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Israel-Hamas Conflict

Aired November 19, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, reporting tonight from Jerusalem. It has been going on now for six days and six nights, Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets being traded back and forth. And tonight, a very serious effort underway and an urgency to develop a cease-fire before a ground invasion becomes the next option.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): There are talks going on between the Egyptians and the Israelis, and they have been going on for some time. We do not know how close the two sides are. A senior Palestinian official tells me that Hamas is serious and does want to have a cease-fire, although it will not cry uncle. They will not surrender.

Meantime, a senior Israeli government official tells me that we also want the diplomatic track to succeed, but, quote, "we may have to clearly show the sword in order to energize the diplomacy."

Thousands of Israeli soldiers are gathered at the border of Gaza, awaiting their orders. In the meantime, Israel continues to pound Gaza by air. A building that houses local and foreign broadcasters was hit today; and among its tenants, Britain's Sky News and Al Arabiya.

At least two people were killed in the strike, one reportedly an official with Islamic Jihad. And Israel also remains under assault. As my colleague, Fred Pleitgen, was reporting live from Ofakim, Israel, near the Gaza border, he heard an air raid siren and had to duck for safety.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened was that there was a direct -- oh, Carol, we have an alarm going off right now. I'm going to have to seek cover. We're going to go over here. Let's take the camera off the tripod, though. We're going to have to get into safety here, Carol. So --

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN HOST: You go, you go, go, go.

PLEITGEN: We're going to have to get down. We're going to --

COSTELLO: This always makes me so nervous.

PLEITGEN: No place to go here, really. What you have to do is you have to get down on the ground and wait for it to pass, just hope it doesn't hit anywhere here.

It seems as though the impact was quite a ways in the distance, I would say a couple miles probably in the distance. There, over in the sky, you probably won't be able to see it here. There's an interceptor missile taking off right now. That is the Iron Dome interceptor right there. If you just saw the flash in the sky, that was a rocket coming out of Gaza that was just intercepted right now.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And hundreds of those Hamas rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome system, and Israel says its non-negotiable demand from Hamas is that there are no more rockets fired on those residents of southern Israel.

Egypt and its new president, Mohammed Morsi, and their prime minister, are working around the clock to try to bring about a truce. Egypt is taking the lead role, but it is not the only regional power at the table. Qatar and Turkey are also taking lead roles.

Just weeks ago, Qatar's emir became the first head of state to visit Hamas-controlled Gaza. And Qatar takes a hard line on the Israeli assault. But as the leading Arab voice in the region, Qatar is a critical partner in the negotiation.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani serves as both Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, and he has been taking a lead role not just in this diplomatic effort, but in all of Qatar's international affairs. And he joins me right now from Doha.

Sheikh Hamad, thank you very much for joining me, first of all.


AMANPOUR: Tell me, everybody wants to know, what do you know about where the talks are and the likelihood of a cease-fire to avoid an Israeli ground incursion?

AL THANI: Well, first of all, I would like to thank you and I believe that the negotiation is ongoing now, and the Egyptian, our brother, there leading this negotiation between Hamas and Israel is. And I believe up till now there is no concrete solution. But what I could know, that both sides would like to have a cease-fire.

And I believe that Hamas, they would like to have a package -- complete package for the cease-fire because they don't want to leave the situation as it was after 2008, when Gaza is surrounded and also between time to time the Israeli choose and pick and kill leaders and civilian, Palestinian side.

AMANPOUR: You've said what Hamas wants. They want a lifting of the siege of Gaza, and they want a guarantee that their operatives and their officials are not going to be targeted.

Israel wants to make sure that Hamas is not resupplied, that it doesn't keep getting more and more weapons in, and it also wants to make sure that Hamas rockets don't continue threatening people in southern Israel and elsewhere.

Is that not a reasonable demand on Israel's side?

AL THANI: Well, if you take it like what you said, it looked like a reasonable demand. The Israeli, they have to live in peace and the Palestinian they have to live in peace. And everyone have a demand to live in a standard which the Israeli live in it.

I've been to Gaza with His Highness a few weeks ago, and I saw the miserable life and I saw people live in houses been demolished in 2008. And I believe this cannot lead -- this is not a peace. This is not a surround situation. I believe what we need, a comprehensive peace and we need both sides could live -- could live in integrity.

We will make sure if there is a peace, that the peace is comprehensive as an Arab. But we cannot take full condition of Hamas or the full condition of Israel and say, well, this is the right way to lead for peace. I think both sides have to have equal right to live in integrity.

AMANPOUR: Sheikh Hamad, one of the other things Israel wants -- and certainly I'm sure the United States and others -- is that there are regional players, such as yourself, Egypt, Turkey, involved who can sort of be guarantors of this.

Isn't that a reasonable thing for them to want? I mean, do you -- what is the prospect of, let's say, Qatar guaranteeing if there is a cease- fire, if there is some kind of truce, whatever is signed, guaranteeing that this takes hold and stays as such?

AL THANI: Well, first of all, if there is a comprehensive peace, if there is a plan and the plan is fair for both sides, of course, Qatar and other Arabs and Turkey will be the guarantor. And we already last 2-3 days, spent, talk to all parties how we can develop comprehensive peace and cease-fire. But cease-fires is not enough without taking into consideration the demand of the people and the -- in Gaza.

That's -- I'm not taking it from Hamas' side, but I'm taking it from human being side, all the Arabs, as you know, they have a sympathy. And Israel, they can raise the sword, as you say in your previous interview, but the main thing is raising the sword, always, it is not the right solution. It cannot lead to a solution.

It can maybe temporarily lead to solution, but in my opinion, the right way is to try to find a peace between the Palestinian and Israelis, which can be -- stay there and guarantor by the region. I believe the region have to do something in this. But when there is something fair, not according to the condition which the Israeli government want.

The condition they are talking about is unreasonable to take part of the West Bank, to have a state but not a state. I believe if we want this to work, we need to make in a fair way. And we have -- the Israeli have to know that the Arab, the surrounding, is not like 2008. The Arab world has been changed. And this change will not -- will not accept what happened in 2008, in my opinion.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about that, because obviously, Qatar has really pushed the envelope, if you like, in this new post-Arab Spring world. And you accomplished your emir to Gaza not so long ago.

And it obviously created headlines and there are many people, especially here -- and, actually, the Palestinian authority -- you just mentioned the West Bank -- they were pretty upset that you went to Gaza and quote-unquote "legitimized" Hamas, which, you know, has serious problems with the Palestinian authority and, of course, Israel.

What was the point of the emir going to Gaza? What were you trying to achieve?

AL THANI: I will tell you the simple point. The point that after Gaza conference in 2008, which we did it in Doha at that time, we all -- some Arab country pledged an amount (ph).

And we found 1 million and 700 Palestinian is surrounded from that time with not enough school, with no enough hospital, with their houses mainly -- 25 percent of the houses been damaged or bring to ground by the Israeli. Do you think it's wise to leave these people?

We went there; it's not to legitimize anybody. We went there from human being, looking or into, you know. I believe if we did not do anything in the Arab world to help these people, then they will be more radical, more terrorism in our region, and later who should we blame? We should blame ourselves.

I believe that we should help the people from human side. If we are talking about the Palestinian authority, we have a good relation with Palestinian authorities. We do not agree with them, of course, in everything; they don't know -- they don't agree with us in everything.

But anyone there say that we want to legitimize Hamas, I don't think Hamas need that from us. And that's not the policy of His Highness the emir or Qatar. Our policy is just to try --


AMANPOUR: Well, is it your --

AL THANI: -- the people, the normal people which we made them.

AMANPOUR: Is it your policy, therefore, then, to try to, let's say, wean, encourage Hamas away from its old friends, like Iran and Syria and towards new friends like yourself and like others in the Arab world? Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas political wing, now lives in Doha. He's left Syria. Is that your policy? And what do you think is the relationship between Hamas and Iran right now?

AL THANI: Well, first of all, don't forget in Doha, His Highness, we bring together Khaled Meshaal and (inaudible) a few month ago to help them in reconciliation. So that's also part of my answer.

The second thing is we are not trying to take Hamas from anybody else, from Iran or others. Hamas, they have to decide for themselves. I think they are pretty mature to decide for themselves. But we believe -- we, as an Arab, we should -- and the Islamic community, we should help any human being, Christian, Jew, Muslim. We need to help them if they are suffering.

And right now, the only people suffering are the people in Gaza. And the policy before, which some, unfortunately, Arab at that time, to show the West Bank what prosperity, with the growth of 10 percent or 8 percent, and to show the other side miserable living between the sewage, I don't think this is a wise policy. I think this is one of the --

AMANPOUR: Sheikh Hamad --

AL THANI: -- that the Arab Spring come quickly and aggressive.

AMANPOUR: Sheikh Hamad, we will continue our exclusive interview right after a break, so please stand by.

And in the meantime, as we do go to a break, an image of soldiering that is as old as war itself.

That's an Israeli soldier kissing his girlfriend goodbye before boarding a bus with the rest of his unit, one of thousands of reservists who've been called up and deployed on the border with Gaza. We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, where I'm broadcasting from Jerusalem tonight; and my exclusive guest is Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar.

Sheikh Hamad, let's continue our conversation. I'm trying to understand how you can influence the situation here. We were talking about Khaled Mashaal, the head of the Hamas political wing who now lives in Doha.

As you know, one of the big issues and the big crises here is the constant resupply of the Hamas wing through the tunnels, through the system. And obviously that's a big issue for Israel and for the region.

Is there -- do you believe that that should be stopped? And is there a way now to try to encourage Hamas away from that military wing and towards a political role, a greater political role as you yourself have said this whole world, this whole Arab world has changed?

AL THANI: Well, I believe from speaking with a leader of Hamas, that they looking for a peace, a comprehensive peace with Israel. And I believe this peace cannot be brought by the sword of Israeli. I think the peace, if we want the peace, we have to give the right to the Palestinian, their rights to them back.

And if we are talking about the weapon, you cannot compare what the Israeli power and the power of the people in Gaza or Hamas people, but I believe this matter could grow like in, you know, like an iceball (sic). And I believe the only way is to sit.

I always believe that if we want to solve this problem, we have to sit together and to solve this problem, but to solve it not in the condition which the Israeli want, to solve it fair between both sides according to the United Nations and Security Council resolution and the land of '67.

I think if we can do that and if we manage that, I believe we can pressure the people and Hamas or elsewhere that enough is enough. If you get your rights, that's enough. But right now we cannot say this to them.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that Hamas now -- you've just said that you believe Hamas is interested in peace with Israel. Do you therefore think that right now Hamas should commit to a long-term cease-fire and not so- called a quick shot, that simply allows them to, you know, rearm and live to fight another day?

In other words, should Hamas now, at this point, try to broker a long- term cease-fire?

AL THANI: Well, OK. What about Israel? Are they ready to give up what they are doing between time to time?

AMANPOUR: Yes, but --

AL THANI: Like killing and make air assaults to Gaza?

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible), I'm actually asking you, you know, is this a turning point? There's a new Arab world; you just mentioned yourself, we have a major conflict right now between Hamas and Israel and both sides are trying to find some way to have a truce. We don't know whether it'll work.

Do you think that Hamas should go into a long-term truce, a long-term cease-fire with Israel?

AL THANI: I believe in that, but in what condition? The other parts, what they will give? You know, because you just want them to have a long- term agreement with the Israeli, fine. That's good and I think it's fair for the Israeli. But isn't it fair also to give the other party their rights to live as a normal human being? That's the main thing.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you how you straddle this incredible world that you live in. On the one hand, you are friends with Hamas and with other such groups. As you know, Israel and the West considers them a terrorist organization.

You're also friends with the United States. And obviously the U.S. wants to see a de-escalation. How do you manage to straddle that, being all things to all people all the time?

AL THANI: As you know, we are a small nation and -- and a monarchy. And we would like to live in peace in our region. And what we are trying to deal -- we are trying to deal with a matter from this angle.

And when I'm talking about this angle, it doesn't mean that we accept all what's happening from Hamas or other -- or the Israeli. But what we are thinking that we need to talk with everyone to reach a comprehensive peace.

And our policy is to talk with everybody unless there is proof in our hand that this part is not looking for a peace, is looking for a terrorism or look to do something against the law, international law. That's what we will not accept, will not deal with it because we are a state and we respect to deal as a state.

But when we are talking with others, which they are looking for their rights, maybe we agree some point. We don't agree with them in some point. But no use to boycott them, because when you boycott anybody, you cannot talk with them; then you cannot solve a problem.

AMANPOUR: What would it take for Qatar to recognize Israel?

AL THANI: I think -- we say this in the Arab peace initiative, if they recognize a Palestinian state and they give the land of '67, of course, we will -- we would like to live in peace with the Israelis. We have -- we have nothing direct against Israel. But when we see our brothers suffering, we cannot be in a normal situation with Israel.

We have a time when we was having hope and the peace, we was talking with Israeli, we was having an office in Qatar before. And we was hoping after Madiv (ph) that there will be peace come in.

But it will take more than 20, 25 years to reach this peace, that mean we are looking for a process, not for a peace. And that's dangerous because people can wait but cannot -- we cannot treat them as a fool.

AMANPOUR: Let me try this question that I've tried several times before. You have spoken about a new Arab world. So Hamas, for the first time, sees itself as part of a whole new Muslim Brotherhood world in that region and that it has a lot closer political friendship than perhaps it used to with the Arab leaders.

Do you not believe, therefore, it's time for Hamas to become a political organization and try to move forward in that regard?

AL THANI: Well, I believe they should be a political organization. I believe in that. And I believe that we should solve the problem in peace. But let me put the question like that. First of all, I am not the spokesman of Hamas or how they think. They have -- they can do what they want.

But for me, to be a political buddy, when my land is being occupied, when I am attacked every day, I need to be convinced that there is hope, that there is an international community who will be fair with me.

That mean the Security Council, which they take action against many problem in the world. They should take an action against anyone cannot apply the peace or cannot fulfill their Security Council resolution. And right now, we know the Israeli does not want to give their -- the rightful Israeli for the Palestinian to live in a normal life.

If they should live in a normal life, we should also secure all the Israeli that they should live in the neighborhood in a peaceful situation. That time we can have the cart to go and to talk to the Palestinian, to talk to whom we should talk to, to tell them, look, enough is enough . You have your right, then we -- let us move to cooperate as a neighbor.

AMANPOUR: Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, thank you very much for joining me.

AL THANI: Pleasure. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And we'll be right back after a break.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a last look at where things stand now between Israel and Gaza. Again, as we've said, six days and six nights trading airstrikes and rocket fire, there is an urgency to try to find a cease-fire. And we're told by officials on all sides that everyone is serious about doing so.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal gave a press conference today, saying that it was up to Israel to call the first shots in any kind of truce. Israel, for its part, says it doesn't know whether a truce is going to be reached any time soon, but if there is one, it has to be long-lasting.


MARK REGEV, Israeli GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: We are ready today, Israel, to have -- to start a situation where we can have longevity and agreement in which the population of southern Israel know but no longer has to live in fear.

The problem is -- my impression is that Hamas just wants a respite. They want a timeout. We've been hitting them hard and they want to have time to rest. That's not a cease-fire. That means we'll be back here two weeks from now or three weeks from now with more rockets on the south.

We want to come out of this in a situation where we can have a new reality for Israel's citizens who've been on the receiving end of all those rockets.


AMANPOUR: Leaders from around the world continue working hard to try to make sure this military confrontation doesn't escalate.

The U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Cairo to lend support to the cease-fire negotiations. All sides say they are hopeful that one can be achieved. But they are not yet there. Everybody waiting to see, of course, whether this leads to a ground invasion of Gaza.

For now, I'm Christiane Amanpour, saying good night from Jerusalem; thanks for watching. And you can always find updates on this situation: Stay tuned for continuing coverage at CNN International.