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CNN's Exclusive Interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan president Hamid Karzai

On today's edition of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria — GPS," Zakaria had an exclusive interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A full transcript of the program is below. "Fareed Zakaria – GPS" airs Sundays on CNN/U.S. at 1 p.m. (ET) and on CNNI at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. (ET).

Full Transcript



Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

On the program today, an exclusive interview with Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan.

Over the last year, it's become abundantly clear that the war in Afghanistan is going badly. In the last few weeks, many voices have been heard asking whether this is even a struggle that can be won — or should be fought.

In the story I wrote for Newsweek two weeks ago, we asked on the cover, is this Obama's Vietnam? Others have suggested we should simply pack up and leave.

And then there are the specific criticisms. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls it a narco-state. President Obama describes the Kabul government as detached from what is going on around it.

Now, there's one person who has not talked publicly about Afghanistan in recent months. It's President Hamid Karzai.

The last television interview he gave, back in September, was to me on this program. We are delighted to have him back for an extended, exclusive conversation.

So, stick around.


ZAKARIA: So, let us begin.

President Hamid Karzai joins us from the presidential palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Welcome, Mr. President.


ZAKARIA: Mr. President, let me ask you about your dealings. How will you deal with the Obama administration? Because you did get on well with Bush.

KARZAI: Oh, President George Bush is a great person. I have a lot of respect for him.

ZAKARIA: President Obama says that Karzai is in — has a bunker mentality. He has said that the Afghan government seems detached from what is happening in the rest of the country.

KARZAI: Well, I saw that statement, and I was surprised to see that statement. Perhaps it's because the administration has not yet put itself together. Perhaps they have not been given the information yet.

And I hope as they settle down, and as they learn more, we will see better judgment.

ZAKARIA: When you hear Barack Obama say the things he said about Afghanistan, what is your reaction? You've met President Obama. Do you think that you can work with him? Do you think he understands the region?

KARZAI: I can certainly work with him. I can certainly engage with him very, very, very positively. It's part of what has been said by him during his election campaign. It's part of the things that's been said recently.

I consider him a remarkably great person.

ZAKARIA: But you don't think he understands Afghanistan.

KARZAI: Surely he understands Afghanistan. Surely he's a very intelligent person as well. And given the right reporting by his administration, given the right figures by this administration, he'll figure out very quickly as to how things are in Afghanistan.

ZAKARIA: What are the issues? What are the things that you think that cause it?

KARZAI: Well, it's — there's the question of civilian casualties.

There's the question of arrests of Afghans. There's the question of home searches.

These activities are seriously undermining the confidence of the Afghan people in the joint struggle that we have against terrorism, undermining their hope for the future.

It's something that I've raised with my friends in the United States. And we hope to have a solution soon to this. We are talking about it.

I have given my word to our friends in the United States — to Hillary Clinton, to Vice President Joe Biden and to others — that as soon as Afghanistan is assured that such activity would not take place in Afghanistan, that our homes will be secure, that the conduct of operations will be done together with Afghan forces — and in consultation with Afghan forces — the fundamentals will remain very strong between us, and Afghanistan will continue to be a friend, will continue to be an ally.

But Afghanistan deserves respect and a better treatment.

ZAKARIA: Do you think Barack Obama should send the two to three brigades more of American forces that some people within the government are advocating?

KARZAI: What should have happened early on didn't, unfortunately, happen. Now, the country is not in the same mood as it was in 2002.

So, any addition of troops must have a purposeful objective that Afghan people would agree with, that any addition of troops should effectively curb terrorism and terrorists crossing into the Afghan side, and that the Afghan people should feel secure.

In other words, the war on terrorism — as I've said many, many times before — is not in the Afghan villages. So, any addition of troops, if agreed upon between the Afghan government and the U.S. government, must be in order to defeat terrorism and to protect Afghans, and not cause them casualties.

So, this is a serious matter. And I think the U.S. government should discuss this with us and evaluate it. And then, upon agreement, we will decide about it.

ZAKARIA: Do you mean by that, Mr. President, that any additional troops should really be focused on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, rather than in the heartland of Afghanistan itself?

KARZAI: Definitely, the war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages. It never was.

Afghanistan was the victim of terrorists — before September 11th, for many, many years, till September 11 occurred. And the world then began to pay attention to Afghanistan — which was good.

And the partnership between the Afghan people and the U.S. and others produced significant results, for us and world security.

Now, when — if there is a deployment, in consultation with the Afghan government, it should be in places where the fight against terrorism gets us a result, where terrorists are, where we see better security — not in our villages. Definitely not in our villages.

ZAKARIA: Let's talk about corruption, Mr. President.

There are many reports — and this is part of the reason that there is negative press about you — there are many reports that your government is riddled with corruption. There are reports that, while you personally may not have been involved, certain members of your family, your brother, have been deeply involved in corruption.

How do you answer those charges?

KARZAI: Yes. These charges have been there for the last at least three years, three years and a half. And I'd like to talk about this now, publicly.

There were charges in the "New York Times" in 2004, just about a month-and-a-half before the presidential elections in Afghanistan, that my brother was involved in drugs — or rumored to be involved in drugs.

Now, incidentally, Mr. Zakaria, this happened after I had a serious dispute with the U.S. and British ambassadors on a spraying from air on a poppy field in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.

I considered that spraying, which was done without the permission of the Afghan government, as a violation of Afghan sovereignty and Afghan airspace.

And when I protested to that spraying of chemicals on our country, the next day or the day after that, an article appeared that my brother was involved in drugs. And indeed, I, at that time, did not see the connection.

But subsequent to that, when there was an incident of torture in Bagram and report in the press, and when I reacted to that — again, within a day or two — there was something again in the "New York Times" about my brother and a connection to drugs.

And this kept repeating. Whenever there was a disagreement, this kept repeating. So, my conclusion today is that perhaps it was because of that.

ZAKARIA: But let me clarify, because this is a very important point.

You are suggesting that, because of political disagreements you have had, where you have objected to U.S. policy, some elements within the U.S. government — perhaps within the U.S. embassy or in Washington — have been spreading this rumor. Is that correct?

KARZAI: My conclusion is that, yes, this was part of a political pressure tactic, unfortunately. But, well, I understand that, you know. For a country like us, and in a situation that we are in, that's — We can probably understand it.

ZAKARIA: But Mr. President, you're surely not saying that there isn't a problem of major and large-scale corruption in Afghanistan and in the Afghan government. That seems to be beyond doubt.

KARZAI: Yes, corruption is there. Sure. Corruption in the Afghan government is as much there as in any other Third World country.

This country was completely destroyed. Afghanistan is a...

ZAKARIA: You've dropped — you've dropped on Transparency International's corruption index...

KARZAI: Yes, I'm coming to that.

ZAKARIA: Mr. President. You've dropped on Transparency International's corruption index by 50 places...

KARZAI: I'm coming to that.

ZAKARIA: ... in the last year or two.

KARZAI: I'm coming to that. I'm coming to that.

As any other Third World country. And one like Afghanistan that was completely destroyed by interventions from the Soviet Union, and then the neighbors, and then the subsequent abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew to complete misery and destruction.

Daily, we have judges dismissed. Daily we have officials dismissed. Daily we have people imprisoned. We have ministers dismissed. We have governors dismissed. We have governors in prison — done sentence terms. We have ambassadors dismissed. We have ambassadors held to accountability.

It's going on on a daily basis. The problem is that we don't announce it. And that's why it doesn't become a knowledge for those of us in the international community. So, I guess we have to improve on that.

But there is serious and systematic work going on in this regard.

ZAKARIA: We will be back in a moment with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.


ZAKARIA: And we're back with Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan.

Mr. President, I know you're a reading man. You read newspapers, magazines. So, let me ask you if you saw the article in last Sunday's "New York Times" that said, leader of Afghanistan "finds himself hero no more."

And there is a general tone of coverage in the West, where you have — your star is shining a lot less brightly than it used to.

Why do you think that is?

KARZAI: Well, there is a lot of — I don't like to call it propaganda. That's a terminology I don't like to use. But there's a lot of misinformation and, indeed at times, disinformation from parts of the Western press against me, especially from American and British press.

And I know the reasons. We have issues with each other that you are talking about that I keep raising, sometimes publicly, and that perhaps angers our friends. And the response is in that form.

But I understand it.

ZAKARIA: One of the things you have talked about — and you talked about in your speech in Munich, and we have talked about in the past — is the issue of talking to the Taliban.

You have argued that it is not possible to imagine political stability in Afghanistan without some outreach to certain — to some elements of the Pashtun community who identify themselves with the Taliban.

Now, when you have an attack as you just had last Wednesday, doesn't it seem to make much more complicated your case and your argument? You are going to try and talk to people who are engaging in terrorist attacks a quarter of a mile away from where you live.

KARZAI: We have been fighting them for seven years. And the Afghan people have given great sacrifice in the past seven years, together with our allies in the international community, with blood and resources.

This will never be possible by military means alone, if you want to defeat them. There are thousands of them who are not ideologically our enemies.

There are thousands of them who don't hate us or hate our way of life, who are not enemies to America, who are not enemies to the world, who just want to live in their own country in peace, who are frightened, are intimidated by bad behavior — from the very beginning — by some of the people that the coalition employed and by some of the people that the Afghan government had working on security issues.

So, we have to bring those elements back to Afghanistan who are not part of al Qaeda, not part of terrorist networks, and who are accepting the Afghan constitution and who are willing to come back. That opportunity must be given to them.

ZAKARIA: Do you need the Americans to understand and to be more in favor of this policy? In other words, are you finding resistance from the U.S. government when you try to make some efforts to reach out to the Taliban?

KARZAI: Well, yes, I have occasionally found them not comprehending exactly what we are trying to do. Sometimes they fail to understand.

And I have been having a very frank and complete engagement with our U.S. partners on this question.

When President Bush was in office, I had regular engagement with him on this question, and done (ph) also with the secretary of state and with the secretary of defense, and the U.S. officials here in Afghanistan.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that President Obama should follow through on something he said in the campaign, which is that, if he found actionable intelligence that there were al Qaeda elements in Pakistan, he would be willing to authorize American troops in Afghanistan to cross the border and strike at those camps?

This would benefit you enormously, because, of course, a lot of those al Qaeda elements in Pakistan use their bases in Pakistan to attack Afghans.

So, do you think Obama has it right?

KARZAI: Well, attacking al Qaeda hideouts, al Qaeda sanctuaries, al Qaeda training grounds, al Qaeda personnel, is a legitimate target.

But on the question of crossing troops from Afghanistan into Pakistan in pursuit of al Qaeda personnel, or for the destruction of al Qaeda hideouts or training grounds or sanctuaries, this is something that the government of Afghanistan and Pakistan — and the United States — must work together and agree upon together, and then implement.

ZAKARIA: But do you in principle think it is a good idea as a policy matter?

KARZAI: It's a very important — it's actually the most important component of our war against terrorism. And that's exactly what I've been saying for seven years now, that the war on terrorism is not in Afghan villages, that al Qaeda will not have, and does not have, a hiding place in Afghanistan anymore since the Taliban were driven out in 2001.

Therefore, let's go to the sanctuaries. Therefore, let's go to the training grounds. Therefore, let's go to the financiers of them, and the ideological motivators of them wherever they are.

And in that I'll be a complete and full partner with the U.S.

government, with President Obama, to getting it done.

ZAKARIA: What about Iran's role in the region? Do you feel that Iran has been playing a helpful role or a harmful one?

Iran was helpful during the Bonn Conference, which set up the Afghan government. They were against the Taliban. But there are many reports now that the Iranian government has actually been helping the Taliban.

KARZAI: Iran has been playing a very positive role, right from the Bonn Conference till today. Both Iran and the United States have understood Afghanistan's particular relationship with both countries.

Iran is a neighbor, and a country that shares language and religion with us, and culture. The United States of America is a partner and a strategic ally with us.

Therefore, the two countries have been told in clear words, by me, that we'd like them to put aside their differences and to begin to talk to each other. We find this in the interest of Afghanistan, and also in the interest of the region, that Iran and America begin to talk to each other. And we support that.

ZAKARIA: But when senior American officials say Iran is playing negative role in Afghanistan, is supporting the Taliban, you simply disagree with that.

KARZAI: We have heard those reports. I don't think that's a serious matter.

What matters is to have our neighbors involved in peace-building in Afghanistan. What matters is to have Saudi Arabia involved in peace-building in Afghanistan. What matters is to have India and other countries in the region involved in Afghanistan for a constructive engagement, for rebuilding Afghanistan and for fighting terrorism.

ZAKARIA: How would you suggest that the American government, for example, or the British government, could help President Zardari establish the primacy of civilian control in Pakistan, and therefore deliver on some of these issues?

KARZAI: Well, first of all, the articulation of policies should be such that it supports him politically, rather than undermining him.

Second, that democratic institutions should be supported and given the right backing.

Third, that the Pakistani establishment — the military and the civil service, and all that — they should be helped along with the elected officials of Pakistan to have the ability to conduct themselves towards an effective fight against terrorism.

Fourth, our allies should work between the countries in this region — with the countries in this region — to enhance confidence and boost cooperation.

ZAKARIA: We will be back in a moment with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.


ZAKARIA: All right. Let me ask you, Mr. President, a final question that is certainly, probably on the minds of many Americans.

When do you imagine that American troops will be able to leave Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Americans were welcomed so wholeheartedly in Afghanistan by the Afghan people, that our history has no example of. Our history generally is not well inclined towards foreign troops.

But the United States and our other allies were received with overwhelming goodwill and great expectations.

The delivery has been very good. The American taxpayer money has come to Afghanistan and has built our lives. Millions of our children are going to school. We have a health service that we could never imagine in another 30 years from now. The American blood has been shed in Afghanistan protecting Afghanistan and fighting against terrorism alongside other countries.

So, the Afghans are extremely, extremely grateful for that. And we will remain grateful forever. We are known to be a nation of a value that doesn't forget one's help to us.

The U.S. forces will not be able to leave soon Afghanistan, because the task is not over. We'll have to defeat terrorism. We'll have to enable Afghanistan to stand on its own feet.

We'll have to enable Afghanistan to be able to defend itself and protect for the security. And that will also provide, by extension, security to the rest of the world.

Then the United States can leave. And at that time, the Afghan people will give them plenty of flowers and plenty of gratitude, and send them safely back home.

ZAKARIA: Hamid Karzai from Kabul, a great pleasure to talk to you, Mr. President.

KARZAI: Thank you very much, sir. It's good to talk to you. A great interview.


ZAKARIA: Although much remains unclear about this week's Israeli elections, there seems one point of clarity: the Israeli people are growing more hawkish.

Joining me to talk about the implications of all of this, from both sides of the conflict, are, from Jerusalem, Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center's Institute for Zionist History and Thought.

In D.C., Yoram Peri is a former adviser to Yitzhak Rabin and is now a professor at Tel Aviv University and American University.

And joining me here in New York is Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Welcome, gentlemen.

Mustafa Barghouti, you live in Ramallah. You're just visiting New York. How did the Israeli elections strike you from the other side?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: The fact that Avigdor Lieberman, a person who came from Russia, and who is now sitting in Jerusalem being proud of being there, while I, the person who was born in Jerusalem, is not allowed to go back there, although I worked there as a medical doctor for 14 years, is a reflection of the new reality.

And this Lieberman is advocating ethnic cleansing. He is nothing but a neo-fascist. And the fact that he is controlling 15 seats in the parliament is very dangerous.

But that is a situation that is arising from the failure of the Israeli establishment to deal with the challenge of peace.

When I look at Barak or Livni or Olmert, or even Netanyahu, I don't see a difference. None of them is ready to share Jerusalem. None of them is ready to allow a single Palestinian refugee to come back. And none of them is ready to remove a single settlement.

I think occupation and oppression has corrupted the Israeli society and has created a situation that is awful for both Palestinians and Israelis. And it's time for Israelis to look in the mirror and see their own fault in that. It's not our fault.

ZAKARIA: Yossi Klein Halevi, what do you make of Mustafa Barghouti's point? You have portrayed the elections as being somewhat less ideological. But the rise of Lieberman does seem a very charged phenomenon.

I know you write for The New Republic. The editor-in-chief of The New Republic, Martin Peretz — a passionate Zionist, a man who is very skeptical of doves — calls Lieberman a neo-fascist in the tradition of Haider in Europe and Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Frenchman.

He does call — Lieberman does call for what appears to be mass ethnic cleansing, or transfers of population. No Democratic society has ever done this.

It's unsettling to find this in the heart of what is proudly — or what proudly sees itself as a liberal democracy.


STUDIES: I would agree with the characterization of Lieberman as the worst political phenomenon that has happened in Israeli democracy in 60 years.

I would further agree that we Israelis need to do some hard thinking. The educational system needs to do some hard thinking. We need to own up and take responsibility for this educational and moral failure.

Nevertheless, I think that, at the same time, what we've just heard from Mustafa Barghouti is really a reflection of why so many Israelis are so profoundly alienated from the two-state solution, which, paradoxically, most Israelis want.

And that is that when we hear this kind of — and forgive me for using this word — a tirade from Mr. Barghouti, without any sense of responsibility for creating a poisonous dynamic on both sides, let's both look in our own mirror, Mr. Barghouti.

Let's — I'll take responsibility for Lieberman. And I need to do that.

And I would hope that you would take responsibility for what's happened in the Palestinian educational system, for what happens routinely in the Palestinian media, where what I would call a culture of denial has set in, a culture of denial that denies the most basic truths of Jewish history — there was no ancient Jewish presence in the land of Israel, there was no temple on the Temple Mount, the Holocaust is either an outright lie or an exaggeration.

Look at what you're teaching your children. You take responsibility for your educational failures, I'll take responsibility for mine.

ZAKARIA: What about that, Mustafa Barghouti? And not just the education failures, the issue of Hamas, an organization that is, you know, that is quite comfortable killing civilians and such.

BARGHOUTI: Listen, I am a medical doctor by education. I think everybody knows how much I advocated in my life non-violence as an approach to resolving this conflict. I don't believe in violence.

But I must say that, what has just been described is not a justification for what is happening in Israel. I said occupation has corrupted the Israeli society.

Occupation has been there a long time before Hamas appeared on the scene. Hamas is only 20 years old. Occupation is there for 41 years.

The Palestinians have been dispossessed since 60 years.

If the problem has been dealt with early enough, we would not have found ourselves in this terrible situation.

Israel is the only country in the world that does not have a map, that does not show a map of itself, and does not have a constitution.

Because they are still expanding the borders, and they are still occupying the Palestinian territories.

And they are not settling for what I have been advocating all my life, which is a two-state solution where we accept West Bank and Gaza — this little tiny area which is half of what we should have had according to the partition plan of the United Nations. We accepted half of it as a compromise.

And during the last 20 years we've been having a peace process after another as a substitute to peace. And instead of accepting our compromise, they've been trying to compromise the compromise, by building settlements.

HALEVI: Well, Fareed, I have to tell you — as someone who supports a two-state solution, who is ready to make virtually any compromise that will end this pathological conflict and will keep my children out of future wars — when I hear Mustafa Barghouti, I'm frankly close to despair, because here's a Palestinian speaking in a reasonable way about a two-state solution, about ending the bloodshed. And I so much want to reach out and accept your offer.

And then I hear what we can call the fine print. And the fine print is a total distortion — a total distortion of history.

Israel accepted the Clinton proposals of December, 2000, which would have created a Palestinian state on contiguous territory. No so-called Bantustans ...

BARGHOUTI: Without borders.

HALEVI: ... no roadblocks, no settlements, with — the borders are clear.

Look at the Clinton map. It...

BARGHOUTI: Without removing (ph) settlements.

HALEVI: ... is (ph) a final deal.

We all know it. We're moving dozens of settlements and concentrating ...

BARGHOUTI: No, not settlements. Settlements...

HALEVI: ... them...


BARGHOUTI: ... borders.

HALEVI: ... and removing any Jewish presence that would have obstructed Palestinian territorial contiguity...

BARGHOUTI: What about the apartheid wall?

HALEVI: ... and giving the Palestinians...

BARGHOUTI: What about the wall? Do you accept the wall?

HALEVI: Please let me finish. Wait a minute.

The wall — the wall did not exist in 2000 when Israel accepted the Clinton proposals. There would be no wall today, there would be no checkpoints today.

You would be sitting in Jerusalem, Mustafa Barghouti, had you — had the Palestinian leadership then, Yasser Arafat — and we're not even talking about Hamas, we're talking about Fatah — not only rejected the Clinton proposals, but went to war against the most left-wing government in Israel's history.

You brought down the Israeli peace camp. You destroyed the left.

And that's the tragedy of this conflict.

BARGHOUTI: It is time for all of us to put our hands together, rather than fighting each other, to create this new future. Otherwise it's going to be horrible.

If you don't like the one-state option where a Palestinian and Israeli would live side-by-side together with equal rights, fine. Then give us our sovereign state.

Don't say we will give you a state that is nothing but a Bantustan or a ghetto, like the ghetto of Gaza today, which is surrounded by the Israeli army and Israeli ships from everywhere, and subjected to the most horrible siege in the human history.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back to get responses from Israel about all that. We'll be back in a second.


ZAKARIA: And we're back talking about the Israeli elections and the future of the peace process with Mustafa Barghouti here in New York, Yossi Klein Halevi, and Mr. Peri from Washington.

Mr. Peri, is there not a problem here within Israel? That is, if the Israeli Arabs get more radicalized, if Lieberman approaches this with a highly confrontational way — they are, after all, 20 percent of the Israeli population. Many demographic studies say they'll be 30 percent in 20 years.

At some point you're creating a time bomb within Israel — forget about issues of apartheid — you know, where you have 30 or 35 percent of the population that is increasingly made to feel dispossessed or feels dispossessed. And I leave it to you to tell me, you know, how you avoid that dynamic.


And therefore, the majority of the Israelis, including very many people who supported the right-wing position, have changed their mind and moved from Likud to Kadima. And others, who are not members or supporters of any party, are advocating today two-state solution.

But if they will listen more to frequent attacks like the one that we just heard from our colleague, there will be more Israelis who will move to the right, because we cannot be carried away with his rhetoric for another 40 years.

Take only one accusation that we heard out of 12 or 14. We heard that no Israeli prime minister was willing to divide Jerusalem.


PERI: Eight years — nine years ago, Prime Minister Barak sat down in Camp David and was willing to divide Jerusalem.

The entire plan that Israel put forward in Camp David...

BARGHOUTI: And he was assassinated for that.

PERI: ... in Camp David was a compromise.

So, I think that this rhetoric won't get us anywhere.

Besides, I heard that Israel has apartheid for 60 years. Now, we're not talking about, anywhere, about the West Bank. We are talking about Israel itself.

And by the way, the PLO was created before '67, before Israel occupied the West Bank. So really, this rhetoric would not lead us forward.

What we have to do is to see the weakness of the Palestinian society that cannot give support to their leaders, to the Palestinian Authority.

And because of the eight years of the Intifada that started with the failure of the peace process, and the attacks both from Lebanon — which we withdrew unilaterally and with the consent of the entire world, et cetera, et cetera — Israelis move to the right.

After all, what other society in the world is being threatened by a president who is building up a nuclear armament, that he wants to wipe out that society or this state from the world?

So you have to take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a more balanced way, and not in the rhetoric that we just heard.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Mustafa Barghouti, about Gaza in particular. Because one of the arguments made is that this election, the Israelis moved right because of the violence in Gaza, because of Hamas.

And in particular, Lieberman did well, because there was a feeling that Israeli Arabs had dual loyalties on the issue, were in some sense pro the Palestinians in Gaza.

How do you react to that?

BARGHOUTI: Well, first of all, let me say, I don't know why — and I find this dialogue quite useful — but I don't know why the Israeli colleagues feel offended by me saying that we want to be free, by me asking for the very basic...

PERI: We are not — we support freedom.

BARGHOUTI: ... for the basic, very basic right...

PERI: We support freedom.

BARGHOUTI: ... of Palestinians, like everybody else, to be free of occupation.

PERI: Absolutely.

BARGHOUTI: What's wrong with saying we don't want apartheid? I'm not offending them. I'm saying that we have to be free, because them oppressing us has corrupted the Israeli society.

It is true that Rabin was ready to separate Jerusalem into two pieces, but that's why he was assassinated — by an Israeli, not by a Palestinian.

PERI: But I'm talking about Barak. I'm talking about Barak.

BARGHOUTI: Excuse me, let me finish, sir. And Barak himself — Barak himself did not say he was ready to leave East Jerusalem. He said he will allow Palestinians to have some neighborhoods in Jerusalem, but not the Old City of Jerusalem. It is very clear, and you can go back to the documents. But...

ZAKARIA: But we have to talk about Gaza...

BARGHOUTI: But let me talk about Gaza.

ZAKARIA: ... because that has the impact on the election.

BARGHOUTI: On the issue of Gaza — I've just been in Gaza. I went to Gaza through Egypt, because they wouldn't allow me to go to Gaza through Israel. A trip that would usually take an hour-and-a-half, I had to take two days to get there. But I went there.

What I saw is terrible devastation. One thousand three hundred fifty people were killed, mostly civilians, including 410 children.

What I have seen is 5,300 people injured, mostly civilians, a devastation that destroyed thousands of houses.

And what shocked me most is why the Israeli army, on their way out of Gaza, destroyed the whole private sector of Gaza — 351 factories.

Hamas is a result of no solution, of course.

I might not agree with many things they are doing. As I said, I think that non-violence is our approach.

But at the end of the day, one has to ask the very simple question:

Why do we have this crisis? Why do we have this dilemma?

The crisis is there because one people are occupying the others.

I understand the psychological aspect, and I respect the Jewish history. And I know that people who have suffered a long time in their history, like Jewish people, from — in the pogroms in Russia or in the Holocaust of the Second World War — find great difficulty accepting the fact that, in this particular conflict, they are the oppressors.

And they are the ones who are oppressing another people. And they are the ones who are creating an apartheid system.

PERI: The facts are well-known. We are beyond that stage.

And I'm very, very sorry that today we went back into these accusations, which really do not bring us forward in understanding each other.

ZAKARIA: All right. We have to leave it at that.

I think it's worth saying that there were accusations on both sides. We're not going to solve all of it. Please hold your e-mail.

We will return to this subject again for sure, and we'll probably do it with many of the same people.

So thank you all. And we will be right back.

PERI: Thank you.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: Every week I ask a question of the week. And last week we got an extraordinary response.

The question that had so many of you e-mailing so fast and furiously was this. Given the corruption and fall of many once-famous business leaders, is there anyone in the private sector you still look up to, any heroes of American business?

I'll get to the winner in just a minute. But here are some of the runners-up.

The fourth-highest vote-getter was James Sinegal. Now, off the top of your head, do you know what company he runs?

It's Costco.

A viewer, Scott Powell, describes himself as a satisfied customer of this big-box retailer since 1982. And he says of Sinegal, "If all CEOs ran their companies like Jim does, none of the B.S. that caused our current economic mess would have occurred."

Another less well-known name near the top of the list was a finance guy, John Bogle, the founder and former and former CEO of the Vanguard Group — one of the world's largest money management companies.

Why wasn't he tainted like his Wall Street brethren? Well, viewer Rindy Nyberg describes him as "honest and honorable and not self-serving." And, of course, he is the creator of those index funds that have made so much money for so many people.

Small business owners got many votes. Take Gary Slattery, a small business owner himself, who says his business heroes are "the hundreds of thousands of small business owners that do not operate out of greed, dishonesty or excess, but work very hard every day to make a better life for their families and employees."

A couple of you mentioned your own bosses. Earl Walker, the founder and owner of Carr Lane Manufacturing in St. Louis, Missouri, was singled out for a no layoff policy. When business is slow, he reduces employee hours across the board to save money, rather than laying off individuals.

On a larger scale, one viewer nominated Charles Schwab, the founder of the brokerage firm that bears his name, saying that Schwab the man is "as trustworthy as grandpa."

This employee went on to say, "I kissed the doors as I entered the building... on those bleak days last fall" as Wall Street crumbled.

Sharon Nortnik (ph) says she doesn't respect anyone in the business world, but she does look up to me, Lou Dobbs and God. We're not sure in what order.

So, have I kept you in suspense long enough about who won?

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates essentially tied for second place, with Gates edging out Jobs by a nose.

But the winner was Warren Buffett.

Many of you turned the question around to me, asking who I thought was a hero of American business. Now, not to go along with the majority, but I truly do believe that Warren Buffett is a shining example, and not just because of the way he made his money, but the way he's giving it away.

If you walk across any college campus in America, you will see buildings and benches, and even shrubs, named for this donor or that.

That's the reward for giving away money.

But when Warren Buffett pledged about $40 billion of his fortune to the Gates Foundation, he didn't even ask for his name to be put on the door.

It took a great businessman to make that sum of money. It took a great human being to give it away like that. And it takes great class and modesty to live his life the way Warren Buffett does.

Now, for next week's question, along the same lines, are there any heroes of politics left in this country or anywhere around the world?

Before you run to your computers to write "Obama," stop. You are not allowed to vote for him. Let's dig a little bit deeper.

Also, I'd like to recommend a very timely book. It's by David Sanger of the "New York Times," and it's called "The Inheritance." The subtitle says it all — "The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power."

It talks about Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and all of the other trouble spots the president inherited. It has superb reporting, and it is a great read.

And as always, don't forget to check out Web site,, for highlights from this program, our weekly podcast. And you can also e-mail me at

Thank you. Have a great week.

Megan Grant | CNN Washington
202.515.2920 |






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