Mayor of Jerusalem: US needs change in Middle East policy

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 28, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This administration has been Israel's greatest friend and supporter with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel's security and protecting its legitimacy.

On this point, I want to be very clear. No American administration has done more for Israel's security than Barack Obama's.


TRISH REGAN, GUEST HOST: Secretary of State John Kerry striking a defiant tone in the wake of President Obama's refusal to veto the U.N.'s anti- Israel vote.

Kerry claiming no administration has done more for Israel than President Obama's.

What does the mayor of Jerusalem think of that one?

Mayor Nir Barkat joins me right now with his reaction.

Mr. Mayor, good to see you.

So, what say you? John Kerry says he's been quite a friend, a good friend, and that they have done more for Israel than any other administration. Is he right?

NIR BARKAT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: On the security side, I think Israel and the United States are cooperating.

And we certainly would like to thank the administration for the help on the security side. The challenge, though, is on policy in the Middle East.  And, unfortunately, in the last eight years -- and I have heard nothing new from John Kerry tonight -- the failed policy is, how do you work in the Middle East?

It failed in Syria, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Libya. We have promoted Iran, which is now the biggest threat in the Middle East, is better off. And as a consequence of the wrong policy in the Middle East, today, it looks like Jerusalem, and Israel and the United States are not aligned on policy.  That's the problem, not on the security side.

REGAN: Well, and yet he blames you. He says the reason Israel has all of the problems it has is because of Israel itself and actions that they have taken. How do you respond to that?

BARKAT: Well, listen a second.

You have got all the Middle Eastern in flames, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, victims, all over, around the state of Israel. We're an island of sanity. We're very open. The state of Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and we're to blame for everything?

I think that one should open its eyes and understand that maybe it's the policy that is wrong. And Israel has been saying all along you got to align interests and fight radical Islam, fight Iran that is the biggest threat now that has more capital in funding all the terrorists that are not only hurting Israel, they're hurting all the moderate Arab states.

They're fighting Christians in Europe. Think a second. Maybe the policy is wrong.

REGAN: Look, it's not easy being there and then being in the position that Israel finds itself in. And I imagine it's been made increasingly difficult by not getting perhaps the support that you have needed from Washington, especially in the way of some of this rhetoric.

And I will share with you, John Kerry, in addition to blame Israel for the problems it now has, it also -- he's also saying that basically, look, we need to tell Israel that because Israel's our friend and sometimes you got to tell friends the tough truths, even though they may not want to hear it.

So he says he's telling you the truth. And you guys say, no, look, this is -- this is a serious problem that is going to carry some serious implications going forward, given that the U.N. Security Council just did this?

BARKAT: I think that America and Israel are great friends.

And I think they may mean well. They're just wrong. The policy is wrong.  It failed all over the Middle East. We have shown and demonstrated we know how to strike deals and peace with the biggest threat we ever had, which is Egypt. We have done that with King Hussein in Jordan.

There's nobody on the other side on the Palestinian side that is recognizing the Jewish state, nobody that is willing to denounce terror, nobody with leadership that can stand and negotiate and want to negotiate.  And we're to blame for that?

I think the U.S. of A., and I believe the new president-elect Trump, which probably has a very different strategy and policy in the Middle East, I hope and believe the strategies will be more aligned.

REGAN: So Donald Trump tweeting today, Israel, rest assured, January 20 effectively is coming very soon.

How are you thinking about January 20, and how are you thinking about your relationship with the incoming administration? Will things in your view be very, very different?

BARKAT: Well, I believe so, because ideologically, we're more aligned.  When I have heard president-elect Trump's ideas and strategies of working together, fighting, alliance and the big alliance in the Middle East and globally against radical Islam, which they are the bad guy.

And in the Middle East, you have to be very aggressive and bad with the bad guys. Otherwise, they laugh at you. And, as a consequence of that, you are sometimes not as good as you want with the good guys. So the ideology is right. Now what we need to do is align interests and work very, very hard to make the world a safer place against radical Islam.

REGAN: Well, Benjamin Netanyahu coming out today and really blasting John Kerry and this administration for what was said earlier today.

And also there was an Israeli Cabinet member who said that John Kerry and what he said was just pathetic. Has it reached that point now as we enter the final weeks of the Obama administration, where you in Israel can say their policy and their actions really are pathetic?

BARKAT: I think they're wrong.

I don't think anybody means bad. And we have demonstrated the fact that Israel and the United States are aligned on the security side shows that we're aligned in our values and our will to make a better world.

However, it's just a failed, bad policy. You need to change policy, and things will probably be much, much better than they were before.

REGAN: All right. Well, we will be watching for that.

I do want to point out, everyone, that we called the U.S. State Department and asked them to comment on this, and we did not hear back.

So, thank you very much, Mr. Mayor, for joining us. We appreciate you being here today.

BARKAT: My pleasure.

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