladimir Putin -- thank you. Vladimir Putin, who you'll be seeing in a few days in Geneva, said just a couple of days ago that he believed that U.S.-Russia relations were at a low point. In what concrete ways could your summit change that? And then secondly, on the same topic, you have said previously and in the run-up to the summit that you would be unafraid to call out Russia's disruptive actions, like cyber hacks, Ukraine, election interference, but you're not having a joint press conference with Putin. Why not take the chance to stand side-by-side to him and say those things to him with the world watching?
BIDEN: Well, let me make it clear, I think he is right that it's at a low point. And it depends on how he responds to acting consistent with international norms, which in many cases he has not. As I told him when I was running and I when got elected, before I was sworn in, that I was going to find out whether or not he, in fact, did engage in trying to interfere in our election, that I was going to take a look at whether he was involved in the cyber security breach that occurred, et cetera, and if I did I was going to respond. And I did. I checked it out. So I had access to all of the intelligence. He was engaged in all of those activities. I did respond and made it clear that I would respond again.
With regard to -- I always found, and I don't mean to suggest that the press should not know, but this is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other. It's about making myself very clear what the conditions are -- to get a better relationship are with Russia. We're not looking for conflict. We are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms, number one.
Number two, where we can work together, we may be able to do that in terms of some strategic doctrine that may be able to be worked together, we're ready to do it. And there may be other areas. There is even talk there may be the ability to work together on climate.
So the bottom line is that I think the best way to deal with this is for he and I to meet, he and I to have to have our discussion. I know you don't doubt that I'll be very straightforward with him about our concerns. And I will make clear my view of how that meeting turned out and he'll make clear how -- from his perspective how it turned out.
But I don't want to get into being diverted by, did they shake hands, how far did they -- who talked the most, and the rest. He can say what he said the meeting was about and I will say what I think the meeting was about. That's how I'm going to handle it.
BIDEN: I'm sorry, I'm going to get in trouble with staff, if I don't do this the right way. Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On China, you -- sorry, China seems to be doing exactly what it wants to do with regard to Hong Kong, with regard to Xinjiang, with the South China Sea, and many other issues despite pressure from you and from allies. The final language in the G-7 Communique does have some mentions of China, which is different from past years. But I know it's not as tough as you and your team wanted it to be. We saw a draft of the communique and it's not quite as tough. So why isn't it as tough? There isn't very much action in it. There are some calls for China to be respectful, but why isn't that communique a little bit tougher? Are you disappointed in that? And what you can you do to change some of these actions by China?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, I think it -- as you know, last time the G- 7 met there was no mention of China. But this time there is mention of China. The G-7 explicitly agreed to call out human right abuses in Xinjiang and in Hong Kong explicitly. Two, to coordinate a common strategy to deal with China non-market policies that undermine competition, they've agreed, and that's under way now how to do that.
Three, to take serious actions against forced labor in solar, agriculture, and the garment industries because that's where it's happening. And they've agreed we will do that. To launch -- what I said earlier, I really feel very strongly, I proposed that we have a democratic alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, to build back better. And they've agreed to that and that is under way, as the details of that, we agreed, that we put together a committee to do that and come up with that.
And, thirdly, that we're going to insist on high standards for being -- for a climate-friendly, transparent alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative. And but in the meantime we're going to move forward.
Look, I think it's always -- let me put it this way, I know this is going to sound somewhat prosaic, but I think we're in a contest, not with China per se, but in a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st Century. And I think how we act and whether we pull together as democracies is going to determine whether our grandkids look back 15 years from now and say, did they step up? Are democracies as relevant and as powerful as they have been.
And I walked away from the meeting with all of my colleagues believing that they are convinced that that is correct now, too. Not -- I shouldn't say now, not just because of me. But they believe that to be the case. And so I think you're going to see just straightforward dealing with China. And, again, we're not looking -- as I've told Xi Jinping myself, I'm not looking for conflict. Where we cooperate, we'll cooperate. Where we disagree, I'm going to state it frankly. And we are going to respond to actions that are inconsistent.
For example, we talked about trade. It's one thing to talk about whether or not our agriculture policy makes sense, another thing to say, by the way, you're demanding that if I do business in your country, I've got to give you all of my trade secrets and have the Chinese partner have 51 percent of that? No, not us.
QUESTION: So are you saying, Mr. President, are you satisfied with what came out in the communique?
QUESTION: Or do you wish it were tougher? Do you wish there was more action on China?
BIDEN: Yes, I think there is plenty of action on China and there is always something that you can -- I'm sure my colleagues they think they can improve that they wanted. But I'm satisfied.
Steve Holland, Reuters.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Just to follow up on (INAUDIBLE) question, the communique cited a variety of fronts on China, everything from human rights, to the origin of the COVID virus, Taiwan, what do you think China needs to do to ease tensions?
BIDEN: I think China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency. Transparency matters across the board. And I think the idea that -- for example, one of the things that I raised -- and others raised, I wasn't the only one who raised this at the G-7, is that we don't know -- we haven't had access to the laboratories to determine whether or not -- and I have not reached a conclusion because our intelligence community is not certain yet, whether or not this was a consequence of a -- from the marketplace of a bat, you know, interfacing with animals in the environment that caused this -- this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory. It's important to know the answer to that because we have to have access -- we have to build a system whereby we can know what -- when we see another transparent -- lack of transparency that might produce another pandemic. We have to have access. The world has to have access.
So we're trying to figure out at the G-7 whether we could put together an international basis upon which we could have a bottom line with what the transparency accounted for.
QUESTION: And you mentioned that the argument behind the scenes that you had not mentioned China in three years in one of these communiques, what did you argue behind the scenes to try to bring people to the point where they got?
BIDEN: The answer to that question -- there is no way to answer without sounding self-serving. Let me just say this. I just laid out what I thought was the need for us to be consistent, to protect our economies, and to see to it that other struggling economies who needed help got the help and were not held captive by other nations. But you might ask that to others. I'm not trying to be a wise guy.
But I -- and Wall Street Journal, Andrew (ph)?
QUESTION: As you said, the G-countries committed to send 1 billion Coronavirus doses overseas.
But the World Health Organization says 11 billion doses are needed.
QUESTION: How are you going to bridge that gap? Will the U.S. commit to send additional doses overseas? And given that gap is it actually realistic to end the pandemic by 2022?
BIDEN: It is. It may take slightly longer worldwide. But the United States is going to continue. I think there is a possibility over 2022 going into 2023 that we would be able to be in a position to provide another billion, us (ph). But that's not done yet.
I only -- I've been very careful as I've dealt with this pandemic to tell you what I know. And say what I thought could be done and when I've announced that I've gone and done it. What I don't want to do is be getting too far ahead and suggesting that we can do things and I can do things, the United States can do things that I don't have done yet.
So I -- there was a clear consensus among all of our colleagues at the G7 that this wasn't the end. We were going to stay at it until we're able to provide for -- able to provide for the needs of the whole world in terms -- because, look, it's not just the right thing to do from a -- how can I say it, from a moral standpoint, but it is also the correct thing to do in terms of our own health, our own security. You can't build a wall high enough to keep out the new strains. You can't do that.
And so I think this is going to be a constant project for a long time and there may be other pandemics. We -- again, setting up a system whereby we can detect before it gets out of control one -- a pandemic that may be on the horizon, a virus is important. So we are not going to -- as long as there are nations in need, being able to be vaccinated, we in fact -- not only that, we've been engaged in helping, which I've made clear and most of our -- my colleagues understood it -- I mean, not they understood it, knew it from trying it themselves, this is a gigantic logistical effort.
It is one thing to send nation X, X number -- Y number of vaccines. It's another thing to have the people that can actually get it in somebody's arm. And so we are also providing the ability for other countries to manufacture their vaccines. We've all agreed on that.
India has the capacity to do that. They don't have the material capacity thus far to do the manufacturing, but there's a lot going on to provide not only to, quote, give vaccines, but to provide the ability of the countries in question to produce their own vaccines.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) last question (ph)?
BIDEN: I'm not going to answer it. No, I'm joking. Last question.
Peter Alexander, NBC News.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
About Vladimir Putin and your meeting this week, as you're well aware the U.S. has been slapping sanctions on Russia for years for its malign activities and Russia has not stopped. So what specifically will you do differently to change Vladimir Putin's behavior?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, there is no guarantee you can change a person's behavior or the behavior of his country. Autocrats have enormous power and they don't have to answer to a public. And the fact is that it may very well be if I respond in kind, which I will, that it doesn't dissuade him, he wants to keep going. But I think that we're going to be moving in a direction where -- Russia has -- has its own dilemmas, let's say, dealing with its economy, dealing with its -- dealing with COVID and dealing with not only the United States but Europe at large and the Middle East. And so there is a lot going on where we could work together with Russia.
For example, in Libya, we should be opening up the passes to be able to go through and provide -- provide food, assistance, and economic -- I mean vital assistance to a population that's in real trouble. I think I'm going to try very hard to -- and by the way, there are places where -- I shouldn't be starting off on negotiating in public here, but let me say it this way.
Russia has engaged in activities which are -- we believe are contrary to international norms. But they have also bitten off some real problems they're going to have trouble chewing on. And, for example, the rebuilding of Syria, of Libya, of -- this is -- they're there.
And as long as they're there without the ability to bring about some order in the region, you can't do that very well without providing for the basic economic needs of people.
So I'm hopeful that we can find an accommodation that -- where we can save the lives of people in, for example, in Libya, that are consistent with the interest of -- maybe for different reasons, but reach it for the same reason -- the same result.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about a comment that Vladimir Putin said today but why do you think he hasn't changed his behavior in spite of everything that the U.S. has done to this point?
BIDEN: He's Vladimir Putin. I'm not going to get into much more than that because I've got to sit down with him and I'll be happy to talk after that.
QUESTION: But you said to then -- just to conclude. Today he said that Russia would be ready to hand over cyber criminals to the United States if the U.S. would do the same to Russia and an agreement came out of this meeting coming up. So are you open to that kind of a trade with Vladimir Putin?
BIDEN: Yes. I'm open to -- if there's crimes committed against Russia, that in fact are -- and the people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I'm committing to holding them accountable. And I heard that, I was told as I was flying here, that he said that. I think that's a -- that's potentially a good sign and progress.
Thank you all very, very much. (Inaudible). Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) European allies, how do you think (ph) about the European allies?
BIDEN: I'm going to get in trouble with my staff -- yes, go ahead. But pretend I didn't answer you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir.
You have often said, repeatedly, that America is back.
QUESTION: At the same time, you've kept in place some Trump era steel and aluminum sanctions. And I wanted to ask you, when you are having these conversations with European allies, who are very concerned about these sanctions, how do you justify that and what are your plans --
BIDEN: One hundred and twenty days. Give me a break. Need time.
UNKNOWN: Thank you, guys. (Inaudible). Thank you, guys. Thank you.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fareed Zakaria in New York. This is GPS and that was President Biden's press conference in Cornwall, England during which he declared America is back at the table.
The president was there for a meeting of the G7 world leaders which he called extraordinarily collaborative and productive. Then he goes to Windsor to meet the Queen, then the European Union and NATO summits, and then of course the meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.
Let me bring in my panel to talk about it all. Zanny Minton Beddoes is the editor-in-chief of "The Economist" and Ben Rhodes was a deputy National Security adviser and speech writer for President Obama. He is the author of a terrific new book "After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made."
Zanny, let me start with you. Biden says America is back at table. And it certainly does seem fair to say he's shaped the agenda, came to the table, both with an America that had done spectacularly with vaccinations, and then half a billion dollar -- half a billion vaccine donation and it did seem to spur the Europeans to provide another half billion of their own which seems like the kind of classic traditional American agenda setting.
So is America back at the table?
ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: Yes. America is definitely back at the table. And you saw that just listening to the president. As I was listening to the president I thought, you know, you could not have heard this in the last four years but you can hear it now. It's a different president. A president who is multi- lateralist in his bones. He's got a team around him that wants to work together.
And so yes, America is back, and I think you're right. The G7 was spurred to doing more that it might otherwise have done. Reading through the communique there was more concrete details that I had expected. So more ambition in certain areas. But that said, it is -- I think as Angela Merkel said, we haven't solved all the problems but we can now pursue the solutions, she put it, with more zest.
But pursuing the solutions with more zest, what worries me is that the scale of the problem, the challenge facing the liberal democracies of the world, is so large that the G7 hasn't yet come up with an approach that is sufficiently ambitious. So fantastic to have America back at the table. America is the indispensable nation. Without American leadership, the G7 does nothing much but now it needs greater boldness, I think.
ZAKARIA: Ben, how do you think they're viewing Joe Biden? He's a familiar figure. Most of them know him.
But do they -- you know, Europeans are sophisticated. I mean, the Japanese also there of course. But do you think they regard this as, you know, is Trump the aberration or are they worried that Biden may be the aberration?
BEN RHODES, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think you put your finger on it, Fareed. I mean, look, what I was struck by is not only is America back at the table but the agenda is quite different. You know, we didn't hear about terrorism very much, right. We're talking about climate change, we're talking about COVID, we're talking about China, we're talking about corruption.
I think this is really a bit of a sea change in terms of what the United States is bringing to the table. And I think it's a welcome change. They're dealing with issues that have to be addressed. However, I think no matter what Joe Biden does, all those leaders are kind looking over his shoulder at American democracy, and they're remembering in the Obama years, right, they painstakingly negotiated with us for a Paris agreement or an Iran nuclear agreement only to have Trump come in and tear it all up.
And they know that in 2024 the pendulum could swing back here. And there's not much Joe Biden can do about that obviously. But I think it does demonstrate that the way in which these leaders look at the United States is not just Joe Biden and his team, it's the state of American democracy generally and that's obviously something that we have to address at home as well as in settings like the G7.
ZAKARIA: Zanny, one of the things Biden keeps talking about is how America is back with this closest allies, it wants international norms and rules. But -- and this was the last -- second to the last question, the United States under Joe Biden is still maintaining a lot of these tariffs on the Europeans. The Build Back Better plan has a lot of buy only American provisions, which are all protectionist and in a sense violate international law, certainly the kind of spirit of the WTO.
How do Europeans regard all of that?
BEDDOES: Well, I think with concern and with suspicion. But as President Biden, when he got that last question, he said -- I was interested in this. He said it's been 120 days, you know, give me time. So I took that as being perhaps a sign that there would be movement on some of these tariffs. But you're right. If you look at the Buy American agenda and if you look at the kind of disposition of President Biden in terms of really focusing on creating jobs and supply chains at home, it's not hugely different to the disposition of America First.
It's less, you know, unpredictable, it's more within the rules, but it is a kind of unilateralist soft protectionist approach. So I think there really is concern about that in the rest of the world, that this is a different kind of rhetoric. They talk differently. They talk the whole multi-lateral talk but it's not yet clear that the actual underlying approach is that different.
And there's one other area that really is beginning to worry me more which is that given the scale of ambition in President Biden's rhetoric, you know, it's the contest between liberal democracy and autocracy. He's painting this in very big stakes.
The credibility of the United States for the emerging world, with the developing countries is also really at stake. And if you look at the handling of the pandemic, notwithstanding this billion doses which the G7 has come up which is frankly still far too little relative to the scale of what needs to be done.
But even if you look at climate change where they haven't agreed to fund the money that they promised years ago, I think if you're in the developing world, you say well, this is great talk but is the other liberal democracies, is the G7 led by the United States really willing to walk the walk and actually come up with a commitments that are necessary? And I think the jury is really out on that.
ZAKARIA: Ben, I wanted to ask an angle of this which draws on your book which really is wonderful. You talk about the disillusionment that many people felt after 30 years of, you know, kind of American primacy and globalization, and the degree to which people feel that maybe globalization failed, maybe even capitalism failed, and then that is why a lot of this populism has risen not just in America but in places like Hungary and, you know, all over the world.
But it does strike me, and I wanted to ask you this, the one much stronger correlation is immigration. I mean, that's what really seems to me to have been the beating heart of populism and after all what is Trump's signature line. It is build the wall. And is Biden going down the wrong path by being more protectionist? Should he really instead -- is the message really more about immigration, cultural issues, things like that? How do you think about that?
RHODES: Well, I think it's a great question, Fareed. And just to kind of sum up that piece of what's in my book, you know, I was talking to a Hong Kong government official who is anonymous in talking to me.
and he said, "Look, the 2008 crisis was the pivotal moment in terms of this rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in a lot of ways in the West. That's when the narrative of liberalism and democracy collapsed and there was this opening for, really, right-wing populists who offered the more traditional sense of -- of identity that came from ethno-nationalism."
And that's when, in China, they started to think, "Well, you know, we've been deferring to the Americans and running a lot of the machinery of the international system and the international order. Maybe we don't have to defer to these guys any more. Maybe what we have is better."
And that's generated an enormous amount of momentum around -- particularly since Xi Jinping came to power -- the Chinese taking their model and saying, "Not only are we going to, you know, kind of, swallow up Hong Kong; not only are we going to be much more aggressive on issues like the Uighur but we're going to start to export this along the Belt and Road Initiative that you heard Biden talking about in their relationships with other countries."
And I think, to deal with that, you know, the United States has to recognize that part of our advantage and part of this competition of democracies isn't just demonstrating that democracies can deliver, that we can spend money, we can build infrastructure, it's that a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy made up of people from everywhere in which immigration is a core part of that strength, in which anyone from anywhere can...
RHODES: ... can become an American, that's part of our advantage too. And -- and -- and we need to embrace that as a community of democracies around the world and not be, again, so afraid of the way in which right-wing populists demagogue issues. We have to win those in our own democracies.
ZAKARIA: Zanny, can you give us a sense of what you think China's reaction to all of this is going to be?
Because, I mean, Russia is actively out there, you know, trying to be a spoiler, whether it's in Ukraine, whether it's in Syria, whether it's with the cyber war -- the -- is there -- are we missing an opportunity to work with the Chinese on something like climate change, where you couldn't -- you really are not going to be able to accomplish anything substantive without the Chinese?
BEDDOES: Well, I hope very much that we will try and work with the Chinese on climate change. And, certainly, Secretary Kerry has very much tried to push that. There is a hope, I think, in the United States and in Europe that you can, you know, walk and chew gum at the same time and work with the Chinese in areas like that, where -- you're right -- you cannot make any progress unless you're working with the Chinese.
And I think the attitude in Beijing is somewhat skeptical of that possibility of being able to carve things up and on the one hand be criticized by the West for human rights in Hong Kong or Xinjiang, and then on the other hand work together on those areas. And there's much more of a sense of it it's a common approach. There was a comment from -- from China a couple of -- yesterday, I think, saying that, you know, the G7, a group of small countries, you know, cannot dictate the rules of the world. And I think there is a sense of, you know, is this organization relevant?
If there is a genuinely united front between the world's liberal democracies in how to strategically approach China, one that allows a working relationship in areas that they need to have and one that stands up for the values of liberal democracy, then I think the West is in a very strong position. But I think we're -- we're really a long way from that.
And even if you take something like B3W, I think it's called, the "Build Back Better World," which is the -- the thing that was coined today by President Biden to counter the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which is their attempt to invest in -- in poorer countries, you know, there's no new money there. It's a nice slogan. It's a nice aspiration. But there's nothing really substantive behind it.
And so that, again, makes me think that it's -- it's a step forward, where the West is. And I -- I think that President Biden has probably succeeded in bringing the Europeans a bit more together because they've been very divided on how to -- how to handle China, and perhaps a bit tougher than they -- some of them might have wanted to be. But we're still a long way from a strategically coherent approach for how to deal with the world's rising power of the 21st Century.
I don't think we're there yet. And that's the real test of whether this alliance of liberal democracies actually adds up to something really substantive.
ZAKARIA: Zanny Minton Beddoes, thank you so much.
Ben Rhodes, thank you. Your book is called "After the Fall: Being American in the World We've Made." And I really recommend it. It is a -- it is a fascinating tour d'horizon of the world and also very well written, as everything you do is.
Next on "GPS," Benjamin Netanyahu woke up this morning as prime of minister of Israel. Tomorrow, he will likely not hold that office anymore, after 12 years. That story and what the future holds for Israel, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: If all goes as expected, it will be a truly historic day in Israel. The Knesset is meeting now to consider what is likely the country's next government, a coalition cobbled together with people and parties from all across the political spectrum. As I've said before, it seems they have one thing in common, a dislike for the sitting prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu. And if this new coalition is voted in today, Bibi will no longer be prime minister. Martin Indyk is a two-time U.S. ambassador to Israel and a former U.S.
special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
So, Martin, let me ask you the question that I think everyone has. So this coalition comes together. Given how disparate it is and how much they disagree, Naftali Bennett, the prime minister to be, will become -- will move to do some of the things his base wants, which would be to further strengthen the annexation of Israeli, you know, settlers in the West Bank.
That will outrage the Israeli Arabs who are part of this coalition, or the -- you know, far left-wing parties. They will then protest. It could trigger a no confidence vote. Is the coalition as fragile as it seems?
MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Well, good morning, Fareed. I think your point is an important one, that is a coalition that adheres because it's against Netanyahu, but it is a coalition that stretches from the far left to the far right, and as you mentioned, includes for the first time in Israel's history an Arab party, not just any Arab party but an Arab Islamist party in -- in this coalition.
But because it's -- it's made up of this eight-party coalition across the political spectrum, they essentially cancel each other out. They -- if they don't hang together, they will hang separately.
And so I think that, with Netanyahu leading the opposition, he still provides the glue that will hold this coalition together. And as Bennett has said, he'll have to forego his dreams in favor of focusing on the consensus issues that I think this government can work on together, which is recovery from the pandemic, focusing on social issues, focusing on the needs of the Arab sector in particular. And so they've got enough to do in common to give them some life.
ZAKARIA: Hence the specter of Bibi's return could keep this coalition together. Now, Bibi Netanyahu is probably the leader of the opposition. We'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks. But there is the issue about his indictment and possible conviction. Give us a sense of the timeline. You know, he's been under indictment for years now. But will this resolve itself any time soon?
INDYK: Well, the wheels of justice, including especially Israeli justice, move exceedingly slow. So I think it will be some time.
Now that he's no longer prime minister, he will have time to focus on the trial, which is going on at the moment. He's charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. These are serious crimes that he's been indicted for.
There are some in the Likud Party who are talking about challenging his leadership. But if he decides to stay on, and I think he will, I think that he will be able to survive those challenges. And he will be out there creating as much problem as possible for the coalition. And there are some immediate challenges that he will be highlighting. For example, there is an illegal outpost that went up during his last few months as prime minister that he did nothing to remove, placing a kind of landmine for the future government because that -- removal of that illegal settlement, which is built on Palestinian land, will require the prime minister, Naftali Bennett in effect to go against his settler base. And that will be, in a way, the first test but not the only test that's coming at this government that Netanyahu will amplify.
ZAKARIA: And what about the Israeli-Palestinian issue in general? Does it stay paralyzed? Is there a possibility of movement? Where do you see things heading?
INDYK: Naftali Bennett, the prime minister, is the strongest proponent of annexation of the West Bank, and the strongest opponent of an independent Palestinian state in the -- in this government. But, as you said, he's going to forego his -- his dreams.
His focus in the past has been what he calls "autonomy on steroids." That is designed to, I think -- his idea is to boost the quality of life of Palestinians, to give them greater economic opportunities, build the Palestinian economy, build roads in the West Bank for Palestinians as well as Israelis, these kinds of day-to-day things that he promises will -- will help the Palestinians in the meantime.
I think the Biden administration could go along with that in the short term because they too don't see much prospect for resuming negotiations on a two-state solution.
But we've been down this road before and it turned out to be a rabbit hole because there were so many restrictions on what the Palestinians can do.
So we'll have to see just how far he and his coalition is prepared to go on this front. But this is a coalition that cannot hold together if it were to engage in final-status negotiations on a two-state solution.
On the other hand, the Palestinians are not exactly in a position, split between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, to advance into negotiations either.
So I think that it's at least worth testing this idea of -- of boosting autonomy and quality of life for the Palestinians as a first step towards rebuilding negotiations for a final agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
ZAKARIA: Martin Indyk, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.
Next on "GPS", I'm going to tell you about the next great global crisis. In fact, it may already be upon us. And I'm going to explain how, at its heart, it's all about cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAKARIA: Here's my take. Are you ready for the next global crisis?
Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said last month that we are already on the cusp of a global digital pandemic. He was talking about the explosion of cyber crime.
FBI Director Christopher Wray concurs, explaining that the dramatic rise of this new form of crime has shaken the American security apparatus much like the 9/11 attacks did in 2001.
In fact, the escalation of cyber crime is a far more pervasive problem than terrorism. As we connect more and more stuff to the Internet, all of us become more and more vulnerable to hackers who can compromise any person or business through the Web and steal their data or freeze them out until they pay a ransom.
The pandemic accelerated the transition to a digital economy and thus accelerated cyber crime. By one estimate, ransomware attacks tripled in the last year.
We actually don't know the true extent of this problem because much of it remains unreported. Many companies, large and small, keep mum out of fear of inviting bad publicity, future attacks and legal consequences.
Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that global ransomware damage will reach $20 billion by the end of 2021, which is 57 times the number just six years ago.
One CEO who works actively on cybersecurity told me ransomware attackers are operating with a reliable business model. The cyber attackers typically cripple a network, then set a price for the ransom that is high but affordable for the targeted organization, particularly if they have insurance.
Once the ransom is paid, the attackers follow up on their end of the bargain. But there is one point in the blizzard of these transactions where law enforcement has leverage. Virtually every cyber criminal demands payment in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
This makes sense because a crucial feature of these currencies is that they are largely untraceable, at least until very recently. Every successful technology fills some need or solves some problem. What is the need that cryptocurrencies fill?
It's not to buy and sell on the Web or to move money electronically. All that can easily be done using transitional financial institutions, as well as new interfaces like PayPal or Apple Pay.
But none of these can replace shadowy transactions that take place in the analog world, the kind where one person hands another a bag of cash. That transaction is inefficient but secret and largely untraceable. Cryptocurrencies allow you to do something similar, but digitally.
No, this is not a matter of a private, discreet payment, say a man who wants to book a hotel in Paris for a weekend without his wife knowing. There are plenty of ways for that to happen, prepaid credit cards and the like.
But with these new digital transactions, the identities of people involved are being kept secret even from financial institutions and from the government. But not so secret, it turns out.
This week's news about the recovery of a ransom indicates the way forward. The Justice Department and FBI were able to track and recover most of the Bitcoins paid by Colonial Pipeline during the recent ransomware attack that paralyzed fuel supplies to much of the East Coast.
They seem to have managed this with extraordinary forensic work, digital savvy and some good luck. But such success is rare.
There is no reason it needs to be so hard. The IRS chief has asked Congress to give it the authority to collect information on cryptocurrency transactions over $10,000. That would be a good start, putting cryptocurrency on the the same level as a bank account, rather than giving it a special pass on legal scrutiny.
Many of cryptocurrency's most ardent advocates see it as the way of the future, a decentralized and seamless monetary system that offers an alternative to national currencies.
Fine, but none of that requires that it be anonymous. If those broader goals are what Bitcoin is really about, it should stay strong even while its illegal use is reined in.
If, on the other hand, the crucial, distinctive and unique property of cryptocurrency is that it can be readily and efficiently used for crime, why exactly should governments around the world allow this?
Go to CNN.com/Fareed for a link to my Washington Post column this week.
And -- and thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.