Mitchell Reports | November 20, 2012
>> and joining me now for more on the fast-moving developments, jeffrey goldberg , national correspondent with the atlantic, and michael leiter , former director of the national counterterrorism center and also an nbc news terrorism analyst. jeffrey , first to you, we have seen very little shuttle diplomacy or any real engagement on the israeli/palestinian front in recent years. you've got the growth of hamas first with many people feel the misguided decisions of the bush administration in 2006 , the election victory, hamas , and then abbas , the fatah element of the palestinians on the west bank , abbas and fayyad not getting support at critical moments from this administration.
>> and not a whole lot of attention from this secretary of state. now it's come to a pass where hamas may end up stronger than ever coming out of these negotiations.
>> right. there's a price for negligence, there's also a price for overengageme overengagement. this administration has learned from the experience of bill clinton who spent the last year of his presidency trying to arrange a deal, that, you know, it's a long shot and it's a bit of a crap shoot. you have now palestine, the state that we think will be one day palestine, divided into two basically warring halves. the west bank under the moderate leadership of abbas and gaza under hamas . it's hard to blame the obama administration on one hand for disengaging from the problem because there's no chance of near term success. on the other hand, you're exactly -- now because of where we are, hillary clinton has to run from her asia pivot, literally from asia back to the middle east just to kind of patch this together temporarily.
>> and let's talk about hamas . the u.s. has no relationship with hamas , neither do our european partners, the so-called quartet. hamas is often confused because of its iranian background and sponsorship of hezbollah. talk about the two terrorist groups and the differences.
>> sure. hezbollah, based principally in lebanon, backed by the syrian regime and also by iran , has developed a huge arsenal of weapons and has been involved in major ground offenses against israel most recently in 2006 . hamas , very different, based in the gaza strip , not nearly as heavily armed, but enormous threat in terms of these roxs to southern -- rockets to southern israel . i would make one point to what jeffrey said, which i generally agree with. the fact is that the administration has been focused largely in this region on israel and iran . and that has taken up an enormous amount of energy. combining that with the disruption we've seen in the region from the arab awakening it has not been a perfect time to engage in large scale diplomacy to try to solve which is admittedly a difficult problem between hamas , the palestinian authority and israel .
>> there's so many unintended consequences from action forcing events outside this fear of american influence really. let's talk also about, there have been some blogs in "the washington post " and others have had some blogs with people surmising that israel may have had a different game plan, that this all may be part of preparing the battlefield if you will for going against iran . i just want to get your perspectives here. you're both very smart guys and analysts on all of this. israel had reasons to specific -- specific reasons to act now, you believe, michael, and jeffrey , against what was happening, what was coming at them from gaza?
>> in my experience, the israeli relationship to what goes on in the gaza strip at hamas is a pretty tactical experience. it's not a broad strat gri. i think what israel is facing now, rockets falling on its people, forced their hand and there may be some side benefits to that, seeing how iron dome works in case there were a larger-scale conflict with iran , but i don't see anything in this set of circumstances which suggests in any way that israel wanted this sort of conflict with hamas .
>> it is what it is.
>> but i would say that israelis now, be i mean one of the things we haven't talked about, we talked about the iron dome but we haven't talked about the fact that we have learned hamas has iranian missiles that can reach jerusalem.
>> that's a new experience.
>> this is one of the -- you know, we've been through this hamas / israel battle before, but the weaponry is getting a lot more stow fis cated -- sophisticated and what this suggests about the near term future with iran , there are israelis hesitant about confronting iran who are saying to themselves, imagine if iran had a nuclear weapons and was backing hamas and iran was threatening israel and saying listen, don't attack hamas or you know what may happen. i think that this accelerates and intensifies the iranian part of this crisis and that's what we're going to see unfold.
>> this is partly related to the changes we see in the region, the fact that mubarak has gone, morsi is there, the sanaa is much more porous, the smuggling has increased.
>> hamas is testing egypt as much as israel to see how much they're on their side.
>> the entire region is being tested at this moment. this is a remarkably new role for president morsi and the role he will play with hamas . as you said there's been an enormous amount of increase in smuggling and instability in the sanaa since the arab awakening. we have the disruption in syria and how this plays out. syria being a supporter in times of hamas . this is an important moment and i think that's one of the big reasons that secretary clinton thought that this is the time she had to be in the middle east .
>> and here she is at the end of her tenure, she has said she wants to leave. there's a lot of controversy over who is going to replace her. susan rice has been blamed by republicans for what may be inartful testimony, not testimony, inartful television commentary. she was reading from talking points that were prepared by the intelligence community and last night, i get calls from top intelligence officials saying, it was our fault, it was not political, they are reacting to a lot of the accusations on "meet the press."
>> if you remember, we were both on "meet the press" that morning with susan rice and she said what she said and we both sort of --
>> looked at each other.
>> looked at each other and said what? where is that coming from? what we knew, it wasn't coming from her. she was a pass-through. so it seems a little bit much for these republicans on the hill to say that oh, she's complicit in a conspiracy. she went on tv to give a line that was provided to her.
>> how does it work, michael? because you've been in these situations. i am thinking back to the very damaging nie on wmd.
>> the national intelligence estimate .
>> on whether or not saddam hussein had weapons of mass destruction . the classified version said probably not. there were caveats. the unclassified version delivered to the american people and some senators, many senators, didn't bother to read the real one, be said something very different. emphasized what the white house apparently wanted. this is why people are fired up about this.
>> this is -- the intelligence community absolutely hate to be in the position of having classified information and then having to produce unclassified talking points .
>> unclassified version should -- it should not reveal sources and methods but should reflect the same reality. the american people ant can't be mislead.
>> easy to say, hard to do sometimes.
>> i get it.
>> when you're not sure. things that are related to sources and methods which might affect the outcome. this is why past directors of national intelligence have made announcements there will be no more unclassified talking points for national intelligence estimates . that always goes by the wayside because there is a public and congressional demand for this information. but you can end up in a situation like this where the classified version is saying one thing, the public version doesn't quite say the same thing and you don't even know at the time, but after the fact it starts to look it was a political adjustment when as i understand it, like you, it was the intelligence community running those talking points .
>> for the house intelligence committee members who asked within 24 hours how do we answer questions we want to go on television.
>> used about i susan rice , i have to admit personal bias, susan is a friend, i've worked with susan , trying to get the politics aside, susan is an immensely talented, extremely driven person who has represented this person very well? several administrations. whoever the president picks it's really important that people recognize the tamment that susan race -- talent that susan rice .
>> that she be judged on her record not one sunday appearance.
>> thank you.