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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Ceasefire Reached in Gaza
Aired November 21, 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: Tonight ceasefire. Israel and Hamas lay down their arms for now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a critical moment for the region.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): The right thing for the state of Israel is to exhaust this opportunity to obtain a long-term ceasefire.
KHALED MESHAAL, HAMAS LEADER (Through Translator): Our brothers will guarantee the implementation of all these understandings and this agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: But will the fragile peace hold? Both sides tell me what it will take.
Also Rudy Giuliani on what it all means for America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I would prefer to say, I'd be cautiously optimistic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Plus, is it all too soon to talk 2016? And should we be talking about Hillary Clinton? My political all-stars battle it out.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. Our big story tonight, celebrations in the Middle Easter over a fragile peace. After eight days of violence, nearly 150 deaths on both sides, a ceasefire on the border between Israel and Gaza.
Listen to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MESHAAL (Through Translator): We want the entire world to understand our people and our cause. And through you we can explain the faces, the pale faces of the leaders of the enemy because they have failed in their attempt.
NETANYAHU (Through Translator): I have to say that all this was done with the firm support on the part of the leaders of the international community, and I would like especially to thank President Barack Obama for his unreserved support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Questions tonight on both sides and around the world, how long can peace last?
I want to go now to CNN's Arwa Damon in Gaza City.
Arwa, how is the atmosphere like in Gaza and is there a sense that Hamas has strengthened its position through the last eight or nine days?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is to a certain degree simply because if you look at the terms of the ceasefire agreement, at the very least, it does state that Israel must open its border crossings, it needs to facilitate the movement of goods and of people. Exactly what this is going to translate into, we don't know that just yet at this stage. But from the perspective of the people that we've been speaking to here, they do feel that this time around the Israelis, yes, it was indirectly, but still were forced to come to some sort of an agreement, via a mediator.
Egypt, as we do know, when it came to trying to resolve this conflict, versus what we saw taking place four years ago, the mood on the street here earlier was very much one of celebration, some people celebrating the fact that they do view this as being a victory over Israel, as having stood up in the face of what they describe to be Israeli aggression, but for others it was simply celebrating the fact that finally after days of bombardment they were able to just go outside.
MORGAN: Yes, you can see the pictures here of people looking pretty jubilant, probably just getting, as you say.
When you look at the way this has played out politically, clearly Mohamed Morsi, the new president in Egypt, has played a pivotal role here. How significant is the fact that Egypt appears to be calling the shots in terms of the way that the Palestinians are reacting?
DAMON: Well, on the one hand, one needs to remember that when it came to trying to mediate deals between these two sides, Egypt has always played something of a pretty critical and central role. What has changed right now is the dynamics, between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians, after the Arab spring, and after the fact that Hosni Mubarak, who was a staunch ally of the West, and therefore a de facto ally of Israel is no longer in power and now the Egyptians became an entity because of the fact that they are being led by a Muslim Brotherhood government, became an entity that was significantly closer to the Hamas leadership here in Gaza. And that really changed a lot of the dynamics and it has changed the way we've been seeing things playing out on the ground.
So the significance is that the dynamics, the framework of what is transpiring here, that led to the ceasefire, we're going to have to wait and see if it holds, but that is really what has changed at this point. Most certainly, Egypt, given the fact that it is still a very young government, has at least right now proven itself, it has in one sense passed that first critical test.
MORGAN: Arwa Damon, thank you very much indeed.
Here now with a view from Jerusalem is Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev.
Mr. Regev, welcome to you.
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Thanks for having me.
MORGAN: Can you outline exactly what you believe the spirit of this agreement to be today?
REGEV: It is an arrangement that has been negotiated with Egypt and with the support of the United States. And it promises us what this whole campaign was about. It promises the people of southern Israel peace and quiet. It promises them that they no longer have to live in constant fear of an incoming rocket launch from the Gaza Strip.
It promises them for the first time in a very long time the possibility to live a normal life. And from our point of view, if these promises are fulfilled, that's a good thing.
MORGAN: I understand that it also, though, promises the people of Gaza, perhaps, a better future. We're hearing by the "New York Times," as I speak to you, that the terms also state the underlying grievances of Gazans, most notably the border restrictions that Israel has imposed that impede the movement of people and goods through Gaza, will be addressed starting 24 hours after the ceasefire is in effect. Now that's clearly a big move by Israel.
REGEV: I think it's important to remember, Piers, the following, there is cause and there's effect. When we pulled out of Gaza in 2005, when we took down our settlements and pulled back to the international frontier, there were no restrictions in place whatsoever. Our restrictions were placed when we started to see hostility from Gaza, when we started to see violence, when we started to see terrorism and rockets aimed at our people.
And if you think about it, that's only normal. I mean how can you expect they were shooting at us, they couldn't expect to have normal relations. If we are now indeed going into a period of quiet where we no longer have that violence, where we no longer have that active hostility, obviously, that changes the reality for us and allows us to turn a page. We are -- we don't see the innocent civilian population of Gaza as our enemy and we have no trouble taking steps that will facilitate an improvement in the quality of life. MORGAN: One of the main concerns for many Israelis is that this is going to be one step nearer the legitimizing of Hamas. Having said that, if you look at the parallel, for example, in Northern Ireland, it was only when the political wing of the IRA were legitimized, Sinn Fein. That they achieved a lasting peaceful settlement.
Do you see any parallel there and do you see a time when Hamas will be seen as a legitimate body by Israel?
REGEV: You know, if Hamas changed, if Hamas moderated its positions, if Hamas met the three benchmarks that were articulated by the United Nations, that is recognizing my country's right to exist, abandoning terrorism and violence, supporting peace, then the door is open to negotiations. But unfortunately, the bad news is, I see no evidence of that so far. On the contrary, I think in many ways Hamas is stuck in a very extreme position and the evidence for that we saw today.
We had that bombing in Tel Aviv on the bus and Hamas praised that. They welcomed that. They said that was legitimate. And so as long as Hamas is doing that sort of thing, it's difficult to be optimistic but if they do change, if they do moderate, if they fundamentally reverse some of their very hard lined positions, the door can be open.
MORGAN: I mean, do you accept, though, and obviously in the last eight, nine days, 30 times as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis. So clearly there's been bloodshed on both sides. And Israel is not blameless here either.
REGEV: I think the most important issue, though, is what were we doing? I mean this whole operation, it wasn't to take more territory. It wasn't to change regimes or something grandiose like that. Our operation was purely defensive. Our goal was to protect our people so that the population of southern Israel would not have to live in daily fear of an incoming rocket.
We didn't want this operation. It was forced upon us by Hamas' aggressive action. I hope, I hope, that these understandings reached with Egypt and with the good offices of the United States, as well, and we should thank the American government, will hold and that we get peace. That's good for Israel. That's also good for Gaza.
MORGAN: Mark Regev, thank you very much for joining me.
REGEV: My pleasure, sir.
MORGAN: I want to turn to the other side, Abdullah Abdullah is chairman of the political committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and he joins me now.
Welcome to you, sir. How much of a concern is it to you that Mahmoud Abbas had very little to do with this ceasefire being broken, in fact nothing, we understand?
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: No, I think I hope the Americans will not fall into another mistake. Palestine and the Palestine question is indivisible. Gaza is part of the Palestinian territory, Gazans are part of the Palestinian people. And the question of Palestinian leadership, it is authentic. And President Abbas is the leader of the Palestinian people, elected leader of the Palestinian people.
But if the Americans try to divert the attention from the central issue of how to go about making peace in the Middle East and try to concentrate just how to control one party or another, this would be a great mistake, disservice to peace and to the stability of this region.
MORGAN: So are you personally concerned that all the dealings here appear to have been done directly with Hamas and not with a wider group to include President Abbas?
ABDULLAH: President Abbas was not absent from all these negotiations. Of course when there's a fire, the extinguisher goes directly to the cause of the fire. But it is part and parcel of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation. And if we were only to look for the future of the ceasefire, this is another mistake would be made.
We have to lead with the root cause of the conflict here. The United States of America was very right when it started at the latter part of President Bush, Jr. presidency after. To give priority to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to put the barometers for that. President Obama himself on the 19th of May of last year, when he spoke from the State Department, he outlined how peace can be achieved in this region by creating a Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967.
Unfortunately, this was not followed by the Americans. They kept a blind eye to the Israeli measures that are destructive to the peace process on the going after the Palestinians trying to even prevent them from trying to preserve the consensus of the international community which is the two-state solution.
And here, I think the American process has to be reviewed to do service to both Israelis and Palestinians alike, as Mrs. Clinton said this evening in Cairo, at the press conference, that they have to meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people. What other aspiration than the right to self-determination by ending the Israeli occupation of our land. We need seriousness in approaching this way of resolving the conflict.
MORGAN: Chairman Abdullah, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal says he wants the world to understand his people and his cause. Christiane Amanpour interviewed him exclusively. And she joins me when we come back.
MORGAN: Celebrations in Gaza but how long will the celebrations last? Joining me now from Cairo, Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent and global affairs anchor for ABC News. Christiane, welcome to you. I want to start by playing a brief clip from your interview with Khaled Meshaal. He's Hamas' political leader. Listen to this and talk afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is there ever a circumstance under which you will recognize Israel's right to exist?
MESHAAL (Through Translator): I will give you a reply, direct reply, and a lesson. About the direct answer. I accept a Palestinian state according to 1967 borders. With Jerusalem as the capital with the right to return when --
AMANPOUR: I know you say the right to return, but you know everybody is not going to be able to return to Israel. You know that.
MESHAAL (Through Translator): What? Say that again? Say that again?
AMANPOUR: Under the international agreement, every Palestinian who is living in the Diaspora is not going to be able to come back to Israel.
MESHAAL (Through Translator): Who said that? Who said that?
AMANPOUR: That's what -- that's what the other parameters --
MESHAAL (Through Translator): I tell you, I accept.
AMANPOUR: They can come to the Palestinian state.
MESHAAL (Through Translator): I tell you, my sister, you at CNN, a respected channel, do a survey, through the Diaspora, where the Palestinians are. If you don't find the majority, a big majority that want to return to their land, then I'm wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Christiane, what did you make of your interview with Khaled Meshaal, and in particular, the way he defined how a possible peace settlement could unravel here?
AMANPOUR: Well, he was talking about eventual recognition of the state of Israel because that's what everybody wants to know about the Palestinian. And that's one of the reasons why he's not involved in the peace process. So it's vital to really try to push him on what would it take to recognize the state of Israel and his last answer was really interesting that it would be up to the Palestinians in the final peace agreement.
But, in terms of how long this truce might last, you know, I know both sides want it to last. Nobody wanted that ground war and nobody wants to see more people killed. If it' true that some of these parameters are met, in other words that the Israelis start lifting the restrictions and the blockade of Gaza, easing people's ability to move in and out, the ability of commerce, the ability of goods, humanitarian and otherwise, to go in and out, that's going to be very important.
And by the same token, if Israel can see that there are no more rockets a big fight into Israel, this will be very important. So there's the sort of the short-term and then the long-term is whether the United States and the Israel and the Palestinians can get together and hammer out a peace process. And that is a lot more dubious. But without that, you know, the cynics will tell you that this is just one of many, many cycles. That this could go on for another couple of years in relative quiet, and then it could explode again.
MORGAN: And who do you get a sense of having control now amongst the Palestinians? Because there's a feeling that Mahmoud Abbas is being pushed aside, really, and Hamas are beginning to assume more and more power and authority, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing, given that they are the ones who are really at war with Israel, if they can be brought to a table, if they can do a deal, that may be the best chance of getting a proper lasting peace.
AMANPOUR: Well, as I say, it's going to be a while before they can get Hamas to the peace table, and that is Hamas has to renounce violence, has to agree to the international parameters. We'll see whether that's ever possible. But yes, you're right. It does look from this vantage point at least this past week of war that the Palestinian authority on the West Bank has been marginalized.
And in fact it is true that Hamas now, in this now post-Arab spring, Muslim Brotherhood dominated Arab world of which it is part, Hamas has much more stature. It has much more relationships with all these new governments. And you know, Hamas is meant to be isolated by the U.S., by Israel. They don't want to see Hamas have anything to do with anybody outside, gets even the slightest bit of fresh air.
And what do we see over these last week? We saw Arab leaders literally beating the door down to try to get into Gaza first and stand shoulder to shoulder with Hamas. So that's what they're saying publicly. Obviously, the really unbelievable thing was how incredibly well Egypt worked and got this deal. And everybody from the president of the United States to Hillary Clinton, to the Israelis, know that it's Egypt and its new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and this government who made this happen.
MORGAN: Christiane Amanpour, thank you very much indeed.
Coming up next, Rudy Giuliani joins to talk Israel, Hamas, and whether this ceasefire will hold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU (Through Translator): I would like especially to thank President Barack Obama for his un-reserve d support for Israel's actions in the operation and for Israel's right to defend itself as well as his support for the Iron Dome systems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanking President Obama for standing by Israel's side during the fighting, but did the White House handle the crisis effectively?
With me now is former New York mayor and former presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani.
GIULIANI: How are you, Piers?
MORGAN: I want to read you a tweet from a mutual friend of ours. "President Obama's steady support of Israel throughout this crisis helped stop the war. He did a good job."
Do you know who wrote that?
GIULIANI: I don't.
MORGAN: Donald Trump.
GIULIANI: Well, that's good. Donald can be even handed. I like that.
MORGAN: Well, he's not over even-handed about President Obama, but the fact that -- the fact he's publicly gone on record of saying that would indicate that it'd be very, very hard for any Republicans to be too critical of Barack Obama. How do you view the president's time the last few days?
GIULIANI: I don't see how or why you would be critical of a ceasefire. All we have to do is hope and pray that it lasts. It's probably too early to have some kind of a final conclusion about this. We're going to have to monitor this situation. So I would -- I would prefer to say, I'd be cautiously optimistic.
At the same time, we shouldn't get too overly excited when you -- when you see the underlying tensions that are here when you see that scene I just saw a few moments ago, again, of the body being dragged through the streets of Gaza. You get a sense of the elements that you're dealing with here, so this is a good development. I think that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as Benjamin Netanyahu, and people on the Palestinian side, and it looks even Egypt played a constructive role here. Let's hope they can continue on that -- on that road.
MORGAN: I mean I think the Egyptian role is very significant indeed because there were lots of concerns about President Morsi and indeed the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, exactly how they would behave in a situation like this. He seemed to have been pivotal and extremely constructive to the extent that President Obama apparently spoke to them three times in the last 24 hours, leaving instructions that he was to be woken if President Morsi wanted to talk to him. And he was indeed working at 2:30 a.m. Cambodia time for another conversation.
I would have thought that's very encouraging for the Arab spring, whichever one is being very concerned, has been almost turning on its head. But going forward you have the new president of Egypt looking to do a deal to bring peace and to work in cohorts with America and indeed Israel.
GIULIANI: It seems like, although at the very beginning he made some statements that were very questionable supporting the Hamas side. It seems to me over the last couple of days he's taken a much more balanced approach, certainly more balanced that Erdogan did in Turkey. Hopefully by doing that he freezes Iran out because I have a sense, as many do, that Iran was behind a lot of this. After all a lot of those missiles were Iranian missiles.
So if Morsi can assert himself, continue to assert himself, put himself in the middle of this, maybe he can push Iran out. And, you know, have a more rational discussion about this. I think, you know, Morsi is -- the jury is out on Morsi. He said some things that are constructive, he said some things that have been extremely damaging and we're going to have to see going forward which Morsi we're dealing with.
MORGAN: What about the Palestinian situation where you have Mahmoud Abbas on one side, and you have Hamas on the other, you've basically got two governments working there. Is it possible to even get to a serious discussion about a two-state solution if you don't really know which government is you calling the shots?
GIULIANI: It's hard, isn't it? I mean, it's really hard because you don't know who you're negotiating with in the case of Hamas and the related groups that are part of this because some of them are loosely affiliated with Hamas. You do have a wing of Hamas that is extremely violent, extremely dangerous, as you can see from the scenes that we saw. The body being dragged through the streets and people being killed.
On the other hand, Fatah doesn't seem to have -- enough control over the people. In hope that we'd be able -- over a period of time -- to get them to work together, that they would have a common purpose. And I don't think -- I don't think you can finally get to some kind of solution here until the two of them are working together.
MORGAN: Let's turn briefly, Rudy, to the Republican Party. What about Chris Christie? He's been getting all the flack from GOP senior members who think he was disloyal in the last few days because of his conflict with the repercussions of Hurricane Sandy, and him embracing the president's support. What was your view?
GIULIANI: Right. I had dinner with Chris two days after the elections so I told him directly what my view is. I'm happy to tell you I think Chris did what he had to do as a governor. He put his state first. I did that several times as mayor of New York and got hurt even within the Republican Party that I had to overcome.
This is all going to pass away. If and when, and I believe Chris will get re-elected, through an excellent job as governor of New Jersey, so I think Chris' future is still unlimited. There were some people that are annoyed about it. I think they're being somewhat narrow and not realizing, you know, a governor has a first obligation to the people of his state and the people of his state -- I mean, a number of them had died, and many of them were dislocated, they still are. They're in terrible situation. He needed the help of the president of the United States. So he had to put that first.
MORGAN: Would you like to Chris Christie running as a potential president in 2016?
GIULIANI: Well, you know, you're preaching to the converted here. I -- if I wasn't the first Republican to support Chris from out of the state, I was the second. So I'm a very big supporter of Chris Christie. I think he's been an excellent governor. I think he's exactly the kind of public servant we need. Someone who can put the interest of his state ahead of anything else including the interest of his -- of his party, that has to always come second.
MORGAN: Rudy, good to talk to you as always. Thank you.
GIULIANI: Thank you.
MORGAN: Coming next, what the ceasefire means for the civilians living in constant fear. I'll talk to two of them.
MORGAN: While celebrations on the streets of Gaza, we know what the officials on both sides are saying about the truce. But what impact is that having on the civilians? Can they trust the peace will last?
Joining me by Skype now is Ameera Ahmad who's a journalist in Gaza and from Tel Aviv Natalie Edelman.
Welcome to you both.
Let's me start with you, Ameera Ahmad, if I may. What has life been like for you in Gaza over the last eight or nine days?
AMEERA AHMAD, GAZA RESIDENT: It's rather actually a very hard time for us, all of us. You know, as civilians, as a journalist, working here in Gaza under this attack. Every day, we leave the house early in the morning and we think that we are not going to go back to our children, our kids inside the house. Especially in the last three days when they started targeting the current places of media center here in Gaza.
Even if these places belong to someone from Hamas or from Islamic Jihad there is like more than -- other places that belong to any other -- to other journalists from different agencies and channels and seeing all these kind of people killed in the street, inside their homes. A lot of kids, you know, make me feel angry to hear that there is a ceasefire after all that. And I don't know if it's worth it that we lost all these kids and people to find the solution to go to the ceasefire.
MORGAN: Let me turn to Natalie Edelman. I mean it's a desperate story that you're hearing there on the other side. Obviously it's been very tough also for Israelis. You've been living there with your husband and your child. A frightening time in Tel Aviv. What is your view?
NATALIE EDELMAN, TEL AVIV RESIDENT: It's been very difficult eight days in (INAUDIBLE). In the last eight days also in Israel. As a new mom, I just gave birth a month ago, I did prepare myself to sleepless nights but I never imagined that this is the reason I'd stay up. While Dania (ph), my daughter sleeps all through the night, I stay up worried that any minute the siren will be heard and we'll have to rush for shelter to protect our lives.
As you probably know, there are 12-year-old kids in Israel that don't know other reality. They have been facing terror attacks and rockets on a daily basis. And I just wish that my daughter will be brought up to a different reality. We just want to raise the kids normally in peace and it's been very, very difficult. Especially today also with the bombing, the terror attack on the bus in Tel Aviv, in central Tel Aviv, which brings back just very, very time.
I grew up in Tel Aviv. I remember the days of the suicide bombings in Tel Aviv. These terrible bombings. And it's very hard to describe the feeling. It's just living in constant threat.
MORGAN: What would you say, though, Natalie, to somebody like Ameera who is just like you. She's an innocent person. A young woman living with her family but on the other side you're there on the split screen now. What would you say to her as a young Israeli woman to a young Palestinian woman?
EDELMAN: I mean, I'm sure that she's facing a difficult reality, but I don't want to get into politics because, you know, we are just civilians and I can feel her story, you know, as I new mother I can relate to her story as well. But I can just tell you that we're dealing with a terrorist organization. Hamas is controlling Gaza at the moment. And that is the problem. I would wish -- I wish civilians there would do something to change that reality but at the moment Israel is facing a very difficult situation of dealing with terrorism.
And unfortunately it strikes not only in Israel, terrorism. It strikes all over the world. I happen to be in America during 9/11, in Manhattan, and in London in 2005, and I'd like to see more people involved in the international community to solve this awful situation which is awful for both sides.
MORGAN: What would you say, Ameera, in response to what Natalie said there?
AHMAD: Yes, I agree with her, the first part that we're both mothers and we are civilians, and we don't want to involve in the political issue. But there is the part I don't agree with, because if we go back in 2004 and in 2005 when they decided to make the Palestinian election, it was a free election, and the people, they choose Hamas. The Israeli side, they should respect their choice as a people. They are going to present the Palestinian people. If it's a terrorist organization it doesn't mean that all the Palestinian people are terrorist people, you know?
And especially in the last eight days it was like the bloody war and my (INAUDIBLE) keeps hearing the sound of bombing every day. She thinks it's a party because I put an image in her mind that this is a party, mommy, you shouldn't be scared of it. And once a while, this party is going to be end. So I don't know how I can teach her, you know, the meaning of life to be a normal kid, to live under, you know, peaceful time, while she is growing up under attack (INAUDIBLE), you know?
MORGAN: What I get from talking to both of you is that -- is that when you cut away from all the politics and from military wings of both these political sides, what you are left with are real people living in very, very difficult situations, and the most important thing now is the ceasefire holds and that the people who've been responsible for all these rockets and missiles get together around the negotiating table and bring both of you a better life where you don't have to worry about what happens to your young children every day or young children that belong to your friends and relative.
And I thank you very much for joining me tonight. Thank you.
EDELMAN: Thank you.
AHMAD: Thank you.
MORGAN: With me now is Ed Hussain. He's a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "The Islamist".
Welcome to you.
ED HUSSAIN, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you, Piers. Good to be on your show.
MORGAN: I don't know about you, I found it a fascinating discussion there between two young mothers on both sides of this conflict. What did you make of what they said?
HUSSAIN: The human aspect is very, very touching without a doubt. What struck me most was the fact that, you know, I think here in the West and also in Israel rightly we see Hamas as a terrorist organization. But the difficulty of course is that on the ground in Gaza and around the region, mostly the Middle East and beyond, Hamas is not seen as a terrorist organization. And I think it's somehow that huge gap of understanding of approach then leads to some level of sympathy for Hamas' operations in the Middle East among Arab population and then this harsh condemnation on our side then doesn't necessarily bring both sides together to want to talk and solve the problems. MORGAN: Because I had personal experience of reporting on this for so long. I see a lot of parallels here with Northern Ireland. And not least because Tony Blair was British prime minister when he sorted peace there and he did it the hard way. You know, he sat down with the political wing of the IRA, a terrorist group like Hamas, and he just negotiated it through and legitimized the IRA through their political wing in the end.
Do you think it's inevitable and is it almost essential that the same process now happens with Hamas, given, as you say, that so many Palestinians and so many Arab countries around Israel believe that it is an elected body and should be legitimized?
HUSSAIN: What we saw in Northern Ireland was a two-track process. In other words, there were no huge preconditions put forward? But the -- decommissioning weapons while at the same time maintaining peace talks, so there is a lesson there, I think, for the Israeli side and for Hamas and others to commit to talks immediately without these preconditions that do away with the charter. You must give up your weapons immediately and you've got to recognize Israel as a Jewish state right now otherwise we can't talk.
That direct threat over the last sort of 20, 30 years has resulted in this constant situation of going to war every four to five years. That policy can't be upheld. There is now a new Middle East. Now Hamas is not as isolated as it was back in 2008. As recently as 2008. Now it has allies in Qatar, in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Turkey, and these are all U.S. allies and it's an important junction now in the second Barack Obama administration to capitalize on this post-war situation and try and bring a lasting settlement to this difficult region by maintaining this sprint-track policy rather than trying to say, unless you do X, Y and Z, we're not going to be talk to you. Because --
HUSSAIN: Israelis are talking to Hamas, you know? They did that this time around. They did that to secure Gilad Shalit's release.
HUSSAIN: And, you know, the U.S. spoke to the PLO when the PLO has committed terror. We've been here before and you're right. Northern Ireland offers lessons I think to the Arab-Israeli peace process now.
MORGAN: It does. Ed Hussain, thank you very much indeed.
HUSSAIN: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: Coming next, my panel of all starts on the Mideast truce and what it means to the Obama administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Secretary of State Clinton praising Egypt for helping to broker the peace.
There's also a bit of political news here in America. Jesse Jackson, Jr., stepping down from Congress.
Let's bring my political all-stars to talk about that and more. "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow and Republican pollster Kristen Soltis.
Welcome to you both.
KRISTEN SOLTIS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Thanks for having me.
CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: Good to be here.
MORGAN: Charles Blow, a fascinating few days in the Middle East, also fascinating politically, I think, for America. I think very good for President Obama. He's clearly been leading the way with daily calls to Prime Minister Netanyahu, to President Morsi, and he's got the ceasefire that he clearly wanted, as has Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Of course she's now leaving and there is a vacancy for that role.
What do you think of the way this is now playing out for Obama, for his presidency, for the Democrats and for their strategy in the Middle East?
BLOW: Well, one thing that's really important to remember is that, you know, I think that Netanyahu has an election coming up in January, so, you know, in our election, he kind of bet on the wrong course. He -- you know, he made no qualms about the idea that he was a supporter of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney didn't win.
So now President Obama kind of has a bit of a stronger hand in that relationship, even though that relationship, as many people have noted, is not the best relationship in the world, but now going in to Netanyahu's re-election bid on the heels of this sort of conflict with the American government plays an instrumental role in bringing about a ceasefire, it kind of gives the Obama administration, the State Department, a much stronger hand in the Middle East in general and I think it gives President Obama a stronger hand both in the Middle East and at home, because he's able to play this role with someone that he has not had the best relationship with.
MORGAN: Kristen Soltis, do you agree with that?
SOLTIS: I think to an extent. I do think that it will be good for Obama clearly if there's a -- if the ceasefire is able to be maintained. And I think in particular it will be good for Secretary Clinton. You know, whenever you get to be the one who's giving the press conference, you know, that's sort of a good visual moment. What I think is really interesting is to watch how the Arab spring has affected this and how Egypt's sort of new leadership, there were these real questions about to what extent would the new president of Egypt, you know, part of the Muslim Brotherhood, to want extent would they play ball, and be able to sort of be force for good and stability in the region. And so to the extent that you can have Egypt and Secretary of State Clinton at a table hopefully trying to broker a deal.
I mean I think that, you know, this isn't a partisan issue. I think that a lot of Americans will just look favorably if the American government can play a positive role in bringing about peace.
MORGAN: Let's spin on to two other quick issues before Thanksgiving strikes us. One is the fiscal cliff.
Charles, are you getting the same feeling that I am, that there is a more collective will to try and avoid falling off this cliff and to get a deal done perhaps sooner rather than later?
BLOW: I absolutely do believe that. I believe that, you know, the Obama -- Obama had the stronger hand because if nothing happens, you know, no one wants that to happen and, in fact, the clock is ticking in that direction at this point. So everybody has kind of an incentive to say let's cut some sort of deal. And I do believe that that deal will eventually encompass both revenue increases and some sort of structural realignment of some of the entitlement programs.
And I think that I actually believe that the American people put aside the right and the left. The American people actually are desperate to see their government be able to work, to do something. To make it happen. To not go into another situation where we have another downgrade. That is the exactly the opposite of what we want coming out of this presidential election, where people I think spoke and spoke rather clearly that we're going to have a divided government, that the Republicans will have the House, Democrats will have the Senate, and the presidency, and we want you guys to make this work for us.
MORGAN: I think that's right, isn't it, Kristen Soltis? I also detect amongst the Republicans a sort of greet desire to be a little bit more bipartisan on this and to stop playing silly games in Washington, because they realize, especially since losing the election, that the public really aren't going to buy into much more of this apparent intransigence on either side.
SOLTIS: So the challenge to Republicans is -- I mean, they got beat at the presidential level and now the question is, how do they retool what they're doing and handling of situations like this fiscal cliff to make the case to Americans that they really are trying to create economic growth. And so you've had a lot of discussion in recent days about how can we create revenues in a way that shows that we are serious about growing revenues in addition to getting the spending cuts. The question is again how you do it. Do you get it by closing loopholes, do you get it by raising rates? And it's really once you get into those details that the problems emerge. The other question is, you know, this has been talked about as a fiscal cliff, but I lately heard it described more as a potential fiscal staircase where there will be potential stages rather than just one big deal that ends it all, that this may be something where we come down a little bit more gradually. The big question is, what's the first stair look like?
And you have Republicans who want to say, let's pass legislation now, we passed it in the House to keep all the tax rates where they are, to sort of stave off this fiscal cliff for the moment, and Democrats who say, we're not going to pass that bill because we want the rates to go up on that top bracket, and we won't pass anything that extends the rates for everyone.
So the question is, what is this opening move look like? And I'm somewhat pessimistic that there won't be much agreement on even what the opening move looks like moving forward.
MORGAN: Well, let's not -- let's not be pessimistic here. Let's end it on a positive note. It's Thanksgiving.
BLOW: It's almost Thanksgiving.
SOLTIS: That's true. That's true.
MORGAN: Ceasefire in the Middle East. Let's all just wish each other Happy Thanksgiving, and wish all our politicians to come back afterwards and just get some deals done.
Thank you, both, for joining me.
BLOW: Nice to be here.
SOLTIS: Thank you for having us.
MORGAN: And we'll be right back.
MORGAN: This Friday night, your average kind of holiday show. Me and a bunch of crazy animals. Jack Hanna stops by with some of his friends and if you know Jack Hanna, that means cheetahs, leopards, alligators, and a whole lot more. A sort of menagerie of hell, really, as far as I'm concerned. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
This tail, for example. That tail, you can touch the tail if you want to. The tail here gets that much bigger like this thick. Because up there it's 40, 50 below zero, whatever. This --
HANNA: Wow. That was -- that was cool, wasn't it? (LAUGHTER)
MORGAN: That's very cool. Yes. Let's just stay two feet away.
HANNA: I'm sorry you don't have a hand there. The cameraman -- please don't sue me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Yes, that was the moment one of my cameramen almost had his hand bitten off by a snow leopard. It was a quite extraordinary hour. That's Jack Hanna and friends here on Friday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.