'This Week' Transcript: Shimon Perez, Sens. Dick Durbin and Mitch McConnell


JANUARY 4, 2009


STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."


(voice over): Ground war in Gaza.

(UNKNOWN): Now is the time to do what needs to be done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back from Hawaii, Obama challenges Congress.

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: If we don't act swiftly and boldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that Illinois governor sparks a constitutional clash.

GOV. ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, D-ILL.: I am appointing Roland Burris as the next United States senator from Illinois.

DURBIN: He has forfeited his moral authority to fill the Senate seat.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Topics, this morning, for our exclusive headliners, Israeli president Shimon Peres, the Senate Democratic whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and the most powerful Republican in Washington, GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

George Will, Cokie Roberts, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Jonathan Karl debate all the week's politics on our roundtable. And, as always, the Sunday funnies.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": The bad news for Governor Blagojevich is that there's no chance that President Bush will pardon him because Bush can't even pronounce his name, so...


ANNOUNCER: From the heart of the nation's capital, "This Week" with ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos, live from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello again. There is no easing into the new year, these first few days of 2009. President-elect Obama begins lobbying Congress tomorrow to pass his massive jobs plan, just as a full-scale ground war in the Middle East presents his first diplomatic test.

We're going to dig into both those challenges this morning with our guests, plus the controversy over Obama's now vacant Senate seat.

But we begin in Israel, where heavy fighting continues today after thousands of Israeli ground troops moved into Gaza last night. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded since air strikes began last week.

But that has not stopped Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, killing four and injuring more than 70 Israelis. Hamas vowed today to make Gaza a graveyard for Israeli forces.

And, for more on this, we now have an exclusive interview with Israel's president, Shimon Peres.

And, Mr. President, thank you for joining us.

As you know, Israel is under pressure, on many fronts, to curtail this operation. The U.N. secretary-general told your prime minister, today, to end the operation. The president of the General Assembly said, today, that "the Israeli invasion is a monstrosity."

How will Israel respond to this pressure?

PERES: Well, clearly, if there is somebody can stop terror with a different strategy, we shall accept it. We shall not accept the idea that Hamas will continue to fire and we shall declare a cease- fire. It does not make any sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no cease-fire?

PERES: Yes, they said they are going to have a cease-fire. They didn't respect it.

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