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Window of Opportunity for Mideast Peace

Aired September 1, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf and good evening, everyone.

We begin with breaking news and dramatic breaking news it is. The president of the United States and four leaders from the Middle East just moments away from delivering statements in advance of a working dinner at the White House. Their goal, to get the Israelis and the Palestinians back into direct peace negotiations.

Let's show you a live picture of the East Room over at the White House. The delegations have gathered. The news media has gathered. We are waiting for the president of the United States, the president of Egypt, the King of Jordan and, very importantly, the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority to come out and make their statements.

These leaders will speak; take no questions, we are told, before they head off into a working dinner. That dinner designed to set up the main event tomorrow, the first direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians in two years. And it has truly been longer than that since they engaged in true deal making designed to create a two-state solution toward peace.

We'll get you to the president in just a moment. As you see the delegations in the White House, let's try to set the table with the panel we have gathered to help us through this tonight. Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of our "SITUATION ROOM", a veteran correspondent when it comes to this story.

Michael Gerson worked alongside George W. Bush and the Bush White House, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, veteran diplomatic correspondent Robin Wright, and from Boston, our senior analyst David Gergen. Wolf, to you first, we went through this together in the Clinton administration, the U.S. president who got the closest to getting these two parties to put ink to paper and create a deal, this president now joining a long list of previous U.S. presidents in trying to get two leaders who are frankly weak at the moment to sit down and do tough business.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And I've had discussion, as I know you have -- had with President Clinton himself and he looks back on what was missing in that opportunity in 2000, right at the tail end of his administration, when Arafat and Ehud Barak, the then Israeli Prime Minister, were very close to a deal, and one of the problems was Arafat didn't have the support he thought he needed from Saudi Arabia, from some of the other Arab countries like Egypt and Syria. And this time this president, President Obama and the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, they are deliberately bringing in some other outside support to back up President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, to make sure he doesn't feel isolated in making the kinds of tough decisions they're going to have to make.

KING: And the White House has just given the two-minute warning which means you will see the four leaders come out and walk down the red carpet from a holding room into the East Room where they'll make those statements. As you see, the shot right there. If you've watched major presidential news conferences, you're familiar with the choreography you're about to see.

Robin Wright, you've covered this issue for many years, including a longtime detail dispatch to the Middle East. What is the most significant thing you need to hear tonight to give you some confidence that they're serious about doing business?

ROBIN WRIGHT, SR. FELLOW, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Well I think they need to talk about the time frame and making sure that there's momentum here that it doesn't, as all the past previous peace efforts, disintegrate in the slow erosion when they have their first disagreement and then it bogs down and there's some incident on the ground where events take over diplomacy. And there has to be a commitment to meet a time line. They've missed every time line that has been set so far. And so it's an issue of getting there, committing, and making sure that they're going to stick to it.

KING: You see in the room right now, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. He is the quartet representative to this, other nations that have helped the United States and he will be in this dinner tonight at the White House, a very small dinner. Initially we are told the leaders wanted to bring delegations with them but the president of the United States, our Ed Henry reporting, insisted on a small more intimate dinner.

So you will have a much smaller gathering so the leaders can do direct business and negotiating with them. Michael Gerson, forgive me if I interrupt you when we see the leaders come down, but this president has decided to put his personal stamp on this, to get involved and say he is committed to not only putting them in the room, but to challenge any president faces, whether today or a month or three months down the road, is twisting arms and knocking heads, it's a risk his predecessors have taken only to see frustration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I agree with that. And it's always a risk. It's a risk of prestige for the president. But it can also be a risk on the ground. After the failure of the Camp David accords there were significant problems on the ground, increased violence and other things. And so you know it's something every president does for 30 years and, you know, it's something they need to try.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: But you know when you don't wade in to the Middle East, you get criticized for not wading into it, as President Bush was criticized. When you wade into it, you get criticized because you don't accomplish anything. So you don't have any good choices here and I think they see an opportunity, after the milestone in Iraq yesterday, as the president said, to turn the page and move on to other issues.

KING: Let me quickly try to bring in our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, into the conversation. And Ed, again forgive me if I have to interrupt when the leaders walk in, but you were talking earlier -- CNN has obtained a copy of what Prime Minister Netanyahu will say tonight and many watching in the Arab tonight and this event is being watched around the world, will say this man doesn't want peace, but if you look at what he will say tonight, he will address those skeptics head on.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He will, John, absolutely. He basically says I did not come here to win an argument. I came here to forge peace. He will directly address his Palestinian counterpart saying President Abbas, we cannot erase the past, but it is within our power to change the future.

Interesting from my notebook, I've talked to a couple of senior diplomats close to these talks and one of them me bluntly Netanyahu is not stupid, he knows his legacy is on the line here. And a second diplomat told me he may be ready to do a deal here. So we'll see whether he follows through, but the language we're going to see in his remarks suggest that Benjamin Netanyahu knows his reputation for being a hard-liner and he wants to show he's very serious about sitting down here and trying to move this forward. We'll see, John.

KING: Ed, back to you in a moment. You see the choreography here, the president of the United States in the middle. The prime minister of Israel, the King of Jordan, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel, as those leaders take their seats the president of the United States.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening, everyone. Tomorrow, after nearly two years, Israelis and Palestinians will resume direct talks in pursuit of a goal that we all share, two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Tonight, I am pleased to welcome to the White House key partners in this effort, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the representative of our quartet partners, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Your Majesty King Abdullah, and President Mubarak.

We are but five men. Our dinner this evening will be a small gathering around a single table. Yet when we come together, we will not be alone. We'll be joined by the generations, those who have gone before and those who will follow. Each of you are the heirs of peacemakers who dared greatly, Begin and Sadat, Rabin and King Hussein. Statesmen who saw the world as it was, but also imagined the world as it should be.

It is the shoulders of our predecessors upon which we stand. It is their work that we carry on. Now, like each of them, we must ask, do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace? Now, all of us are leaders of our people who, no matter the language they speak or the faith they practice, all basically seek the same things. To live in security, free from fear, to live in dignity, free from want, to provide for their families, and to realize a better tomorrow. Tonight, they look to us and each of us must decide will we work diligently to fulfill their aspirations? And though each of us holds a title of honor, president, prime minister, king, we are bound by the one title we share. We are fathers blessed with sons and daughters, so we must ask ourselves, what kind of world do we want to bequeath to our children and our grandchildren.

Tonight, and in the days and months ahead, these are the questions that we must answer. And this is a fitting moment to do so. For Muslims, this is Ramadan. For Jews, this is Elu (ph). It is rare for those two months to coincide. But this year, tonight, they do, different faiths, different rituals but a shared period of devotion and contemplation, a time to reflect on right and wrong, a time to ponder one's place in the world, a time when the people of two great religions remind the world of a truth that is both simple and profound.

That each of us, all of us, in our hearts and our lives, are capable of great and lasting change. In this spirit, I welcome my partners and I invite each to say a few words before we begin our meal, beginning with President Mubarak, on to his Majesty King Abdullah, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Abbas -- President Mubarak.

KING: The president of the United States just finishing his remarks there as President Mubarak of Egypt begins his, we will continue to watch this live event, but I want to come back into the room to discuss with our panel the significance of what we just heard from the president of the United States, a very moving statement by the president there, talking about the hard realities of today, but also reminding all of us if you're watching it, this is truly a biblical tale.

These are frustrations and rivalries and enmities (ph) that indeed hatred and violence that go back through the generations, so consider the problems ahead. There are long-term issues that have always been the issues, final status, the borders of a Palestinian state and a Jewish state of Israel, right of return for Palestinian refugees. What about Jerusalem? The Israelis have said it is theirs. Can it be shared with the Palestinians and then in recent day, just last night a deadly shooting in the West Bank and of course in 25 days Prime Minister Netanyahu has to decide whether to extend the moratorium on settlements and Mr. Abbas has made clear, start building again, we walk out of these talks. How do you get over the short-term hurdles and into the longer-term issues?

WRIGHT: One of the most interesting things about this particular juncture is that the situation on the ground has never been more complicated. You have a conservative prime minister who faces his own even more conservative settlers. You have the Palestinians divided between Hamas and Fatah, the two rival parties controlling the West Bank and Gaza. But you also have when you look at that stage and all five of them, one common enemy, one thing they all fear, the one party that's not there, and that's Iran.

And it looms over the back. And they're all afraid that Iran's meddling, whether it's with helping Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon, that this is going to change the dynamics on the ground and this is -- they often talk about peace talks being the last ditch effort, the last time you can do it. But we actually are getting there. The situation on the ground, the balance of power in the whole Middle East, is beginning to change.

KING: And Robin makes an excellent point (INAUDIBLE) David Gergen, our senior analyst, is with us from Boston now. Robin makes an excellent point. I want to walk over to the "Magic Wall" to use the map to explain this right now. The big question is can these leaders make peace?

And I want to zoom in on the map for just a second to make a key point. Mr. Abbas is the Palestinian Authority president and he is in charge of his Fatah movement and political organization, is in charge here in the West Bank. But Hamas runs the Palestinian territories, a terrorist organization, in the view of the United States, that has said it wants to annihilate the state of Israel, runs things in the Gaza Strip.

So Wolf, to you first, and then to David, can Prime Minister Abbas -- there are a lot of questions to Prime Minister Netanyahu, but can Mr. Abbas negotiate peace, when he knows over here the Hamas movement then would, "A", view that as treason?

BLITZER: I think he can if he gets the support from other Arab leaders, the moderate Arab states. He's got the support from Jordan's King Abdullah who is here in Washington now. He has got the support from Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt. If he can get that kind of outright support from the Saudi leadership, from some of the Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait and Bahrain, for example, Morocco, in northern Africa, if he can get that kind of public support, I think he can make those kinds of tough decisions, if the Israelis make the tough decisions to make the kinds of concessions that the Palestinians need. It's a one-year deadline they've imposed. It's by no means a done deal.

KING: It's a very significant point Wolf just made and David, as I bring you into the conversation I want you first to listen to something the president said in the Rose Garden a bit earlier today. He came out to make a statement with his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his special envoy, the former Senator George Mitchell and the president seemed to be addressing the point Wolf just made, that the United States will take the lead, the United States is willing to put pressure on the parties. The United States is grateful that Egypt and Jordan are here to help, but the president seemed to be saying to Saudi Arabia, to Syria and to others in the region, you need to help too.


OBAMA: A lot of times I hear from those who insist that this is a top priority and yet do very little to actually support efforts that could bring about a Palestinian state. So only Israelis and Palestinians can make the difficult choices and build the consensus at home for progress. Only Israelis and Palestinians can prove to each other their readiness to end this conflict and make the compromises upon which lasting peace deserves. What the rest of us can do, including the United States, is to support those conversations, support those talks, support those efforts, not try to undermine them.


KING: David, we talked about the issues facing these leaders, but what about the region? As the Iraq war winds down, as people worry more and more about the intentions of Mr. Ahmadinejad in Iran, is the region ready to put pressure on these parties, to negotiate peace?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Some parts of the region are and I think Wolf made a good point, but let's go back to Robin's point about what unites all of these people is there is a fear and growing antagonism toward Iran. The flip side of that is that Iran has an interest in this -- in destabilizing this effort. And they have -- of course they are supporting Hamas and Hezbollah on both sides of Israel, two sides of Israel.

And therefore, Iran could really be a mischief maker in this. They could really perhaps bring this process to its knees. I mean, we saw just yesterday, of course, the Hamas shootings, in the West Bank of Israeli settlers. That's exactly the kind of radical efforts we've seen in the past that have derailed talks like this.

KING: And I want to remind our viewers, we're watching a live event at the White House. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is speaking at the moment, King Abdullah of Jordan to follow. Mr. Mubarak, as we mentioned, the generational challenge here, Mr. Mubarak has been in power for 29 years. He of course succeeded President Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated, in part, the people who assassinated him said, for making peace with Israel. Let's listen for just a moment to the president of Egypt.

PRES. HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPT: That I look forward to achieving those assertions of reality and his success in achieving the long- awaited peace, which I know the people of Israel yearn for just like all other people in the region. Reaching just peace with a Palestinians will require from Israel taking important and decisive decisions, decisions that are undoubtedly difficult, yet they will be necessary to achieve peace and stability in a different context than the one that prevailed before, settlement activities of the Palestinian to return our country to international law.

They will not create rights for Israel. Nor are they going to shift peace or security for Israel. It is, therefore, a priority to completely freeze all these activities until the entire negotiation process comes to a successful end --

KING: As we continue to watch developments unfold in the East Room of the White House, the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, speaking there. He just made a very key point of contention between the Arabs and the government of Israel, let alone between the Arabs in direct negotiations with the Palestinians, criticizing the Israeli settlements, which have expanded under Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has as Robin just noted, a coalition, perhaps even more conservative than he.

September 26th, the moratorium on building is due to expire. And Mr. Netanyahu, the question on the table is does he have the maneuverability, the political flexibility at home to go back and say, the president of the United States, the secretary of state said we must not do this right now. We must extend the moratorium. The settlers have said if he does that they will build anyway.

MICHAEL GERSON, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I do think that on Israel's side, there's very little pressure for an agreement that I can determine. There's no domestic pressure. Israel seems to feel like the settlement -- the situation in the West Bank is at least a stable security situation. And they're very focused on Israel, which I'm not sure is helping this effort. Their -- you know their view of the threat has very little to do with what's going on with the Palestinians right now. And I think that may be an obstacle.

BORGER: But don't forget Netanyahu's governing coalition is to his right. And so that doesn't bode well for any kind of a deal, as Michael was --

KING: And (INAUDIBLE) can go to China moment?

WRIGHT: Well, to some degree, but I think one of the things that we also -- when you look at the situation on the ground, something has changed from all the past peace -- moments of peace efforts, and that is for the first time, you have a Palestinian nascent state that has begun to take action against extremists, that has begun to try to clean up corruption in the kind of backstreet boy you know hoods that have ruled in the territories for so long.

And there is a sense among even Israelis that they can begin to trust the government that it is because attacks have lessened, because there is a sense that there is a state with which you can deal, the dynamics have changed. So that while there are different kinds of pressures, the reality is that there's an opportunity that Israelis are actually optimistic about --

BORGER: But then you have the Hamas attacks --

KING: Wolf, you know the prime minister of Israel quite well. You've covered him for quite some time. He does have all his immediate political problems, complications, in front of him, but is he -- he is a man who has a vision of himself and does he think legacy?

BLITZER: I think he does. He knows history. He's an historian to a certain degree. His father certainly is a historian, so he appreciates what's going on. Remember, this is someone who was educated here in the United States, in high school, went to MIT, so he knows the United States quite well. At the same time my own sense is given the nature of his coalition, he rules -- he's part of Likud, which is sort of a right of center bloc in the Israeli parliament.

But he does have the Labor Party. Ehud Barak is the defense minister, which is sort of left of center. He has got some other right-wing coalition partners. If he can bring in Kadima, which is this moderate sort of left-of-center, Tzipi Livni-led party, and get rid of some of those right wing factions in his coalition and have a coalition that rules that Israeli Knesset, the parliament, he might be in a better shape to go forward, but that's a little inside Israeli politics, Robin will appreciate that.


WRIGHT: And Ehud Barak who is --

KING: Prime minister during the Camp David negotiations --

WRIGHT: Exactly.

KING: -- in the Clinton administration.

WRIGHT: -- was the one who has been among the most optimistic about things actually moving --


BLITZER: And it's interesting that it was Ehud Barak who was willing not only to go basically back more or less to the '67 lines, give up East Jerusalem to a certain degree, let the Palestinians have a capital there, but Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, in the final days of the Bush administration, was prepared to do perhaps even more.


KING: Let's go back into the room for just a minute. King Abdullah of Jordan is speaking right now. I almost said King Hussein because King Abdullah is the son of the late King Hussein. His country has an enormous problem, poverty, Palestinian refugees. I believe Palestinians now outnumber Jordanians in Jordan. He very involved in this effort, very hopeful of being a partner and a broker, helping the United States. Let's listen to a bit, King Abdullah of Jordan.

KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: -- all countries of the Middle East with a regional peace that would lead to normal relations between Israel and 57 Arab and Muslim states that have endorsed the Arab peace initiative. That would be -- that would also be an essential step towards neutralizing forces of evil and war that threaten all peoples. Mr. President, we need your support as a mediator, honest broker and a partner as the parties move along the hard but inevitable path of settlements.

Your Excellencies, all eyes are upon us. The direct negotiations that will start tomorrow must show results and sooner rather than later. Time is not on our side. That is why we must spare no effort in addressing all final status issues with a view to reaching the two- state solution, the only solution that can create a future worthy of our great region, a future of peace in which fathers and mothers can raise their children without fear. Young people can look forward to lives of achievement and hope. And 300 million people can cooperate for mutual benefit. For too long, too many people of the region had been denied the most basic of human rights, the right to live in peace and security, respected in their human dignity, enjoying freedom and opportunity. If hopes are disappointed again, the price of failure will be too high for all. Our peoples want us to rise to their expectations. And we can do so if we approach these negotiations with good will, sincerity and courage. Thank you.


KING: Careful protocol arrangements here at the White House, now, a very important statement, both in tone and substance, from the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.



Peace unto us all. I am very pleased to be here today to begin our common effort to achieve a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I want to thank you, President Obama, for your tireless efforts to renew this quest for peace. I want to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Mitchell, the many members of the Obama administration and Tony Blair, who have all worked so hard to bring Israelis and Palestinians together here today.

I also want to thank President Mubarak and King Abdullah for their dedicated and meaningful support to promote peace, security and stability throughout our region. I deeply appreciate your presence here today. I began with a Hebrew word for peace, shalom, our goal is shalom. Our goal is to forge a secure and durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We don't seek a brief interlude between two wars.

We don't seek a temporary respite between outbursts of terror. We seek a peace that will end the conflict between us once and for all. We seek a peace that will last for generations, our generation, our children's generation and the next. This is the peace my people fervently want. This is the peace all our peoples fervently aspire to. This is the peace they deserve. Now, a lasting peace is a peace between peoples, between Israelis and Palestinians.

We must learn to live together, to live next to one another and with one another. But every peace begins with leaders. President Abbas, you are my partner in peace. And it is up to us, with the help of our friends, to conclude the agonizing conflict between our peoples and to afford them a new beginning. The Jewish people are not strangers in our ancestral homeland, the land of our forefathers, but we recognize that another people shares this land with us.

I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both our peoples to live in peace and security and in dignity. I've been making the case for Israel all of my life. But I didn't come here today to make an argument. I came here today to make peace. I didn't come here today to play a blame game where even the winners lose. Everybody loses if there's no peace. I came here to achieve a peace that will bring a lasting benefit to us all.

I didn't come here to find excuses or to make them. I came here to find solutions. I know the history of our conflict and the sacrifices that have been made. I know the grief that has afflicted so many families who lost their dearest loved ones. Only yesterday, four Israelis, including a pregnant women -- pregnant woman and another woman, a mother of six children, were brutally murdered by savage terrorists. And two hours ago, there was another terror attack. And thank God no one died.

I will not let the terrorists block our path to peace. But as these events underscore once again, that peace must be anchored in security. I'm prepared to walk down the path of peace because I know what peace would mean for our children and for our grandchildren. I know it would herald a new beginning that could unleash unprecedented opportunities for Israelis, for Palestinians and for the peoples, all the peoples, of our region and well beyond our region. I think it would affect the world.

I see what a period of calm has created in the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, of Jenin throughout the West Bank a great economic boom. And real peace can turn this boom into a permanent era of progress and hope. If we work together, we can take advantage of the great benefits afforded by our unique place under the sun where the crossroads of three continents and the crossroads of history and the crossroads of the future. Our geography, our history, our culture, our climate, the talents of our people, can be unleashed to create extraordinary opportunities in tourism, in trade, in industry, in energy, in water, and so many areas.

But peace must also be defended against its enemies. We want the skyline of the West Bank to be dominated by apartment towers not missiles. We want the roads of the West Bank to flow with commerce not terrorists. And this is not a theoretic (ph) request for our people. We left Lebanon and we got terror. We left Gaza and we got terror once again. We want to ensure the territory we'll concede will not be turned into a third Iranian-sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel and, may I add, also aimed at every one of us sitting on this stage. This is why a sensible peace requires security arrangements that can withstand test of time and the many challenges that are sure to confront us. And there will be many challenges. Both great and small.

Let us not get bogged down by every difference between us. Let us direct our courage, our thinking and our decisions at those historic decisions that lie ahead. Now, there are many skeptics. One thing there's no shortage of, Mr. President, are skeptics. This is something that you're so familiar with. That all of us in the position of leadership are familiar with. There are many skeptics. I suppose there are many reasons for skepticism. But I have no doubt that peace is possible. President Abbas, we cannot erase the past. But it is within our power to change the future. Thousands of years ago, on these very hills where Israelis and Palestinians live today, the Jewish prophet Isaiah and the other prophets of my people envisioned a future of lasting peace for all mankind. Let today be an auspicious step in our joint effort to realize that ancient vision for a better future.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): His Excellency, President Barack Obama, his Excellency, President Mubarak, his Excellency, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Mr. Tony Blair, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to start by thanking President Obama for his invitation to host us here today, to re-launch the permanent stated negotiations to reach a Palestinian/Israeli peace agreement covering all the permanent status issues within a year in accordance with international law and relevant resolutions. As we move towards the re-launch of these negotiations tomorrow, we recognize the difficulties, challenging and obstacles that lie ahead. Yet we assure you the name of the PLO that we will draw on years of experience in negotiations and benefit from the lessons learned and to make these negotiations successful.

We also reiterate our commitment to carry out our obligations and we call on Israelis to carry out their obligations including a freeze on all settlement activities, which is not a precondition but a goal to implement an agreed obligation. And to end all the closures and blockades, preventing freedom of movement, including the -- of siege. We will spare no effort and we'll work diligently and tirelessly to ensure that these negotiations achieve the goals and objectives of all the issues. Jerusalem, refugee, settlements, borders, security, water, as well as the release of all our prisoners in order to achieve peace. That our -- the people of our area are looking for. Peace that achieves freedom, independence and justice to the Palestinian people in their country in their homeland and people who have endured the long-standing suffering.

We want a peace that will correct an historic incident, 1914, to bring security to our people and the Israeli people. And we want peace that will give us both and the people of the region and -- peace, security, stability. Our determination stems to a great extent from your will power, Mr. President, and your firm and sweeping drive with which you engulf the entire world from the day you took office, to set the parties on the path for peace. This same spirit exhibited by Secretary Clinton, the Excellency and his majesty, indication of their effective commitment where Egypt and Jordan have been playing a supportive role for advancing the peace process. The effective role is further demonstrated by the Arab peace initiative, which was fully endorsed by all of it is the Arab states.

This initiative -- and the Islamic countries as well a just and comprehensive peace in our region, including the Lebanese/Israeli track and provided an opportunity to make peace. The presence here today of the envoy of the quartet, Mr. Tony Blair, is a most telling signal, especially since he has been personally involved in the Palestinian authority for many years and in the efforts for state building and policy. Excellencies, the time has come for us to make peace. And it is time to end the occupation that was started in 1967 and for the people to get free company and independence. It is time this independence be established with sovereignty side by side with the state of Israel. It is time to put an end to the struggle in the Middle East. The Palestinian people who assist on the rights, freedom and independence and must lead for justice, security and peace. Because they are the victim, those harmed the most from this violence.

And it is sending message to our neighbor, the Israelis, and to the world, that they are also careful about supporting the opportunities for the success of these negotiations and the just and lasting peace as soon as possible. With this spirit, we will work to make these negotiations succeed. With this spirit, we trust that we are capable to achieve our historic and difficult mission, making peace in the land of peace. Mr. Netanyahu, what happened yesterday, and what is happening today is also condemned. We do not want at all that any blood be shed one drop of blood on the part of the -- from the Israelis. We want people between the two -- in the two countries to lady a normal life. They want them to live as neighbors and partners forever. Let us sign an agreement, a final agreement for peace. And put an end to a very long period of struggle forever. And peace be upon you.

KING: A remarkable moment here at the white house. If you've been with us since the beginning of the show, nearly 40 minutes now, the president the United States, followed by the president of Egypt, the king of Jordan and the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian authority. The leaders will go to a private dinner. And then tomorrow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will get the parties to commence their first direct negotiations, the Israelis and the Palestinians. In more than two years. This president, trying to get the parties on a path to peace. Let's listen quickly to the president as he wraps up this meeting.

OBAMA: And President Abbas for their presence here. This is not easy. Both of them have constituencies with legitimate claims, legitimate concerns and a lot of history between them. For them to be here, to be willing to take this first step, the most difficult step, is a testament to their courage and their integrity and I think their vision for the future. And so I am hopeful, cautiously hopeful, but hopeful that we can achieve the goal that all four of these leaders articulate. Thank you very much, everybody.

KING: The president of the United States there, using the term "cautiously hopeful." Most of the statements we heard had a mix of optimism and sober assessment of the challenges ahead. Now, their private dinner. The direct negotiations are due to commence tomorrow. Secretary of state Clinton does plan to leave them alone after getting the meeting started to see if they can make progress towards a path to peace. We'll take a quick break. Please stay with us.


KING: Continuing our special coverage. The president of the United States and four Middle Eastern leaders. Leaving the east room of the white house after delivering some statements. That's an earlier shot of them coming into the room. Our senior white house correspondent Ed Henry at the white house. They're meeting for the dinner tonight, the talks tomorrow. What's the latest?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're getting new information about what may be next here and the role of President Mubarak of Egypt. You mentioned he was one of the speakers. We picked up from two officials to the talks that President Mubarak has essentially offered the Palestinians and Israelis to host a second round of talks if these go well when they start the actual direct talks tomorrow here at the state department in Washington. He is offering to hold a second round of talks in his country in the coming weeks. But a key catch here is that a spokesman for President Mubarak just told CNN's Emily Schultze that a key issue is this whole settlements question and that moratorium on new settlements that is coming up on September 26th. This Egyptian spokesman basically saying, look, if the Israelis do not extend that freeze on settlements, all bets are off, in the words of this spokesman for President Mubarak. You see the promise and the peril. President Mubarak said if this goes well, I'm ready as soon as next week to host the second round of talks in the region to keep this going. But at the same time, sending a warning shot that if Israeli don't extend that moratorium on settlements this could fall apart. That's way as you noted, a lot hope, but also tempered by the reality.

KING: Ed Henry, the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh has played host to many serious negotiations. Most of those negotiations, one step forward, two steps back. David Gergen, anything you heard tonight that leaves you more hopeful? Or anything you didn't hear tonight you thought you need to?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought Mr. Netanyahu made what sounded like a very genuine statement about his commitment to peace. And he did say I want to have it anchored in security. And that has a lot of questions surrounding it, of course. What impressed me, that he came ready to bargain. People say, well, it will be a Nixon moment going to China, will be very unusual but the fact is, historically, when we have seen big moves towards peace in the Midwest have also come from hard-liners. You thing begin, you think Sharon. So a little more hopeful. I want to say one last thing. What's the role of Barack Obama in these talks? King Abdullah raised that tonight. He said, we want you as a mediator. For a lot of Americans who listened to television last night, they thought they heard the president was going to pivot towards making jobs and the economy the central focus of his presidency. Here, within less than 24 hours, we have him making a commitment that has often in the past involved enormous engagement, personal engagement, on the part of presidents. That's going to be head-snapping for a lot of people. I think he needs to give Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell a lot of responsibility in the early going.

KING: David Gergen, thanks David. A quick final thought from here in the room starting with you Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I thought the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the right things. He directly dressed the incident on the West Bank the other day. He looked at the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and he said, we condemn these kind of terrorist activities. That's what Netanyahu wanted to hear. I think all in all what we heard from all of these leaders tonight, they got off to a pretty good start. I didn't hear anything that would undermine the chances for success.

MICHAEL GERSON, WASHINGTON POST: I thought the most impressive element of Netanyahu's speech was when he reached out to Abbas personally and said, you're my partner in peace. That warmth was not necessarily returned in his remarks but it was a nice moment. I thought the most difficult element of those remarks were when he said we left Gaza, we got terror. This is the -- one of the main problems, is that Israel has an immediate experience with giving up territory and what they got was Hamas in charge and missiles coming across the border. It's a huge obstacle in this moving forward.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I also think Netanyahu was also blunt in saying everyone sitting at this stage effectively has a mutual enemy and that's Iran. After he said we had terror, he said that we're not going to be -- we're not going to let this land be turned into a third Iranian-sponsored terror enclave. Put it right out there. Put it on the line. And said that's my bottom line, that cannot happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, when you look around the room, the fact is, Israel's greatest enemy is not the Egyptians or the Syrians or the Jordanians, it's Hezbollah, militia, and fought its longest war not with the conventional state or conventional army but an underground militia funded, armed and aided by Iran. The key question tomorrow is can you transfer process into substance. Can you get beyond these arguments about settlements and whether Abbas brings all the Palestinian power with him to the table because of the split politically. These are key questions. And if they can't get over it, then we're going to get back to what we've always seen before.

KING: Trust, do they trust each other, can they get over the hurdle? Rob and Gloria, Michael, Wolf and David Gergen, thank you for joining us. When we come back, a tea party-backed candidate pulled off a stunning upset. Joe Miller is now the GOP nominee. Is he out of the mainstream? One on one when we come back.


KING: Earlier today, I had a conversation with Joe Miller. He's the new Republican Senate nominee in the state of Alaska. A tea party favorite who just pulled off a stunning upset, defeating Lisa Murkowski. Because of tonight's breaking news, we can't give you all of that interview. But we want to focus on two comments the nominee made to us, Mr. Miller made to us. I'm joined by New York Times political correspondent Jeff Zeleny. And Gloria Borger remains with us. Miller says if he comes to Washington, he will push to have social security eventually phased out. Listen.


JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: Right, and, John, might mention that my parents are dependent on it. Their primary source of income comes through social security. Their primary health care provisions come through Medicare. So this is not a Joe Miller comes to D.C. and social security is gone, Medicare is gone, but what Joe Miller does do and what those joining in this message do is give this government back from the fiscal brink, so we can ensure the contracts we've made with our seniors, we can honor those. We're talking about shifting that dramatically. But longer term, there has got to be a move outside of that system. We want to transfer power back to the states so states can take on the mantle of those programs if they desire.

In the shorter term, I think there are many plans that have been proposed that can move the shift or shift this away from government control. Into, you know, a sect wear we can actually protect those funds. If it's a privatized system, I can ensure that I put my money in an account, that the government is, then, not going to steal from. Frankly, what's happened up to date, and I'm 43, paid into the Social Security system, I frankly don't expect to see much of that because the government's stolen from me. I think most Americans recognize that system's broken and they understand there has got to be a change longer term, to ensure you can have something when you do retire, rather than depend on these IOUs that aren't going to be worth much.

KING: I want to deliver a statement, you tell me if it's fair. Joe Miller says anybody in the system or close to the system is fine. We won't do anything significant to change your benefits. How about an American born tomorrow or born the day after Senator Joe Miller was sworn in Washington, would that person perhaps grow up in an America where there is not a federal social security program if you got your way?

MILLER: Absolutely.

KING: That's a fair statement?

MILLER: No demagoguery there at all.

KING: Before we begin our political discussion, here's one more question I put to Joe Miller. If you had to in a sentence or two describe Obama, how would you do that?

MILLER: Bad for America.

KING: That's one sentence. You don't get that often out a politician. What do you base that?

MILLER: He's one of the major forces moving this country towards socialism. He's expanding the entitlement state. It is the wrong direction for America. This is a bipartisan problem. But he's at the front of it. The growth of stimulus programs it the growth of basically government bailouts to industries that are failing. It's not the American way. It's not the free market way. And it's killing the competitive edge. I think the head-long plunge into internationalism is yet another thing that puts down American exceptionalism.

We are special as a nation. We have constitutional rights. You know, our view of it is that the founders had it right. They come from god. Government can't take 'em away. We restrain government. So government cannot infringe upon those rights. When we're a top- down system, which is what's come out of the Obama administration, we put that all upside down. Instead, the government becomes sovereign rather than the people. The answer to our crisis is not government. It is the people. It's rejuvenating this country in such a way we can be a leader in the world again and we kind of lost that concept. I think our president has actually put our country down, not advanced it, in the standing of the nations, and so I would suggest to you, again, that bad for America is an apt description.


KING: When you hear a candidate like this, he's a darling of the tea party movement, now the favorite to be the next senator from Alaska. How will comments like that about Social Security and he's not apologizing for them -- affect the campaign debate?

JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: A lot of Republicans don't want to have their candidate saying things like this. If this becomes a fight in Florida, for example, how do Florida seniors react to a fact if there's a Republican majority that this could become the message of the party? Republican leaders in Washington would like to keep ideas like that in Alaska. We'll se if they can do it. Now there's a big collection of candidates who think outside of the Republican establishment view. It could be a problem for them.

KING: They blame, Gloria, people like Joe Miller, they blame the Republican leadership as much of the Democrats, saying, you haven't been serious about spending so we need to think dramatically because we need to deal with it.

BORGER: Of course, they want him to win the Senate seat, but he's their worst nightmare, right? He comes to Congress. He's not going to vote for a spending bill. He doesn't like government. He will say things about Barack Obama that are perhaps not politic to say in Washington. He'll say the answer is not government. And if they win, say, a majority in one of the houses or even both, Republicans will have a responsibility to govern so the Republican party could be split between those establishment Republicans and the so-called tea party candidates like we just heard, and --

KING: Reflection of --

BORGER: -- will be tough for them.

KING: Obviously, his enemy is quote/unquote liberalism and spending. A lot of questions in the Republican Party.

ZELENY: No question. That perhaps will be one of the interesting subtheme, the Republican turmoil. Primaries are done, that's not.

KING: Jeff and Gloria I wish we had more time. We'll bring you both back. Breaking news at the white house took most of our time tonight but that's all we do have. We thank you for joining us. We hope you come back tomorrow. "RICK'S LIST PRIME TIME" starts right now.