'All-Star' Panel on Israeli Raid of Gaza Flotilla; BP Oil Spill and Obama Administration

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from May 31, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DANIEL CAMERON, ISRAELI DEPUTY U.N. AMBASSADOR: What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs, fire from weapons stolen from soldiers, and other weapons to attack soldiers who board the ship in accordance with international law?

ALEJANDRO WOLFF, U.S. DEPUTY U.N. AMBASSADOR: The United States is deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regrets the tragic loss of life and injury suffered among those involved in the incident last night aboard the Gaza- bound ships.

AHMET DAVUTOGLLI, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER: No state is above the law. Israel must be prepared to face the consequences and be held responsible for its crimes.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Part of the emergency U.N. Security Council meeting about the Israeli commando raid that happened on six ships trying to break the blockade around Gaza. The Turkish vessels, the Israeli navy seals went onto these ships. We have video of some of that provided by the Israeli Defense Force.

As they went on, you can see the movement here, they were caught off guard and overwhelmed. Some of the demonstrators on board according to the Israelis attacked them with steel bars and knives. There's video of this.

The navy commander then gave an order to open fire after several of the Israeli seals reported their handguns were taken from them and were being fired by the activists. Nine demonstrators in all of this were killed and four Israeli seals wounded by the gunfire and stab wounds.

What about all of this, the international reaction? Let's bring in the panel, Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

I should say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to postpone his trip to Washington. He has gone back to Israel to deal with this situation and not meet with President Obama tomorrow. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The fundamental deception here is the use of the word "humanitarian." As we saw, humanitarians don't realign the clubs, and they would have killed the Israelis had the Israelis not drawn their pistols in self defense.

But there is a larger issue here. What exactly is the humanitarian crisis that the flotilla was actually addressing? There is none. No one is starving in Gaza. The Gazans have been supplied with food and social services by the U.N. for 60 years in part with American tax money.

Second, when there are humanitarian needs, the Israelis allow every day food and medicine overland into Gaza. The reason that it did not want to allow this flotilla is because, as the spokesman for the flotilla said herself, this was not about humanitarian relief. It was about breaking the blockade.

And the reason the Israelis have a blockade is because they only want to allow humanitarian supplies and not weaponry. The proof of that is the fact that if you look at a map of Gaza, you'll see that Israeli's only control three sides of this rectangle. There is a fourth side on the Egyptian side. So it is an Egyptian-Israeli blockade.

The Egyptians have the same problem with Gaza. People accuse the Israeli of having a blockade because they're racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab. The Egyptians are Muslim and Arab and that have gone to war three times on behalf of the Palestinians. So why do they have the same blockade? Because Gaza is run by Hamas, a terror entity that wants to import weaponry and resume the war against Israel.

The man who made the announcement we saw earlier explaining the commando raid is the defense minister of Israel. He is not right winger. He is not Likud. He is Ehud Barak, the leader of Labor, the party of Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meier, the party of the left, and the man who ten years ago this summer offered the Palestinians a peace agreement that would have had a Palestinian state, division of Jerusalem, and an end of the conflict.

The Palestinians said no. Gaza two years ago declared war on Israel. That's why you have a blockade. And the flotilla was not about humanitarian needs. It was about smashing the blockade.

BAIER: A.B., the U.S. representative in that emergency meeting said that the United States is deeply disturbed and wants transparency. What about the administration's response to this and where this goes from here?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I thought it was interesting the American ambassador also condemned Hamas for interfering with shipments into Gaza, again, trying to sort of be cautious, saying we need more facts here, condemning the violence but also trying to stay on both sides.

The question now is what is happening with the U.S.-Israeli standoff, the very tense relations. The prime minister was not able to have this very important meeting, face-to-face meeting with President Obama tomorrow. He is returning back to Israel, although Obama now has this meeting scheduled with President Abbas to discuss among other things next week a Palestinian state.

Where does this leave U.S.-Israeli relations which, are in deep trouble right now? I think that becomes the central question. How will the Obama administration respond to this in the hours and days to come? Will they actually at any point show solidarity with Israel, which is claiming that it was acting in self-defense? Or will it continue to put more distance between the two countries and complicate the strained relations further?

BAIER: Bill, the rhetoric is obviously going through the roof here. Turkish foreign minister said it's a murder conducted by a state, and Palestinians say it's a war crime. You could see how it could escalate dramatically by this incident.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You could. I was struck by the U.N. Security Council meeting just now that ended without the adoption of a resolution. It strikes me that perhaps the U.S. is refusing to endorse a one-sided resolution.

Perhaps everyone has said you know what, this was a mischievous, to say the least, malicious effort to tempt the Israelis and lure them into a trap where something bad would happen. And that's happened.

I think grownups in Europe, however much they want to posture as anti-being Israel, know nothing is to be accomplished here by passing a resolution or letting the rhetoric to get out of hand. So I rather suspect after a day or two this dies down in the chancelleries and foreign ministries of serious countries.

Hamas runs Gaza. That's the problem. And Iran has been trying to consistently supply Hamas with arms. Israel got out of Gaza. Israel would love to have nothing to do with Gaza ever again. They'd love to build a 30-foot war around the borders it has with Gaza and pays no attention to the place ever. Let the Egyptians worry about it and let those Arab states who care so much, allegedly, about these refugees, worry about it.

But the trouble is from Gaza they launch rockets into Israel, so Israel has to care what goes into Gaza and they can't leave the seacoast open. So I actually think this might die down. The one place with serious implications is Turkey. Historically a friend, or at least a country that has had good relations with Israel, a NATO ally of ours, that permitted this ship to leave from Turkey. European countries would not permit this flotilla to leave. They knew it was a troublemaking effort.

As Charles said, they can get plenty of humanitarian aid in Gaza. If they want more aid, airlift in five million tons of nice goods and the Israelis will just take a look and make sure they're not arms and let it go through the checkpoint. This checkpoint is open, stuff goes through it every day. Turkey is the question to me. Does it mean a real continuation of a turn against Israel by the Turkish government?

BAIER: Quickly, Charles, the prime minister has put off his trip here. There wasn't a lot of optimism about the peace process as it stood now, but does this change the equation?

KRAUTHAMMER: In the absence of the incident, you would have had meeting tomorrow between the prime minister of Israel and president of the United States. It would have been a make-up, a nice photo-op. The administration is intent on warming relations after it was in a deep freeze, probably in part because of upcoming elections, and that now is off.

But I am somewhat encouraged by the fact that the U.S. has not joined the lynch mob at the U.N. attacking Israel and has thus far held off. I hope it will exercise the veto if it has to, because Israel clearly is a victim here.

If these people wanted humanitarian aid, Israel offered to take the ships into Haifa, peacefully, unload all the stuff inside and allow all the humanitarian aid immediately into Gaza, all the food and medicine. It was refused because it was meant to be a provocation and to create an incident.

BAIER: Tell us what you think the U.S. should do in response to this incident. Vote in the online poll, out homepage at foxnews.com/specialreport.

We will talk about the gulf oil spill when we come back.



CAROL BROWNER, OBAMA ENERGY/CLIMATE CHANGE ADVISER: It's important for people to understand that from the beginning the government has been in charge. We have been directing BP to take important steps. They manage the robots and they put in place all the equipment that has to be staged on the ocean floor. But at the end of the day, the government tells BP what to do.

ROBERT DUDLEY, BP MANAGING DIRECTOR: There is no certainty, but we feel like the percentages are better that we will be able to contain the oil.

SEN. DAVID VITTER, R-LA.: Why aren't we knowing all these facts real-time? Why isn't BP and the federal government giving hourly reports and say everything they know, the unvarnished truth?


BAIER: Sound from the weekend, the message from the administration, we are in control. This is as oil continues to spill into the Gulf. We just got word that President Obama will meet with the bipartisan commission on the oil spill tomorrow at the White House and he will make remarks after that.

This as BP engineers who are trying to cut off the pipe going to the area. They install a cap to siphon off the oil and gas after they cut off the pipe. The White House says the amount of oil spewing from the well could increase by 20 percent or more until that cap is firmly in place.

So now what? We're back with the panel. A.B.?

STODDARD: I don't think we have ever known, by the way, all along how much oil is coming out. No one has given us a correct estimate. And I think if the flow increases once they cut the riser pipe by 10 to 20 percent, we also won't be told the real amount.

I also think that we won't know if relief wells are going to work ever. They're hoping that this ends by August. But I actually don't think that it's a proven fact, and the experts have said at this level, this far down with this sort of catastrophe taking place, we're not sure that relief wells will end this in August.

The administration came out in full force after President Obama's press conference Thursday to tell us that they are responsible. He is in charge. The buck stops with him. They've been preparing all along for the worst since day one and that they are directing BP. We actually know that for over almost 40 days BP was directing this effort and informing the federal government, while our president told us at that press conference they still have the best expertise.

I think the only thing we know the federal government has directed them to do is to end the top kill procedure because it was going on too long. It was clearly a failure. We'll know in the weeks to come if they are directing BP.

But thus far this has been a BP effort and our government has told us they know best, including Admiral Mullen as this morning. And we'll see now that the government is in charge how they fare.

BAIER: What about the public relations impact here, Bill, for this administration when Carol Browner says we have been in charge from the beginning? There's has been a lot of bad things going on from the beginning.

KRISTOL: It strikes me from looking from afar is one thing they have done is stop Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who seems to me to have wanted to take charge and do something. They stopped him from doing something he wanted to do, build thick sand barriers and they had a permit application, before it began — early, in May.

The Army Corps of Engineers sat on it and discussions from the committees and all of this. He is the guy who to step back and look at it, he looks like the chief executive here. Who knows about the scientific things? Here is something that seems to work. Let's try it.

The federal government looks like a bunch of committees and bureaucrats and a lot of passing the buck and different people showing up on TV every six or seven hours. President Obama was a legislator and a law professor and it does not strike me that is behaving like a chief executive here, and I think Governor Jindal looks like someone who's trying to get his hands around it.

BAIER: We're told Admiral Thad Allen is going to do daily briefings now to update. That was Senator Vitter's charge that we're not getting information. But even that raises questions, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: That is a partially good step, because he's a good spokesman. He is credible and he speaks in the right jargon. He was compared in one of the publications to General Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War. The problem is Schwarzkopf was reporting on a winning war and Allen will be reporting on a losing war.

It's very odd the administration made a really sharp turn with the president's presser last week because it looks as if they decided as of today we crossed the Rubicon and we are going to be in control. We're going to own the crisis.

The problem is you own it, there is no solution in sight. Perhaps they thought at the time they had a chance of succeeding with top kill. But once that didn't happen, it's — you heard the spokesman over the weekend implying that they are preparing for the worst, meaning they don't have a lot of faith in the interim steps.

It looks as if it will be at least until August. It will be catastrophe between now and August. Why you would want to own something about which you are largely helpless is puzzling to me.

BAIER: Last word, A.B.

STODDARD: I just find it so painful to watch the president who has expanded government, who believes in an active government and an efficient and effective government and has promoted this as his philosophy all along standing up and really having to say we're kind of powerless, the government. We're not able to control this. I can't tap a well. And BP does sort of know best.

They're trying to take control but still ceding that they don't know how to fix it.

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