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

ByABC News
January 4, 2009, 11:14 AM


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 andboldly, we could see a much deeper economic downturn.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that Illinois governor sparks aconstitutional clash.

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

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

STEPHANOPOULOS: Topics, this morning, for our exclusiveheadliners, Israeli president Shimon Peres, the Senate Democraticwhip, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and the most powerful Republican inWashington, GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

George Will, Cokie Roberts, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and JonathanKarl debate all the week's politics on our roundtable. And, asalways, the Sunday funnies.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": The bad news for GovernorBlagojevich is that there's no chance that President Bush will pardonhim 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 newyear, these first few days of 2009. President-elect Obama beginslobbying Congress tomorrow to pass his massive jobs plan, just as afull-scale ground war in the Middle East presents his first diplomatictest.

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

But we begin in Israel, where heavy fighting continues todayafter thousands of Israeli ground troops moved into Gaza last night.More than 500 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded sinceair 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 withIsrael's president, Shimon Peres.

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

As you know, Israel is under pressure, on many fronts, to curtailthis operation. The U.N. secretary-general told your prime minister,today, to end the operation. The president of the General Assemblysaid, 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 witha different strategy, we shall accept it. We shall not accept theidea 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. Theydidn't respect it.

They did things which are unprecedented in the history even ofterror. They made mosques into headquarters. They put in bombs inthe kindergartens, in their own homes. They are hiding in hospitals.They are shooting endlessly for no reason, for no purpose, without anyexplanation and without any hope.

They are now beginning to feel the weight of their mistakes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There is some confusion over the Israeli endgame. The prime minister said the goal is not to crush Hamas, but theforeign minister told me, just the other day, that Hamas in power is aproblem for Israel, and eventually they must be removed.

Other Israeli officials have said the same thing. Can there be anegotiated peace with Hamas, or must Hamas be removed?

PERES: We don't intend neither to occupy Gaza nor to crushHamas, but to crush terror. And Hamas needs a real and seriouslesson. They are now getting it.

We were careful. We restrained. We waited. We gave them manychances. At the beginning, they say, you occupied Gaza. But we leftGaza completely. We dismantled the settlements. There wasn't asingle Israeli.

They cannot explain why are they shooting, what for are theyshooting, and they cannot hide that they are acting by orders fromIran. Iran has two satellites in the Middle East, the Hezbollah inLebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

They are serving a foreign country at the cost of their ownsecurity and lives of their own children and own people. STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you don't want to occupy Gaza, over thelong term, but then how can you be sure that you will end the terror,that you will end the rocket firing on Israel?

And how will Gaza be governed?

Who can come in and offer some hope to the Palestinians who areliving in Gaza and turn it into a functioning state?

PERES: Gaza is part of the Palestinian Authority. The presentHamas group revolted against their own authority. The head of theauthority, the president of the Palestinian people, Mr. Abbas, wasduly elected by 62 percent. They should come under the government ofthe Palestinian elected authority.

Anyway, we are not going to mix in in their politics, but we havedecided not to permit to shoot against us. We have the means. Nobodyelse has the means. When they will stop terror, then we shall returnto normal life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hamas was also elected in Gaza. Isn't -- won'tit be a problem for Fatah leadership to come back or try to come backinto power after an Israeli invasion? Won't they lose credibilitywith their own people?

PERES: Maybe, but that's not a reason to shoot at us. That'snot a reason to kill our children. That's not a reason to have 80 or90 missiles every day, for no reason (inaudible) civilian life. Wecannot answer their questions, but we have to answer our own. Ourgovernment, with all due respect to public opinion, to pressures andso on, we have by law and by reason to defend our people, and nobodyelse has suggested how to do it otherwise.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir...

PERES: And for that reason, the Arab world is -- I'm sorry. Andfor that reason, the public opinion even in the Arab world is divided,because they understand that there is a senseless bloodshed, initiatedand conducted by the Hamas people.