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FAA could Ban More U.S. Flights to Tel Aviv; Will Congress Act before August Recess; New Details on Possible Mideast Deal

Aired July 25, 2014 - 10:30   ET



YAIR LAPID, ISRAELI MINISTER OF FINANCE: There was one landed more than a mile away. Listen, the minute we presented the FAA with the details and the facts of the matter, they say ok you can go back and fly in there. It's totally safe to fly to Israel and I recommend it by the way to everyone who wants to come in.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Is it safe? Pamela Brown has more on that.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, we have learned the first flight from the U.S. has landed in Tel Aviv since that ban was lifted. Two U.S. officials tell CNN the threat is the same in Tel Aviv as it was before the FAA freeze.

The big change that has happened since the ban was lifted 36 hours after it was put into place, according to these officials is that Israel has shared more information about airport defenses. Sources say since Tuesday there have been intense discussions among the FAA, the intelligence community, and other U.S. government agencies with Israel. And what came out of that partly according to these sources is that Israel was able to adjust certain protocols and procedures to convince U.S. officials it would be safe for planes flying into and out of the Ben Gurion airport.

Now it is ultimately up to U.S. Airlines and all three U.S. airlines that fly into Israel announce that they would resume flights. In the background all of this, accusations the ban was more politics than safety, Senator Ted Cruz accusing the President of using the ban to force our ally to comply with foreign policy demands. And former mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel to protest the ban.

U.S. officials though I've been speaking with say they're keeping a very close eye on the situation in Tel Aviv and will put that ban back into place if need be -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Pamela Brown reporting.

Let's bring in Rabbi Shalom Lewis -- he actually got stuck in Tel Aviv because of the FAA ban on U.S. flights to Israel; also joining us Peter Goelz, a CNN safety analyst and former FAA inspector. Welcome to both of you. PETER GOELZ, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Rabbi I want to start with your story. You went to Israel on July 9th, with a group of kids, 11 to 15 and things were just starting to heat up at that point. Did you expect them to get as bad as they did, as they have?

RABBI SHALOM LEWIS, SENIOR RABBI, CONGREGATION ETZ CHAIM: It's hard to say. There were 21 folks from our congregation. We had planned this trip many months ago. Four of them were youngsters, ages 11 to 15. One had a bar mitzvah on top of Masada.

And though we knew that there were tensions and friction, we didn't know what was going to be. There was a little hesitancy on a part of a few of our members, but they talked, we talked, and we all decided that we were going to go ahead with the trip and we did.

COSTELLO: So as the days went by, did you get a little more nervous?

LEWIS: I can say that I was so proud of the people that were on our trip as well as the Israelis. There was never, even when there were sirens, there was never panic, there was never fear, there was never anxiety. In fact, I believe that our people felt that they were really there not only as tourists but making a statement that they were not going to be -- they were not going to be set off, put off by what was going on.

COSTELLO: But there were rockets going overhead and you were a little nervous at that point. Didn't you duck into the U.S. embassy at one point?

LEWIS: We ducked into the U.S. embassy. I will tell you that we were nervous -- I wouldn't say we were nervous -- we were cautious. But there was no nervousness. The first day we were there, we were in a shop, we heard an explosion. A number of our folks ran out, took pictures of the Iron Dome, and we continued shopping. We continued eating. We continued touring, and it was again with -- one was cautious, that's all you had to be. But it was safe. Nobody, especially the children, feared in any way the entire two weeks we were there.

COSTELLO: Ok. So you guys go to the airport and you are ready to come back to Atlanta and what happens?

LEWIS: Well, we didn't get to the airport. We were notified by Delta that the planes were going to be -- the flights were canceled. And so we got together in our rooms and we began to scramble. We worked with our travel agent here who did a marvelous job in rebooking all of us and we went back in different increments.

We had six folks went back right away. They took the El-Al Airline to Europe. Then from Europe, they flew back. We traveled with seven people, we went to Amsterdam, spent the evening in Amsterdam in the hotel and returned yesterday. In a sense, I felt like Moses, I had been in the Promised Land and was trying to get out of the Promised Land. And even when we were finally coming into Atlanta, there was a storm as you know yesterday, so we were diverted to Knoxville.

So it was very frustrating, but we came home and we were convinced it was the right thing and we have two other families that are still there and will be returning one tomorrow and one on Monday.

COSTELLO: So let me ask you this question, do you think that the FAA acted wisely in canceling your flight? Well, actually Delta canceled your flight. Do you think that was a wise decision?

LEWIS: I'm not going to second guess what the FAA does and what the motives were, whether it was political or whether it was a real concern or that there were protocols that are in place. All I can say is that the airport was filled with tourists and El-Al had no problems. I think British Airways also was flying.

So again, there was no concerns that we had. Were we upset, frustrated by it? Of course, we were planning to come home. But I'm glad they reinstated it and I just heard you mention, there were concerns that they might reinstate the ban and I certainly hope that is not the case.

COSTELLO: All right. Rabbi, thank you very much.

I want to bring in Peter Goelz right now. So Peter, you heard what the rabbi said. Is there any need to fear going into Israel and flying in and out of the airport in Tel Aviv?

GOELZ: Well, I think that's a decision that the FAA and the security agencies of the United States is continually reviewing. What I do know, having worked with the FAA for 20 years, and knowing the top administrator and his top people, the reason we have the safest air travel system in the world is because the FAA makes tough, unpolitical decisions based on how you keep the traveling public safe.

They made this decision based on the facts that they had. And they will make future decisions based on the facts as well. Any charges that this is political is really just demagoguery. And let me mention one thing. If you are an air carrier and you are flying into a challenging area, if one of your planes is taken down, you are facing enormous liability for making that decision.

Already, plaintiffs attorneys across this country and across the world are planning to sue Malaysia Airways for negligence because they were flying in an approved airspace at 33,000 feet over the Ukraine, but they are claiming that that was dangerous. So it really is a very difficult situation.

COSTELLO: So just this morning, a Canadian flight had to circle the airport in Tel Aviv to like avoid this rocket fire coming in. I mean the Iron Dome intercepted the rocket. We assumed everything was fine, but that Canadian flight had to circle the airport until all danger was passed. In your estimation, should the ban be reinstated or not?

GOELZ: I don't have enough information to make that kind of decision. I trust the FAA. I trust the Department of Homeland Security that they are not going to put U.S. air passengers in any danger and I trust the air carriers to look at the risk and to make the right decision.

I mean the reason why the rabbi, Rabbi Lewis was diverted last night to Knoxville and as irritating as it can be, they made the decision that it was not safe to land in Atlanta and they went to an alternate airport. That's the decisions you want pilots and you want dispatchers to make, and you want air carriers to make. You want them to fly safe.

COSTELLO: Peter Goelz, Rabbi Lewis, thank you so much for being with.

LEWIS: Thank you. Thank you.

We really appreciate it.

COSTELLO: I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: All right. This news just in to CNN. The Ukrainian state emergency services along with the head of the Dutch police team will hold a news conference in just about 19 minutes 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. They are expected to talk about MH-17 and where the investigation is right now. We also expect them to mention the crash site, if there's easy access to the crash site for investigators.

Again, there will be a news conference at the top of the hour and they include the head of the Dutch police team and also the Ukrainian state emergency services people, and they will talk about what is the latest in the investigation into the takedown of Malaysian Airlines 17.

In other news this morning, President Obama meets today with his counterparts from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The goal: to solve the border crisis where floods of undocumented children from Central American are spilling across the U.S.-Mexican Border.

CNN's Rosa Flores joins me now with more. Good morning -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning Carol. All of these three leaders from Central American countries wanting to go to the Obama administration with a unified message. The Guatemalan president probably stating it best, saying that there are two main goals for the visit.

First of all to share with the Obama administration what they are doing in their home countries to try to solve this issue, things like their campaigns to discourage their people to take that dangerous trek to the United States, how they are prosecuting smugglers and the role of the first ladies of these three countries in trying to combat this crisis. We should add that these three ladies have been on the front lines, visiting shelters, talking to children and to mothers as well.

And then the second part of this visit their goal is to they say make some sort of arrangement with the United States, to work together with the United States to develop a five to ten-year plan to solve one of the biggest issues that they are dealing with and we're talking about the ruthless violence in these Central American countries. They are hoping to tackle the transnational crime, drug trafficking and human smuggling. And Carol they say that they know that the same trek that human smugglers us to traffic these unaccompanied children, that's the same route that's used by these drug traffickers. And that's what makes it so dangerous -- Carol

COSTELLO: All right. Rosa Flores, thanks so much.

I want to bring in Congressman Henry Cuellar right now, the Democrat from Texas who has promised leadership on this issue -- good morning, sir.


COSTELLO: Ok. So, is anything happening in congress as far as immigration legislation?

CUELLER: I think this emergency bill will probably be presented next week, and as you know, next week is the last week before we go off to our districts, so we got one week and we got to get this job done. It will be a terrible message for the -- for our constituents for us to go home and not address this issue before the July 31st deadline.

But Congressman as you know there is a big concern that your colleagues in Congress will leave for August recess without fixing this problem. I want to remind you of what you said when I last interviewed about whether you would stay as lawmakers fail to come up with immigration legislation.



COSTELLO: Should lawmakers go home? Should they say in Washington until a solution is found?

CUELLAR: We should stay in Washington, D.C. until we find a solution. Absolutely, you are correct.

COSTELLO: And you would do that?

CUELLAR: Yes, I would.


COSTELLO: So will you still stay?

CUELLAR: Yes. I mean, I certainly hope I'm not the only one here but I certainly hope that the rest of the members of Congress stay here until we resolve this. We cannot go home, call this a humanitarian crisis with Homeland Security, having the presidents from Central America coming up here saying they want to work with us and for us to go home without a solution would be a terrible message that will follow us down to our districts if we dare to go home without finding a solution to this emergency humanitarian crisis that we have.

COSTELLO: Is there any bill that's close to anything, like being acted on?

CUELLAR: Well, you know, we have the emergency bill, the senate has a version, the House is going to come up with its version. We are going to add some language on the house side, and again, you know, President Obama asked us to look at this language back on the June 30th letter that he sent off to the leaders.

Even people like Hillary Clinton are saying that we got to look at a full package here, funding, and open to some changes to the human trafficking law. There's a loophole here that those smugglers have taken advantage of. There's a super highway that they are using to smuggle billions of drugs into the U.S.

They have been trafficking adults for many years, now they find a new market and that market is those poor innocent children that they are taking advantage of and that's what we got to go at. It's a very comprehensive plan, working with the countries in Central America, but at the same time not only looking at U.S. border as the -- you know, the first yard, the defense we've been playing for so many years, we've got to be a little bit smarter on how we address this issue.

COSTELLO: Right. I just wanted to ask you about the National Guard. Is it a good idea to put National Guard troops on the border?

CUELLER: If people think that the National Guard is going to be military -- if we're going to militarize the border, that's wrong. If they think they are going to do immigration control, the National Guard does not have that authority, but if they do their humanitarian support like they have done in disasters in different parts of the country or they go in just specifically like they have done in the past for so many years to support border patrol, I can understand those two specific purposes, but not to militarize border, not to do immigration control. They do not have the authority to do that.

COSTELLO: Congressman Henry Cuellar, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

CUELLAR: Thank you so much. And good morning.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a celebrated university band director fired for allegedly tolerating rampant sexual harassment. Did a culture of secrecy allow it to go on for years?


COSTELLO: Ohio State University band director Jon Waters was known for jaw-dropping precision half time shoes. Yes, the best damn band in the land, but now Ohio State is dropping him for allegedly tolerating rampant sexual harassment in his band. The parents' complaints prompted an investigation back in May, the school says Waters and other band directors watched students perform rituals like walking across the field in their underwear.

His lawyer says he was trying to change the sexualized culture, but the problem existed for years before his tenure. CNN's Jean Casarez is following the story from New York and this was just one of the milder accusations, right.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: We cannot get into specifics on this. We really can't here's what happened, it was in May that a parent of one of the band members went to the university and said "I believe that there is an environment that is encouraging sexual harassment and a sexuality within this band" So that launched a two- month investigation within the university's office of compliance. Today released a 23-page report, and let me go into some of the things that they say, and I will not be specific on this, but they have a semi formal event every year for band members and within that event and staff members are there too, they are sworn to secrecy that they can never disclose what happens within the band at all. Following that, around midnight, they have the midnight ramp, which means they have to walk across the football field in their underwear.

It goes on from there. Band members are given nicknames and I will say 50 percent, the reports state, are sexual nicknames but those nicknames go on and follow them even in the alumni directory. There are tricks they are encouraged to perform within the band, where they simulating sexual positions.

Rookie introductions the report talks about where a first year band member walks through the bus while other band members try to take their clothes off and there is groping the report states. Also, midterm exams are given where there are sexual questions where you are asked to describe in a sexual nature your fellow band members and connect the dots and that's sexual too.

There was a news letter called Triptych (ph) which reported on gossip of sexual aspects of different band members. Jonathan Waters put a stop to that. And his attorney is saying that this is a good man. He tried to do everything he can to stop that sexual environment.

COSTELLO: I'm sure you'll continue to follow this case -- Jean Casarez many thanks.

This is CNN breaking news.

All right. we've been telling you that the U.S. Secretary of state has been trying to broker some sort of truce or ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, well, there may be a little tidy glimmer of vote. Elise Labott is in Aspen, Colorado with more on Secretary of State Kerry's possible plans. Tell us more Elise? Can you hear me Elise --

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can hear you. I can hear you. Can you hear me?

COSTELLO: Go your shot just broke up for a second. Repeat.

LABOTT: Ok. Well, Carol diplomatic sources are telling me that Secretary Kerry and the Egyptian foreign minister are moving closer toward a possible ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians. We're not talking about a permanent cease-fire. We're talking about a one-week humanitarian truce.

This situation in Gaza is very dire and that one-week truce would be able to get some of the victims out, get some medical supplies in, but what sources are telling me is that they hope this could be used as a beginning, an opening for more fuller negotiations on some of these underlying, political, security and economic issues that we've been talking about all week -- reopening the borders of Gaza.

Israeli has a lot of concerns about Hamas continuing to hold on to these rocket caches. What would happen was during this one week truce, the hope is that fuller talks between the Israeli-Palestinians, the U.S., Egypt, other countries that are involved would be able to start negotiating on a longer term ceasefire. Carol it's not a done deal yet. Hamas has not bought in 100 percent.

We're told that the U.S. is working with Qatar and Turkey to get Hamas for that final buy-in but key details of the plan, Carol, still need to be worked out, including an Israeli proposal for troops to remain in Gaza even while this one-week truce happens -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. We'll see what happens. Secretary of State John Kerry expected to say something later this afternoon. We'll see. Elise Labott thanks so much.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello, "@THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA" after a break.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: New urgency in the push for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas Gaza as the death toll in Gaza taught 800.

A grieving nation, the Netherlands, receives more victims from Flight 17.

At this hour, the search for answers about their death and justice for those responsible could be turning a corner.

And three deadly plane crashes in one week. Are you or should you be worried about flying? We'll look at that.

Hi there and good morning. I'm Michaela Pereira. John Berman is off today. Happy Friday everyone. Those stories and so much more --