Israel, Palestine 'entitled' to 2-state solution: Secretary of State Blinken

George Stephanopoulos interviews Secretary of State Antony Blinken on "This Week."
10:18 | 05/23/21

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Transcript for Israel, Palestine 'entitled' to 2-state solution: Secretary of State Blinken
morning, the cease-fire between Israel and hamas is holding, despite scattered clashes in Jerusalem and the devastation caused by 11 days of rocket launches and military retaliation. That destruction creates the potential for new violence, poses a challenge to president Biden and raises a host of questions for a headliner. Secretary of state Antony blinker. Good morning, Mr. Secretary. Welcome to "This week." Thanks, George. Great to be with you. Let's start with the cease-fire. President Biden pushed it privately, and welcomed it publicly. Both sides are claiming a sort of victory right now, but has anything really changed? What's to prevent this cycle of violence from kicking up again, maybe very soon? First, George, it was critical to get to the cease-fire, and president Biden's focus on relentless, determined, but quiet diplomacy is what got us to where we needed to be which is to get the violence ended as quickly as possible, to stop more human suffering and to at least put ourselves in position to make a turn, to make a pivot to building something more positive. That has to start now with dealing with the grave humanitarian situation in gaza. Then reconstruction, rebuilding what's been lost, and critically, engaging both sides in trying to start to make real improvements in -- in the lives of people so that Israelis and Palestinians can live with equal measures of security of peace and dignity. You stress that word equal. That seems to be a new emphasis for this administration. We haven't heard that a lot in the past, equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis. Well, it's vitally important that -- that Palestinians feel hope and have opportunity, and can live in security just as it is for Israelis, and there should be equal measures in a democratic society. That is I think an obligation of the -- of any government. So ultimately I think that that -- that hope, that security, that dignity can -- will be found in a Palestinian state, but meanwhile, we have to do everything we can both to address the immediate situation which is humanitarian reconstruction in gaza, starting to improve people's lives in a concrete way, and then ultimately get to a place where we can get negotiations and move towards something that brings a lasting resolution to the problem. You say you still want to work towards a two-state solution, but is that really still possible? Is there anything constructive the United States can do? It doesn't seem like efforts have created much fruit in the past, or is this new emphasis you're putting on equal rights really the start of a longer term shift? President Biden has been very clear he remains committed to a two-state solution. Look. Ultimately it is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a jewish and democratic state, and the only way to give the Palestinians the state to which they're entitled. That's where we have to go, but that I don't think is something necessarily for today. We have to start putting in place the conditions that would allow both sides to engage in a meaningful and positive way toward two states. In the first instance, we have to deal with making this turn from the violence. We got the cease-fire, and now deal with the humanitarian situation, deal with reconstruction, and deepen our existing engagement with Palestinians and with Israelis alike, but the most -- I was going to say, George, the most important thing is this. What I hope that everyone takes from this is that if there isn't positive change, and particularly if we can't find a way to help Palestinians live with more -- with more dignity and with more hope, this cycle is likely to repeat itself, and that is in no one's interest. You say you want rebuilding. You say you want reconstruction. The president said he wants to do that without restocking hamas, rebuilding gaza, without restocking hamas. How do you do that? They're in charge in gaza. We've worked in the past and we continue to work with trusted, independent parties that can help do the reconstruction and the development. Not some quasi government authority. The fact of the matter is hamas has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people. It's gross mismanagement of gaza while it's been in charge and of course, these indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians which have brought on the response that it did because Israel has a right to defend itself. What's the real challenge here is to help the Palestinians and particularly to help the Palestinian authority deliver better results for their people, and of course, Israel has a profound role to play in that too. The president reiterated strong support for Israel on Friday, but he's getting harsh criticism from Progressives like Bernie Sanders. Rashida Talib and AOC says they U.S. Should not be rubber stamping arms to Israel when they've looked to abuse Palestinian rights. What's your response to that? One of the things I don't do in this job is I don't do politics. I focus on the policies. I'll focus on the policies, but here's what I'll say. We've gotten to the result thanks to president Biden's relentless focus on this quiet but I think effective diplomacy in getting to a cease-fire and stopping the violence in 11 days. If you go back and look at previous crises, they've lasted a lot longer, but of course, every day we see these things go on, we see a tremendous loss of life. Two things come the mind. First thing, is the president has been clear we're committed to giving Israel the means to defend itself especially when it comes to these indiscriminate rocket attacks against civilians. Any country would respond to that, and we're committed to Israel's defense, but at the same time, any arms sale will be done in full consultation in congress, and we want to make sure that process works effectively. 42 Republican senators have called on the president to end the negotiations, make it clear that sanctions will remain in place because of Iranian funding of hamas. Do you believe that Iran is funding hamas, and if they are, should the sanctions stay in place? You know, George, Iran is engaged in a number of activities including funding extremist groups, supporting terrorism more broadly, supporting very dangerous proxies that are taking destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East, proliferating weapons, and two things on that. One, an Iran with a nuclear weapon or with the capability to build one in very short order is going to act with even greater impunity in those areas, which just adds to the urgency of trying to put the nuclear problem back in the box that the nuclear box put it in, and of course, many of these actions are going forward now while the, you know, and have gone forward over the last few years under the so-called maximum pressure being exerted by the -- by the previous administration and clearly did not get the result we all seek which is to curb all these activities, but the first thing we need to do is put the nuclear problem back in the box and that's why we're committed to seeing if Iran will come back into compliance with the jcpoa. That's what we're engaged in, and use that as a platform to build on and deal with these other issues. The Iranians say the decision to lift some of the sanctions has already been made. Is that true? We have been now -- we're about to have our I think fifth round of discussions in Vienna with the Iranians and what these discussions and talks, indirect as you know, have done is clarified what each sides needs to do in order to come back into clines. We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they're inconsistent with the nuclear agreement, but as important and indeed more important, Iran I think knows what it needs to do to come back into compliance on the nuclear side, and what we haven't seen is Iran is ready to make a decision. That's the test and we don't yet have an answer. Finally let's talk about the north Korean nuclear program. He is meeting with the south Korean prime minister on Friday, saying he is prepared to meet with the north Koreans under the right conditions. Their nuclear weapons have doubled in recent years. Does the United States have to accept that North Korea will remain a nuclear power? Do we have to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea? We don't, and we shouldn't, but let's be -- let's be honest. This is a hard problem. Previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike have tried to tackle it, and no one's fully succeed to say the least. In fact, the program has gotten more advanced and dangerous over time, and we've looked at different approaches we've taken basically doing nothing for nothing or everything for everything. Neither has worked. We engaged in an intensive review and looked at what every previous administration has done. We consulted very closely with our allies and partners starting with South Korea and Japan. I was there with secretary Austin. We had president moon's visit, and all of that as the view of experts on all sides was factored in, and what president Biden determined was the best chance we have to achieve the objective of the total de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula is to engage diplomatically with North Korea on a deliberate, calibrated approach where we seek to make progress toward that goal. I don't think there's going to be grand bargain where this gets resolved in one fell swoop. It's got to be clearly calibrated diplomacy, clear steps from the north Koreans, and it moves forward in that way. Now we've put that forward. We're waiting to see if Pyongyang actually wants to engage. The ball's in their court. We've made clear, and we're prepared to pursue this diplomatically even as the sanctions remain in place because North Korea continues to engage in activities that are clearly prohibited by the united nations. We're prepared to do the diplomacy. The question is, is North Korea? Thanks for your time this

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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