On Monday’s Special Report with Bret Baier, as FNC aired a special episode with host Baier stationed in Jerusalem to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during the show’s “Fox All Stars” segment, conservative columnist and FNC contributor Charles Krauthammer charged that as the Obama administration pushes for a peace agreement, the President has actually pressed Israel unusually far on the issue of construction within existing Jewish settlements, going further even than Palestinians had previously demanded in recent negotiations.
After proclaiming that the “delay in the peace process is a self-inflicted wound on the Obama administration,” and after noting that the issue of settlements had previously “been in consensus,” he continued:
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Monday, August 31, Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC:
CLIP OF ISRAELI PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES: I think we are going to make maybe by the end of September. President Obama will chair it. And I think at least there is a chance that we will decide to reopen the negotiations. I’m talking very friendly and very frankly with Bibi Netanyahu. I think he is aware of the choice, and there is no chance, no escape, no alternative but to go ahead and make this peace.
BRET BAIER: Israeli President Shimon Peres talking about a previously undisclosed meeting that is expected to happen at the U.N. General Assembly gathering in New York later on in September. When the White House was asked about it, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that he would not contradict our interview with President Peres.
He also said there is hope for progress as far as the settlement issue. So what about all of this and also the developments on Iran, Israel, and Iran? Let’s bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, let’s start with you in the Brady Bunch format here. What about this development on the peace process and this meeting that we didn’t know about?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It’s more like Hollywood squares, actually. The whole delay in the peace process is a self-inflicted wound on the Obama administration. Let’s remember that for over a year, the previous prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, had been negotiating with the head of the Palestinians and made an astonishingly generous offer in December of ’08, which the Palestinians refused, as they always refuse. So Obama comes in and instead of picking up and trying to get the Palestinians to moderate, what does he do? He attacks Netanyahu. He tries to make an issue of settlements, which had been in consensus. The U.S. and Israelis had agreed, no new settlements, no new expansion of territory in settlements and dismantling of existing settlements. And the Palestinians had accepted that, had never refused negotiations for anything else. But then Obama adds a condition of no thickening of settlement, i.e., you don’t construct a kindergarten if children are born, which the Israelis have rejected. And all of a sudden, the Palestinians and Arabs have said no negotiations until Israel jumps through this higher hoop. So the Arabs and Palestinians have said we are not going to move, we’re going to let Obama extract unilateral concessions out of the Israelis, and that is why the process has stopped.
JUAN WILLIAMS: I think that this is really great news. It was impressive that, you know, that Special Report is able to break this story, because I think this is really the start of a new epic, potentially, in some sort of Middle East peace deal, and it’s necessary. To leave it as it is, the status quo, I think would have been lamentable. I think history would have judged the Obama administration as being neglectful on a key issue of our time. And of course it extends everything across the Middle East, because it touches on a terrorist threat. It touches on Iran. It touches on the safety of the world in terms of terrorist threat. So let’s take away this element, and I think you have an opportunity with the notion of talks opening in the fall. And I think that the Obama administration has been wise in this regard, you know, to say to the Palestinians as well — you have got to come to the table willing to make sacrifices and compromises. The question is whether the difficulty between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas and who is exactly in charge of the Palestinians, how will the Obama administration handle this? You can’t ask Israel to negotiate with two sides of the same people, you know. Who is the legitimate government of the Palestinians? That is the real issue for me.
STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think Juan is right that that is a major issue, and it’s an issue that I think ultimately could present a serious stumbling block. But I think the most interesting thing to come out of your interview with President Peres was this emphasis on the Sunni states. You’re reaching when you are talking about these coming negotiations, you have got a point at which there is some common ground between Israel on the one hand and various Sunni states on the other — Qatar, Dubai, United Arab emeritus, Saudi Arabia, obviously, being the biggest and most important one, on the question of Iran and what happens to Iran. And what seems to be potentially this emerging deal is a nine- month suspension of settlements, probably with a natural growth settlement, which, as Charles points out, gets us back to essentially where we were, and then in exchange, potentially having the U.S. put more pressure on Iran, leading regional pressure on Iran and potentially at the U.N. I think it’s difficult right now for Israelis to put much faith in Barack Obama and the United States actually doing anything on Iran. We have seen what he said repeatedly on Iran, even at times when all that was required was a denunciation of what were some horrible efforts on the streets of Iran. He didn’t do anything.
BAIER: Charles, quickly on Iran and Israel’s positioning to really practice, prepare for the possibility that Iran becomes nuclear, did you hear anything in President Peres’ response that perked your ears?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he is very much of a moderate, but even he reflects even the moderates and the left of Israel, and understand that Israel will not accept a nuclear Iran and they will attack. That is absolutely unmistakable, unless the world stops them. It is only a question of when. And the only question is how long will they give the United States to actually help the program before Israel acts?
BAIER: All right, former vice president’s criticism of the Obama administration is making big news. We’ll talk about that with the panel. We’ll dissect it, next.