Transcript: Amb. Michael Oren on 'FNS'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 07, 2010 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a rush transcript of the June 6, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: On Saturday, Israel intercepted another ship challenging its blockade of Gaza, this after Israelis boarded a Turkish ship earlier this week and, in a violent confrontation, killed nine of the protesters.

Joining us now is Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.

And, Ambassador, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

AMB. MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.S. : Chris, good morning.

WALLACE: There are reports that your government is now considering ways to ease the blockade, and two ideas that are being seriously considered are, one, either to create an international naval force that would stop ships, so it wouldn't be an Israeli-versus- protesters confrontation, or to have the ships stop first at a foreign port to be inspected. Are both of those ideas on the table?

OREN: Well, first of all, let me say we regret all the casualties in this incident, Chris, particularly the Israeli casualties. Some of our boys were shot, beaten over the head, thrown overboard, sustained severe injuries indeed.

We are open to any ideas of how to somehow deal with the Gaza situation. But keep in mind, an international force failed in Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah from tripling its rocket arsenal. We're talking about Hamas here. We're not talking about a peaceful organization.

It's an organization that's sworn to destroy the state of Israel, that already has fired 10,000 rockets...

WALLACE: I know.

OREN: ... on the state of Israel.

WALLACE: I'm asking you about the blockade, sir. Are you thinking — trying to come up with a way to remove the flashpoint from the blockade while still protecting your...

OREN: And all I can say is we're open to any ideas, but there's no simple idea. If the sea lanes are open to Hamas in Gaza, they will — they will acquire thousands of rockets that will threaten every single citizen in the state of Israel and also kill the peace process.

WALLACE: Along those lines, there is a report out of Iran today that the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei's forces or supporters are saying that the Iranian revolutionary guard stands ready to provide a military escort to any ships headed to Gaza. Your reaction?

OREN: The reaction is Israel will do whatever it takes to defend itself from Hamas terror.

WALLACE: And if the revolutionary guard provides a military escort?

OREN: Israel will do what it has to do to defend 7.5 million Israelis.

WALLACE: The other big issue is how to investigate the confrontation in which, yes, Israeli soldiers were hurt, but also nine people on board the ship — protesters, activists, militants, whatever you want to call them — were killed.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is now calling for an international commission. Will your government go along with that?

OREN: Israel is a democracy. Israel has the ability and the right to investigate itself, not to be investigated by any international board.

I don't think the United States would want an international inquiry into its military activities in Afghanistan, for example.

WALLACE: So are you rejecting the idea of an international commission?

OREN: We are rejecting the idea of an international commission. We are discussing with the Obama administration the way in which our inquiry will take place, but the notion of some international commission coming along and judging Israel's right to defend itself — that's not (inaudible).

WALLACE: And when you say you're considering ways in which the Israeli investigation would take place, are you considering or will you agree that there should be some international foreign participation in it?

OREN: This is an ongoing discussion in the Israeli government. But at the end of the day, Israel has the right, the duty, as a democracy to investigate any military activity.

WALLACE: It turns out that one of the nine people killed on that Turkish ship was a young man named Furkan Dogan, a teenager who held U.S. citizenship. According to Turkish officials he was shot four times in the head and one time in the chest at close range. How is that consistent with the Israeli account of the incident?

OREN: The Israeli account of the incident is that we had no choice but to board the ship. The ship was too large to stop by technical means. Our soldiers came on board that ship armed with paintball guns and they were assaulted with iron bars, with knives and, we believe, also with firearms.

Two of our soldiers suffered gunshot wounds, and our soldiers are trained to protect themselves. They had sidearms. They used those sidearms only to save their own lives. That was necessary.

WALLACE: But if it was such a case of extreme self-defense, how does a young man get shot four times in the head and one time in the chest at close range?

OREN: First of all, we only have the Turkish sources to rely on this, and Turkey has not been an impartial party in this entire episode.

But having said that, when a soldier is faced with a life- threatening situation, he takes the means necessary to save his life.

WALLACE: Secretary of State Clinton made a tough statement the day after the raid and the killings took place. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel's legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians' legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Hasn't this incident complicated U.S.-Israeli relations, which were already tense?

OREN: Well, our relationship with the Obama administration throughout this episode has been very close and very cooperative and very open. We are discussing ways in which we can address this very complex Gaza situation.

But the administration understands that Hamas armed with thousands of rockets not only threatens 7.5 million Israelis but it's the end of the peace process, Chris.

You understand that the Palestinian Authority will collapse and this administration, as much as it is committed to Israel security, is also committed to seeing an historic peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

WALLACE: But on the other hand — you say it's been close and cooperative — the State Department continues to say that before this incident took place that they urged caution on Israel, and you deny that.

OREN: Well, we did not receive messages of that nature, but we received messages on ways to induce the Turks to try to dissuade this ship from trying to...

WALLACE: But let me — let me...

OREN: ... break the blockade.

WALLACE: ... let me put up — if I may, let's put up on the screen — P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, said this. This is after you had denied any advance warning. "We expressed to the Israelis the need for caution and restraint in dealing with civilians, including American citizens."

OREN: Well, I'll say again that particular message did not come to us, but other messages did. And again, we were in very close cooperation and communication with the Obama administration.

And I'll say personally throughout this entire episode, days of work with the administration, I never heard one word of criticism, not one rancorous comment at all.

WALLACE: Two final aspects of this, and we've only got a couple of minutes left to discuss them. One, Iran. Even some of your friends are saying this has served to take the focus off Iran. The U.S. is trying to get tough new sanctions against Iran through the U.N. Instead, everybody's talking about Israel.

And also, Turkey — it's been one of your few allies — Israel's few allies in the Middle East. You've been very tough on them. You've said that they're turning away from the west, that there's growing anti-Semitism there. They're demanding a public apology.

OREN: Well, let me first address the Iranian issue, because you raised that first. What the Iranian issue has to do with attempts to provide rockets and advanced military equipment to Hamas is beyond me.

We know that there's an energetic movement now in the U.N. to pass a fourth sanctions resolution by next week, and we're confident that that will happen.

As for Turkey, with sadness, Turkey was a longtime friend of the state of Israel, but Turkey's policies have changed. Our policies haven't changed. And it's Turkey that has embraced Iran and embraced Hamas. And we — with great sadness, we want to preserve our relationship with Turkey, but they have taken a different direction.

We will welcome any attempt to shore up our relationship with Turkey.

WALLACE: And very briefly, will Israel accede to Turkey's demand to apologize for your role in the incident?

OREN: Israel will not apologize for taking the (inaudible) necessary to defend its citizens and will not apologize for measures that were necessarily taken to defend the lives of our soldiers.

WALLACE: Ambassador Oren, we want to thank you so much for coming in today and answering all our questions. Please come back, sir.

OREN: Thank you.

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