Emanuel in 2002: Details of US and Israeli Interests Differ

Prospective Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has taken a lot of heat in the Middle East and in the left blogosphere because there are fears that he will push for the positions of the Israeli right wing. His father lives in Israel and was a member of the Irgun. Rahm Emanuel gave up his Israeli citizenship when he turned 18. He did not serve in the Israeli army, but did help out in a civilian force in Israel during the Gulf War, when Israel was under bombardment from Saddam’s scuds.

I think a lot of the hype in the blogosphere is overblown. Emanuel is not responsible for his father’s activities or views. Rahm Emanuel was the one in the Clinton White House who arranged the logistics of the handshake between then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1993. He supported the Oslo Peace Process and the Camp David negotiations, which the Israeli Right absolutely hated.

In this 2002 interview on Hardball, Emanuel openly says that US and Israeli positions in the negotiations with the Palestinians will not be the same with regard to detail. Between his support for and involvement in the Oslo process, and his analytical distinction between US and Israeli positions, it seems to me clear that he has substantial differences with the Israeli Right.

On the other hand, he did criticize George W. Bush for his 2002 open announcement of the goal of a Palestinian state, calling it premature and demanding an end to ‘terrorism’ first. (Myself, I can’t see how you curb violence without a state; only states have police and armies that can do so.)

I say, give the guy a break. Emanuel would be in a position to let the Israelis know when they have gotten out of line. Israelis, at least, felt that Henry Kissinger was harder on them than a non-Jewish official would have been. And, it was a former Irgun member, Menachem Begin, who made peace with Egypt.

Moreover, we have to see who else Obama appoints regarding the Middle East. Who will be the leading National Security Council staffer on Israeli-Palestinian issues, for instance?

Obama and Emanuel have a choice. They can work toward Israel’s survival by making one last push for a two-state solution now. Or they can dither, in which case a permanent Apartheid situation is inevitable, which I think the world community will find completely unacceptable over time and which might well spell the end of Israel (just as in-you-face Apartheid spelled the end of the old South African government).

Anyway, here is the transcript of Rahm’s remarks from 2002:

“CNBC News Transcripts

June 10, 2002 Monday

SHOW: Hardball with Chris Matthews (9:00 PM ET) – CNBC

Former Clinton advisor Rahm Emanuel and John Fund, Wall Street Journal, on establishing Palestinian state

CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:

THE BIG STORY tonight, President Bush sits down with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This afternoon at the White House, Bush had harsh words for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think Mr. Arafat’s the issue. I think the issue is the Palestinian people. And as I have expressed myself, I am disappointed that he has not lead in such a way that the Palestinian people have hope and confidence.

MATTHEWS: But writing this weekend in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman argues it’s time for Bush to work harder for the establishment of a Palestinian state, quote, “This is Mr. Bush’s Truman moment. He has a chance not only to give birth to the Palestinian state but to do it in a way that wins Israel the recognition it really needs, not from the US but from all its neighbors.” Rahm Emanuel is a Democratic nominee for Congress in Illinois and former Senate–and former senior advisor to President Clinton. And John Fund is with the Wall Street Journal.

Rahm, congratulations on winning the nomination and a guaranteed election this fall. You can’t miss. That’s Rasti’s old seat. Just kidding. What do you think? I mean, you’re a politician running for office. You’ve got ethnic concerns out there. You want people to vote for you. Where are you on a Palestinian state?

Mr. RAHM EMANUEL (Former Clinton Senior Advisor): Well, everybody’s acknowledged–even Sharon, the prime minister of Israel has acknowledged that there will be a Palestinian state or could be a Palestinian state at the end of the process. I think the real difficulty here, Chris, is finding a partner to represent the Palestinian people at the–at the table. The fact is, to date, this is not a trusted leadership to do that.

MATTHEWS: Well, the question of…

Mr. EMANUEL: And so I think, you know…

MATTHEWS: The real question on the table, Rahm–and I want to get to John Fund on the same que–is sequence. Should we move and put pressure on all parties over there to support the creation of a Palestinian state as part of the initial process? Or should we follow Sharon’s timetable of waiting until all the hostilities stop and then get around to even talking about it? What would be your sequence, Rahm?

Mr. EMANUEL: Well–well, everybody–I mean, my sequence is the Palestinian state doesn’t come on the front end. It’s something you earn through the–through the process, which is exactly what was set up by Prime Minister Rabin, Netanyahu and even Shimon Perez. And that fact is it is the end goal as they prove themselves. And to date, you know, if you had had a state at this point, I don’t think there’d be a very good situation. Now, Perez…

MATTHEWS: So you guys have nothing to debate here today. John Fund, you agree with that position, don’t you?

Mr. JOHN FUND (Opinionjournal.com): Look, on Opinionjournal.com, my colleague Rob Pollack has talked about all the moderate Palestinians who’ve been intimidated or driven out of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority over the years. This would be a betrayal of them because they ultimately are going to be the future of the Palestinian people. Yasser Arafat is well over 70 years old. He’s in ill health. He has comple–had a complete failure in terms of providing for the Palestinian people. He’s had a–basically a den of thieves for his government. So we–if we are going to have a moderate Palestinian leadership that comes afterwards, we should not reward terrorism. We cannot reward terrorism.

Mr. EMANUEL: That’s–I mean…

MATTHEWS: So you guys both agree.

Mr. EMANUEL: I mean, Chris–Chris.

MATTHEWS: You both agree there shouldn’t be a Palestinian state until you get what you want from the Palestinians, which is the end of the…

Mr. FUND: I–in theory, I would…

MATTHEWS: …end of the violence?

Mr. FUND: I would love for there to be a Palestinian state. But we’ve had experience with one for the last seven years. It hasn’t been a state. It hasn’t really been Palestinian. It’s been run by a bunch of Tunisians, Yasser Arafat’s thugs. So there really has–but to the extent that there’s been one, it’s been a complete failure. We have to start over with new leadership.

MATTHEWS: Rahm:

Mr. EMANUEL: In that–in that’s ar–in that area–listen, in that area of the world, if you were to say up front, ‘We’re creating a state and then we’re negotiating the details,’ you would be re–not only would you be rewarding terrorism, you would be rewarding all the corruption that goes with it. And I think that’s the end pro–process of a negotiation not the front end. I would–going in…

MATTHEWS: So you disagree with Mubarak. You disagree with the Saudi Prince Abdullah. And to some extent, it sounds like you disagree with Ehud Barak who says, ‘Put up a wall. Let them have their state and move on.’

Mr. EMANUEL: No, but I–well, he–he also agrees that in the end, you’ve got to have a process. But I don’t think you just say, ‘Look I think that President Mubarak and the King of Saudi have offered something.’ You want to pull them into the process here. But I–that doesn’t mean that you have to accept that premise. It sure hasn’t been a part of the premise for the…

MATTHEWS: Well, let me–let me get this straight. The first president…

Mr. EMANUEL: …last seven years.

MATTHEWS: The first president that I know of to come out publicly and support a Palestinian state, although President Clinton was pushing toward such a–a denouement, a conclusion, the only that’s come out and just said, ‘I’m for a Palestinian state,’ is President Bush. Should he continue to do that, Rahm?

Mr. EMANUEL: Well, I–I–listen, my view in this is that he made a mistake doing that because it was rewarding terrorism. And they said they didn’t have to give anything for that. He–this leadership or a new leadership or some leadership representing the aspirations and the hopes and the dreams and–of the Palestinian people has to acknowledge the fact that there will be something. But they have to do what’s part of a peace process which is clamping down on the violence which is…

MATTHEWS: Would you–would you sit around as an American…

Mr. EMANUEL: …in ’97 and ’90…

MATTHEWS: …and let–and wait for Sharon’s timetable?

Mr. EMANUEL: What’s that?

MATTHEWS: Would you let us leave it up to Sharon when to allow the Palestinians…

Mr. EMANUEL: No.

MATTHEWS: …to have their own country?

Mr. EMANUEL: I mean, listen, the pri–the prime minister has to speak for Israel’s interests, Israel’s concerns. But the United States also has–you know, the president of the United States must move the parties. But he must acknowledge what the prime minister’s…

Mr. FUND: Chris?

Mr. EMANUEL: …own interests are. And that’s what this melding of the US leadership..

MATTHEWS: How are our different…

Mr. EMANUEL: …is about.

MATTHEWS: How are our differences potentially different than Israelis when it comes to the question–the Israeli government, a particular one, the Sharon government–in whether to allow the creation of a Palestinian state in the next year or two? How did–are the interests of…

Mr. EMANUEL: Well, our diff…

MATTHEWS: …the two governments different?

Mr. EMANUEL: Well, our–how are our interests different? We’re going to–we’re going to disagree on areas of–of–both about the lines where they’re going to go, about what the Palestinian Authority can and can’t do.

MATTHEWS: Right.

Mr. EMANUEL: But those are going to be a–trust me, they’re going to be minor differences over the larger issues where there’s a lot more commonality between Israel and the United States.

MATTHEWS: Gotcha. Go ahead, John. Your view. Where…

Mr. FUND: I’ll…

MATTHEWS: …where is the potential wiggle room there for Bush? I’m asking a political question here. We’ve got a November election coming up.

Mr. FUND: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Obviously, both parties would like to get as many votes from the Jewish community as possible and from the Christian Right that’s very pro-Israeli. At the same time, they want to be leaders that have to be accountable to history and to get some peace over there if we can get it. Put all that together, John. What does Bush have to do between now and November?

Mr. FUND: Well, and there’s a lot of Arab voters in Michigan and other states now, too. They’re a factor as well. Look, Chris, I think that what you’ve got here is a longstanding US policy that–where there should be a Palestinian state. If Bush were to renege on that, if Bush were to go back, that would create a whole new controversy. He wouldn’t be able to speak on anything else because he’d be explaining that. I don’t think it’s a mistake for that to be the US position, but the details are very important. And there cannot be a Palestinian state as long as there is terrorism in the Middle East.

MATTHEWS: So you all agree. The sequence should be end of terrorism, followed by negotiations, followed by the creation of a Palestinian state. Is that right? Both you guys.

Mr. EMANUEL: Yes.

Mr. FUND: A Palestinian state is ultimately going to be something that would be–bring stability to the region. But it has to be on terms that are completely different from what we’ve seen Yasser Arafat…

Mr. EMANUEL: But–but, they–they…

Mr. FUND: …run for the last seven years.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Rahm. You’re running for office, Rahm.

Mr. EMANUEL: The basis of the Oslo…

MATTHEWS: Rahm, I’ve got a minute. I’ve got a half a second here.

Mr. EMANUEL: Yeah. Sure.

MATTHEWS: You’re running for office. Is this an issue people talk about. Just yes or no? Are they talking about this when you go out and campaign?

Mr. EMANUEL: They talk about this in a context of a war on terrorism, as a piece of it. They also talk about it individually. But it’s part of an overall context in the sense of America’s security, America’s interests around the world and the responsibilities we have.

MATTHEWS: Do they see getting a deal in the Mideast as critical to our security? Or do they say backing Sharon down the line to the hilt is critical to our security? Which way do they look at it?

Mr. EMANUEL: Well, they look at it as part of–you know, in the overall war on terrorism. They look–that’s how they evaluate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And they see Israel as part of our–as an ally in this war on terrorism. People believe we’re in a real battle here. That is defined in people’s minds.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank…

Mr. EMANUEL: And you’ll see people either with us or against us.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Rahm Emanuel. Thank you, John Fund, of the Wall Street Journal”

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