Hardball with Chris Matthews (9:00 PM ET) - CNBC May 1, 2002 Wednesday

CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: Congressman Dick Armey of Texas leads the Republicans in the US House of Representatives.

Congressman Armey, Mr. Majority Leader, why is the Congress about to pass a resolution supporting Israel at a time that the president is trying to walk a line between Israel and its Arab neighbors?

Representative RICHARD ARMEY (Republican, Majority Leader): Well, we've had--we feel very strongly in the House of Representatives that we have a moral obligation to protect the safety, security and freedom of Israel. And the Congress wants to speak on that, both bodies want to do so. We've discussed it with the White House, and everybody is comfortable. We will go--go ahead with that tomorrow. It is very important to the world that Israel be--the freedom of Israel be protected and honored.

MATTHEWS: What good is this going to do anybody?

Rep. ARMEY: Well, I think, again, we--we want to make the point...

MATTHEWS: To whom?

Rep. ARMEY: The president of the United States is trying to make a transition in foreign policy from what it has been to what it must be in the future. We can no longer appease aggressors in the Middle East. There obviously will never be a peace. The goal is no Jews between them and the sea, and we must make it very clear that if you want to talk about peace and talk the talk, you must walk the walk, and that must be respect for Israel's right to live freely, safely and securely.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's talk about the realities over there. There's a fight between the Arabs and the--and the Israelis over who owns the Pal--all of Palestine. Do you support the idea that there be a Palestine state alongside Israel?

Rep. ARMEY: I am perfectly content to have a Palestinian state alongside Israel if it is a state that honors others borders.

MATTHEWS: You are in total, 180 disagreement with Tom Delay who said this week that the entire West Bank belongs to Israel and it belongs to that country that's not an Arab country.

Rep. ARMEY: I...

MATTHEWS: It should not have a statehood.

Rep. ARMEY: No, I'm perfectly content to have a Palestinian state. I am not content to give up any part of Israel for that purpose of that Palestinian state.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Tom Delay's, whose resolution you're going to put on the floor tomorrow and schedule, has said that the entire West Bank, he calls it Judean Samaria, belongs to Israel. How can you say that this resolution doesn't support the Delay position which is Israel has a right to grab the entire West Bank?

Rep. ARMEY: No, I--I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank. I'm also content to have the Palestinians have a homeland and even for that to be somewhere near Israel, but I'm not content to see Israel give up land for the purpose of peace to the Palestinians who will not accept it and would not honor it. It is time to...

MATTHEWS: Well, where do you put the Palestinian state, in Norway? Once the Israelis take back the West Bank permanently and annex it, there's no place else for the Palestinians to have a state.

Rep. ARMEY: No, no, that's not--that's not at all true. There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land and--and soil and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state.

MATTHEWS: So you would transport--you would transport the Palestinians from Palestine to somewhere else and call it their state?

Rep. ARMEY: I would be perfectly content to have a homeland, just as--most of...

MATTHEWS: But not in Palestine?

Rep. ARMEY: Most of the people who now populate Israel were transported from all over the world to that land and they made it their home. The Palestinians can do the same, and we're per--perfectly content to work with the Palestinians in doing that. We are not willing to sacrifice Israel for the notion of a Palestinian homeland.

MATTHEWS: Right, no. No, that's not the question and that's not your answer. The question here is: What is the future of the Palestinians who are fighting Israel right now? You say there future is somewhere besides Palestine. That runs in the way of US policy going back to 1948. It runs--it runs completely against the president's policy and every policy I've heard a president take, which is that Israel has to give up its settlements on the West Bank and give it back to the Arabs in exchange for peace. You say the deal should be the Palestinians leave?

Rep. ARMEY: That's right. Palestinians say the deal should be the Israel--that--that the Israelis leave.

MATTHEWS: Have you talked about this with the president?

Rep. ARMEY: I happened to believe that the Palestinians should leave.

MATTHEWS: Have you ever told George Bush, the president from your home state of Texas, that you think the Palestinians should get up and go and leave Palestine and that's the solution?

Rep. ARMEY: I'm probably telling him that right now. This is...

MATTHEWS: Have you thought this through?

Rep. ARMEY: I have thought this through. I've thought it through for a lot of years. I believe that Israel is the state for the Jewish people. It needs to be honored. It needs to be protected.

MATTHEWS: Yeah. That's not what you're saying. You're saying Israel should expand its borders to the Jordan River...

Rep. ARMEY: No.

MATTHEWS: ...and kick out all the Palestinians? That's what you just said.

Rep. ARMEY: I am--I am content to have Israel occupy that land that it now occupies and to have those people who have been aggressors against Israel retired to some other arena, and I would be happy to have them make a home. I would be happy to have all of these Arab nations that have been so hell bent to drive Israel out of the Middle East to get together, find some land and make a home for the Palestinians. I think it can be done.

MATTHEWS: So the president, who has been dutifully, for the last couple of weeks, trying to get the Israeli army to withdraw from the West Bank, should stop that, let the Israeli defense force take over the West Bank and hold it and make it part of Israel? You completely disagree with the president's policy then?

Rep. ARMEY: I am--I am perfectly content to have Israel hold and occupy the land that it has at this moment.

MATTHEWS: Well, how about though-how about the Jenin in Samaria? Tom Delay, whose measure you're putting on the floor tomorrow, says that all the West Bank, Jenin, Judea, Masada, everything belongs to Israel. It's not occupied territory. It's Israeli. Is that your position?

Rep. ARMEY: Well, first of all, Chris, I think we have to be real careful on how you are interpreting jo--Tom's provision. I think Tom's provision is principally and primarily that the Jewish people have a right to defend themselves.

MATTHEWS: Well, just to repeat, you believe that the Palestinians who are now living on the West Bank should get out of there?

Rep. ARMEY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. More with Congressman Dick Armey coming back. You're watching HARDBALL.