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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
No Cease-Fire in Middle East
Aired November 20, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. Breaking news tonight. You're looking live at Gaza City, a city on the edge. Any hope of a quick cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appears to have gone. Off another day of deadly attacks from both sides.
President Obama has dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for closed door meetings. Listen to what she said. She stood side by side with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: In the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Secretary Clinton sits down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi tomorrow.
I want to bring in now CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who is live for us in Jerusalem tonight, and Anderson Cooper and Ben Wedeman, who are both in Gaza City.
Wolf, let me start with you if I may. A very tense day with claim and counterclaim coming almost on an hourly basis. There was going to be a cease-fire, then no cease-fire. Both sides trading sort of insults and then offering little fig leaves.
What do you make of it all? As we -- as we talk now in the middle of a nightmare, what do you make of where we really are with this?
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: Well, throughout most of the day, I thought they were very close to reaching a cease- fire agreement. All the signs looked rather positive. And then all of a sudden, on this day, it was getting increasingly more tense in the southern part of Israel and what we've been seeing in Gaza, very, very bloody as well.
And you know, you wouldn't know that they are apparently rather close to some sort of a deal, that the Egyptian government, the new president, Mohamed Morsi, seems to be brokering. They may still get some sort of cease-fire agreement. It looks very tenuous to me right now but you know, sometimes just before, having covered cease-fires in the past, just before the agreement is reached, it gets very, very dark, then all of a sudden they have a deal.
So let's see what happens tomorrow. But I think Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meetings with the Israelis and then the Palestinian leadership on the West Bank, and in Egypt, I think that could result in something. We'll see if she can -- if she can help break this logjam. They were close but they're not there until they're there.
MORGAN: Yes, but she used an interesting phrase. She described the situation as requiring de-escalation rather than cease-fire. What did she mean by that?
BLITZER: Right. I think they're talking about having some sort of period of what the Palestinians call calm or what the Israelis want to test to see what the Hamas militants in Gaza are up to. They're not ready to call it a formal cease-fire and remember, the U.S., Israel, the Europeans, for that matter, they don't recognize Hamas. They regard Hamas as a terrorist organization so it's awkward.
They can't deal directly with one of the principal players in this part of the world, Hamas, which controls Gaza. It's up to countries like Egypt or Turkey or Qatar to broker that kind of a deal because they have good relations with Hamas. So it's an awkward situation and there's no trust, totally no trust from Hamas towards the Israelis and certainly no trust from the Israelis to Hamas. So this thing could easily explode even as they supposedly are getting closer towards a deal.
And remember, Piers, there are at least 30,000, 40,000 Israeli ground forces on the outskirts of Gaza right now with heavy tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers. If Prime Minister Netanyahu gives them the order, they'll move in.
MORGAN: Yes. They will. Let's turn to Anderson and Ben who are in Gaza. We've got a little montage here of some pretty big explosions that gone on today involving both of you. Let's watch this first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's pretty clear that we are moving in the direction of --
ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, CNN'S AC 360: Whoa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And both of those big explosions, Anderson, and you've covered this territory for a long time. What is your gut feeling about what is going on on the ground?
COOPER: Well, it's nice those reactions side by side. You see that Ben is a lot tougher than I am because I duck a lot more than Ben does.
He's far more used to this than I. Look, it is a very tense situation here. Not only have we seen a number of explosions, incoming rockets being fired into Gaza City, we've seen rockets throughout the day being fired by forces here, Hamas and perhaps others, into Israel. So we've been seeing this back and forth all day.
We also saw a very gruesome scene earlier, Piers, of what I assume to be Hamas members on motorcycles, about six or seven -- dragging the body of an accused or convicted collaborator through the streets, a dead body of this man. His feet were tied while roped to the back of one of the motorcycles, and they were yelling, "God is great," and saying he was a spy, a collaborator for Israel.
So it's a very tense situation here. You know, the battle lines are drawn, hearts and minds are hardened on both sides of this border, and the idea that there's going to be some sort of a cooling down period, not even using that word cease-fire, at this point, there's no clear sign of how the pathway to that point will be reached.
WEDEMAN: Yes, definitely.
MORGAN: And Ben, in terms of the --
WEDEMAN: The situation looked fairly good for most of the day. Yes, Piers. Yes, in fact, last night was very quiet, unlike the previous nights, and therefore we assumed that there was -- and speaking to Hamas officials, there was the feeling that there was progress, that this evening or rather last night, there would be some sort of announcement of a cease-fire but what we've seen is quite to the contrary here in Gaza this evening.
MORGAN: And, Ben, in terms of the way that both sides are behaving, the Israelis keep saying look, we've been bombarded with these Hamas rockets, we've had enough, we're defending ourselves, and yet they are killing in the last seven or eight days, far more Palestinians than the Palestinians are killing Israelis.
Who do you think holds the high moral ground, if either side does right now, in terms of opinion outside of the immediate region?
WEDEMAN: Well, I mean, that's a difficult question to ask, because certainly outside the region, there are impressions that are gleaned from the news, from what people read in the newspaper, but really, it's here where the history of this conflict doesn't begin last Wednesday when the fighting began. We go back a hundred years here and therefore, the high moral ground, if you want to debate that here in the Middle East, you will spend the rest of your life speaking yourself blue in the face and you will not come to a conclusion about who holds the higher moral ground. MORGAN: Anderson, and one of the key aspects of this is the involvement of Iran. You know, I interviewed Shimon Peres yesterday, who was very firm about Iran have been training and tooling Hamas, financing them, supplying them with their long-range rockets and so on.
Do you think all that is entirely accurate? Do you believe that Iran, from everything you're gleaning on the ground there, is as involved as the Israelis believe?
COOPER: Well, certainly. I mean, you look at the sophistication of some of these weapons now that Hamas and groups like Islamic Jihad has access to, they're far more sophisticated than when I was last here back in 2008-2009, when Israel was last engaged on the ground here.
Back then, and Ben has spent a lot more time here in the region and has seen the fact -- you know, the impromptu factories that were making rockets. And, you know, I spent time in Ashkelon last time I was here and the rockets didn't have much accuracy. They didn't have much range. Now you have this -- the Fajr-5 rocket which comes from Iran, the components come from Iran, are smuggled through a pipeline, through Sudan, said to be through Egypt as well, and then, you know, taken apart, brought through the tunnels from Egypt and reassembled here.
I think it's very clear Iran is having a role in this, and not just with a group like Hamas but also with a group like Islamic Jihad and some of the other groups which are even more extreme, according to -- to, you know, intelligence sources, than Hamas is.
MORGAN: Yes. Anderson, Ben and Wolf, thank you all very much indeed. You've done amazing stint today reporting from the ground. And we really appreciate it. Thank you.
We'll hear from both sides tonight. But right now, I want to bring in Senator Dianne Feinstein, she's the chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Welcome to you.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: It's obviously a very tense situation there. It could go, as Wolf said just now, either way, really. We could wake up tomorrow and see a cease-fire or we could see escalation in the bloodshed. What do you think it's going to take to try and guarantee some form of cease-fire?
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think this is a very serious situation. I think Israel has a right to defend itself. I think 12 years of missiles coming in, 13,000 of them, now longer range missiles that can hit at the heart of Israel's most historic city, Jerusalem, its biggest city, Tel Aviv. I think this is a very serious situation. And I'm very pleased that Secretary of State Clinton has chosen to go there. I think this underlines the seriousness of it. I think it's a wakeup call for the moderate Arab nations and I think it's going to be a point of decision for Egypt. Either Egypt is going to be able to negotiate an arrangement whereby these missiles stop and there is some incentive for Egypt to really take a position to handle what has been a very fanatical and smart terrorist organization.
United States holds Hamas as a terrorist organization, and I also think that this may well open an opportunity to be able to look again at a two-state solution. I mean, this has to be solved. It goes on and on and on, and this isn't the Middle East before the Arab spring. We're now going into the Arab winter with instability, with a tumultuous situation in a large number of countries in that area, so moderate Arab countries have to come out and lead, and particularly the biggest one of all, which is Egypt. We will see.
MORGAN: It's -- I mean, It's a very complex situation for the new president, Morsi, isn't it? Because on the one hand --
MORGAN: -- you have a lot of Arabs baying for blood, quite literally, saying listen, the Israelis are slaughtering, you know, over 100 now Palestinians in a week, you cannot be seen to acquiesce to this and not be supportive of the Palestinians. At the same time, he's a new guy who's come in, he's aware of his place in the world, he wants to make a mark, and he'll be keen not to alienate either Israel or America.
If you're him, you're in a very difficult position.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's true. But I hope people see Hamas for what it is, and that is using their own people as human shields. Putting these missiles and rockets in places right in the middle of residential areas, in homes and mosques and parks. You don't do this. I mean, this borders on being an international war crime.
Now the problem is that Hamas isn't a member of either of the organizations, the Geneva Conventions or others, that would hold this as a war crime. So it's a very difficult situation. Our solidarity has to be with Israel. This is a point where Israel has been under attack for a long period of time and nothing has solved it.
And also, during this period of time, I think the importance of achieving a two-state solution really cannot be underestimated. There's going to be no more better partner than Mahmoud Abbas and I think to a great extent the inability to enable Israel and the Palestinians to come together, perhaps this will provide that opportunity. Perhaps the secretary of state will play a very dominant role. After all, her husband came the closest of anybody to establishing a two-state solution.
So she knows exactly where all of this stands and what might be able to solve what has been an historic and very difficult situation. MORGAN: But part of the problem for Mahmoud Abbas is that he's being increasingly seen to be marginalized. You know, Hamas are seen to be the emerging power there with more control perhaps over the body of Palestinians, and he is seen as somebody slightly out of touch from where the real action is.
Now, how does he deal with that? What does he do now to try and wrestle back some kind of control? Because at the moment you have him on one side, with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is, you know, much more prosperous than Gaza is, on the other hand you have this terribly oppressed Gaza which is run by Hamas. They're two completely separate areas, aren't they?
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's right. And there's a lot of difference of opinion there. I think Israel moving forward with Mahmoud Abbas is the only way to go, and to miss this opportunity, actually because the window is closing. The demographics of the area are making it increasingly difficult because the Arab population inside of Israel is increasing every year, so this is -- in my book, it is an opportunity and if the moderate Arab nations would ever really step up to really be helpful in solving this, I believe it could be solved.
You've got a couple of very thorny issues, but the geography of it has been pretty well worked out over the years.
MORGAN: But if I could just ask you one question about Benghazi, Senator. The key unanswered question appears to be after everything we've been through in the last few weeks, is who it was that decided to remove from the intelligence report the fact that the attack was probably linked to an al Qaeda group. Are we any nearer to knowing the answer to that question?
FEINSTEIN: Well, we have a process in place to find that out, and the Senate Intelligence Committee has made very clear, and I made it clear in the meeting, that we want that whole process from A to Z gone through, and who made what changes from the initial analysis done by the CIA. We want to know who did what.
I believe that the White House only changed one thing, and that was the word "consulate" to "mission." I do not believe that any part of the administration in the sense of the White House made any changes and we know when Director Petraeus came to the Senate Intelligence Committee the day after the event and we happened to have a transcript of this, that he gave us his view that this was, in fact, a terrorist attack.
But there was some reluctance of including one of the groups which was al Qaeda. This is sort of a loose thing with people kind of knitting together quite possibly from three different groups, but it was an attack and there should be no doubt about that. Nonetheless, Susan Rice has been pilloried because she did what was required of her, which was to use those talking points. So we really need to know and she is getting the blame for it and quite unfairly.
MORGAN: Well, she'll continue to get the blame, of course, until somebody else is fingered for it, because clearly she was passing on what she was told, but that was not the correct picture, and the correct picture was suppressed by somebody. And I hope that you're able to wrestle the answers out for us.
FEINSTEIN: Well, that's right. And the correct picture -- this was on the 11th -- didn't really emerge until 10 days later, which really raises the question with all the hundreds of threat warnings, with what had happened before in the country. Why did it take so long to know what had happened.
As you know, we saw a film real time from out of doors put together from both drone footage as well as camera footage at the facility itself, and you know, there was no one out front. There was no demonstration out front. And the militia which is unarmed, the minute they saw the guns, they disappeared.
And it's a good lesson not to use these militias and particularly if they're not trained, if they're not armed, if they don't have the will, and I'm very much of the view that we need to protect our facilities. We have 285 of them, diplomatic facilities and intelligence is key to determining the level of protection. And we must provide it.
MORGAN: Senator Feinstein, I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you very much.
FEINSTEIN: You're very welcome. Thank you.
MORGAN: Still ahead, we'll hear from the Palestinian side. When we come back, if the unthinkable happens and diplomacy fails, what will Israel do? I will ask the Israeli deputy foreign minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: If there's a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tonight promising to take whatever action necessary to defend his people.
Joining me now is Danny Ayalon, he's the deputy foreign minister of Israel, and former ambassador to the U.S.
Welcome to you, sir.
DANNY AYALON, ISRAELI DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: Good to be here with you, Piers.
MORGAN: What does he mean, Prime Minister Netanyahu, by long- term solution and what does he mean by taking whatever action necessary?
AYALON: Well, long-term solution meaning that once we reach a cease-fire with Hamas, they will not fire at us at the first opportunity or at the will or whenever they decide and whatever necessary means that if there is no relent to terrorizing more of half of the population of Israel, four million people under fire, we may have to consider going in, so we find ourselves, Piers, in the position of reluctant warriors, if you may.
MORGAN: Many of the regional states have accused Israel of behaving like terrorists, including Turkey, many Egyptians have said this, many others in the region believe that your own actions are bordering on terrorism and are disproportionate. What do you say to that?
AYALON: Well, I say that this is tongue-in-cheek and in fact, Israel which really is the only Western country with a real democratic regime, with all the checks and balances and free press, we are the most humane, the most compassionate. You see, you know, this so- called Arab spring, you see how Arabs treat Arabs, how the Turks treat Kurds and whatever. So I think that whatever they say is just ridiculous, it's not serious, and it's not serving really the entire situation, unfortunately.
MORGAN: Do you know how many Palestinians you've killed in the last eight days?
AYALON: Well, it seems like about 120 were killed, about 60 of them were known terrorists, about 60 or less than that were unfortunately uninvolved. But who is responsible for that? And every death of innocent people is regrettable. We lost three of our people today, but what's happening here. Hamas specifically targets only civilian population in Israel.
And we have hundreds of thousands of people and children which are traumatized by this incoming missiles for the last seven years, which adds salt into injury that we gave, we turned over Hamas in its entirety to the Palestinians five years ago, and they used this land that we gave, it's not land for peace, they used it as a platform to continue and attack us.
Now the first crime is that they target civilian population in Israel. The second crime against humanity that they used their own population as human shields. We have been going out of our way to be as accurate as we can, but unfortunately, wars are ugly. There's no war without casualties, but again, I think it's very important to put the blame where it belongs and this is the Hamas terror organization.
MORGAN: I mean, quite hard, though, to argue that you're not targeting civilian areas given that all the areas you're targeting have been in civilian areas.
AYALON: All the -- all the places, the bunkers, the launchers of Hamas are specifically in populated areas. They fire out of mosques, out of kindergartens, out of schools, and out of hospitals. But given the fact that we have been very, very careful, sometimes, many times at the risk of our own fire jets or our own soldiers, the casualties and of course, every innocent death is a tragedy but it could have been 10 times bigger. But I think we are trying to be very, very careful and, and I hope we'll not get into a land operation, but if we do, what -- we will give enough time for the population to leave the area and designating safe routes for them to leave the area so hopefully only the Hamas people will stand there to face our incoming troops.
If this is necessary. I still don't know if we have to go that long.
MORGAN: What will it take for you to launch a ground invasion now, do you think?
AYALON: Well, we hope for a cease-fire last night. Meantime, Israel, but instead of tapering, instead of stopping the firing, the Hamas actually used today and fired more than most of the days in the last week or so. I would say the first stage, if Hamas completely stops, holds its fire, we will respond in kind. Secondly, of course, we can enter into some settlement and here the Egyptian role, of course, is very, very important, and I would say very constructive so far.
Then we can find a modality where we secure our border, we secure our population, and in turn, they can have security over in Gaza.
MORGAN: Thank you very much indeed for joining me.
AYALON: Thank you.
MORGAN: Coming up, I'll talk live to the chief PLO representative to the U.S. Plus my all-star panel on what it will take for Hamas and Israel to stop the killing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Clinton looking for lasting solution to the Middle East problem, but even a ceasefire is no guarantee of peace. What will it take for both sides to co-exist?
With me now is Maen Areikat, the chief representative of the PLO to the U.S. Welcome to you, sir.
MAEN AREIKAT, CHIEF P.L.O REPRESENTATIVE TO U.S.: Thank you.
MORGAN: The big problem it seems from the outside here is that there are two factions now controlling the Palestinians. One is yourselves and Mahmoud Abbas. The other is Hamas. There's an increasing distance between these two organizations, which makes it very, very difficult to know who should be negotiating with Israel.
AREIKAT: Well, the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, remains the representative of the Palestinian people, even when Hamas formed the Palestinian government after the elections of 2006.
They acknowledged this fact that the PLO will be in charge of conducting negotiations with Israel in order to resolve the conflict. So there's no question about who represents the Palestinian people here.
We do have political differences. This is not a secret. But when it comes to confronting this Israeli brutal attack against the Gaza strip, witnessing the deaths of innocent civilians, 135 so far have been killed, almost 1,000 wounded, we have put aside all our differences and we do our best to protect our people.
MORGAN: How do you personally feel about the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas going back months and years?
AREIKAT: Well, we always have said that we do not condone violence from any side, but you have to keep in mind, Piers, that this current cycle of violence started when Israel took out a military commander of Hamas on Wednesday.
And the Israelis were anticipating a retaliation unless they do not understand the politics of the region. So when it comes to this current cycle of violence, it was Israel who provoked the Palestinian factions in the Gaza strip and there is an underlying political issue here.
People in the midst of this coverage about the violence there and the killings there tend to forget that this is a political issue. This is not a security issue.
This is a political issue that has to do with the confinement, with the siege of 1.7 million Palestinians who are living in the Gaza strip who have been under a blockade for the last seven years.
And the fact that the Israeli military occupation continues in the west bank and the Palestinians are denied their freedom.
MORGAN: Wouldn't you say that Israel started this, I mean, that's a ridiculous statement because, of course, the reason they targeted that particular individual was that he had been leading Hamas in a series of murderous attacks on Israelis going back quite a consider able time. Why shouldn't they defend themselves by taking him out?
AREIKAT: Well, that particular person whom you are talking about was also instrumental in concluding the idea that the release of the Israeli soldier a year ago and he has been instrumental at working to calm the situation down in the Gaza strip. These are reports that were published in British newspapers and American newspapers and Israeli newspapers. This is not the issue. The issue here is, Piers, it's not the issue of a chicken or egg here.
I mean, there is a situation in the Gaza strip. Four years ago, Israel attacked the Gaza strip. We all remember that. And they will probably do it again in four years, you know, in the future. Unless they are willing to deal with the root causes of this problem.
Unfortunately, we are going to find ourselves in the same situation again. Do you think that Israel today is more secure than they used to be four years ago or ten years ago?
Had Israel concluded agreement with the PLO in 1999 to establish a Palestinian state, and we have managed to end this conflict, both Israelis and Palestinians would be much more secure today.
MORGAN: Do you fear a ground invasion by Israeli forces?
AREIKAT: I think, you know, I am concerned about the safety, the wellbeing of our people in the Gaza strip, a ground invasion for what purposes? What objectives does Israel want to reoccupy the Gaza strip? They want to suppress 1.7 million people there?
I don't think it would be wise to even consider such an option and I remain hopeful that the efforts made by Egypt and other countries will yield some results in the next few hours and put an end to this madness.
I call it this madness in which Israel is subjecting an innocent civilian population in the Gaza strip to indiscriminate bombardment.
MORGAN: Many would say, of course, there's madness on both sides at the moment and the sooner we get to ceasefire, the better. Ambassador, thank you very much for joining me.
AREIKAT: Thank you, sir.
MORGAN: Coming up next, Alan Dershowitz joins me to talk about the Middle East crisis and whether a truce can be reached.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: And we appreciate President Morsi's personal leadership and Egypt's efforts thus far. As a regional leader and neighbor, Egypt has the opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Secretary of State Clinton thanking Egypt for its critical part in the efforts for ceasefire. With me, Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and the author of "The Case of Moral Clarity," Reza Aslan from the Council of Foreign Relations and the author of "No God But God," and Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson Center and the author of "Rock The Casbah."
Welcome to you all. Let me start with you, Alan Dershowitz. A day that promised so much, but in the end delivered very little, what is your reading of where we are with this?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, I don't think it promised all that much. I think all it really promised was some kind of a cooling-off period. I don't believe that there will be a ceasefire that will hold.
The representative of the PLO acknowledged that. He agreed with me. He said he thought in four years or three years or two years, Israel would start it up again, but that's not the way it works. The way it works is Hamas decides whether because they want to test Egypt or because they are told by Iran or because of their own people.
That the time has come to renew the sending of rockets and once that happens, in a democracy like Israel, there has to be a response. The Israelis have to protect their civilians and so they then take action, military actions, and it's called the cycle of violence, but it's not a cycle of violence.
There's a difference between a double war crime committed by Hamas, namely firing from behind civilians at civilians and what Israel does is killing terrorists, having a blockade that's perfectly lawful according to the United Nations, and taking appropriate military action.
The reason there are so many more casualties on the part of the Palestinians, they deliberately don't build shelters for their civilians. They build shelters only for their terrorist fighters.
The terrorist fighters fire rockets from above ground then run into the shelters, leaving the civilians to be exposed. Israel, on the other hand, build shelters all over the country and enormous, enormous cost and they also fire their rockets from Gaza City.
Now, they don't have to fire them from a crowded Gaza City. They can fire them from an enormous amount of empty land that exists between Gaza City -- but they choose --
MORGAN: Let me bring in Reza Aslan. There is a point, isn't there, Reza, about this, that Israel is almost compelled to fire into these densely populated areas because that is where Hamas hides its missile firing weaponry. What else are they supposed to do? How else do they tackle Hamas and its firing of missiles?
REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD": Well, if you want a long- term solution to it, you have to deal with it at the political level. First of all, let's be clear that the vast majority of rockets that have been raining down on Israel before this conflict began were not Hamas rockets.
They were rockets that were being fired by far more radical militant groups, who by the way hate Hamas as much as they hate Israel. In fact, Israel and Hamas share an enemy in these Jihadist organizations that have rooted themselves in the Gaza strip.
But more importantly, if what you want to do is make sure that these rockets stop on a permanent basis, then you have to take Hamas seriously as the government of Gaza.
What I find very difficult to believe is the way that Israel says that Hamas, whether they fire the rockets or not, is responsible for the firing of those rockets because they're being fired from territory that they control.
Well, if that's the case, then Hamas is the government. And if Hamas is the government, then this blockade, this absolute siege of Gaza that has made life so miserable for 1.7 million people, that itself has to be at the root of any kind of long-term solution to making sure that Israel remains safe.
MORGAN: Let me bring in Robin Wright here. Robin, you hear both sides of this argument and we're hearing it a lot, obviously, in the last few days, and you find yourself nodding to both sides if you're not very careful.
You just agree with almost everything you're being told. You can see both sides of the argument. But what is the way through this? Is it perhaps the legitimizing of Hamas?
Is it time to recognize Hamas as a force in the area, which has to be taken seriously as an elected body and that is the way through to peace? That is the way it's going to have to be?
ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: A lot has to happen before that. Remember what happened with Yasser Arafat and the PLO and Israel. Arafat had to take profound steps in recognizing Israel's right to exist and pledging not to engage in terrorism and Hamas has not taken either of those steps.
But this is where Hillary Clinton's role is so important. After four years of basically neglecting the peace process, the Obama administration now has in some ways an opportunity to move in and create not just a sense of calm or temporary ceasefire, but actually to take the first steps in dealing with Israel's security as well as the issue of the blockade of Gaza.
If she can move through phase one in the ceasefire, phase two, then deal with those immediate concerns, that then opens the way for what everyone is expected since ironically her husband got close to a peace agreement 12 years ago in Camp David.
Everyone knows what the ultimate formula is going to be. This is a moment where the situation begs for a bigger solution than just another temporary ceasefire that opens the way as Alan Dershowitz says for something four years down the road.
MORGAN: OK, let's hold that thought. Let's have a quick break, come back and talk about the big picture solution.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: Got my panel, Alan Dershowitz, Reza Aslan and Robin Wright. Alan Dershowitz, I believe that you met up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas from the PLO. Tell me about that? What do you think the big-picture solution could be?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, several weeks ago, I had occasion to meet with Prime Minister -- President Abbas and I tried to break the deadlock. Remember, Abbas won't sit down with the Israelis until and unless they first have a settlement freeze and Israelis said we had a settlement freeze for nine months, and you didn't sit down until it was virtually over.
So my proposal was why not sit down before there's any settlement freeze, with the understanding if there are good-faith negotiations continuing, then the settlement freeze will occur and Abbas thought that was a very good idea.
And I'm hoping that Secretary Clinton might put that both to Abbas and to Prime Minister Netanyahu because we have to break the deadlock. We have to get them seated at the table and everybody knows how it this is going to work.
Everybody knows what parts will remain part of Israel and the settlement continue there. Everybody knows what parts won't remain part of Israel and then the area is in dispute have to be negotiated and resolved, that's a good beginning I think.
MORGAN: Reza Aslan, is that a good solution?
ASLAN: I don't see any reason to think that there is any desire on the part of the current Israeli government to pursue that kind of policy. I mean, even if Netanyahu wanted desperately to create a Palestinian state.
His right wing coalition, this extreme right-wing coalition that he's put together has repeatedly said that it would not abide by any kind of Palestinian state.
And let's be honest about something here. In 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed, putting the framework for a two-state solution, there were about 100,000 settlers in the land designated as the future Palestine.
Today, 20 years later, after 20 years of negotiations, there are 600,000 Israeli settlers in that land.
DERSHOWITZ: But most live in areas that will remain part of Israel, everybody knows that.
ASLAN: Anybody who tells you those settlers were not a deliberate policy to precisely, create the facts on the ground that would ward off the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state.
DERSHOWITZ: Why not try? Sit down and negotiate. Let them come to the negotiating table.
ASLAN: We've had 20 years of negotiations and we are further away from a two-state solution than we have ever been.
DERSHOWITZ: We came very close, and -- and Arafat walked away. Then we came very close and Abbas walked away. Now the time has come to sit down, and neither party walk away.
ASLAN: We can talk about 40 years of who is at fault. But only one number matters and that's 600,000.
DERSHOWITZ: No, a lot of people were in Gaza, and they left the -- what we need to do, sit down and negotiate. Everybody knows what a resolution will look like. The Netanyahu government is committed to a two-state solution --
ASLAN: I think that's a stretch.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, try it. Let's try and test it.
MORGAN: Let's go to Robin Wright. Robin, you've heard the argument, fascinating debate in many ways, what is happening now all over the world. What do you make in the way that debate just happened?
WRIGHT: Well, you can look at the past and lament everything that's happened and complain about it. But the reality is, we have to figure our way out of this mess.
One of the most interesting things that's happened is the balance of power shifting throughout the region and President Morsi of Egypt is beginning prove he actually is interested in negotiating some kind of solution.
He hasn't called for a Jihad, he hasn't, you know, broken off relations with Israel. He's a legitimate player. The mood throughout the region is focused internally at all these countries.
The old autocrats are all focused so inside for the need for creating jobs and dealing with the very tough realities they all face. They are less interested in fermenting or supporting another conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.
So there is actually a moment of opportunity here really because of the vulnerability of so many of these governments, the unprecedented change that's happened. We can argue about how many settlers there are the real challenge is finding a way out of this.
DERSHOWITZ: Right. I agree.
MORGAN: And Alan Dershowitz, isn't the real big picture here that Israel and Palestine were the only story in town for a long time in the Middle East, of any real consequence. Now there are stories all over the region of equal importance, whether it's Syria or Libya or Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia.
Everyone has now a big thing that's happening in their country. Does that put more pressure now on the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to come together and bang their heads together, get a deal done?
DERSHOWITZ: I think so. You know, the world focuses more on 130 Palestinians killed, half of them terrorists, than 30,000 Syrians, most of them civilians, killed by the Assad government.
And focus has been taken away from Iran, which poses the greatest existential threat not only to Israel, but to the whole region. This is a good time to sit down, try to negotiate what everybody knows would be the best solution for both parties.
It will not solve the Hamas/Gaza problem. But we can address the West Bank problem.
MORGAN: Everyone seems to be nodding. A good moment to leave this for now. Thank you, all, very much indeed. And we'll be right back after a short break.
MORGAN: In just a few hours, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Cairo and push for a truce between Hamas and Israel. Stay with CNN for the latest on the Middle East crisis and the peace efforts. That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.