Benjamin Netanyahu and Nancy Pelosi on "State of the Union"

Benjamin Netanyahu and Nancy Pelosi on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - September 16, 2012

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.

Another Middle East problem area flamed anew this week: certain that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, but pressured not to take military action right now, the prime minister of Israel is pushing back. Benjamin Netanyahu argues the U.S. must set specific limits for Iran. He suggested otherwise Israel will move forward on its own.


NETANYAHU: Those in the international community will refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.


CROWLEY: Netanyahu's call for red lines to restrain Iran was presumably the main topic in a private one-hour phone conversation with President Obama this week. But Secretary of State Clinton said publicly the U.S. will not set any deadlines after which Netanyahu told an Israeli paper, "I hear all those people who say we should wait until the very last minute, but what if the U.S. doesn't intervene? That is the question we have to ask."

Joining me now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Prime Minister. There has been all this talk about red lines put before Iran which you have talked about. Can you tell me what you would like that red line to be in the best of all possible worlds for you and for Israel, what would you like the U.S. to commit to in terms of a red line?

NETANYAHU: I think the issue is how to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program. They're moving very rapidly, completing the enrichment of the uranium they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they'll be 90 percent of the way there. I think it's important to place a red line before Iran. And I think that actually reduces the chance of military conflict because if they know there's a point, a stage in the enrichment or other nuclear activities that they cannot cross because they'll face consequences, I think they'll actually not cross it. And that's been proved time and again.

President Kennedy put a red line before the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was criticized for it, but it actually pushed back the world from conflict and maybe purchase decades of peace. There wasn't such a red line before Saddam Hussein, before -- on the eve of the Gulf War when he invaded Kuwait. Maybe that war could have been avoided. And I think Iran, too, has received some clear red lines on a number of issues, and they backed off from them.

So I think as Iran gets closer and closer to the completion of its nuclear program, I think it's important to place a red line before them. And that's something I think we should discuss with the United States.

CROWLEY: And let me read you something I know you're probably quite familiar with. But for our viewers, something the president has said repeatedly. This he said at the beginning of the year. "As president of the United States I don't bluff. I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

Do you disagree with that?

NETANYAHU: I think that when he says that implicit in that is that he will stop them before they get to a nuclear weapon, which means they'll draw red line somewhere. I think it's important to communicate it to them.

I wouldn't bet -- I wouldn't bet the security of the world and my own country's future from a country that threatens our annihilation, murders civilians en masse in Syria and brutalizes its own people. I wouldn't bet the future on intelligence for simple reasons.

American intelligence and Israeli intelligence that cooperate together had had wonderful successes in saving lives and alerting our people, but we've also had our failures, both of us. You know, you've just marked 9/11. That wasn't seen. None of us, neither Israel or the United States, saw Iran building this massive nuclear bunker under a mountain. For two years they proceed without or knowledge. So I think the one thing we do know is what they're doing right now. We know that they're enriching this material. We know that in the six, seven months they'll have got to covered 90 percent of the way for an atomic bomb material. And I think that we should count on the things that we do know in setting the red line.

CROWLEY: And what we know is, of course, that Iran is allowed under agreements, international agreements to go ahead and do what it's doing because there are legitimate peaceful purposes for enriching this uranium.

NETANYAHU: Do you think so? You think so, Candy? That's like -- well, let me interrupt -- it's not legitimate. This is a country that talks about -- denies the holocaust, promises to wipe out Israel, is engaged in terror throughout the world. It's like Timothy McVeigh walking into a shop in Oklahoma City and saying I like to tend my garden. I would like to buy some fertilizer.

How much do you want?

Oh, I don't know, 20,000 pounds.

Come on. We know that they're working towards a weapon. They're not -- we know that. It's not something that we surmise. We have absolutely certainty about that. And they're advancing towards that nuclear program.

CROWLEY: Do you mean you and the U.S. know that, because I don't from what I read, from what I hear, I don't get the sense that the U.S. has the certainty that you do or the urgency that you seem to have. Is there a disconnect there?

NETANYAHU: First of all, I talked about the certainty of their enrichment program, and I didn't talk about the other elements. And I spoke about the difficulty of knowing other things, but we have no difficulty as the IAEA report just tells us what they're doing in their enrichment program. That we know for sure. That's the only thing we know for sure that is verifiable and accessible. We know that.

As far as the U.S. and Israel, obviously we have different capability. You're a big country. You're several thousand miles away. You have stronger military capabilities. We're a smaller country. We are more vulnerable. They threaten our very annihilation, so obviously we have different capabilities and different clocks. But in terms of what is happening as Iran is getting closer and closer to completing its work for the first atomic bomb, the differences between us in our capabilities are becoming less and less important because Iran is fast approaching a point where it could disappear from our capability of stopping and our capability means not only Israel.

CROWLEY: I get the sense that your hour-long phone conversation with President Obama did not get you where you wanted to go insofar as U.S. willingness to set this red line. Is that correct?

NETANYAHU: Look, we had a good conversation. I'm not going to get into the details. I respect the president. I respect also the confidence of our conversation. But I think that -- I think this is a matter of urgency and people should understand it, that's what's guiding it.

What's guiding me, contrary to what I have read in the United States, is not the American political calendar, it's the Iranian nuclear calendar. And the Iranian centrifuges that are charging ahead simply do not take time out for the American elections. I wish the Iranians would shut down the centrifuges and then we won't have to talk about it, but they don't. And in fact, they do the very opposite. That's what's driving the urgency of this. And again, we have close consultations with the United States on this issue.

CROWLEY: Is the answer then, that no, you don't have the red line that you would like to have from the U.S.? Can you tell me at least that?

NETANYAHU: I think you should have a red line communicated to Iran, that's what I would say. And I think it's vital. I know that people value flexibility. I think that's important. But I think at this late stage of the game, I think Iran needs to see clarity. I'm not sure I would have said this three years ago, two years ago, one year ago, but as we get closer and closer and closer to the end game, I think we have to establish that.

That's becoming important, because you have to just think about it. You know, you see the Middle East. You see these fanatics storming your embassies, and I want to send my condolences to the American people for the loss of that extraordinary ambassador and his extraordinary colleagues. We sympathize as no other people does with the United States.

And yet, you know that as we face the possibility of a regime that is guided by the same fanaticism would have nuclear weapons, it's become something urgent for all of us to make sure they don't get there, and if you want to make sure that they don't get there. And if you want to make sure that they don't get there, make sure that they know that there is a line they shouldn't cross. Because otherwise, they'll cross it, and they'll get there.

CROWLEY: There's also people in your own country who have said that this is more aimed at President Obama and your friend Mitt Romney than it is about any new urgency. And I know you have heard this.

CROWLEY: And I wanted to ask you as a wrap-up question, do you see any major differences between the U.S. position vis-a-vis the relationship with Israel when you look at President Obama's position and when you look at former Governor Romney's position? Is there any difference in their policies towards Israel that you can detect?

NETANYAHU: Look, I know that people, Candy, are trying to draw me into the American election, and I'm not going to do that. But I will say that we value, we cherish the bipartisan support for Israel in the United States, and we're supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

You know, this is not an electoral issue. It is not based on any electoral consideration. I think that there's a common interest of all Americans over all political persuasions to stop Iran.

This is a regime that is giving vent to the worst impulses that you see right now in the Middle East. They deny the rights of women, deny democracy, brutalize their own people, don't give freedom of religion.

All the things that you see now in these mobs storming the American embassies is what you will see with a regime that would have atomic bombs. You can't have such people have atomic bombs. And I believe that's as important for Republicans as it is for Democrats, important for Democrats as it is for Republicans. It's as important for President Obama as it is for Mitt Romney. It's important for the future of our world.

CROWLEY: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that's a good place for us to end it. I appreciate your time this morning.

NETANYAHU: Thank you.

CROWLEY: The Arab Spring's unintended consequences, that's next.


CROWLEY: In his second inaugural address, President Bush said the U.S. would seek out and promote democracy around the globe.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. (APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.


CROWLEY: In Cairo, four years later, President Obama reached out the Muslim world with a new version of the same idea.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years. And much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear, no system of government can or should be imposed by one nation, by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.


CROWLEY: And then early last year uprisings on the Arab streets toppled longstanding autocratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with the explicit yet sometimes delayed support of the West.

This week in at least 23 countries around the world the people returned to the streets to protest, sometimes violently, sometimes not, outside U.S. embassies. How, why, and what turned the Arab Spring into this autumn rage against the West. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice is next.


CROWLEY: Joining me is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

Madam Ambassador, thank you for joining us.

RICE: Good to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: One of the things when I spoke with the Israeli prime minister that struck me was the conviction that he has that for certain Iran is building -- on its way to building a nuclear weapon, and his sense of urgency that at this moment the U.S. needs to set what he calls a "red line" for the U.S.

Does the U.S. share the conviction that Iran is, indeed, building a nuclear weapon? And, B, what about the concept of a red line?

RICE: Well, Candy, the United States is in constant communication with Israel and Israeli intelligence, Israeli policy makers, the military. We're sharing our assessments every day. And our assessments, our intelligence assessments are very similar. Obviously, we share a grave concern about Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon. We are determined to prevent that from happening. President Obama has been absolutely clear, and on this there's absolutely no daylight between the United States and Israel that we will do what it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

We are not at that stage yet. They do not have a nuclear weapon. Our shared intelligence assessments is that there is still a considerable time and space before they will have a nuclear weapon should they make the decision to go for that. But we've been very clear. The United States is not interested and is not pursuing a policy of containment. President Obama has been very plain. We will keep all option on the table, including the military option, as necessary, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

But, Candy, the fact is we have just seen the imposition of another layer of the toughest sanctions that have ever been impose odd a country. In this case, Iran. Their economy is beginning to buckle. Their oil production is down 40 percent. Their currency has plummeted 40 percent in the last year. Their economy is now shrinking. And this is only going to intensify.

So we think that there's still considerable time for this pressure to work. But this is not an infinite window. And we've made very clear that the president's bottom line is Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to what's gone on in the Middle East in Arab countries and elsewhere. There is a "New York Times" story this morning that suggests that the administration thinks this is a foreshadowing of a fall that will see sustained instability. Does the administration expect to see these sorts of protests outside U.S. embassies and elsewhere throughout the fall?

RICE: Well, Candy, first of all, let's recall what has happened in the last several days. There was a hateful video that was disseminated on the internet. It had nothing to do with the United States government and it's one that we find disgusting and reprehensible. It's been offensive to many, many people around the world.

That sparked violence in various parts of the world, including violence directed against western facilities including our embassies and consulates. That violence is absolutely unacceptable, it's not a response that one can ever condone when it comes to such a video. And we have been working very closely and, indeed, effectively with the governments in the region and around the world to secure our personnel, secure our embassy, condemn the violent response to this video.

And, frankly, we've seen these sorts of incidents in the past. We've seen violent responses to "Satanic Verses." We've seen violent responses to the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in an evil way. So this is something we've seen in the past, and we expect that it's possible that these kinds of things could percolate into the future. What we're focused on is securing our personnel, securing our facilities.

CROWLEY: Do you at this moment feel that U.S. embassies abroad are secure?

RICE: We are doing our utmost to secure our facilities and our personnel and in various vulnerable places. We have demanded and we are receiving the cooperation of host governments. Host governments have also put out very strong messages in Libya, in Egypt, in Yemen and Tunisia condemning violence, saying that it's a completely unacceptable response to such a video. And we feel that we are now in a position doing the maximum that we can to protect our people.

CROWLEY: Why would one not look at what is going on in the Middle East now and say that the president's outreach to Muslims, which began at the beginning of his administration in Cairo and elsewhere has not worked because, yes, this video sparked it, but there is an underlying anti-Americanism that is very evident on the streets. So Why not look at it and think that this is this outreach has failed?

RICE: For the same reason, Candy, when you look back at history and we had the horrible experience of our facilities and our personnel being attacked Beirut in 1981, we had the attack on Khobar Towers in the 1990s. We had an attack on our embassy in Yemen in 2008. There have been such attacks. There have been expressions of hostility towards the west.

CROWLEY: But this was sort of a reset, was it not? It was supposed to be a reset of U.S.-Muslim relations?

RICE: And indeed, in fact, there had been substantial improvements. I have been to Libya and walked the streets of Benghazi myself. And despite what we saw in that horrific incident where some mob was hijacked ultimately by a handful of extremists, the United States is extremely popular in Libya and the outpouring of sympathy and support for Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues from the government, from people is evidence of that.

The fact is, Candy, that this is a turbulent time. It's a time of dramatic change. It's a change that the United States has backed because we understand that when democracy takes root, when human rights and people's freedom of expression can be manifested, it may lead to turbulence in the short-term, but over the long-term, that is in the interest of the United States.

The mobs we've seen on the outside of these embassies are small minority. They're the ones who have largely lost in these emerging democratic processes, and just as the people of these countries are not going to allow their lives to be hijacked by a dictator, they're not going to allow an extremist mob to hijack their future and their freedom,. And we're going to continue to stand with the vast majority of the populations in these countries.

They want freedom. They want a better future. And understand that we're with them in that long-term endeavor.

CROWLEY: All right. U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice. I got to let you go here.

RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: We'll switch gears next and talk to Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about her road map to retake control of the House.

And later, a batch of fresh polls show Mitt Romney may be losing steam in his bid for the White House. Supporter and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is here to discuss.


CROWLEY: No matter what they promise as a candidate, presidents can't do much of what they want without a cooperative congress, which brings us to the U.S. House currently run by Republicans who hold 240 seats compared to 190 held by Democrats. To take control next January, Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats in November.

At the Democratic Convention earlier this month, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters she's looking for a 27 seat pick- up, that would put her in line to regain the speakership.

She is expecting victories in Texas, California, Illinois, New York, Washington State, and Arizona. Democrats are also eying power changing winds in the presidential battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada. And there is even talk about Montana where the House seat has been Republican for 15 years.

We should stress that most polls point to, and most political forecasters predict that Democrats will gain seats, but not enough to win the majority.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and the reason for her optimism is next.


CROWLEY: Earlier I visited with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. We began with the Democrats' chances for winning back the majority in November.


CROWLEY: I read something in "Roll Call" that described the prospects for Democrats retaking the House as theoretically possible but unlikely. Would you agree with that?

PELOSI: No. I think that, first of all, I don't know what that is, but I do know that the source of our confidence is, and that's the quality of our candidates. They're just great. The fact that they are strong in terms of their grass roots mobilization and their resource raising and the rest. And that the issues are with us.

For one year and a half since the Republicans passed their budget, which the Romney-Ryan now, Republican budget, which severs the Medicare guarantee, we have been saying three important issues of the campaign, and in alphabetical order they are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.

On August 11th when Governor Romney chose Ryan, that was the pivotal day.

ROMNEY: Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party.

PELOSI: That is a day things really changed.

We were on a path. I would have said to you then we were dead even. Well, momentum is very much with us. The Medicare issue in this campaign.

So we have a message. We have the messengers. We have the money. We have the mobilization. We have an excellent chance to take back the House.

CROWLEY: Just quickly, the Romney campaign says that Medicare will always be a choice, but that they want to open it up so that they're not cutting off the Medicare option.

PELOSI: Well, you know, that is completely upside down. It's a contradiction of Medicare. Medicare is a guarantee. To make it a voucher is to put the decision in the hands of the insurance companies. Seniors know that. I'm a senior. I know that.

The whole pillar that Medicare is about economic and health security for our seniors and those who depend on Medicare. There are families who need their parents and grandparents to be provided for under Medicare. Everybody understands that.

If you don't believe in Medicare, you will say what the Republicans are saying.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, if it should turn out that you gain seats in the House, but you don't take over the majority spot, would you still run for leader of Democrats?

PELOSI: Well, I don't ever predicate anything when losing. I feel very confident about our ability to win. Who will lead the party after that is up to my members. I feel that I...

CROWLEY: Oh, sure, but would you still run, whether it was for speaker or Democratic leader?

PELOSI: Well, I actually, didn't choose to run last time. My members chose that I would run last time.

But this isn't about me, this is about Medicare. It's about Social Security. It's about women's rights. It's about the American dream. It's about our democracy. All of that is on the ballot.

CROWLEY: If we look at the polls rather than the possibilities, it looks as though there is an even chance that the senate Republicans could take over and that the probability is that Democrats will not take over in the House.

So let's say everything stays as is and the president is re- elected. What's different about the dynamic that has been so toxic between Capitol Hill and the White House if we have what currently the polls show is -- you know, if the election were held today?

PELOSI: Well, with that theoretical, the -- you'll see more of the same because it's really important for the public to know that the Republican obstruction of President Obama's jobs bills and whatever he was advancing, their obstruction is their agenda. They really don't believe in...

CROWLEY: Does that change? If nothing changes in the dynamic...

PELOSI: It's what they believe in. Now I have always said in my Republicans take back your party, because this wing of the party or this over the edge crowd that is in charge -- taking charge of wagging the dog in congress is never going to cooperate, because they do not believe in a public roll. Clean air, clean water, public safety, public education, public transportation, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, they don't believe in it, and that's what their budget is about. And that's what wee we vote on the floor almost every day.

CROWLEY: Do you see that changing.

PELOSI: No, I don't see it, that's why it's important for us to win the election so that we can go forward because bipartisan collaboration is on the ballot too.

When President Bush, George W. Bush, was president and we were in the majority and I was the speaker, we had our differences, we fought, but we also found common ground.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43rd PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thank the leadership of the congress for joining us here.

PELOSI: There are so many places where we came together.

CROWLEY: So you could work with Mitt Romney basically, if it came to that?

PELOSI: Oh, Mitt Romney is not going to be president of the United States.


CROWLEY: Let me ask you...

PELOSI: I think everybody knows that.

CROWLEY: The president has put out his -- by law he had to put out a response to detail what its cut and what doesn't get cut under what we call sequestration, which are just mandated across the board cuts in both sides of the ledger. It says it will be horrible if it happens, et cetera, et cetera. The Republicans have complained repeatedly that there is no presidential leadership on this.

What is the president's involvement been so far in trying to get Republicans and Democrats together to avoid this fiscal cliff?

PELOSI: Well, the president as recently as yesterday I received a call from him saying we really do have to have an agreement, which I fully agree with, and the must have as much -- do everything we can to find common ground. That's what we did one year ago, more than a year ago in July/August of last year and the president worked very hard with the speaker to come out with a bipartisan agreement that was a big design which had $4 trillion over 10 years in deficit reduction and the House and Senate Democrats said Mr. President, we're with you on this. He agreed to it. The Republicans walked away. CROWLEY: Is he a work-the-phoner, though? I mean, compare him, say, to Bill Clinton who you also worked with. I mean, the image that we have is a president that does not do that as much as a Bill Clinton did in terms of offering guidance, trying to get people together in the same room, reaching out to Republicans, reaching out to you. The level of leadership from the president when it comes to legislative things compared to former President Clinton.

PELOSI: Well, I would say that they both score very high in terms of leadership. If you measure leadership in the number of phone calls, well, that might be a little bit of a different story because they're different personalities.

CROWLEY: Yes, more contact with Bill Clinton over the years.

PELOSI: Well, I wasn't leader or speaker when Bill Clinton was -- President Clinton was president, but we all -- but I saw how he worked with Congress and our leadership at the time.

Make no mistake, President Obama is, of course, a great leader. He has great vision for our country. He knows the issues. He has a plan. He is eloquent and can draw people to what he has to say, and that's all great.

He also is such a respectful person. And I have never seen -- I worked with presidents to a great or lesser degree, certainly to a greater degree to President Bush and President Obama, and this president has listened, spent time, respects the opinions of the Republicans to an extent that I think -- I wish one of them would come up with a new idea because he has more patience listening to them than I do.

But so, really, leadership should not be measured in the number of calls. But they were both great. They are both great leaders.

CROWLEY: So I'll just extrapolate from that that perhaps Bill Clinton was more hands-on than President Obama, but they both -- you think they both showed leadership?

PELOSI: Well, I think they're both hands-on. It's just a question of how they spent their time. And the challenges are very great today that the president -- as they were under President Clinton, but I think he uses his time well. I have no complaint with that.

CROWLEY: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, thank you for joining us today.

PELOSI: Thank you, Candy. My pleasure.

CROWLEY: I appreciate it.

PELOSI: Thank you. 

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