May 27th, 2011
12:43 PM ET

Zakaria: History will pass Netanyahu by

Here's a transcript of my conversation with Eliot Spitzer Thursday about Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress:

Eliot Spitzer: You wrote an article in today's Washington Post and to say it is critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu is perhaps an understatement. You say he will be a "comma in history". That's pretty harsh criticism. What do you mean by that?

Fareed Zakaria: I mean that what Netanyahu has revealed is that he really is not interested in a two-state solution. He's not interested in getting any kind of deal. At the end of the day, there's going to be a deal.

Everyone understands what the parameters of it are. The Palestinians are in many ways screwed up. The Israelis in many ways are screwed up. But we know what it's going to look like. It's going to look roughly like the deal Bill Clinton put together in 2000 - land for peace.

And Netanyahu just always finds some way that there is a problem. When the Palestinians were divided, he said he couldn't negotiate with them because they were divided. Then they unified. He said, "I can't negotiate with you because you're united."

When President Obama makes a tiny modification - not even clearly a modification to a stated U.S. policy - he says, I can't negotiate because of that. And what that means is ultimately history is going to pass him by.

Let's drill down on this a little bit - the issue of whether or not there was any change in U.S. policy.  Look, I don't see one but the critical phrasing was the '1967 borders, with agreed upon swaps' as what you referred to the foundation for land for peace. Do you view those words as being a change in either U.S. policy or what Israel understood U.S. policy to be?

It can't be because if you look at the statements made by every Israeli and American statesman over the last 10 years, including George W. Bush, including a joint statement between Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu, they make references to the '67 borders.

Now, you could say that this was the first time a U.S. president in a speech made this kind of statement. But frankly, this is the kind of Jesuitical distinction without a difference.

Everyone knows the basic issue is you're starting with the '67 borders. The Israelis give back most of it. They keep some of it. In return, they swap some land to the Palestinians.

All right. Let me take Netanyahu's side here for a moment even though you know I agree with everything you just said.

He would say that when there was a peace accord on the table in 2000 - Bill Clinton's proposal - Arafat said no. And since then, the Palestinians themselves have taken every opportunity to reject peace. When they got Gaza back, they used Gaza and have continued to use Gaza as a launching pad for missiles. So why should we now give them more land back?

Look, there may be an argument for not doing the deal at all. That's a separate issue. But the contours of the deal is what we're talking about. The Palestinians, as I said, the Palestinians and Abba Eban's famous phrase have "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." And they've done it in many different ways. To my mind, the Palestinians right now have been pretty responsible.

I hold no grief for the Palestinians. My basic position, Eliot, is that the Israelis are in a stronger position. They are more secure. They're the strongest country in the Middle East by most measures. They have the strongest economy. They have the strongest military. They have 250 nuclear weapons. It is worth then taking some risks for peace to get this albatross off their backs.

Let me push back on a couple little points, though. You have Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, now entering into this unity agreement with Hamas. Hamas is by everybody's understanding a terrorist organization. Is it irrational for the Israeli leadership to say you can't expect us to negotiate with them?

Look, President Obama said as much. He said you can't negotiate with them. So what should Hamas do right now? What should Fatah or what should Abbas do - the leader of the Palestinian Authority - right now to eliminate that excuse that the Israelis can very legitimately invoke not to negotiate?

Look, the IRA was committed to terrorism while the British government was negotiating. The Basque separatists were committed to terrorism while the Spanish government negotiated with them. The Kurdish terrorists were committed to it while the Turkish government negotiated with them.

I don't say that there's nothing to this problem but this is part of what happens when you  a group that has been in their view struggling for national liberation and your view a terrorist organization and getting them over that bridge where they renounced violence and renounced terrorism and accepted a deal is a complicated one.

I don't know that there is a cookie cutter formula that says you have to do it this way. The goal is to get to a two-state solution. And I think if the Israelis and Prime Minister Netanyahu were being creative about that, you can find ways to have private, off-camera conversations about this.

I agree with everything you have just said. I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu should have learned how to declare victory. The speech that President Obama gave was so powerful in support of critical issues that are essential to Israel's security from the point about Hamas, as it related to going to the U.N. this September, as it related to the issue of right of return.

Everybody knows that Palestinian refugees will not be permitted to return and overwhelm the state of Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu should have declared victory and said, "We are with you, we will walk with you towards peace." He would have looked good.

Having said that, his poll numbers back in Israel have gone through the roof - way, way up since he gave that speech in Congress. He's playing to his domestic electorate and maybe that is part of this.

So, Fareed, time runs out but as always your wisdom on this is appreciated and we all learn from you. 

soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Some fond hope Mr.Zakaria!!!!!!!!!!

    You did not have the courage to even refer to the UNANIMOUS bi-partisan ACCLAIM Mr. Netanyahu got in the joing US congress. While Obama is well known for NATURAL AFFINITY to the Muslim world given his growing up in Muslim Indonesia, and his Muslim father (as rightly pointed out by Mike Huckabee) and has been trying to convert that into official US policy including with regard to Israel, you know very well that even prominent democrats like Harry Reid are backing off from Obama's pro-Islamic stance.

    So, Mr. Zakaria, inspite of all your PRETENSIONS of criticism of the Palestinians, what stands out LOUD & CLEAR for anyone who knows your SUGAR COATING tactics in support of worldwide Islamist causes is your UTTER HATREDNESS & JEALOUSY for the VALIANT & BRAINY Jews, dislike of America & the west.

    Each day you are only exposing yourself & your ISLAMIST AGENDA!

    While you may even be right that Isarel may indeed eventually settle down for something close to the 1967 borders, as Netanyahu rightly pointed out it will never bring peace to the ME with Hamas and its Arab & Iranian/Turkish supporters ganging upto finish of Israel, eventually leading to their own destruction much as the HOLY BIBLE has prophesied!

    The same thing is true with TERRORIST PAKISTAN which will sooner or later disintegrate, and also Muslims with a Jihadist mindset in Europe, America & the rest of the free world.


    May 29, 2011 at 11:25 am | Reply
  2. Peacecj

    Fareed Zakaria has an opinion on everything in our world including Israel. Had he to stand for elections in the US, he would probably end up getting only one vote, which would be his own. His opinion versus the opinion of the american people is not compatible. Peace is not about giving back or receiving more. Peace is about learning to live with what is presently there. What ever israel has will remain with isreal and what the arabs have to learn is to live with what is available. These are called the harsh realities of life. The fact of the matter is we all live only once, so going back is not an option. What is important is how we live today.

    May 29, 2011 at 11:29 am | Reply
  3. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Mr. Zakaria:

    If I may add with more & more Americans seeing though your Islamist agenda, and with the REMOTE likelihood of someone as pro-Islamic as President Obama taking reins again in America, Mr.ZAKARIA YOU TOO WILL BE PART OF FORGOTTEN HISTORY IN THE ANNALS OF AMERICAN JOURNALISM, unless you change your INNER STRIPES, which you indeed may just to stay in the limelight!!


    May 29, 2011 at 11:32 am | Reply
  4. T Betts

    I enjoy listening to Fareeds questions and perspective on the subject. I wish he would apply his logic and insight to the plight of Jewish people in the other muslim/mideast.......oh yea, they were all either killed or run out. Isreal has a right to be paranoid about it's neighbors and the future of their relationship. This is their last chance. They have no where else to go.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Reply

    No one can give peace to Israel, only God can

    May 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • CT

      No one can give peace to Israel. They must make peace with their neighbors!

      May 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  6. CT

    I do not think history will pass him by. I think history will show Netanyahu and Sharon to be the murders that they are!

    May 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  7. Hawk

    If we can have Alaska bordering Canada and Hawaii in the Pacific then nothing should stop us from creating a 51st state in the Middle East where Israeli's and Palestinians live as one nation under god indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Betsy Ross its time to add another star to the flag!

    May 29, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • Sockness Monster

      @ Hawk.

      Under what kind of government would these 2 different people live ?
      A sharia dictatorship ?
      Under an Israeli democracy the Israeli's will be out numbered
      voted out , taken over and destroyed.
      A one state sollution will never work.

      May 30, 2011 at 10:43 am | Reply
  8. GAGG

    Another score for Bibi...
    Upon his return from Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made use of the Cabinet meeting Sunday to quote U.S. foreign affairs expert Walter Russell Mead, who wrote that “Israel is an American value.”
    Mead, Editor-at-Large of The American Interest and former Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, also wrote that Netanyahu had “eviscerated” President Barack Obama in their latest match-up, and the fact that Netanyahu quoted him could be an indication of his own assessment of his Washington visit.

    And then.
    Mead’s post about Netanyahu’s face-off with President Barack Obama in Washington last week was ecstatic.

    “Three times [Obama] has gone up against Netanyahu,” wrote Mead; “three times he has ingloriously failed.”

    “This last defeat — Netanyahu’s deadly, devastating speech to Congress in which he eviscerated President Obama’s foreign policy to prolonged and repeated standing ovations by members of both parties — may have been the single most stunning and effective public rebuke to an American President a foreign leader has ever delivered.

    “Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum. The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla


    May 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  9. José M. Pulido

    Because Mr. Fareed Zakaria is a Muslim/Islamist, he will never say anything good or positive about Israel. Mr. Zakaria did not even have the decency, neither the kindness nor the journalistic sense to mention Prime Minister Netanyahu’s first name; nine times he mentions his last name–“Netanyahu” but never “Benjamin,” which is Mr. Netanyahu’s first name.
    Mr. Zakaria’s bias in favor of Islam makes him an agent of a group that has performed terrorist acts against the USA.

    May 30, 2011 at 1:24 am | Reply
  10. seen the light.

    Netanyahu is a man entrapped within a land he dares to call by any other name than that of greater Israel and as far as he is concerned the people of GAZA after being dehumanized by israel proper and that includes having white phosporus bombs dropped on the Gazaens.Last time i looked everytime the u.n. wants to imposed crimes against humanity against Israel america uses its veto to quash same. Talk about ignoring the ignorant-Israel who puts itself above everyone else which includes its flagrant violation of all laws against humanity.

    May 30, 2011 at 8:37 am | Reply
  11. seen that done that.

    Netanyahu who thinks everytime he has to smooth things over with pretty-well the world goes on tour as Benjamin and the Israelis for basic pogey-points,with the world and america their bank and the forgiver of their debt. In the end it is coming down fast and unlike Israel-it takes two to tangle and Israel and their 200 nuclear bombs that they acquired by deception and treachery for Israel must start to realize that you should never start that way elsewise finish you wont.

    May 30, 2011 at 8:58 am | Reply
  12. Light In The Black

    No such thing as a Palestinian.
    End of subject.

    May 30, 2011 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • Kiev500

      Yes, indeed. You're a black light in a dark closet reeks smells of ganja smoke.

      May 30, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Reply
  13. Scott

    These peace negotiations go forward as if peace is the ultimate goal of either side. It's not. Both sides value land, ethnic pride, religious fervor, and vengeance more than peace. To gain peace they'd have to give these things up which they're not willing to do. Ergo, no peace. Sure, we give financial aide to many involved parties, but why do we have to broker an unwanted peace?

    May 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  14. joe

    While the world is discussing this issue, i am worried for the pak nukes which will be used by the talebanis against the usa, india, eu etc- the world should act in advance-

    May 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Reply
    • ct

      and I worry about the WMDs that the extremist in Israel have that may be used to to terrorize it's neighbors.

      June 1, 2011 at 10:26 am | Reply
  15. Liliane

    Netanyahu: "America is Easy to Push Around (English Subtitles)"


    May 31, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
  16. ryan

    Mr. Zakaria,
    With all due respect, it is the Arabs who have never accepted a two state solution. What was proposed and agreed upon in 1947 was a two state solution. This was never truly accepted by the Arabs, and why there continues to be disputes. For many Arabs, and particularly Muslim Arabs, there is no accepting or even recognising the right of a Jewish state to exist. This is the root of the problem. There are obviously more problems than this, but until Arabs accept the right of Israel to exist, there will be no deal.

    June 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  17. Robert Crites

    About 200,000 years ago, we think it was in the African continent, this guy from the species homo sapie.. had two daughters. They were a little different from the rest of the group. They weren't so different as to die at birth or be killed by the rest of the group for being different. They were of the species homo Sapiens. Their ancestors spread throughout the world, killing off similar species until they pretty much monopolized the earth for the species homo. Groups of this species roamed around until about 10,000 years ago they started forming permanent settlements and invented farming and government and civilization. At first they didn't believe in much of anything. At some point they started believing that different objects were gods. Their gods had some special properties. They were usually represented by a class of priests who encouraged the belief and expanded it to their own benefit.
    Some groups enslaved other groups to get cheap labor to do work they didn't want to do. One of the enslaved groups was a scrappy little bunch in Egypt about 4,000 years ago which somehow got away from their masters and migrated into the middle east. This little group was a bit different. They believed in only one god. They managed to elbow some room for their group and lived in the area for several thousand years. About 1,400 years ago another group formed in the middle east. They had a religion that branched off of the one-god belief. They were very aggressive and conquered much of the world from the western Pacific Ocean to the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Their expansion was stopped by the Europeans and various other groups on the north. In their expansion they pretty much squeezed out the Jews from the middle east.
    About sixty years ago, the Jews got lucky. After being nearly exterminated by the Germans, with the rest of Christianity not really paying much attention, the European and American Christians felt guilty and gave the Jews part of the middle east where they had first started, all those thousands of years ago. The land didn't belong to the Christians, but that is how geopolitics works.
    The Muslims which control most of the temperate zone from the western Pacific to the eastern Atlantic took the position that they couldn't possibly do without the tiny sliver of land on the eastern Mediterranean Sea and tried to squeeze the Jews out again. The Jews are a scrappy bunch and had some powerful allies so they pushed back and now they have control of a tiny sliver of land plus a tiny bit more. They are still smaller than almost any American state. They don't want to give up any of the land they have and they don't want to accept a bunch of the prior owners. In history, usually when a group takes over a piece of land, they annihilate the prior inhabitants or push them out. Actually, in history in this kind of situation the surrounding groups come in and wipe out the new group. It is a little different in Israel this time.
    The Muslims which control most of the temperate zone from the western Pacific to the eastern Atlantic have decided that Israel is one of their most holy places and they couldn't possibly share a tiny sliver of their empire with someone who believes in the same god they worship, actually who invented the god they worship, so, in the name of the god that both groups worship, they seek to annihilate the Jews.
    For some reason, the Americans have decided not to allow this

    June 9, 2011 at 6:05 am | Reply
  18. Matthew

    I don't even know why we care about Palestinians. They are muslims and hate all white Christians. They also hate all Jews. I say let them have 0% of the land and stay out of this whole conflict. I don't want to support people that burn US flags and hate all people of European Descent.

    June 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
  19. bsrhybibfo


    April 10, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
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