All-Star Panel: Obama snubbing Netanyahu?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: ...the world tells us wait, there is still time. And I say wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.


BAIER: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, a pointed comment many believe was directly aimed at the U.S. for failing to detail the red line, if you will, when Iran, when they will act, the U.S. will act to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

This as the Israeli prime minister requested, according to Israeli officials, a meeting with President Obama either in New York or in Washington. According to the Israelis it was turned down. The White House through the White House National Security Council spokesman said this, quote, "They are simply not in the city at the same time, but the president and prime minister are in frequent contact, and the prime minister will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary Clinton during his visit."

Now, later a senior official said that they're not ruling out a possible meeting in Washington, but the president will likely be campaigning, possibly in a battleground state like Ohio. Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at large editor of National Review online, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, they are claiming that they can't meet because they are not going to be in New York at the same time.  That's ridiculous. It isn't as if Washington isn't accessible. Have they not heard of the Acela or that President Obama be out there campaigning -- who sets his campaign schedule? If he wanted the meet with Netanyahu he would.

Obviously this a snub wrapped inside of a joke. That is the weakest excuse you can imagine. But for the Israelis this is a strategic issue, it's a life and death issue. They look around and they see the IAEA report from two weeks ago which said that the Iranian nuclear program far from being stopped by sanctions is actually accelerating. The number of spinning -- the production of uranium is doubling now inside the facility in Fardo outside of the city of Qom in a place that is almost impregnable. They look around and they see that the negotiations which were supposed to be last ditch negotiations that we saw in Istanbul and Baghdad and Moscow have gone absolutely nowhere. The Iranians haven't even offered anything, they're just snubbing the world and the world is doing nothing

And lastly what they've seen, which I think was the precipitating event, is that the secretary of state and the State Department has said they have no interest in red lines. Now as some strategist like Anthony Cordesman and others in the U.S. have argued, if there is seriousness to our declaration that we're not going to let Iran become nuclear, we have to establish a red line. The negotiations are going nowhere, everyone knows it. The program is accelerating in Iran. And unless we establish a red line -- a deadline -- that's a signal to the Iranians they can do anything they want, there will be no response from the U.S.  That's why the Israelis are panicked.

BAIER: But is there a difference, Charles, between redline and a deadline, in other words, not a date, but an action by which you cross and then the U.S. attacks?

KRAUTHAMMER: It could be one or the other. It could be a date. If you are not going to offer anything in negotiations, which they haven't, we're going to have to act. Or you say if your enrichment reaches a certain capacity, which they are rapidly achieving. But if you don't establish any line, any -- what it is we are trying to prevent and when, then you are telling the Iranians and the world we're not serious.

And for the Israelis, the Israelis are saying either have a red line, then we'll trust you, or at least allow us to defend ourselves. But don't do no red lines and give us a red light, because in that case Israel is entirely helpless.

BAIER: Juan, what about the diplomatic implications of saying you're not going to meet with the Israeli prime minister who requests a meeting?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: There is no diplomatic consequence in this area. I mean the reality is there are telephones, and telegraphs, and e-mail and everything else. And also, that he has the opportunity to meet with Secretary Clinton, with other officials.

I think in large part, you know, this is a situation where the Republicans and Mitt Romney see this as political gold, especially if you are talking to Jewish voters in this country that they are trying to win away from President Obama.

BAIER: They haven't said anything today. That's not to say they're gonna say something tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: Exactly.

BAIER: It's 9/11.

WILLIAMS: It seems to me the reality of the situation gets lost here.  The reality is that the United States under President Obama not only has, is at record levels in terms of funding for Israel and the Israeli military but has been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself and has been all about saying that we do not want Iran to have nuclear capability. And in fact, military exercises are being conducted in that region in the waters off of Iran even now to make it very clear that they should not think that the United States has any reluctance to being involved in a military response.

Mitt Romney went to Israel. He managed to insult the Palestinians. He managed to say that, you know, Jerusalem should be the capital. At some point you have to say well, wait a second --

BAIER: Well, wait a second, Juan. The Democrats put back into their convention platform just six days ago that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel.

WILLIAMS: Nobody thinks -- look, every administration, Republican or Democrat that's come in has said that is just window dressing --

BAIER: OK. We're getting –


BAIER: Back to your point...

WILLIAMS: -- but the point here is that there is very little difference between Romney, Obama, or any other American president in terms of seeking to establish peace in American national interest.

BAIER: Jonah, before I get you, I want to point to this, the increase in tensions. The House Intelligence Committee chairman describing what he saw in a meeting behind closed doors between the U.S. ambassador and the Israeli prime minister and also a member of the Knesset now.


REP. MIKE ROGERS, R - MICHIGAN: Right now, the Israelis don't believe that this administration is serious when they say all options are on the table. And more importantly neither do the Iranians. That's why the program progressing.

DANNY DANON, KNESSET MEMBER: I think President Obama knows that Prime Minister Netanyahu will ask him what are you going to do regarding Iran? How long do you want to us wait? And maybe he wants to avoid that meeting.


BAIER: OK, Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yeah. Just for the record, so far, in reading up on this all day, or all afternoon at least, the only person I have seen who has explicitly politicized this and talked about how this is gold for the Republicans is you. I haven't seen anyone else do it. I think that's right and maybe tomorrow that will change.

But at the same time, part of the problem stems from the simple fact that the Israelis have a vested interest in keeping Iran from having the capability to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama seems more concerned about preventing them from actually having a nuclear bomb. And those are -- there is an important distinction between the two.

I think that also Bibi Netanyahu is stuck in this box where he, if he is told by the administration in Washington we will not approve you attacking, if he goes alone and he attacks Iran, they know that Iran will then attack American interests, American citizens, and it could be -- very well, rip asunder the relationship between Israel and America. And that's why I think Bibi is so incredibly frustrated is that he knows he can't go alone. You can say that they have a right to defend themselves, but if they don't have American sanction to it, and he goes alone it could really sour his relationship with the United States of America. And the only way Bibi could actually make that call is if they really thought there was going to be sort of a Holocaust situation and I don't think they are there yet.

BAIER: We're going continue this discussion and also, talk about Cairo, what is happening there throughout the Middle East. We'll be back after the short break.

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