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Special Report

Should Israel give US advance warning of an attack on Iran?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 28, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are committed, as Israel is, to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And we had pursuit of this policy that we believe there's time and space at this point to allow -- to have an effect. Our cooperation and with the Israeli government is full and engaged at every level.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: A nuclear Iran is a strategic threat to Israel, but not only to Israel, but to the entire world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a delegation arrive in Washington this weekend, a high stakes meeting. This as there's a new report suggesting that Israeli officials have privately told the Obama administration that they will not tell America if Israel decides to act unilaterally and attack Iran. We're back with the panel. What about this, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I believe those reports. I was told something similar by a U.S. official yesterday, that it's inconceivable at this point that we would be given that kind of a warning weeks in advance, like weeks in advance, months in advantages, maybe a tip-off just before it happened.

Look, what Jay Carney said there is only half true. It is the case that our intel to intel relationship with Israel is strong, that our military to military relationship with Israel is strong. The relationship between the elected leaders of these two countries is in shambles. Netanyahu is furious at what he has heard from the Obama administration separating the United States and Israel on this question, and I think he thinks it increases the likelihood that they will have to do something and do something alone.

BAIER: Juan, there's been a stream of U.S. officials heading over to Israel, one after another, appearing to try to calm the situation, and this is ahead of the visit by the Israelis to Washington.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Netanyahu's coming here, and I think that you have an opportunity, and I think we should all be grateful for it, direct face-to- face conversations between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. And the reason is simple. I think the United States has been trying to convey to the Israelis that at the moment they're looking for signs that the Iranians are actually engaged in trying to build nuclear weapons. They don't want them to do something on a preemptive basis that would then open the Arab world to recriminations that Israel had acted too quickly.

Now, of course, Israel has every right to say we feel threatened. And that's what you're hearing and that's why I think the meeting this weekend will [INAUDIBLE] be about how expressly has the United States said to Iran here are the consequences that the United States is willing to get involved, certainly willing to back Israel in case Israel launches that attack.

BAIER: It is interesting, Rich, to hear all of this back and forth about a possible attack by Israel and how far or how close they may be to actually doing it.

RICK LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yeah, well, there are a couple of things going on here. One, it makes sense that they wouldn't tell us, because they know at the end of the day we want deniability if they are going to do this. Two, there's just a divergence in interests and capabilities here. For the Israelis this is an existential threat. For us it's not, at least not yet. For the Israelis, they've got to do it soon if they're going to delay this program at all, because soon it will be beyond their capability presumably. We have time to play with, but the Israelis don't want to wait and trust us to do it in 13 or 14.

And I think the way the U.S. intelligence agencies are considering this problem is ridiculous where they're saying that the Iranians haven't yet made a decision to pursue a bomb when they're doing every single thing that you would do in advance of pursuing a bomb. It's like looking at someone going into their garage with all the parts for a car and the blueprint for a car, but saying we're not going to say you've decide today build a car until you put the carburetor in it.

WILLIAMS: But haven't we heard that before? And we just came out of a war where we heard, oh, certainly, that they have weapons of mass destruction.

LOWRY: I think what we're going to do is make the opposite mistake. Usually we've underestimated how far people are in their nuclear and weapons of mass destruction programs. In Iraq we happened to make the opposite mistake. I fear we're over-adjusting the other way.

BAIER: Steve, we've talked many times about the difficulty of the mission because a lot of Iran's areas, nuclear facilities are underground.

HAYES: Right.

BAIER: In mountains. Would Israel be able to pull off something that could even delay Iran's nuclear program without U.S. help?

HAYES: Well, I think the short answer is yes. But this goes to Rich's point. This is a question about capabilities, and there's no question if the United States were acting with Israel that we would expand their capabilities and expand our capabilities.

And I think the concern amongst some in the U.S. intelligence community is that the Obama administration is making distinctions that nobody else in the world anywhere will make if this happens. It's not as if the Israelis attack people in that region, the Iranians will think, well the United States nothing to do with it. The assumption will be that we were with them despite the fact that the Obama administration a separating us now.

BAIER: Thirty seconds down the line, yes or no before the election?

HAYES: I would say virtual certainly.

WILLIAMS: The defense secretary has said it's likely.

LOWRY: I'd say it's about a 70 percent chance.

BAIER: That is -- it could change the entire dynamic world picture if that happens.

WILLIAMS: Well yeah. And given what's going on in Syria, it could change it in a very dramatic World War III type way.

BAIER: All right, panel, thank you very much. That's it for the panel but stay tuned for a preview of tonight's primary coverage. Keep it here on Fox.

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