GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And for more on this and the President's speech to the General Assembly today, we're joined by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. Thanks for coming in this morning.
First, this breaking news on the hikers. It does appear, according to their lawyer, they'll be released today. Do you think any independent information?
AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: Well, George, we're in touch with our Swiss partners who are our protecting power in Tehran, and we are getting regular updates from them. Obviously, we won't rest until the hikers are safe, out of Iran and back reunited with their families.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But it does look good?
AMB. RICE: We're hopeful, but we, obviously, want to see them back on American soil.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: In the President's speech today, he will, no doubt, address Iran and this extraordinary wave of the protests for freedom across the Middle East in the last year. Does he agree with Secretary Panetta that it's just a matter of time before this wave of reform hits Iran?
AMB. RICE: Well, I think that the underlying conditions are there. As we saw two years ago following their elections, there is great desire among the Iranian people for freedom, for the ability to express themselves openly and to chart their own future. So I do believe that what we have seen in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East will eventually come to parts that it hasn't gotten to yet.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about one of the difficult challenges the President is going to face this week; this whole issue of the Palestinian Authority seeking recognition as a state before the United Nations. The President's made his opposition to that clear, but there's also been a lot of work behind the scenes to forestall, to delay any final vote on that.
Are you making progress there?
AMB. RICE: Well, first of all, George, the circumstances are as follows. The Palestinian President has said very clearly that he will give a speech before the General Assembly on Friday, and then he will submit a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations saying that he wants to take his bid for full membership of the United Nations through the Security Council to the General Assembly.
We expect him to keep his statement -- stick to his statement --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you oppose?
AMB. RICE: Very much so. And we oppose it, George, not because we oppose the creation of a Palestinian state. We're all for that. But the reality is that can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Your hope is that he goes there, tables it, but then leaves a space for negotiations without pushing for a final vote?
AMB. RICE: We'll see what happens, George. We know one thing though for sure, it won't succeed because in the Security Council, you need nine affirmative votes and no vetoes by a permanent member. And we don't know for sure what the vote count will be, but we know that they're not going to get through the Security Council.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, that it's even gotten to this point has brought the President some criticism from many of his opponents. Mitt Romney calling it an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. Texas Governor Rick Perry piled on as well.
TEXAS GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: (From videotape.) We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous. Your response?
AMB. RICE: First of all, there are always going to be those that feel it's necessary to play politics with issues of great importance. There has been no administration, George, that has done more to defend and protect Israel's security than the Obama Administration. Our foreign military financing is at an all-time high. We're sharing the most advanced technologies with Israel and giving them technology like iron dome which is preventing them from being hit by rockets.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said last week were it not for the United States, the Israeli presence in Egypt and the Israeli diplomats there would have been in grave danger. Every day at every turn, we are defending and protecting our ally, Israel, whether in the United Nations or on the ground.
So for those who want to play politics, they'll play politics, but the reality is Israel has had no better partner than this administration in the United States.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Rice, thanks very much.
AMB. RICE: Thank you very much.
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