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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Israeli Missiles Bombard Gaza City; No Sign Of Ceasefire In Gaza; Secretary Clinton Meets With Israeli Prime Minister

Aired November 20, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the seventh day of deadly violence between Israel and Gaza. No ceasefire tonight, blasts continuing overnight.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that meeting any moments ago.

And tonight four men from Southern California arrested by the FBI. Accused of trying to join al Qaeda and wage violent Jihad against America. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, no ceasefire. The killing continues in Israel and Gaza, the conflict in its seventh day. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Jerusalem tonight. She arrived late and went straight to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: America's commitment to Israel's security is rock-solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to deescalate the situation in Gaza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Deescalate the situation in Gaza. What does deescalate mean? There was a spade of rockets just a moment ago, but yet that's the key word being used by the administration. During a brief press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, there was no mention of a ceasefire.

Netanyahu said Israel is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to defend itself. And Egypt, which is brokering a deal between the two sides, cancelled a press conference where officials were expected to announce a deal with terms for a ceasefire.

Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton meets with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and then will fly to Egypt to speak with President Mohamed Morsi. Now that is going to be a very interesting conversation, because, of course, as so many of you are aware. Morsi is in a tough situation.

Many of the people in Egypt, obviously, don't support working with Israel at all. And within the past hour, there were several explosions in Gaza city. Let's get straight to our team there.

Obviously, looks like we're having a problem with that shot. We'll be getting there in just a moment, a little bit difficult to communicate with them because of these rockets that have been going off. Let's try again. Let's go back there to Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- here in Gaza. There were a few hours of relative quiet. But as we have seen within really the last 15 minutes, an intense attack on a building behind right where I am.

It's a complex where we understand there are some government offices, and we understand from other Palestinian sources that some of the security personnel who were vacated from other areas, other offices around Gaza, may have been working out of that building.

So certainly there was talk earlier this evening of the possibility of a ceasefire. Hamas officials say, in fact, it would have been announced hours ago in Cairo. Clearly, that's not happening. There's no sign of a ceasefire.

In fact, certainly, if you look -- if we go back over the last few hours, five or six hours, it's been an evening of fairly intense fire, not only incoming Israeli air strikes, but just a little while ago, we saw two rockets being launched also from this area behind me.

And certainly by the looks of those rockets, and we're getting very good at recognizing them, some of them do appear to be these so- called Fedger-5 rockets, which have a fairly long range. Those are some of the rockets that were fired in the direction of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Also today, one of those rockets falling to the south near the settlement block in the West Bank and another building, an Israeli building in a town outside Tel Aviv on the road to Jerusalem. So we've seen a fairly intense evening, certainly, of violence here, incoming, as well as outgoing.

And all this talk about a ceasefire and discussions in Cairo and elsewhere don't seem to be amounting to much at this time. Now, today we did see something interesting. Something we didn't see during the last four years ago, the so-called Israeli "Operation Cast Led."

Today, we saw a very large delegation being led by Nabil, the secretary general of the Arab League. He was here also with the foreign ministers of Jordan, of Iraq, of Turkey, and others. And this is a first for Gaza, which is not accustomed to this.

If you recall after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June of 2007, Hamas was for many years an isolated place, which Hamas had very few friends. In fact, it could only look, for instance, to Syria and Iran for real support.

But recently, of course, Hamas has broken from Iran. Its offices in Syria have been shuttered, and it has become very close to Egypt, which is now under the leadership of Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It also enjoys very close relations with Qatar and Turkey. So I followed these Arab ministers around Gaza today. They went to the Shiffa Hospital where many wounded are staying. And I spoke with several of them, many of them stressing one interesting point.

That the Arab spring has changed the way Arab countries approach Gaza. Before countries like Egypt were very wary of offending their American patrons and kept Hamas at an arm's length.

Hosni Mubarak dealt with Hamas, but it was well-known he did not like Hamas at all, given its affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Some of these ministers telling me that they feel that the United States in this crisis has played a very passive role in trying to resolve this crisis.

And what we're seeing is the emergence of other countries like Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, in trying to address the situation here.

BURNETT: All right, our thanks to Ben Wedeman in Gaza City. Sara Sidner is in Jerusalem tonight with the latest on the Israeli side of things.

Sara, you know the death toll is climbing. We've been talking about the escalation as Ben has been reporting. I know you've experiences the rockets over the past couple hours.

Israel, at least we understood demanded a day of calm, 24 hours of calm before they would sign a peace deal. Obviously, there was no announcement of a ceasefire. Why didn't it happen?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been the problem. There has been a lot of talk that they're very, very close. One side says they're 90 percent, one side says wait a minute. We're not going to agree to your terms.

And there has been sort of some kind of optimism, sometimes from the civilians hoping that yes, something will happen so this all stops, and then it all falls apart. So it's one of those situations where you really have to wait until the deal is done and then make sure the deal sticks.

So there are no more rockets coming over on to the Israel side, no more air strikes happening inside Gaza. Then people will start to believe that this is actually going to happen and there's some kind of truth, some kind of ceasefire.

But first Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asking for 24 hours of calm before even getting to talks about an actual deal where there is a ceasefire in place. And that 24 hours of calm has been broken many times over the past few hours.

In fact, just an hour ago, we saw what was the light in the sky that either is a rocket or the iron dome knocking a rocket out of the air that came from Gaza so it is one of those situations where if it keeps going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

There is very -- it's very unlikely they're going to be able to come to some agreement on a truce or some sort of a ceasefire.

BURNETT: And Sara, obviously we know that tonight Hillary Clinton arrived this afternoon and she just finished her meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which went late into the night.

Tomorrow with Palestinian -- the PLO and then going to Cairo, is she going to play a real role? Do you think she can really help get this done, or is this more of a -- ceremonial, the United States sort of doing what it has to do?

SIDNER: Well, I don't think that it's necessarily ceremonial. I think that they're hoping that there can be some pressure put -- some pressure on both sides to try and get this at least resolved for some time, so things can calm down and not escalate to a ground war.

We also heard from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon saying a ground war would be the worst thing because it would cause a potential of regional conflict, not just with Gaza but other places in the region.

And is so there's this whole worry this is going to turn into more of an escalation instead of a de-escalation. So I think they have come here, Hillary Clinton has come here, to try and see if she can find some thread that she can kind of hold the two sides together.

Will it happen? We'll have to wait and see. There has been a lot of talk, as I said before, about ceasefires over the past few days, and it just hasn't happened.

And the people on both sides -- I mean, we've gone to places in Gaza where entire homes are destroyed, where people have lost their children.

We've also been to homes on this side of the border in Beersheba today at a house hit by a rocket, a girl inside, 21 years old studying, and she was terrified. And seeing the damage and destroyed lives of these families. Nobody wants to live like this -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, certainly just a tragedy on all sides. As we said, deescalate the word used today. But escalation, what is actually seeming to happen tonight.

Will Israel and Gaza accuse each other of targeting civilians with their deadly strikes? Representatives from both sides have come OUTFRONT to respond to the charges. That's next.

Plus big questions for the GOP following Mitt Romney's big loss, the Republican soul-searching is getting serious. A naval gaze of all naval gazes.

And Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke weighs on in the fiscal cliff. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, across Gaza, people are being told to flee their homes by the Israeli Defense Force. They're trying to find shelter. Arwa Damon has the story of what it's like on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first family we came across barrelling down the road. All they knew was that they did not dare stay at home. We left without knowing where to go, she tells us, cradling her 4-month-old. They say they could hear explosions as they fled.

(on camera): What caused the mass exodus was the Israeli army dropping leaflets, warning residents in certain areas, they need to depart immediately for Gaza city. And the leaflet even indicates specifically, which routes they should take to stay safe.

(voice-over): And though few believed the Israelis, leaving was a better option than staying behind. She says, their house was hit a few days ago.

(on camera): This is the second school they have actually gone to, looking for a safe place to stay, but it obviously was full, as well. And now we're going with them to try out a third one.

(voice-over): It's already packed. People angrily move benches, staking their claim. There is another school, a young man gestures, come with me, amidst the frantic search, fear.

Four years ago, the last time Israel launched an operation in Gaza, a school was bombed. The Israelis said Hamas was using the cover of schools to fire rockets. But whatever the risk, for these families, there is no alternative.

(on camera): This just gives an idea of how chaotic this situation is. This is the fourth school the family has been to now looking for a place to stay.

(voice-over): Finally, they find a room. Come, come quickly, calls the rest of the family, as others help to clear space. She is exhausted and stunned. The children arrive talking breathlessly about seeing a ball of fire outside.

(on camera): We're less than a minute away from the school, and while we were standing in there, we actually felt the windows of the building there shaking from an explosion and it seems this was the target.

(voice-over): Little reassurance for those that fled to stay safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: So poignantly told about the children who are suffering and what these images will do to them as they grow up. It's such a tragedy.

Now let's go to Ian Lee in Cairo. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as we told you, is going there to meet with President Morsi tomorrow. He is instrumental in trying to broker a peace deal.

Ian, let me ask you the question as to whether you think Morsi can get a deal done. Is Egypt really going to be able to do this?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, he definitely is the man who has a lot of potential to strike a deal between the Israelis and Hamas. But President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood base have long been a very staunch ally of Hamas.

They have had close relationships for decades. And so they will be able to influence Hamas in coming to the table and forming some sort of negotiation to a ceasefire. Also, Egypt has for the past few decades had close working relationship with Israel.

So it does seem likely that these two can come together, along with Secretary Hillary Clinton's help and support to probably form some sort of ceasefire.

BURNETT: Ian, I'm curious, there are reports of young Egyptian men, you know, flocking to the border with Gaza. They are going in, in solidarity with Hamas to fight. Egyptian doctors and medics have gone in to try to help in Hamas.

Will the Egyptian people tolerate their president working with Israel? I mean, I understand the solidarity with Hamas, but working with Israel, does he have the buy-in for that?

LEE: I think the Egyptian people will support him if he's working toward some sort of ceasefire to stop the violence in Gaza. He's had somewhat of a political victory, a short-term political victory, here in Egypt because he has come out so strongly against Israel and Israel's actions in had Gaza.

The only problem is this conflict lasts longer -- this sentiment on the street, they may want him to do more. And that is the question. Will President Mohamed Morsi, is he willing to do more, at risk of alienating the international community?

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Ian Lee. We appreciate your time.

Well, the GOP now facing questions after Mitt Romney's big loss, and four men from Southern California are in custody tonight. They're accused of trying to join al Qaeda and wage violent jihad against American troops. OUTFRONT continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, a plot to kill Americans, tonight, four men from Southern California have been arrested by the FBI. They are accused of trying to join al Qaeda and the Taliban and wage violent Jihad against American troops and American targets overseas. Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An event so unusual at this normally quiet home that neighbor Jen Collins snapped pictures from her front window.

She was so alarmed she didn't fully open the blinds, but could see federal agents descending on the home of Miguel Alejandro Santana Vitrioles, he neighbor, now charged in a terrorist conspiracy.

JEN COLLINS, NEIGHBOR: It's kind of like shocking. Is it safe for my son to go outside?

LAH: According to the criminal complaint, the apparent ring leader is 34-year-old Sahil Omar Kabir, born in Afghanistan, but a naturalized U.S. citizen and former resident of Pomona, California.

The complaint, quote, "One of the defendants referring to Kabir as Amosha Hadin walking around the streets of L.A. and that he came out here to recruit brothers."

The complaint says the four Southern California men shared violent and extremist material on Facebook, including video messages from Anwar Al Awlaki, the now deceased leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

And they liked various other links and postings. The complaint alleges the men, once in Afghanistan, planned to target American military bases, one telling a federal informant that he hoped to load up a truck with C4 explosives and just drive it into, like, the Baddest military base. I'm going to take out a whole base.

DAVE BOWDICH, SPECIAL AGENT/COUNTER TERRORISM L.A.: I think any time you have individuals here in the United States that are conspiring to go overseas to commit violent acts against members of the United States military and/or any other members, be it civilian contractors or nationalized people over there working, we think that is extremely serious.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Kyung joins me now. Kyung, what do we know about the ethnicity of these men? I mean, you know, it wasn't what you might expect.

LAH: Absolutely not. Not the typical profile and something specifically the FBI wanted to address. We're talking about three suspects, one of them Latino, the other two Asian, Vietnamese and Filipino.

The reason why the FBI wants to talk about it is because this is home grown terror, involving people who live on American soil, and they don't look like what you might think -- Erin.

BURNETT: And Kyung, were they training at all or are they just talking about attacking Americans? How far along were they?

LAH: You know, in a lot of these cases, you do think this is just a lot of chatter, right? Not in this case. What the FBI is telling us is that they trained for this. They went to firing ranges. They fired various types of assault weapons.

They went to a paint ball facility just to understand what it feels like to shoot and be shot at. And something else we should mention. Kabir was in the Air Force, U.S. Air Force, for a year-and- a-half.

He was honorably discharged at the end of 2001. We don't have many more details than that. But certainly, Erin, the FBI agents are telling us this was absolutely a very serious threat and home grown.

BURNETT: Kyung Lah, thank you very much for reporting on that.

OUTFRONT next, the fiscal cliff looms. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has decided he has to get involved.

And with ceasefire talks stalled tonight, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem met with the prime minister of Israel. Her next meeting is with the man in the middle of the negotiations. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start with stories we care about. We'll be focused on our reporting from the frontlines and we begin today with Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman weighed in on the fiscal cliff, warning policymakers, do a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Uncertainty about how the fiscal cliff, the raising of the debt limit and the longer-term budget situation will be addressed appears already to be affecting private spending and investment decisions and may be contributing to an increased sense of caution in financial markets with adverse effects on the economy. Continuing to push off difficult policy choices will only prolong and intensify these uncertainties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He went on to say, if we do get a plan that solves the government budget issues without hurting the economic recovery, next year could be a good one. That is so many ifs.

All right. The investigation of the shooting at the Sikh temple that killed six in Wisconsin is complete tonight. The FBI concluded the shooter, Wade Michael Page, acted alone and did not help.

Now, in the past, Page, had been linked to white supremacist groups, but the FBI found no evidence to conclude that he had help or was acting under, you know, any kind of directives from them. They also said the attack was not part of any ongoing threat to the American Sikh community.

On the speech this evening, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talked about how the American fight against al Qaeda is changing. He said that, yes, the United States has had a lot of success, but al Qaeda has been adapting and trying to find new safe havens and to combat this, Panetta says new campaigns against al Qaeda "will largely take place outside declared combat zones, using a small footprint approach that includes precision operations."

He went on to say America will partner with foreign forces to learn how to combat terrorism on their own. I wonder if he was referring directly to the situation in Mali.

Well, Hostess Brands, tells us mediation between the company, maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, both bad for you, both beloved, and the bakers union was unsuccessful -- which means Hostess will go ahead with its liquidation plans. Last week, when Hostess announced it was going to shut down, it blamed the union, which has been on strike since November 9th. The company said the strike crippled its ability to produce and deliver products and drove it out of business.

Well, it's 474 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. We don't want to go the same way as Hostess Brands, do we, everybody? So let's get a deal done on the fiscal cliff. There was some good news today on housing. Construction of new homes hit a four-year high in October.

And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: urgent talks for a truce. Tonight, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Jerusalem. She made a last-minute effort to try to broker a deal to stop the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

But as you've been seeing over the past hour, there are more explosions in Gaza city. Huge plumes of smoke have been going up -- Anderson, as you see there, Ben Wedeman, Arwa Damon all there, describing it as an escalation that they have seen. These are the largest blasts they have seen in the past couple days and the attacks come just hours before Secretary Clinton is scheduled to travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

When that meeting is done, she's going to go to Egypt to meet with the man at the center of the negotiations, President Mohamed Morsi.

OUTFRONT tonight, two men who have helped shaped American foreign policy, Jamie Rubin was President Clinton's assistance secretary of state for public affairs, and Nick Burns, a former under secretary of state for political affairs, also an ambassador to NATO.

All right. You are the two perfect people to answer the question.

So, Jamie, let me ask you -- what kind of leverage does Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have and what does it mean that the United States decided to have her get involved in this now when Egypt was, you know, supposedly going to be the one able to broker a deal? JAMIE RUBIN, FMR. U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, I think they probably felt that the involvement of the United States was the only player that could talk to the Israelis in a unique way -- none of the other players involved, Egypt, Turkey, any of the Europeans weren't involved. So nobody had any ability to talk directly to the Israelis, and other than the Egyptians.

And I suspect the Israelis are finding the new Egypt very different than the old Egypt. The old Egypt did not see Hamas as a brother in arms. They saw Hamas as really a very different sort of Arab cause. That's President Mubarak.

And now, the president of Egypt sees Hamas as part of the larger Muslim Brotherhood movement. So Israel didn't have anyone, probably, to talk to. And I suspect the United States was worried that this situation was going to possibly spin out of control.

BURNETT: And obviously, since that meeting finished, the rockets, as he we said, the worst our reporters have seen.

Nick, where are we going from here? Everyone is talking about a cease-fire. But yet when Hillary Clinton spoke about it, when the United States spoke about it today, they didn't use that word. They used this word that I did not understand called de-escalating.

Here is the secretary of state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: America's commitment to Israel's security is rock-solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to deescalate the situation in Gaza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Nick, what does deescalate mean? Is that diplomatic double-speak? I mean, because it is not cease-fire.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, the Israelis spoke today about a period of calm, is the way they called it, for 24 hours before they could entertain a cease-fire. I think the Israelis now have had months and intensive weeks of shelling of their southern cities by Hamas, very provocative acts by Hamas.

The Israelis need to be convinced that Hamas is going to stop its rocketing of the Israeli civilian population and they want to also test Mohamed Morsi. Can he deliver a deal?

As Jamie said, this is a new Egypt. And there's no more standoffish relationship with the Hamas organization. Mohamed Morsi has identified with them, he supported them throughout this conflict. But then again, Mohamed Morsi has a relationship, the president of Egypt, with the United States of America, with Europe, with the international financial institutions. He's the one who needs to facilitate, leverage, pressure -- Hamas to agree to the cease-fire. And I do agree with Jamie, as well. Hillary Clinton is essential now. The United States is the only country that can put together either a period of calm, de-escalation or a full cease-fire.

BURNETT: Right.

BURNS: And then hopefully, if that is achieved, pick up the initiative and try to reinvigorate discussions between Palestinians and Israelis.

BURNETT: You know, Jamie, one thing this has me thinking about, people complain about the Middle East and the conflict and the United States having to always deal with it. But the only thing maybe worse than being needed may being not needed. Has the United States -- I mean, are we really losing influence?

RUBIN: Well, there's no question that America's role in the Middle East has changed. We've pulled our forces out of Iraq. We have leaders in the Arab world now that are not as tied to the United States as, say, Mubarak was. The United States hasn't been at the center of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians in a decade now that it achieved any substantial success.

BURNETT: Yes.

RUBIN: So in those terms, military terms, diplomatic terms, we also don't have a large pocketbook to offer, large-scale Marshall Plan-type aid to the Middle East in the aftermath of --

BURNETT: No, the Gulf states that have that, right?

RUBIN: -- Arab Spring.

So economically, diplomatically, politically, militarily, our role has changed. But as we're seeing, we still have one thing in that part of the world that nobody else in the world has, and that's an ability to speak to the Israelis and to Arabs. There are -- there's no other country that has the relationship with Israel we have. Whether that will be sufficient to solve this problem, we'll just have to see.

BURNETT: Nick, who do you think if there is a cease-fire in the next day or two, who -- did anybody gain anything? I mean -- I'm talking about harass or Israel. Did anybody gain?

BURNS: I think Hamas has been the big loser here. They started this. They have been -- they have not met many of their goals. They're going to now have to sue for a cease-fire.

They may win some inter-Palestinian arguments, because Fatah looks -- in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority looks very weak right now. But I think internationally, surprising quiet. Not many countries come into Hamas' defense, and I think the Israeli government restraint, not launching the ground invasion, has been a very wise move by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Nobody wins in this these situations and the civilian populations of both countries have been the big losers. But I do think, there is going to be a measure of respect for how the prime minister of Israel has handled this in not going into Gaza, if it can end, as we hope, tomorrow, the next day, with a ceasefire.

BURNETT: Do you agree, Jamie, Nick says it was started by --

RUBIN: Certainly I agree the big losers are the populations. They're the pawns in this game.

BURNETT: Yes.

RUBIN: And Hamas used its population. I do think, however, there is a difference this time around, that Hamas has the visitors of Turkey, has the visitors of the Iraqi government, other foreign ministers.

BURNETT: There were 10 foreign ministers that came today.

RUBIN: That is new. Hamas used to be fully isolated. But where I think Nick is exactly right is that the Israeli defense system, this -- this iron shield defense system, has shown that the -- the United States can work with Israel, provide critical technology and eliminate some of the dangers that has existed in past bombardments from the -- from Hamas.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

Well, the Republican Party is facing questions after Mitt Romney's loss. What the GOP must do moving forward from what we say is the real rising star.

And in the Middle East, both sides accuse the others of targeting civilians, it's a crucial accusation. You are extremely upset about it last night when we heard from the Palestinian and the Israeli side. You took to Twitter. Tonight, we have answer.

Do the accusations add up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT tonight: both sides blaming the other for the deaths of innocent civilians.

Here's OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAEN RASHID AREIKAT, PLO CHIEF REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.S.: We are witnessing a deliberate escalation on the part of Israelis to cause as much possible of civilian deaths.

BURNETT: You really think they're trying for civilian deaths? That seems like a bit of a stretch, doesn't it?

AREIKAT: The majority of the people who are being killed today in the Gaza Strip are civilians.

BURNETT: He said that Israel is purposely targeting civilians. What do you say?

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: No, of course, we're not targeting civilians. It's difficult, because the Hamas terrorists are deeply embedded within the civilian population. They're using that population as human shields.

BURNETT: Do you have proof that's happening?

OREN: Oh, we can see it from the air. We had one case of an Israeli pilot who had targeted a long-range rocket, and at the last minute had to abort his mission because there were children in the vicinity.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURNETT: All right. That was last night on this show. The Israeli ambassador to the United States and the PLO ambassador to the United States. But who is really targeting civilians?

OUTFRONT tonight, Naftali Bennett, former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a major in the IDF forces, and Rula Jebreal, foreign policy expert at "Newsweek."

Good to see both of you.

Naftali, let me start with you.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said today, no country can tolerate a wanton attack on its civilians. But, of course, in terms of the facts, the numbers, Israel is also killing civilians in Gaza. So knowing that civilians are going to die, right?

NAFTALI BENNETT, FMR. NETANYAHU CHIEF OF STAFF: The situation is simple. We have a terrorist state right next to us that's been bombarding us with over 1,200 missiles over the past week on our cities, deliberately. And we're responding.

Now, Hamas is killing its own children because they embed the missile launchers inside kindergartens, inside hospitals. I've seen it with my own eyes. You have a kitchen, you have a living room, you have a family room and then you have the missile room inside a residential house.

When you do that, it means you're killing your own children.

So, yes, when someone shoots us in Israel, we do respond. And is if there is children next to the missile-launcher, then it's Hamas killing them.

BURNETT: Rula, what do you say to that? This is the argument the Israeli ambassador used too. That Hamas uses children as shields, putting militants in those locations. RULA JEBREAL, FOREIGN POLICY EXPERT AT "NEWSWEEK": Well, if Hamas is a movement -- I mean, and Naftali said it's a state. Gaza is not a state. Let's remember, Gaza is under siege, part of what is supposed to be a state that never happened to be a state.

Israel occupies the West Bank since 1967, and they never gave them anything. The truth is, if Hamas is a movement or a terrorist group, and they are doing what they are doing, Israel is a democracy. So the answer of a democracy, when we know there are civilians, we try to avoid casualties.

We try to do our best and find solutions to solve the conflict. But we are answering their attacks with other attacks and violence.

You are building more hatred, Mr. Naftali. You are not solving and providing solutions here.

BENNETT: Ms. Jebreal, I do not provide solutions to terrorists. We have to eradicate terrorism and that's exactly what you're doing. Let me be very clear.

JEBREAL: But that -- the other side -- actually --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Let -- there's a bit of a delay.

BENNETT: -- the other house would be showered with missiles. I'm asking you, would you tolerate that or would you respond? I think Mrs. Jebreal is speaking nonsense. I have to be very frank about that.

Let's be clear about one more thing.

JEBREAL: I think you're dishonest intellectually.

BENNETT: And we handed 100 percent of Gaza over to the Palestinians. They founded --

JEBREAL: It's under siege.

BENNETT: -- the independent state. Ten days after we handed over 100 percent of Gaza, they began -- no, it was not under siege.

JEBREAL: It is under siege. It's an open-air prison.

BENNETT: They began shooting missiles at my family, at a million homes in southern Israel. And then we responded. So, there's an aggressor --

JEBREAL: It's an open-air prison. Nobody is suggested for you to negotiate with Hamas. What you are doing!

Mr. Naftali, you are negotiating already with Hamas in Egypt directly. You negotiated with Hamas already a year ago.

BENNETT: There's one thing we've got to do with terrorists and that's hunt them down.

BURNETT: All right. Hold on. We have a bit of a delay, so if we could wait -- Rula, please finish and then Naftali.

JEBREAL: Yes. I mean, he's really dishonest and I'm sorry to say that. You are negotiating with Hamas. You have guys -- Israeli guys already in Egypt negotiating directly with Hamas. You negotiated with Hamas a year ago over Gilad Shalit. Actually, you handed them 1,000 prisoners.

Nobody is asking you in the world to negotiate with Hamas. But you are doing it secretly. Who are bagging begging you to negotiate, who are begging actually to negotiate, has been behaving actually greatly is the P.A. of Abu Mazen. You asked for security on the West Bank, prosperity and you know what? You are humiliating them, not giving anything, and increasing settlement.

For seven years, Mr. Netanyahu, Prime Minister Netanyahu didn't give Abu Mazen anything and actually, empowered more Hamas. Because the moment Abu Mazen went to the U.N., he negotiated with Hamas over Gilad Shalit, released prisoners. And you are sending and setting up a very dangerous precedent.

BURNETT: OK.

JEBREAL: If Hamas sends missiles, we negotiate. If Abu Mazen behaved well, we don't do anything.

BURNETT: OK. Let's let Naftali respond.

BENNETT: These are lots of words that are just covering the simple truth. The simple truth is that we handed over a piece of land, 100 percent of it to the Palestinians. They founded a state. Ten days after they began shooting at us, every time we hand over land to the Arabs, they begin shooting at us.

What we have in Gaza Strip is sort of an al Qaeda-type state that's full of terror, and has one goal, and it's to eliminate Israel.

I want to tell you, Erin, if there's one good news from this week, it's wall-to-wall consensus in Israel that we have to defend ourselves. We are determined to do that. We've got thousands of soldiers just waiting to defend our children. And we'll do that.

Let's not confuse. There's right and wrong here. The wrong side is the aggressors who start shooting missiles at us. The right side is us who are defending ourselves.

Let's not make that mistake here.

BURNETT: Rula, is there a solution from the perspective of Hamas that would result in peace?

JEBREAL: There is a solution from the perspective of the world, not only of Hamas or the Palestinians. Hamas represent part of the Palestinians but they are not the only part. The only part and the recognized part by the international community is the Palestinian Authority.

Look, we are not addressing the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is the Israeli military occupation. That's why every three, four years, we see the eruption of violence over and over.

BENNETT: But there is no occupation. Mrs. Jebreal, there is no occupation in Gaza Strip. Stop confusing things.

JEBREAL: You know what? You are denying facts on the ground.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: I have to pause the conversation.

BENNETT: Instead of that you turned it into the Taliban of the Middle East.

BURNETT: Thanks to both of you. Obviously an issue that inspires so much passion, you all know in your own living rooms. It was hard for them to restrain themselves. This is the passion people feel about that issue.

We're going to take a break. The future of the GOP is OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Now to the future of the GOP. After Mitt Romney's loss, there's been a lot of talk about what happens to the Republican Party. Is it dead, can it be resuscitated, who is more to blame, who's a bigger jerk? The soul-searching has gotten very serious, very fast.

OUTFRONT tonight: Roland Martin and Reihan Salam. Reihan, of course, is a writer for "The National Review".

Good to see both of you.

I've got to start with Reihan. Roland, I don't know if you know this. David Brooks wrote an op-ed and he names you, Reihan, as one of the young writers and bloggers who are increasingly influential. I mean, hey. You know, we have known that on this show for a year.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We need balloons and streamers and fireworks.

BURNETT: He said you are data-driven, empirical and low key in tone. That is why we love you.

OK. He was talking about how you are on social issues and economic concerns. Does the rest of the GOP need to be more like you, Reihan?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Really, I suggest everyone think about being more like me, Erin. You would look amazing with a shorn head. Also, my fellow guest here, I think give some thought to this look, because it might change your life for the better.

BURNETT: I mean, you know --

SALAM: To be serious, I think about the Republican Party in general, back in 2004, a lot of folks were saying the Republican Party's going to dominate for a generation, Democrats are flipping out, and one thing that I said to give myself a little bit of credit is that well, no.

I mean, George W. Bush won this election by winning over working women in Ohio. Folks were concerned about their economic prospects but said, hey, George W. Bush is going to protect us from terrorism and what did he do? 2005, Social Security, personal accounts, comprehensive immigration reform -- he wasn't addressing those core kitchen table bread and butter issues that a lot of middle class folks were aspirational.

They want to be better off. But they're really concerned about -- they're a lot more concerned about health care and education and issues like that than they are concerned about taxes.

BURNETT: Yes.

SALAM: What do you get from Mitt Romney? You get a campaign that's all about tax cuts rather than about those core kitchen table bread and butter issues. And I have been saying that's a big mistake for a long time. Now you have a lot of Republicans who are catching up, who are getting it. It's about time.

BURNETT: So, do you think, Roland, they can get it and make up the ground they've lost? I mean, so many people are saying you've lost Hispanics, you're never getting them back, you're done, there's no more GOP.

Is that just ridiculous?

MARTIN: First of all, I have Michael Steele on my TV show on Sunday and we talked about this year.

BURNETT: Yes.

MARTIN: The Republican Party has to listen to people. They can't just say well, this is where we stand, what we stand for, and we really don't want to hear what you have to say.

You look at what the Democrats did. You look at what President Obama did. They looked at five, six, seven, eight different issues in terms of being able to put together their coalition which was a winning coalition.

The Republican Party often only says one or two things. They say lower taxes, smaller government. OK, but inside of that, you still have to talk to people and I've made this point and Republicans get mad at me when I say they're scared of black folks, scared to talk to 'em. You look at the Republican debate, when the question was asked what would you do to attract Latinos to the party and they all talked about building a wall.

They have to actually sit down, communicate with people, to Reihan's point, and say, what are you concerned about? What are your concerns, what are your issues? And not just a top down philosophy. If so, they'll keep losing.

BURNETT: So here's what they're trying to do. I mean, 2016's already started for all intents and purposes, from the Republican side. So here's Republicans trying to do a little bit of what you and Roland are talking about. Here's three of the people who are probably be running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We need to stop being the dumb party. We need to offer smart, conservative, intelligent ideas and policies. That's how we win elections.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: This is not about the Republican Party for those of us who are Republicans. This is about limited government conservatism. The Republican Party is the home of that movement.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: We've got to do better. It's a combination of tone and message and reaching out to new and minority voters.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BURNETT: So, Reihan, you know, these are three people who will be running and the mea culpa. Rubio in particular, he had a new "GQ" article. He talks about being a hip-hop fan, he's not a fan of Pit Bull. He likes Eminem.

SALAM: Huge Tupac fan as well. Yes.

BURNETT: And Tupac -- OK, what does this do for him?

SALAM: You know, it's interesting because Marco Rubio's a genuine hip-hop fan, has been for a long time. But I think part of this is also conveying --

BURNETT: That is just not -- I get it but it doesn't --

(CROSSTALK)

SALAM: It's partly conveying the Republican Party needs to have candidates in tune of the country as it is. America is very different than it was in 1984, in 1980, and there's a generation of folks who really connect with this music and with this culture, and you need candidates who understand that. So I think --

MARTIN: Oh, my God.

BURNETT: Please stand up. Go ahead, Roland. MARTIN: Oh, my God. Seriously? Here's the deal, Senator Rubio. Don't say you like Tupac. Are you listening to what Tupac rapped about? Are you talking about the war on drugs? Are you talking about poverty? Are you talking about public housing?

Again, don't just say I like the music but I don't really want to listen to what he was rapping about.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. Will the real Marco Rubio, please stand up. Please stand up.

Thanks for watching. Anderson starts now.