May 23rd, 2011
11:55 AM ET

Amr Moussa: Israel needs to get serious about peace

In Egypt I interviewed two men who seem the most likely frontrunners for the presidency of Egypt - Mohamed ElBaradei who I posted on earlier and Amr Moussa. Moussa is a towering figure in modern Egypt having served as Hosni Mubarak's foreign minister for 10 years and now as Secretary-General of the Arab League. Here's the transcript of my interview:

Fareed Zakaria: Let me ask you about yourself. As you know, you are very popular in Egypt, but you are also in some quarters a controversial figure. There are people who say you are too associated with the former regime to really represent the future - that you, after all, worked for Mubarak, that you were appointed to the Arab League, proposed by Mubarak, and that you have very comfortable relations with him until the end. 

Amr Moussa: Well, yes, of course, I was the foreign minister of Egypt for 10 years, and the president was Hosni Mubarak. But the fact also remains that there were differences of views. You know that. We discussed that before several times.

And therefore I was moved from the cabinet because of the differences of views on certain issues of policy. I believe that ministers or officials in general should be judged by their records, by their achievements, by their performance, because I was not born on the 24th of January. I was ambassador of Egypt and I was minister in the cabinet, and I was a diplomat. I was a citizen, after all.

But people say that you went to Tahrir Square and told the students there, the demonstrators there, go back, Mubarak is not going to resign. 

No. This is 50 percent of the truth; 50 percent is that I really went to the Tahrir Square twice. But Tahrir Square with a million people - you cannot tell anybody anything. These were huge demonstrations and people are shouting and people are singing. Some campaigns say Amr Moussa was saying this. But nobody was able to say anything with a million demonstrators talking and singing and shouting.

And so, I was not alone. And all of them said this is nonsense. This is some campaign saying something, and I don't think the people, electorate, believe that. They know my positions on serious issues.

What is the state of Egypt's revolution? 

As you know, they called the revolution, and the revolution season in the Arab world as the Arab Spring. Our spring is full of sandstorms. And therefore, we should expect difficulties, we should expect bumps. But we continue to move.

I don't think the current problems would derail the revolution or derail our quest for and movement towards democracy.

Put on your hat as Secretary-General of the Arab League. I suppose I don't have to say put on your hat, because that is the job you hold right, still, until the end of this month. People have criticized you for having initially supported the Libyan operation - the requested military intervention - and then after the first couple of days, when it began, you seemed to back off. 

And people in the West said, "Ah, there goes Amr Moussa flip-flopping."

Not exactly. Not exactly. I will tell you.  We were really angered by the fact that civilian population was bombarded by planes, attacked by rockets. We couldn't take it. Therefore, the Arab League took the first decision ever in punishing a member state –applying sanctions, preventing that state from participating in the meetings of the Arab League on all levels and on all organizations.

Do you think it's possible that Gadhafi will agree to go peacefully? 

Well, there are a lot of opinions on that. That he is not that type of man. He will continue to make war until the last soldier, the last dollar, etc. And others will say, "No, there is a degree or a point where everybody gets exhausted and he wants it to come to an end."

So between these two, negotiations, if a cease-fire is imposed and if both parties, Libyan parties, agree to sit and negotiate, and if Tripoli accepts negotiations for a certain period of time, and that a transitional period has to be established, that Libya will not go back to the status quo ante.

So you cannot accept a Libya that continues to have Gadhafi as its leader?

I don't think that it is possible, whether we accept it or not. I don't think this is acceptable. After all this bloodshed and all this confrontation, I don't think Libya can get back to the status quo ante as if nothing happened. That's the logic of things.

Can Syria go back to the status quo ante and the Assad family continue? 

You know, I believe that Bashar al-Assad has a chance; if he accelerated the pace, towards reform, and meet what the demonstrators want to have, like freedom, like new elections, like that. Things are doable.

But right now he's killing them, far from meeting their aspirations. 

Yes. Right now creating that situation, risks of, again, that you can't move back. Or you can't move forward. That is why the problem is that actually do the reform quickly, quickly. You are racing against time. It is possible. But for a very short window of opportunity.

You said that there will be change in every Arab society? 

Oh yes, in every Arab society you will not find the same Egypt that you used to know or the same any country.

Let me ask you about a subject you spent many, many years, if not decades on: the Arab-Israeli issue. We could do this for a half hour, but let me ask you something very simple. The Israeli position currently is that they cannot negotiate with a combined Palestinian delegation, because one part of that delegation, Hamas, is dedicated to their destruction, refuses to recognize them. Is that a legitimate argument? 

No. Because they stated before that they cannot negotiate with Abbas because he represents only part of the Palestinians. Now after the conciliation, they cannot negotiate with them because part of them is, as they say, a terrorist organization.

If they create a third position, you will find the same answer, no, we cannot negotiate with them until they do this or that. No. This is not serious.

I believe that the Israeli government, Prime Minister Netanyahu, will have to take into consideration that the Arab world is changing - the order, as they used to coexist with for the last several decades or several years, will be no longer there. They have to seize this opportunity.

If you became president of Egypt, would you press for an adoption of the Arab League position which is, broadly speaking, I will characterize as that the Arabs will recognize Israel and end the state of war if there is a Palestinian state roughly on the '67 borders with adjustments as the Palestinians would agree with? 

My position today and tomorrow, and as president, if I am elected president, will be based on the Arab Initiative of which Egypt is party. The Arab Initiative puts the whole thing in a very clear equation, that we are ready to implement our part of the deal. We invite you to implement your part of the deal.

And if this happens, then not only normalization, but for recognition, and not only by the five or six countries around Israel, but by all the Arab countries. This is an offer that the Israelis never took seriously or even considered. Now is the time for them to consider.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Joe Green

    A statement by the Palestinian Authority president that there will be no Jews in a Palestinian state contradicts and confirms the Bible which reveals the end of times scenario for the Jewish people.

    As the Jewish people and the Palestinians fail to bring about a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides have been using rhetoric that has not helped the peace process. Recently, Palestinian President Abbas made the announcement that in a Palestinian state there would not be any Jewish people. That's in contradiction to the efforts to bring peace to the area by stating that some Jewish settlements and settlers could choose to live where they are living today which is in an area within the borders of what could be the Palestinian state. It is interesting to note there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians today who are living in the Jewish state. The Bible has insight into the future as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict that has been going on for some 4000 years.

    The Israelis and the Palestinians both have ancestors and a history as recorded in the Bible and this record starts in Genesis 25 with the birth of twin boys, Jacob and Esau. A study of Bible history brings us to the facts, Jacob's descendants are the Jewish people of today and Esau's heritage would be the Palestinians of today. The ancient Jewish prophet Ezekiel reveals that in the last days the Israelis will be killed by the Palestinians who will then take the land that God has given the Jewish people, Ezekiel 35.

    The Palestinians can say that there will be no Jewish people in a Palestinian state but remember, Bible prophecy will be fulfilled.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Leaving Biblical prophesies aside for a moment and accepting the principle that neither Israelis nor Palestinians will have the right to FORCE people out of their homes still makes Abbas' wish possible. The ONLY way to make the Palestinian state Jew-free is to leave all Jewish settlements OUT OF ITS BORDERS.

      May 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • downwithzionism

      You sir, Are a fucking moron!!! The bible this the bible that...Do yourself a favor and get a brain!!!!!!

      May 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Amr Moussa has a lot to offer his country, except that he is too old! He will be 75 in October. Of all the candidates running for presidency, he is by far the most appropriate one. His long years as foreign minister and having represented his country and the Arab League he definitely knows how to deal with the international community.
    As Egypt still hasn't drafted its constitution we don't know how long the presidential term will be. Nevertheless Moussa is the right person to lead the first democratic government in Egypt. He should help his country to weather the storm and set sail on the Red Sea.

    May 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • forest

      amr musa is not the right man for the job he is 75 years old a man with no pride or dignity thats why he lasted so many years sorrounded by dictators who provided protection for him and the young boys around him the so called body gaurds .its realy sad to see him hijacking the proud arab youth democracy cause he was always a mubarak supporter and a best friend of israel so how can sail his nation to safety and all his life done nothing to help them or the arab cause ,mr cohiba cigars ,you know how many egyptian families he can feed that money ,75 he shuld retire and let the new young blood rule.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  3. Thinker23

    Amr Moussa: they [Israel] stated before that they cannot negotiate with Abbas because he represents only part of the Palestinians. Now after the conciliation, they cannot negotiate with them because part of them is, as they say, a terrorist organization.

    Someone should explain to Mr. Moussa that it is not possible to negotiate with someone REFUSING to negotiate. If and when the Palestinians will produce a leadership ABLE AND WILLING to stop violence, recognize Israel and NEGOTIATE a peace agreement Israel will gladly agree. Is not it simple enough?

    May 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  4. Jack

    israel refuse 1 state solution
    israel refuse 2 state solution
    israel refuse the arab peace initiative
    israel refuse to let paletinians back home
    israel refuse to sign the NPT treaty exposing her nuclear weapons
    israel refuse to give back Syrian Golan HEights
    israel refuse to give back Sheba farms to Lebanon
    israel refuse to give back Westbank, East Jerusalem, Gaza to the palestinians
    israel refuse to end the illegal blockade
    israel refuse to the the illegal settlements
    israel refuse to end the illegal occupation
    israel refuse to tollow some 200+ binding resolutions from the security council

    why in the whole world are the west supporting this semi-apartheid, stateterror regime?!

    May 24, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • Mycology

      You are -incredibly- simple minded, and purposely trying to mislead anyone coming to this article.

      You are barely worth responding to, except to insult.

      May 24, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • sam tleel

      very true...I was born in palestine ...yes palestine....and I am returning to palestine...israel likes or not....all palestinians will return to pallestine...the Zionist like it or not...kick rocks nall the way back to New York, and germany...
      I saw the evil of these people before 1948 , the Zionist Hagana Stern and Urgun GANGS..killing innocent Palestinians...
      Sam Tleel

      May 24, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  5. LogicalDave

    Sam, you've illustrated why Israel cannot negotiate with the PA or Hamas. Such racist attitudes (calling an entire religion or ethnicity evil is pretty much the definition of racism) make it impossible to negotiate. Unfortunately, the Arab street seems unable to live in peace with *any* of their ethnic neighbors (Jews, Kurds, Azeris, Fur, etc.)? It seems that the only peace the Arab street will be happy with is one where Arabs stand on their neighbors' heads, exile them, or kill them outright. Why would you expect the Israelis to negotiate with folks like you? Of course the main problem is the ignorance of the Arab street...Arab dictators and theocrats use racist propaganda to distract their populations while they rob them blind...and they use the Palestinian Arabs as cannon fodder in their mock war with Israel. Palestinians displaced from Israel more than 60 years ago aren't any more likely to get their houses back than the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced from their homes in Arab nations. It's time to move on and start rebuilding.

    May 29, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  6. American Citizen

    Why is Mr. Zakaria permitted to publish this extremely antisemitic commentary? I do not see a counter personality to his that is permitted to publish antimuslim commentary. Is that fair at all? I doubt anyone would be willing to participate in it, but I'm just saying – it's not right CNN.

    May 31, 2011 at 7:07 am |
    • downwithzionism

      Of Course's always anti-semitic when you hear the truth isnt it. Thats how you bastards get away with murder isnt it? You will soon or a later lose support from the USA. And when you do it is game over. You people make me sick with your sympathy BS for israel. You are not a US citezen. So please go back to israel were you belong. Mr. Zakaria. I applaud you sir with your honesty and shedding light on the middle east issues. And showing the truth that israel has been getting away with murder. Poor , poor israel...always the

      May 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
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