, The Atlantic Media Company - Washington, DC

Excerpts from former US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Senator George J. Mitchell:

“Right now pessimism is widespread… the conflict has gone on for so long, it has had such destructive effects, the level of mistrust and hostility is so high, that many…regard it as unsolvable. But I believe that the pursuit of peace is so important that it demands our maximum effort no matter the difficulties, no matter the setbacks.”

“I still believe that this conflict can be ended. I believe that in part because while I recognize that there will be enormous political pain on both sides from negotiating an agreement, that pain will in fact be much less than what they will endure if they do not negotiate an agreement.”

Transcript

Steve Clemons (SC): (Editor at Large, Atlantic Magazine)

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. I’m Steve Clemons, editor at large of the Atlantic and I’m editor in chief of Atlantic Live. The Atlantic Exchange is a new product at the Atlantic, something that we’re trying to use to draw together consequential people, consequential ideas, and tonight we’re partnered with the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in launching and highlighting a very important four part series that we have on the Atlantic.com website entitled “Is Peace Possible?” It is a important and I think, in our terms, consequential look at this ongoing ulcer in global affairs and we are so honored tonight to have Senator George Mitchell of course our envoy for Middle East Peace. He knows about baseball, he knows about Disney, but he also knows a lot about a very complicated region and it’s terrific to have him with us.

[Introductions about the Atlantic Live series and thanks to various staff]
Robert Wexler: (President, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace)

Thank you very much to Steve and to everyone at the Atlantic. It’s truly a privilege for us at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace to be associated with the Atlantic.

Two years ago I left a job I truly did love in the US Congress. And I did so to join an extraordinary man, a man who is in his heart and in every bone in his body an American patriot. But on top of being an American patriot, he is also a Zionist. And the two combinations together led him to focus much of his life on one core mission, which is reflected in the mission of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, and that is to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to do so in terms that respect both sides, and have a dignified presentation in terms of the narrative of both peoples.

When I joined the center, our team and I want to thank Toni Verstandig, Sarah Ehrman, Yoni Komorov, Josh Cohen, Madeleine Schnur, and Dan Rothem, and I especially want to thank Zvika Krieger who has shepherded this project from its infancy until today, but what all of us at the center desired to do was to fill a vacuum that we thought existed in Washington and throughout our country. And that vacuum is a space where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be presented in an objective fashion, where the positions of both the Israelis and the Palestinians can be outlined from a honest, factual point of view, and then on top of the presentation, in an objective fashion, offer the bridging proposals that so many well-intentioned people have laid out over the years.

Our multimedia presentation focuses on the four core issues: borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem. And to sum it up, and this is my own personal view, we’re going to go to universities, we’ve set up I think 9 or 10 starting with Princeton and Dan Kurtzer in February. We will go through the northeast, down the west coast, and ultimately, I hope, all over the country. We will go to Congress and we will set up meetings with staff people. We will go to organizations that represent that variety opinion in the American Jewish Community. We will talk to religious groups of all kinds. We will talk to groups of all different ideological backgrounds.

But when all is set and done, my own personal goal is this: the next time an American president dares to make a speech on the Middle East and include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that president dares to suggest that the basis of negotiations will be the 1967 lines with agreed territorial swaps, I want a consensus from the American people to applaud and I don’t want that president, whoever he or she may be, to be subject to a false narrative that just does not reflect reality. [applause]

Having said that, I want to from Danny’s perspective and for all of us at the Center for Middle East Peace, offer just a very quick observation with respect to tonight’s honored guest, Senator George Mitchell. In this town today there is a void. A void of men and women who have the dignity and the integrity that all of us expect from our public servants whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or anything in between. But there truly is in fact one man who at every stage of his public and private career has embodied the type of character and dignity that we all expect. And whether you agree with him 100% or 80% or — nobody agrees less than 80% — but his very purposefulness and his mission that he provides most of all what comes out in my humble opinion is honesty. And with that we are truly indebted to Senator Mitchell for being with us this evening and thank you again to the Atlantic for having us.

[“Is Peace Possible?” trailer plays]
SC: Now, as Robert Wexler mentioned, one of the key participants in this administration and I think generally throughout his life in his dealing in conflict resolution in kind of stressed out circumstances, whether they be in baseball or in the Congress or of course in the Middle East, and one of the opening acts of the Obama administration was asking George Mitchell to serve as his envoy for dealing with this issue of Middle East Peace. So he is going to offer now some framing comments, and then Jeffrey Goldberg is going to take over and they are going to have a conversation, and that’s when we will open it up to all of you. And with that, let me invite Senator George Mitchell and thank you again for joining us.
Senator George Mitchell (GM): (former US Special Envoy to the Middle East)

Thank you very much, Steve, thank you ladies and gentlemen for your presence. My thanks to the Atlantic and to Danny Abraham and to Robert Wexler for organizing this event. Danny has been a friend for many, many years and one of the most ardent and persistent advocates for peace in the Middle East. I commend him for that, encourage him to continue, and was pleased to — with some reservations which I will describe to you in a moment — accept his invitation to speak to you this evening. And Bob Wexler of course from whom you’ve already heard, served with great distinction as a member of the House of Representatives for many years, and I know Danny is glad to have him, as we all are.

I was at first reluctant to accept Danny’s invitation to come here. I thought the Atlantic, the Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, are people who spend their lives studying this issue, and I’ve always been somewhat intimidated being asked to speak to an audience in which all or most of the members know more about the subject than I do. But then I reflected on my first days in the U.S. Senate. I entered the Senate under unusual circumstances. I was serving as a federal district court judge in my home state of Maine when one of Maine’s senators, Ed Musky, was appointed Secretary of State. There was a lot of speculation in the press about who Maine’s governor would appoint to complete Senator Musky’s term, and my name was not among those mentioned. There was a former governor, former senator, former congressman, all of them very well qualified. But I had been appointed a federal judge just the year before, so no one thought that I was being considered, and neither did I.

On the night before the governor had said that he was going to have a press conference at the state capitol, the media was filled with speculation, and so I, like everyone else in Maine, went to bed wondering what the governor was going to do the next day. Late that evening my phone rang, and it was the governor calling. He said, “I’d like you to come down to the state capitol tomorrow afternoon so that I can announce that I’m going to appoint you to the United States Senate.” I said, “Well gee governor, this is a really big decision. I’ve only been a federal judge for less than a year. I need time to think about it, I’ve got to talk to my family, I’ve got to consult with others.” He said, “I’ll give you one hour.” When I protested that the time was inadequate he insisted. He said, “Look, if you say no, I have to find someone else before tomorrow noon. It’s already late at night so I can’t give you more than an hour.”

So I immediately called my three older brothers. I grew up in a very small town in Maine, and I had three older brothers who were very famous athletes. Extremely well known, not just in our small town but all over the state and indeed later, throughout New England. And then I came along and I was not as good of an athlete as my brothers were. In fact, I was not as good as anybody else’s brother. And so very early in my life, I became known in our small town as “Jonny Mitchell’s kid brother, the one who isn’t any good.” As you might expect, I developed an inferiority conflict and a highly competitive attitude towards my brothers, which persists to this day. And so many years later, now a grown man, I hung up the phone from the governor and I called my brothers, ostensibly to seek their advice. But I confess, that there was a note of triumphalism in my voice, when I informed them that the governor had called and wanted to appoint me to the United States Senate and I said, “What do you guys think about that?”

Well the responses were predictably negative. My brother Jonny said, “Look, everybody knows you’re a born loser, nobody can understand how you got to be a federal judge and you surely could not win a statewide election. So you better stay where you are.” My older brother, who was somewhat more mature, tried to elevate the tone of the discussion. He said, “Now, let’s look at this from the point of view of the people of Maine. Aren’t they entitled to have a qualified person representing them in the Senate, and isn’t it obvious that you are not among them?” Well, after this I hung up the phone, I called the governor and I said, “Governor, I don’t need an hour, I’ve already gotten all the reassurance I need of my ability to serve in this position.” And I accepted and I went down to the state capitol the next day. And the governor announced the appointment and I got on a plane and flew to Washington.

I went up to the Senate and was sworn in — the ceremony took about ten seconds, if you turned aside you missed it — and as soon as I was sworn in a young man came up to me and introduced himself as Senator Musky’s former administrative assistant, and now he was mine. And he read off a list of things that I was to do for the remainder of that day, and then he said, “We’ve got a very interesting invitation here.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “There are 3000 public certified accountants meeting in Washington, and they just called and asked if you would come down to the Washington Hilton Hotel and speak at their annual convention and deliver the keynote address tonight.” I said, “Gosh that’s amazing, until just yesterday I myself didn’t know I would be here. How these guys had the foresight to hold this position open for me…” He said, “It’s nothing like that, they had four last minute cancellations. They heard about your cancellation and thought you might be the only member of Congress with nothing to do tonight.” I said, “Ok, well what do they want me to talk about.” He said, “the tax code.” I said, “You want me to go tell 3000 CPAs what’s in the tax code? I can’t do that.” And this young man looked at me, and in a voice dripping with sarcasm and condescension, said “You are now a United States Senator. You will regularly be called upon to speak in public on subjects you know nothing about. So if you want to be a good senator, you better get started right now. Get down there tonight and tell those 3000 CPAs what’s in the tax code.”

So I went down I told the CPAs what’s in the tax code and here I am tonight, to tell all you experts in the Middle East what’s going on there. I will undoubtedly enjoy it until I get some questions here from people who really know, but I did want to make a few remarks. I was told I’m limited to 10 minutes and that’s kind of tough for a former U.S. Senator. You know, the Senate has a rule of unlimited debate, and as a consequence I, after many years there including several years as Senate majority leader, developed the dubious ability and skill to be able to speak at indefinite length on any subject with no prior notice, usually neither possessing nor conveying any knowledge, but I have been able to fill the blanks in any speaking program that has existed in Washington for many years. I’m not going to do that tonight, I’m going to try to stick to the time limit that has been imposed on me, but of necessity therefore, I can only speak briefly on the subject, and in a general way. There will be many subjects that will be of interest to you that I will not be able to cover, but I will take questions later, from you and from the moderators.

But there are a few thoughts that I have that I want to express directly, and that’s the reason why I asked to say a few words at the outset. As we all know, the conflict is deeply rooted in history, it involves highly emotional issues of religion, national identity, territorial competition. Right now pessimism is widespread. There are many reasons for all of us to be skeptical about the prospect for success. The conflict has gone on for so long, it has had such destructive effects, the level of mistrust and hostility on both sides is so high, that many and perhaps most, here in our country and elsewhere, regard it as unsolvable. But I believe that the pursuit of peace is so important that it demands our maximum effort, no matter the difficulties, no matter the setbacks.

The key to success is really easy to state, but exceptionally difficult to achieve. It is the mutual commitment of Israel and the Palestinians, and the active participation of the United States government with the support and participation of many other governments and institutions who can and want to help. And they must address the task, which is to reconcile the Palestinian goal of a viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state, with secure, recognized, and defensible borders. That should not be beyond the ability of political leaders if they have the will to do it.

In January of 2009 just before leaving office, President Bush spoke in Jerusalem. And he said, I will quote, “The point of departure for permanent status negotiations is clear: there should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders, and they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent. It is vital that each side understands that satisfying the other’s fundamental objectives is key to a successful agreement. Security for Israel and viability for the Palestinian state are in the mutual interest of both parties.”

Stated another way, neither Israel nor the Palestinians can achieve their principal objective by denying to the other its principal objective. The Palestinians are not going to get a state until the people of Israel have a reasonable and a sustainable degree of security. But I don’t believe they can get that unless and until the Palestinians get a state. There are risks to all courses of action. There is no course which either side could take which is wholly assured of success and free of risk. So the question is one of measuring possible benefits and potential risks.

On taking office in 2009, President Obama publicly reaffirmed the policy that President Bush had set forth. It seemed then, in early 2009, that the culture of peace, which had been so carefully nurtured during the Oslo process, had largely dissipated. Replaced by a sense of futility, of despair, of the inevitability of conflict. The fighting in Gaza had just ended. The Palestinians were deeply divided, and the uncertainty of the Israeli elections lay just ahead. Few then believed that there was any chance of restarting negotiations, let alone achieving a peaceful end to the conflict.

Unfortunately, three years later, that remains largely the case. A solution cannot be imposed externally. The parties themselves must negotiate directly with the active and sustained support of the United States. This will require of them compromise and flexibility, and most of all, it will require leadership. The quartet is now trying to get Israel and the PA back to the negotiating table. The recent meetings in Jordan supported by that government and the quartet represent a step in the right direction. The parties should be encouraged to continue those meetings and we in the United States should do all we can to facilitate a continuing and meaningful direct exchange of views between the parties.

As difficult as it seems, and I’m now responding to the question raised in the video, I still believe that this conflict can be ended. I believe that in part because while I recognize that there will be enormous political pain on both sides from negotiating an agreement, that pain will in fact be much less than what they will endure if they do not negotiate an agreement. There’s a lull now which has created a false sense of comfort and security. But if history is any guide, that won’t last. And if the conflict resumes and continues, both Israelis and Palestinians could face a future filled with uncertainty and anxiety. That includes, of course, what we hope and pray will not occur, but we must consider it, and that is the possibility of renewed violence.

There are other dangers. Let me mention just a few of them because time does not permit more. For the Israelis: demography. There are now between five and three quarter million and six million Jews living in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In the same space there are about five and a half million Arabs, including Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Overall the Arab birth rate is much higher and within a few years they will be a majority. Some demographic predictions published just yesterday suggest that the populations will be about equal in 2015 and by the year 2020 there will be nearly a half million more Arabs than Jews in that region. Israel will then have to choose between being a Jewish state and a Democratic state. It cannot be both once the two-state solution is lost. That is a painful choice that the people of Israel should not have to make.

The second challenge is technology. The barrier was built and has largely succeeded in keeping suicide bombers out. The real threat to Israel now comes from rockets. Hamas has thousands. They are crude, lacking in guidance or major destructive power, but they do create fear and anxiety, and some damage. No one can doubt that, over time, without any change, they will have more and better rockets. On Israel’s northern border, Hizbullah has tens of thousands of them. They are more effective although also limited in range, but Hizbullah is engaged in an effort to upgrade their systems to ensure greater accuracy and more destructive power. And finally and perhaps most dangerously, Iran now has rockets that can reach Israel when launched from Iran itself. They don’t yet have the precision needed to strike specific military targets, but they could cause enormous destruction in cities.

The United States is fully committed to Israel’s security, and that commitment is firm and unshakeable. It has continued for sixty years and will go on, whatever the administration in our country. To honor it, we have provided enormous financial and military support to Israel and most recently we have assisted in the development of an effective anti-missile system. Just last week, the US and Israel announced the largest ever joint military exercises focused on missile defense. But it is unknown and will be never known until the event itself whether that or any system could intercept the potentially large number of missiles that may be launched in an all-out conflict, and thus Israel’s very existence might then be threatened and at the least, it would face the possibility of severe damage.

The third challenge is in isolation. It’s true that Israel’s support in the United States is very strong, especially in the Congress. But it is declining elsewhere. Just a short time ago, Israel had good relations with the two major powers in the region, Turkey and Egypt. But the relationship with Turkey has deteriorated, and with Egypt as well. And of course we all know what has happened in international forums in recent years with the very lopsided votes on these issues.

Let me conclude with a few comments on the Palestinians, who also face very serious problems, not the least of which is the indefinite continuation of the occupation under which they have not had the right to govern themselves for many decades. In 1948, the United Nations proposed a plan to partition the area and create two states. Israel accepted it, the Arabs rejected it, and the first of several wars began—all of them won by an increasingly strong Israel. Every sensible Arab leader today would gladly accept that 1948 plan if it were still available. But it is not still available, and never again will be. Since then, the plans offered to the Palestinians have been less attractive, and they have been rejected as well. I told both Chairman Arafat and President Abbas directly that there is no evidence, none whatsoever, to suggest that the offers are going to get any better in the future. To the contrary, all of the evidence points in exactly the opposite direction. They have got to sit down and participate in direct negotiations, and get the best deal they can even though it’s not 100% of what they want. They’ve got to bring the occupation to an end and get their own state and build on it, as Israel has done since it was established.

Under the outstanding leadership of Prime Minister Fayyad, the Palestinians have demonstrated that they can do it by laying the foundation and building the institutions needed for a viable, independent state. Unfortunately, while that state building effort must continue, it cannot be sustained in the absence of any progress on the political side. They are inextricably linked, and in order for there to be progress on one, there must be progress on both. It’s a daunting challenge to rebuild trust, not only between the political leaders but between two peoples with a long and bitter history of conflict. But they must find a way to do it, to renew hope and continue the search for peace, and we must persevere in helping them.

Thank you very much for having me, and I will be pleased now to respond to questions.

[Inaudible introduction of Jeffrey Goldberg]
Jeffrey Goldberg (JG): (National Correspondent for
The Atlantic)

Very quickly, thank you to Danny Abraham and Robert Wexler for helping to convene this. Steve Clemons of course, Steve for those of you who don’t know is one of the only people in Washington who can get AIPAC and the Center for American Progress in the same room, so congratulations on that. Mazel tov, as they say.

 

Senator Mitchell, let’s just jump right in. What I want to do is start somewhat narrowly and broaden out as we go. But let me start with a couple of events right at the beginning of your tenure as envoy. I want to talk about the settlement freeze, obviously, but start if you could with Annapolis. Condi Rice recently in her latest book suggested that the Obama administration missed an opportunity. That the previous Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, had put a remarkably expansive offer on the table before the Palestinians, and that the Obama administration could have built on that. Instead, the Obama administration reset the clock, erased the past in essence, and demanded a settlement freeze. What happened? Why did Annapolis fall away, why did that Olmert offer completely fall away?

GM: It’s a matter of well-established public record. I went to the region just a few days after my appointment. It was in the midst of the Israeli election campaign, which was held on February 10 of 2009. About two weeks before the election, Olmert made public the details of the offer that he had made during the Annapolis process in his discussions with Abbas. Immediately, the major candidates to succeed him, now Prime Minister Netanyahu, and previous Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, rejected Olmert’s proposal. And PM Netanyahu said publicly several times, and privately, that he did not agree with Olmert’s proposals, was not bound by them, rejected them completely, and would not accept them as the basis for further discussion. He told me that personally, directly. He said it publicly. There are numerous newspaper articles from that period which reported that.

You can agree or disagree with the Prime Minister’s decision. But there can be no dispute about the fact that he has been totally consistent publicly and privately in that position, and that remains the position of his government to this day. So the suggestion, the statement made not just by former Secretary of State Rice, but many others, columnists and others, that somehow Obama simply ignored this great opportunity, is incorrect. I discussed it with them, and it was rejected. It is a matter of public record. It was not possible to pick up the negotiations where they left off, and Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would not do so.
JG: Let me talk about the settlement freeze for a second because that is one of the most perplexing episodes, I think, of the last three years. A demand was made to freeze settlements, but there didn’t seem to be a plan in place for the moment when Netanyahu rejected the demand for settlements. There was a temporary moratorium, of course, but the Israelis never met the US demand. You at one point hinted that there would be, or could conceivably be punishment for not adhering to that demand. You brought up the issue of loan guarantees, but almost immediately the State Department backtracked from that, and said he’s just talking about historical context. So why did the administration go publicly with a demand for a settlement freeze without having a plan B when Netanyahu wouldn’t fulfill that? And let me add something to that, why did the administration demand a settlement freeze without understanding the full limitations of Netanyahu in regard to meeting that demand?
GM:Well there are several questions there…
JG: Yes there are.

GM: Let me begin if I might respectfully correct your comment about my statement that I “hinted at”. The only statement I ever made on that was on the Charlie Rose show. Charlie Rose asked me if there were any actions the United States could take legally in the circumstance. And I described what those actions were and then I said, and I invite you, a good journalist, to go look at the transcript, I do not favor such a course of action.
JG:Nevertheless the State Department did come back and say, he really didn’t favor that course of action.
GM: No, no, I don’t recall a correction by the State because it wasn’t necessary, because my position was that I do not favor that. So trying hard to respond earnestly to a journalist’s question, I answered a question about the state of the law, and then I made clear that I did not support it.

So let me get back to your central question. First, the settlement freeze. Every American administration that has been in office since 1967, President/Secretary of State administration, has opposed the Israeli policy with respect to settlements, without exception. Every Republican administration, every Democratic administration. In the Roadmap proposed by President Bush, there is an explicit reference to a full settlement freeze. So President Obama proposing a settlement freeze was not proposing anything new. It was a position taken by every prior American President, Democrat or Republican, over the preceding 43 years.

Secondly, the real mistake that we made, and for which we bear responsibility, is that we did not make clear that the proposal was not in isolation to the Israelis as opposed to in the context of a request made to all three relevant parties at the same time: the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the Arab States. Secondly, we did not make clear, as we should have, that none of those were preconditions to negotiations, but were in fact an effort to establish a context within which negotiations could occur and have a reasonable chance of success. Recall if you will, as I said in my remarks, the Gaza conflict had just ended. Emotions were extraordinarily high. I traveled throughout the region several times before Prime Minister Netanyahu took office. I met with the leaders of 14 Arab countries. And almost without exception, their singular demand, made right at the outset, with great emphasis, was there has to be a settlement freeze before there can be any consideration of discussions.

Now think about if you will what the reaction would have been had President Obama been the first American president not to ask for a settlement freeze…
JG: The question is then…
GM:Now let me finish my answer. So, we proposed this. We made demands of the Arabs. The President said that the Arabs were proud of the Arab Peace Initiative. He mentioned it in his remarks when I was appointed. And it provides that at the end of a certain series of events, there would be full normal relations between Israel and the Arab States, and what the President asked was that the Arab States take steps not to fully normalize but to take limited initial steps in that direction at the same time that the Israelis were freezing and at the same time that the Palestinians were acting in a way that we thought would make the negotiations more conducive. There was not a positive response from either side and we did not get the result we wanted. We did get a 10 month — I don’t want to call it a freeze, a moratorium on new housing construction starts on the West Bank, which was less than what we asked for, less than what the Palestinians wanted, but was more than any government of Israel had ever done on that subject, and it was a significant action which I believe the Palestinians should have responded to by getting into negotiations earlier.
JG: One more point on this, just because I’m still confused. Abu Mazen said, “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said, OK I accept. We both went up the tree. After that he came down with a ladder, and he removed the ladder and said to me, ‘jump.’ Three times he did it.” Why was Abu Mazen under the impression that the settlement freeze was a precondition? Why has he reacted the way he has?
GM:That statement was made in 2011 and it was an inaccurate description of what occurred in 2009. It was a mistaken recollection of what occurred. Because when I went over to the region in January, February, and March of 2009, I met President Abbas, his team, and all of the Arab countries, and they said to me, “We need a settlement freeze before we can even go back to negotiations.” That’s what happened. That’s the record.
JG: Do you think that settlements are the root cause of the conflict?
GM:There is no one root cause of the conflict.
JG: Do you think settlements are an important root cause?
GM:They are an important part of the problem.
JG:Describe the various roots, if you can.
GM:Well, they’re in the video. There is a problem of borders—disagreement on territory—Jerusalem is an intensely powerful and emotional issue on both sides. More complicated than any other because borders and refugees and settlements are all Palestinian issues, but Jerusalem is a Muslim issue. It doesn’t take just the consent of the Palestinians to make an agreement on Jerusalem. It takes the consent and approval of many others in the world of Islam and so it’s a highly emotional issue.

I think it’s a profound error to try to say, this one is number one, that one is number two, that one is number three. They’re all important. They’re all important and they all have to be resolved. But, with respect to settlements, let me make a point now. I negotiated with the Israelis. They would not fully freeze all settlement construction. They did agree, as I said earlier, to halt new housing construction starts for a period of ten months. That was very significant. It meant that for the first time in forty years, when a building was finished, a new one wasn’t started. And so had it continued over a further period of time, there would have come a point where there would have been no more construction, because every building would have been completed. When we negotiated that agreement and announced it, the Palestinians rejected it. They described it as “worse than useless.” That was the phrase they used. Nine months later, when they finally entered negotiations, they said, “Extension of the moratorium is indispensable.” So in a period of nine months, what was described as worse than useless was transformed into an indispensable element for continuation. And the real loss was that we didn’t get a full ten months. We didn’t get nine months or eight months. We got one month — less than a month, and it was not enough time to gain traction and get the parties invested in continuing the process.
JG: Let me ask you about demography, you brought this up earlier. You talked at some length about the demographic challenge, but you didn’t invoke the “A word” — apartheid. Do you believe that Israel is on the road to becoming an apartheid state? Do you believe that in the West Bank right now, apartheid-like conditions prevail?
GM:The issue and conflict is complex enough without the use of inflammatory words and phrases whose only result, I won’t say intention in every case, is to create aggravation and hostility. If you can say something two ways, and one way is bound to antagonize your opponent, and the other way can get your point across without antagonizing your opponent, why do you choose the inflammatory way if you really do want to accommodate their concerns and reach an agreement? You don’t settle conflicts by trying to figure out ways and complicated words to do it. I mean no offense to you, Jeffrey, we never met and you’re a good journalist. But the press likes controversy. It likes sensationalism.
JG: I deny that! [laughing]
GM:Well then I’ll attribute it to someone else. When I was the Senate Majority Leader, we were negotiating a very tough bill, and I spent months negotiating with Senator Dole and the Republicans on the bill and we were on the cusp of getting it done. And the Washington Post ran a very tough story which focused on the 8% that we hadn’t done. The 92% they ignored. And when I complained to the reporter he said to me, and I’ll never forget this, he said, “Senator, you have never seen a newspaper headline that reads, 2 million commuters made it safely to work today. But you have read many headlines that say two cars collided and many people were killed.” It’s what makes news. I don’t like to use inflammatory words. I described the situation in a way that I thought was factually accurate, and in a way that didn’t arouse peoples’ hostility. And we all ought to be thinking about that.
JG: Let me ask you this then. Do you believe that in certain parts of the West Bank, on certain days, a system of institutionalized discrimination against a certain ethnic group prevails? I want to know how far down the road you think Israel has gone on this question. And more to the point, how reversible is what you have seen on the West Bank?
GM: Well, I think that is the point. I think it is reversible. I don’t believe that borders are the most difficult issue to resolve. And once you resolve borders, you resolve the settlements issue. See that’s been my plea to the Palestinians. They keep saying we want a freeze. And the United States favors a freeze. I’ve made that clear in my remarks earlier. President Bush explicitly called for a freeze. But it isn’t forthcoming. So the way to deal with it, I thought, sensibly, was to persuade the Israelis to stop new housing starts. And during that period use the time to create an agreement which would say, here’s Israel, here’s Palestine, Israelis can build what they want in Israel, and the Palestinians can build what they want in Palestine. And then you don’t have this issue. I believe that it can be resolved.
JG: If it is the US position that settlements are either, we’ll use the range of words: from counterproductive to illegal, why doesn’t the United States simply say to the Israelis, “Look, we’ve assessed that you have spent $250 million this year on infrastructure for settlements. So we’re going to dock that from your aid package.” If you had that ability two years ago with PM Netanyahu, do you think you would have gotten somewhere?
GM: We do have that ability under the law as it exists and President George W. Bush was the last president to impose the application of that law, which created a deduction from the amount available to insure Israeli — guarantees for Israeli housing. The Israelis have not needed to make a claim on it so it has lost its potency — it is symbolic now, had no substantial effect, and I do not believe, would have had any significant effect in altering Israeli activity. I will say to you that in all the time I was in the region, for many Arabs, there is a very simple solution to the whole thing: the United States cuts off all funding to Israel and they will then have to do what we want. For many Israelis, there is also a simple solution: the United States cuts off all aid to the Palestinians, and then they’ll do what we want. In relative terms, as many Israelis have noticed, the Palestinians are much more dependent on our aid than are the Israelis, although the public perception is somewhat to the contrary because the absolute amounts are different. But in my view, and as I said in my interview with Charlie Rose — I hate to keep bringing that up — I don’t think that works. I don’t think it works when you’re dealing with this. I think what you need is a more positive case of appealing to self-interest. And I think self-interest can be identified and appealed to in a positive way. We did not succeed, let’s face it, we’ve had ten presidents, 19 secretaries of state since Israel was established, there have been a number of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, they didn’t get it done either, but I think it can be done and I really do believe it will at some point, hopefully in the near future, be done.
JG: Let me ask you two final questions. I want to get to Iran also but maybe that will come up in the Q and A. I want to ask you this, and I’m going to invoke Speaker Gingrich in this. Have you met many Palestinian leaders who believe that the Israelis have a natural right to that part of Palestine they currently posses? In other words, I read the Palestinian press all the time and I watch Palestinian TV. There is an overwhelming message from the Palestinians that the Israelis are an invented people, that they have no legitimate rights. How important—we understand what settlements do to the Palestinian psychology—how important is the rejection of the idea of Jewish national equality as an impediment to making peace?
GM: I have had many discussions with many Palestinian officials including the two principal leaders, Chairman Arafat and President Abbas, and many many others. I confess to you I have never had a discussion in which we discussed precisely the natural right of Israelis—the term that you used. I can tell you this: I believe that they understand and accept the reality of Israel. They might not like it, but I think they accept the reality that Israel is there, it’s going to stay there, it’s not going anywhere, and that the only alternative for them is some sort of reconciliation. Not in terms of, we really like you, we want to have you over for dinner, but in terms of, let’s live in peace, you there, we here.
JG: Two quick final things. One, if you were a Palestinian, would you accept 22% of mandatory Palestine as your final, permanent deal.

GM: I’m not a Palestinian, and the answer to that question can come only from Palestinians just as the answers on issues like Jerusalem and other issues that are so important must come from Israelis. I was always conscious of the fact — I spent five years in Northern Ireland, and two years in the Middle East — and I always was conscious of the fact and kept reminding myself, when this is over, I’m going home, and they’re staying here. And so they have to make those decisions, not Americans. What we have to do is to help create the context within which they can make those decisions. And I believe that we can do so, and more importantly, I believe that no other entity than the United States government, no entity—no other government, private or otherwise—has the capacity to do so. It takes the US government, the President of the United States, Secretary of State, and those who they have to help them to accomplish that task. I think it can be done.
JG:Does President Obama like Israel?
GM: I think he does. Yes, I think he does. I think he is very determined, absolutely determined, to protect Israel and to make certain that the American commitment is maintained. Your questions implies more than the words themselves state…
JG:Often.
GM: So let me respond. First, US and Israeli military cooperation and intelligence cooperation is the best it’s ever been. Just last week the two governments announced the largest ever exercise focused on missile defense, which is the real problem. Because it is the real problem, President Obama authorized over $2 million, over and above the vast sums we already provide, to assist in a more rapid development and deployment of the anti-missile system. I personally feel, I have a very good relationship with the Israeli leaders and have spent a great deal of time with them, I think the President is determined to protect and preserve that and I think he does like Israel.
JG: And finally and very quickly if you can, you’ve gotten to know the leaders very well. Describe for us the most admirable characteristic of Benjamin Netanyahu. And then Abu Mazen.
GM:Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu is strong and he is consistent. He’s told me personally, directly many times and he was very sincere about this, he wanted peace, he wanted to try to get it done. I have to explain it by saying, many, many times when I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he said to me, “I’m sincere, I want peace,” I believed him, and then he’d say to me, “Is he serious?” And he would point sort of in the direction of Ramallah. And then I frequently left and drove to Ramallah, where President Abbas asked me the same question in reverse. “I’m serious, we want to get it done, is he serious?” pointing toward Jerusalem.

I think they’re both serious about wanting peace. That’s not the question. Everybody wants peace on their terms. The difficulty is achieving peace on terms that can be acceptable to the other side. That’s the political problem. If you said to any Israeli, “Here’s peace,” and you listed the Israeli terms, why, you’d get close to 100% approval. If you said to Palestinians, “Do you want peace?” and you listed the Palestinian proposals, they would say, “Yes, of course.” But the publics there, just like the publics here, are able to hold and convey contradictory views at the same time. And what they say to their leaders is, “We want peace, but we want it on our terms.” But the challenge and the task of leadership is to reconcile those conflicting demands in a way that can make it possible for the other side to accept it.

Can I tell one more story, just to make the point?
JG: You have the floor.
GM: I have the floor, thank you. To show that it’s true of Americans as well, and it’s relevant to the current debate. When I was Senate Majority Leader, the first President Bush was in office, and we had a terrific fight over the budget in 1990. We spent months, we even went to Andrews Air Force Base and isolated ourselves—Bolling Air Force Base—in the vain hope that isolation would induce compromise, which it didn’t.

I used to go back to Maine every weekend and hold town meetings and after a couple of months of this I went back, it was a large crowd — disproportionately elderly, as they tend to be on these congressional town halls. I didn’t give speeches, I just took questions and comments. The first guy got up, a very well dressed elderly gentleman, and he delivered a scathing denunciation of me. Saying how embarrassed they were of my behavior — too partisan, too much fighting, President Bush has a home over here, why don’t you get down there and settle it with him like a gentleman? And the crowd reacted with a huge, thunderous standing ovation endorsing his repudiation of me. Then he said, “That’s my statement, here’s my question: what are you guys arguing about? What’s the fight all about? We can’t figure it out.” Not much changes — Medicare funding was one of the big issues, and I explained our differences on Medicare and other issues and then he got up and he said, “Senator, you represent us, and we’re telling you, you go back and you don’t give an inch on Medicare!” And the crowd got up and I got a double thunderous round of applause. So Palestinians and Israelis are no different from us. They want peace and they want it on their terms and the challenge is to do it in a way that satisfies both.

[Audience Question/Answer Session Begins]
JF:When you look back to the Gaza withdrawal, we’re talking about 8000 settlers, it was a traumatic experience understandably removing people from their homes and communities, when we look to what will be required in a sustainable two-state scenario we’re talking about conservatively 80,000 settlers, some of whom are more ideological, some of whom are less, and Jeffrey I think you’ve done some of the best reporting on the settlement movement—what situation would have to obtain I think among Israelis to countenance the difficulty and the trauma of removing this many settlers from the West Bank, and to achieve a solution?
GM:Well, let’s be clear, the figure that you cited is not a fair figure based upon an assumed percentage of exchanges. It might be higher, it might be much lower, it depends on what the negotiated agreement is between the parties. So there’s no objective number that says this is the number that will have to be moved. Secondly, I’m not an expert on the subject. There are many of them in Israel and the region. There have been numerous studies made of the principal motivation that has brought different types of settlers to different places and the potential willingness of some to move or not to move. Thirdly, the Gaza operation was a unilateral decision by Israel. There was no consultation or agreement with the Palestinians with respect to it, so there was no overarching agreement which the government of Israel could point to and say, “Here’s what we get out of this. Yes, we do have to endure some pain, but there are significant benefits.” There was nothing comparable to that. So I’m not certain that it’s really the kind of — that it’s an apples and oranges comparison. But finally, I don’t think any responsible person would suggest that this would somehow be easy or anything other than extremely difficult, with careful planning, and with a lot of assistance being provided by the United States and other supporters of Israel, to accomplish this objective. But I don’t think that either the Gaza or the Lebanon example are relevant here because in both of those cases, again I repeat, those were unilateral withdrawals without consultation with others, and without therefore any demonstrable benefit or concession coming from the other side that could be used to justify it. And I can tell you from my own experience elsewhere, if you are going to ask a government, and particularly in a very vibrant, democratic society like Israel where as you know everybody speaks out, it’s a very vigorous debate in public, if you are going to ask people to undertake a very painful course of action, it is far more difficult to do in the absence of an overarching program in which you can say, “Yes, we have to do A B and C, but we are getting XYZ in return, and you’ve got some give and take.”
JG: Can I just piggyback on that for one second? Because you know as well as anyone in this room that Israeli society has changed in the last several years. You now have a foreign minister that Israel can’t actually dispatch to Washington because no one will meet him, because he’s too right wing for most peoples’ taste. You have in the settlements, much of the Army’s officer corps now lives in the settlements. I want to just press you on this a little bit more, because you’re not talking about the Israel of 20 or 30 years ago. You’re talking about asking an army that is rooted in many ways in the settlements to evacuate their own parents. So talk about that, based on your experience of dealing with the army because you did deal with them, it does seem very, very hard to reverse this.
GM:Well first off, I met with Foreign Minister Lieberman many times. I had no difficulty in meeting with him. He’s the foreign minister, I respected the fact that he was a public official in office.
JG: But Hillary Clinton won’t meet with him in Washington…
GM:Well I’m telling you that I met with him many times. I didn’t go beyond that. My view is that we have the right to choose our officials and they have the right to choose their officials in their democratic process and we’re going to talk to whoever it is that they have. But secondly, look, you say, Israeli society is changing, but of course it’s changing! Every society in every era changes. Would someone who came to the United States now not say, “Boy, isn’t American politics changing? Isn’t American society changing?” We should not say, either to Israeli or Palestinian society to be static or lacking in dynamism or change over time. And you’re right — some of the changes make the problem more difficult, and that’s true on both sides. The PLO started as a secular party, separating church and state. It’s one of the difficulties that Fatah has now, is of course that Hamas has made some gains because of the dynamic changes in that society. So yes, it’s more difficult. But that isn’t a reason not to do things, because they’re more difficult, if they’re the right things to do, and if they provide an overall benefit to the society. That’s the important point to remember. Israel, well many of you have been there. Some of you are from there. Anyone who hasn’t been there, I strongly encourage you to go. It’s truly moving, it’s inspirational what has been done in the course of 60 years, it’s one of the remarkable feats of history. And it is a dynamic, changing society. If you believe in the security of Israel, you’ll have to accept, in my judgment, the reality that one of the more important things you can do to ensure that security in the future is to make peace with the Palestinians. Because there are other issues in the region, which you said you’re going to get to. So what I’m saying is, yes it would be difficult, but if the reward were sufficient, if the justification were enough to persuade the people that it was worth doing it, then you have a possibility of getting it done.
JG: I don’t recall that my newspaper has denied the existence of Israel, I’ve lived under the occupation, and my question to you, Senator Mitchell: I was there when you came in with Secretary Clinton in August 2010 and we talked about a state by September 2011, that’s all gone, I want to ask you sir, a question that was posed by Mr. Goldberg. Does Mr. Obama like the Palestinians? He spoke very eloquently at the UN about the suffering of the Jews, but did not mention the suffering of the Palestinians. [Rest of question inaudible]
GM: My answer is, yes I believe that the President is fully committed to a Palestinian state. He has said that many times. President Bush said the same thing many times. I believe that it is United States policy, I believe it is the correct policy. I do not accept the argument made by many in the region, as you well know, that the United States is incapable of serving as an arbiter or mediator or the intervening party in this context because it is so biased toward Israel. It is true that the United States and Israel are close allies, and that we are committed to Israel’s security and its existence behind defensible borders. But it is precisely because we believe that Israel’s security will be enhanced by an agreement that we think that there ought to be a Palestinian state, along with the belief that the Palestinian people are entitled to self-governance, as are people everywhere, as our Declaration of Independence so eloquently states. So yes, the United States, the President—I can’t speak for the President, I’m not in the government anymore—but I believe that the President is fully committed to a Palestinian state, and in the colloquial terms that you and Jeffrey used, that he likes the Palestinians.
JF:[Inaudible] from the American Task Force on Palestine. Looking ahead to this coming year, outside of a breakthrough on the macro permanent status issues, and I do not believe we will have such a breakthrough, is there anything the Palestinians, the Israelis, and we can do to ensure that we stabilize the situation and prevent a backslide to the violence that you mentioned, and which I believe is a possibility? Thank you.
GM: Yes I do believe that there can be steps taken. There already have been. It is I think a remarkable achievement if you view what has occurred in the West Bank over the last few years compared to what went on in the past thirty years. The organizing and the funding and training of the Palestinian security forces, which has resulted, as you know, in the establishment of security and stability in a society where it did not exist for a long time, has produced a secondary dynamic economic result in terms of the growth of the economy. It has encouraged many of us to provide assistance who were reluctant to do so before, both among the Arab States, the Europeans, and the United States. I think that there are intermediate steps which could be taken, which we proposed, for example, not to get too complicated or too long, as you know, not all the viewers may know, that the Palestinian Territories are divided in authority between areas that are administered entirely by the Palestinians, areas that are administered entirely by the Israelis, and areas that have mixed authority. And one of the proposals that we have made is, as Palestinians have demonstrated their capacity for self-governance, to extend Palestinian authority into so-called areas B and C to a greater extent, particularly to the extent that it can assist in economic growth and development, in job creation. Because as we all know, that economic factor which underlies all conflicts is very present there. So yes, I think there is quite a bit more that can be done, I think there are numerous steps that can be taken to help prevent the outbreak that we very much do not want to occur.
JF:Barbara Slater from the Atlantic Council, as opposed to the Atlantic. Senator Mitchell, correct me if I’m wrong, has Netanyahu ever put down a proposal on borders, on security, on refugees, on anything? Because our impression is that the Palestinians have been quite forthcoming, they’ve given maps and so on to the Israelis, but that Netanyahu has never done that. If that’s the case, why is that the case, and will there ever be an American bridging proposal that will say, this is what we think is reasonable?
GM:Prime Minister Netanyahu did in fact make a substantive proposal on the issue of security in the discussions that were held between him and President Abbas. He did not make proposals on the other issues that you mentioned. However, in fairness, he assumed and anticipated that the talks would continue. And it was my intention to encourage discussion on other agenda items that the Palestinians had presented, as they had presented a full range of views to us, in both the indirect so-called proximity talks, and at that time. But because of the inability or failure to extend the moratorium, those talks ended.
JG: And the bridging proposal?
GM:Well, we did not make any bridging proposals because there was not sufficient engagement between the two at that time and the Palestinians would not continue to talk. There was nothing to bridge at the time the talks terminated.
JG: I just wonder, if I may just out of
GM: I just want to say, just to finish the answer, we made it very clear to both sides that if the talks continued, we would be prepared when necessary and appropriate, to make bridging proposals. We didn’t reach that stage, for reasons I stated earlier.
JG: Is that why you stepped aside? You mentioned yourself that you spent five years on Northern Ireland. Two years on this, you’re clearly very invested in this topic, intellectually and even more, was it a lack of support for the Obama Administration for what you were trying to do?
GM: I said to the President and the Secretary of State when they asked me to undertake this position that I was yes, willing and able to go, but precisely because I had been in Northern Ireland for five years, I said to the President, I can’t do five years here. And I can’t commit to you to even a full Presidential term. He said to me, “What will you do?” I said, “Two years, and then we’ll see what happens.” So it was very clear from the outset that I had committed to two years, and I stayed actually two and a half years.
SC:[Going to take 3 30-second questions all together, then one more question from Jeffrey Goldberg]
Q1: I live in Tel Aviv and am also Israeli and my biggest concern is the shift in Democratic values in Israel. You see a number of bills and I think one of the biggest limitations in progressing with peace are the democratic institutions in Israel that prevent a Prime Minister from taking significant leaps. Are you concerned about those?
Q2:When I was in the State Department I and R as a young man, there were 20,000 Israeli settlers. People back then in the CIA and the State Department were writing that this was creeping annexation that no good could come of this. And of course, senior levels didn’t want to hear that. It’s just a political bargaining chip. Now we have over 500,000 settlers. The roadmap called for—the two main parts of the roadmap were security on the part of the Palestinians and an end to settlement activity on the part of the Israelis. Palestinians did the security part, we haven’t seen the settlers, so my comment is why do we think anybody is going to trust us in the future?
Q3:Senator, you touched very quickly on Israeli isolation but can you put it in the bigger frame of a changing Middle East with the revolutions, the uprising, the Arab Spring, does it complicate it or does it make it a priority? And where does the Arab Peace Initiative stand now because most of these leaders are no longer there?
GM: A couple of points. First off, it is human nature when there is turbulence and uncertainty and anxiety, to pause, to hesitate, to hunker down, to not take any dramatic steps. And so it’s very clear that both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been affected by that. Although they disagree on many things, a pillar of both of their policies in the region was their relationship with the government of Egypt and specifically with President Mubarak. That’s gone. And so it’s natural that they’re going to want to pull back. It would be unnatural otherwise. And we have to understand that even as we encourage them to take steps. With respect to the Arab Spring, just a few general points. First, it takes a long time. I know all the press operates under a deadline, but revolutions do not. In our own country, from the time the fighting started at Yorktown and the creation of the United States, nearly eight years elapsed. And that was a much less complicated time than the current situation in the Middle East. Secondly, there is an almost naivety in thinking, well, we’ve deposed one guy so something’s got to be better. History is filled with governments that were deposed by revolutions and then replaced by worse governments. So let’s not hold the Arabs and the Arab Spring to standards that no one else in history has met. We hope it turns out the right way, we should do all we can. I think it’s going to take a long time, there will be successive revolutions. Usually they occur like earthquakes, a major one and then less severe follow-ups, but still disturbing events. I think some will turn out well, I think some will turn out not well. And it will be a huge test for us, in terms of our policy toward the region.

The next question, Ted, in fairness Ted, I have to say to you, you posed the question, the Israelis said they’d do settlements, the Palestinians said they’d do security, the Palestinians did theirs. They did it on the West Bank, they have not done it in Gaza. And so the Israelis would hotly dispute the premise of your question, and say that we don’t have security, we still have people in Gaza, they’re Palestinians, they’re firing rockets at us. And so, I’m not disagreeing with you, I expressed the policy of the United States’ opposition to it, but we’ve not been able to get it to change. So the result is, get in and negotiate an agreement, define the borders, and that is what the issue is. That’s the way to get it done and I think it can be done. I believe sincerely. I had in my office in the State Department a whole stack of proposed maps. You’re one of the few experts on the region who didn’t send me a map—I wish you would so I could complete my collection of them, trying to define what the borders should be and I think it can be done. But I leave that to the Israelis. It’s a very difficult issue, but as I said earlier, I try not to interpose myself into what are really internal matters.
JG:Would you promote institutions in the US that would help better define democracy in Israel?
GM: I believe in democracy, I support democracy, but I also think that the right of self-government means what I says: self-government. People decide their futures. This goes back to the Arab Spring. What is most powerful about the Arab Spring is that it is entirely indigenous. It came from within. It demonstrated both a longing and a capacity that many thought didn’t exist or had been suppressed for a long time. And it is not for the United States to tell the people of Israel how to run their affairs, or the people of Egypt, or other countries. We should encourage them, we should support them, we should particularly praise democracy because we believe in it, we think it’s a right, but in the end, they must decide themselves, because that’s what self-government means.
JG:Very quickly. Just address two sides of the same question. What are the consequences for the Middle East, and for the peace process in particular, of a nuclear-armed Iran, and what do you think the consequences are of a preemptive strike by the United States, or by Israel, to stop Iran or at least delay Iran from developing nuclear weapons?
GM:Well I’ll answer the questions in reverse order. While clearly there is no benefit of taking options off the table until we are forced to do so, I don’t think anyone who is a proponent of a preemptive strike has so far made a sufficient case to justify it at this time. I think there are too many imponderables in terms of uncertainty about A) the status that they are in, second, what the effect would be — Secretary of Defense Gates, who is widely respected both inside and outside the United States has said very emphatically that we could not assure the full termination of their program, that the best we could do is to set it back, and you always have to ask yourself, what about the next day. One thing we’ve found in recent years that’s true historically is that it’s awful easy to get into wars, it’s much harder to get out of them. And you have to ask yourself, what’s going to happen on the second day? I made the point in my remarks, Iran now possesses rockets, and they’ve gone from liquid fuel to solid fuel, that can reach Israel from Iran. If you think that they are unstable enough to launch a possible first nuclear strike on Israel, you certainly have to believe that they would launch a massive missile attack if they themselves were attacked, in retaliation. Not nuclear, but just a massive missile attack which could do tremendous damage. So I don’t think the case has been made.

The one issue which you didn’t ask, which I think is also of sufficient importance and danger, is if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, not only will it be a hugely destabilizing force in the region — and it will be a setback to the peace process to directly answer your question, it will make an already very difficult task much more difficult — it could destabilize and cause a disintegration of the non-proliferation regime that the United States has led for the past fifty years. There are now nine countries with nuclear weapons, and Iran is trying hard to make it ten. But there are many more in number who have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons and have refrained from doing so in reliance upon American leadership and the non-proliferation regime. And the break in the dam would be Iran getting weapons, because what would Turkey do, what would Egypt do, what would Saudi Arabia do, what would many other countries do? And once that happened, it’s not difficult to conceive — you discussed earlier how societies changed, how Israeli society has changed — and I mentioned it’s not difficult to conceive in societies where it has been inconceivable that they would develop nuclear weapons, even though they have the capacity, that a political leader or movement would emerge on the grounds of, we’ve got to get our weapon. Because one of the things about nuclear weapons is, and I believe this is true it’s an old poll but it’s probably still true, that in the countries that have nuclear weapons, most of the people of that country think their country should have them. It’s just they don’t think others should. I think most Americans think the United States should have them. And if you ask Russians or Chinese or French or British I think you’d get pretty much the same answer. So I think it would be just a matter of time until the plug would be pulled. And that would be huge, I think. The risk of leakage to non-governmental organizations would increase exponentially and we would confront a world far more dangerous than exists today.
JG:That’s a very happy note. Thank you very much.

[Steve Clemons concludes with thank you’s and promotion of Is Peace Possible website]