Return to Transcripts main page


Ongoing Ceasefire Prospects between Israel and Hamas Discussed with Former Israeli Ambassador; Potential for Spreading Ebola Outbreak Examined; Interview with Osama Hamdan on Peace Talks

Aired August 7, 2014 - 07:00   ET


DORE GOLD, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Look, Hamas and Fatah were virtually at war with each other not long ago. Then they had this new agreement reached by Mahmoud Abbas before the current struggles occurred. So, you know, sometimes they voice different views. Sometimes they try and work together.

But we have to understand that the security of not just Israel but the whole region is affected by this. You know, that Hamas, for example, worked closely with Al Qaeda affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula. So if you just open up all the routes into the Gaza Strip so that the Al Qaeda affiliates in Sinai and other terrorist organizations bothering Israel can work with Hamas, we could have a serious deterioration. Therefore, our position on security is so important not just for Israel but for everybody.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that gets to the key point, of course, and maybe we should separate the talking about extending the ceasefire and really what the heart of the long-term peace negotiation is, and can you tell me if it's one in the same at this point, the issue of lifting the blockade. Saeb Erekat says that that is key. We all know that that is key. That is what Hamas has called for. In what conditions -- under what conditions at this point, very seriously, Mr. Gold, is Israel interested or open to lifting the blockade and easing restrictions on the border?

GOLD: Well, in terms of humanitarian access, you know, in the past couple of days hundreds of trucks have come from the Israeli side into Hamas-controlled Gaza so we have no problem with the Palestinians having economic development, having proper levels of trade with surrounding areas. But what we do insist upon, and this will be a general theme of the Israeli negotiators, that if we talk about the recovery and redevelopment of the Gaza Strip, it has to be linked with the demilitarization of Gaza, because the two are intimately tied to each other. If you want cement for rebuilding homes or schools, you've got to make sure the cement goes there and not to rebuilding attack tunnels that go into Israel.

BOLDUAN: It seems like from what I hear from you right now that negotiations haven't moved anywhere from their starting positions. Calling for the demilitarization of Gaza is something that we've heard from Israel from the very beginning. Lifting the blockade is something we've heard from Hamas all along as well as other Palestinian factions. So are you saying there will be no lift to the blockade, no easing of restrictions without a full demilitarization of Gaza?

GOLD: Well, we are talking about demilitarization of Gaza being part of a general economic development plan that various outside parties are going to suggest. You know, there are countries that want to put serious money into the Gaza Strip. But again, how do you make sure that the money goes for the people of the Gaza Strip and doesn't go for purchasing new rockets, anti-tank weapons and a whole assortment of weaponry that has been in the Hamas arsenal?

BOLDUAN: So what do you propose? How do you ensure that?

GOLD: These are the kind of mechanisms -- well, these are the kind of mechanisms that have to be discussed. This is not a simple issue.

BOLDUAN: Of course not.

GOLD: But I think having an ongoing ceasefire is very important. Israel is willing to do it. The question is whether Hamas will place preconditions and basically sandbag the whole understandings that we're trying to reach.

BOLDUAN: Is it your understanding that Hamas is going to put preconditions on extending the ceasefire past tomorrow morning?

GOLD: Well, you know, you hear voices. You hear people being interviewed. You hear all kinds of talk. We're hoping that we can all move past this period of armed conflict so that the people of southern Israel can live without missiles being fired at them day in and day out and that the people of Gaza can get a better future.

BOLDUAN: Tomorrow morning Israel, as you said, has agreed to extend the ceasefire. If Hamas does not come forth and agree to extend the ceasefire, what happens tomorrow morning?

GOLD: Well, it depends on what Hamas does. If Hamas starts firing rockets back into Israel, Israel knows how to protect itself, and it will do what is necessary to protect its civilians. The prime minister has made that statement time and again, and that is his policy and the policy of his government.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Gold, at this point are you negotiating with Hamas in Cairo, or are you negotiating with the Palestinian delegation? It sounds to me like while you may be diplomatic about it, that you're only negotiating with Hamas.

GOLD: Israel is negotiating with a Palestinian delegation through Egypt, and Egypt has played a very constructive role in this conflict. And Egypt is going to be the critical player for ensuring that we have not just stability along our front but regional stability. That's the only way that we're going to be able to assure some kind of hope for peace in the future. Remember, people say Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations in Cairo. We're not there yet. All we're trying to get is a ceasefire. At a later stage we will figure out how to construct a peace process out of this current situation. But people shouldn't put the cart before the horse. BOLDUAN: Well, your colleague, Mark Regev, he did say yesterday when

it comes to Hamas we distrust, verify, and then verify again. It sounds like you share a very similar position. I do want to ask you on the issue of demilitarization, let's be honest, of Hamas quite simply. If Hamas gives no opening to putting down arms, as at this point they have said they are not open to doing that, does that mean that this is a non-starter for Israel?

GOLD: You know, we will work on these details going ahead, but we have a lot of inspiration from the region itself. Could you imagine two years ago if someone came to you on CNN and said Bashar Assad is going to give up all his chemical weapons in a verifiable way? You know, you would think, what is this person thinking? What is he on? And in fact that is what happened. And that's perhaps a model for how we can proceed with Hamas. Hamas has to give up its long range rockets. It's untenable to have a stable peace while Hamas possesses this arsenal of long range Iranian rockets that can be used any time there's regional instability, any time Iran wants to cause trouble.

BOLDUAN: And very finally, would you say you are hopeful or you are pragmatic and realistic about the prospects that this ceasefire will be extended?

GOLD: Well, you know, hope is the national anthem of Israel, but at the same time in the Middle East you better be realistic and pragmatic if you want to protect your country.

BOLDUAN: At the moment it's a wait and see is all I can gather from you at the very moment. Dore Gold, thank you very much. We'll check back in with you. That's the perspective coming from Jerusalem this morning. Ahead we're to hear Hamas' perspective. Their spokesman is going to be joining us live.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to turn now to the Ebola crisis. The CDC has raised its state of alert to the highest possible level in response to the deadly outbreak. Here's the question. Here in America, should we be concerned? I want to bring in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Fauci, really a pleasure to have you here with us. Good morning to you, sir.


PEREIRA: First of all, are you surprised that they raised the level to its highest level? We haven't seen that since the H1N1 outbreak.

FAUCI: No, I'm not surprised at all. In fact, that's the very prudent thing to do as we see what's unfolding in the West African countries. It's a very difficult situation with an epidemic out of control, and now with the recent cluster of cases in eastern Nigeria that poses a more ominous threat because, as you know, Nigeria is the most populace nation in Africa. So we have an out-of-control epidemic in three West African countries and we're really looking very, very closely at what Nigeria, so what the CDC has done is really quite prudent and I agree with it completely. PEREIRA: Really concerning if more cases with spotted in Lagos, 21

million people living in that city. So let's talk about this level one response. Is it merely a signature and paperwork? What does it all entail? Does it affect clinics? Does it affect airports? How widespread will the effect be felt?

FAUCI: No, what it is, is just getting us on a higher level of alert. An alert means just obviously we're following the situation in West Africa and making sure that we're alert to people who might be coming from West African countries. We said very often that it is not surprising, and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm going to be on this show talking to you about someone who actually gets on a plane in a West African country, comes to the United States, gets infected in West Africa but is without symptoms, and then when they get here they get sick and people are going to get very concerned about that.

But the issue is that we're really quite equipped to be able to handle these types of infections as we're seeing what's ongoing right now at Emory in Atlanta, that we have the capabilities of isolation. We have the capabilities of diagnostics, and we also have the capability of protecting our health care workers.


FAUCI: So putting us on a higher level of alert really is just making sure we're up to date on what is going on.

PEREIRA: I think that we can feel confident about the response at our hospitals. We know that there are these special isolation units. We know the hospitals around the countries, especially the larger ones in bigger cities, have been put on high alert. I'm curious, though, sir, how can we know what is happening in the airport in terms of screening, because you mentioned that is a very real concern. We know how many international airports are servicing countries in that area. How -- is there any screening going on, and how are airports being alerted?

FAUCI: Well, there are -- there are screening at both levels. And one when you get on a plane -- actually three levels -- when you're on a plane and when you're getting off. So if you have a flight that's coming in from a West African country, clearly before they are letting people on the flights now, they want to find out, and they'll ask them, are they sick? Are they having a fever, feeling badly, having diarrhea? If they are they are not letting people like that on a plane. If once a person gets on a plane and gets sick it's very clear that the flight attendants and the people in charge of the flight are aware that they need to radio ahead, that they have someone who is sick, and to be ready to accept them when they come. And when they get off the plane they will ask them the same questions.

So it really is just alertness to the possibility that if you're geographically coming from a place that is a risk area, that you're prudent and stay alert to the possibility that you might have someone on the plane.

PEREIRA: Quickly, can I ask you. You've talked about the prudency of CDC raising its level, the World Health Organization is considering declaring an international public health emergency. Do you think that's imminent? Do you think that's prudent?

FAUCI: Well, I think we need to take it on a day-by-bay basis because this is a dynamic situation that's unfolding. And what the WHO does and what our CDC in real time, essentially following it every day and making the appropriate adjustments as they see fit. So when you see that unfolding, I don't think people should get overly concerned. I think they should just be feeling confident that our CDC and the WHO are really all over this and watching it very carefully and making the appropriate choices and decisions.

PEREIRA: It is an apparent situation that we need to stay in front of. Dr. Anthony Fauci from the NIH, we appreciate your time and expertise this morning.

Take a short break on NEW DAY. Up ahead, as we mentioned, we will hear from Hamas about the ongoing truce talks in Cairo. Their spokesman joins us live after a break.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Will rockets be fired tomorrow in the Middle East? That's the simple proposition. Yes, politics are very complicated between Israel and the Palestinians, but the next step is an obvious one, so what will happen? We heard from the Israeli side, that they are willing to extend the peace tomorrow when it expires, the 72-hour period, and then continue negotiating.

What comes from the Hamas side of that? Very important to hear, and we're going to hear that right now. We have Osama Hamdan joining us. He is in Beirut, Lebanon, but he speaks for Hamas. Mr. Hamdan, thanks for joining us. This simple question to you, sir, is -- tomorrow will you extend the peace, or will you fire rockets?

OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: Well, we have to talk about today before talking about tomorrow. We still have a chance, a window for having a cease-fire for a long term, the lift of the blockade on Gaza and solving all the problems that the Palestinians are talking about. We have to talk about what we are doing now, and I believe we still have a chance to do something today.

Talking about extending the cease-fire, it may show will (ph) that there will be no real agreement and this is bad. If we hear from the other side that they are not willing to have a real agreement with the Palestinians, that means they are playing the same old game. They've talked about the peace process and it took 22 years without a solution. They have the last round of negotiations by the American observation and - mediation, sorry -- and there was no results, so we don't want to go back to the same old game. We want them to be serious. We want them to show real will to achieve an agreement which is the real position of the Palestinian negotiation.

CUOMO: Right, that's about talking, that's about negotiating and that's very important, but you cannot have that if there are rockets flying through the air. Saeb Erekat, you know him very well. He says there are no preconditions to extending the cease-fire from your side, but we have not heard that from Hamas specifically. Will you fire rockets tomorrow even if negotiations are stalled today? Even if you don't get what you want today, will you hold off firing rockets tomorrow?

HAMDAN: Well, let me say clearly no one talked about the extend of the cease-fire. The brokers did not talk to us about that. What the Israelis are saying is something in the media, and it's part of their game. It's clear important to be understand that -- to be understood that the Palestinian side is willing to achieve an agreement, and if there was any progress in the negotiations, that will be helpful, not only to talk about tomorrow but also to have the same hope which we have started yesterday.

You can't talk about three days without any results, and to say it's good or normal. If there was some important results today, I think this will help to go forward in positive ways, but if there was no positive action from the Israeli side, the Palestinian delegation will evaluate the position today and night and they will talk to their leadership. And then the decision will be made.

There is no decision to undermine the talks. There is no decision to do -- to go back to fight, but we have to evaluate what the Israelis are doing, what the Israelis are saying. We have to evaluate their response, and this is supposed to be done by the Palestinian delegation and then they will talk to the leadership and then the decision will be made.

CUOMO: But you have to understand that even if you don't get what you want, Saeb Erekat, first of all, says he wants to extend the cease- fire, there are no preconditions, and you'll keep talking and negotiating. If tomorrow, you fire rockets --

HAMDAN: Who is Saeb Erekat? Excuse me. You used the name twice. Who is he?

CUOMO: Saeb Erekat -

HAMDAN: Saeb Erekat. He didn't say that he wants to extend the cease-fire. He said clearly we want results, and if there was positive results, we will extend the cease-fire.

CUOMO: No, he said --

HAMDAN: That's Saeb Erekat's position.

CUOMO: No, he said to me on this show this morning, just to be clear, that he wants to extend the cease-fire without preconditions but the negotiations are obviously the key to lasting peace. But the first step is tomorrow, Mr. Hamdan, because if you fire rockets again, you are basically exposing innocent people to more injuries and more death, and you know that.

HAMDAN: Well, if the Israelis are not willing to achieve an agreement, that means they are exposing the lives of the Palestinians and the Israelis to threat. This is why we are talking about what is happening today. They have to show a real will to achieve an agreement.

If there was positive movement from their side, for sure the Palestinians will have a positive action. If there was a negative action from their side, the Palestinians will study what is happening and will evaluate the situation and then make an action. We are not willing to have fight. We did not start that fight. The one who started that fight was the Israelis.


HAMDAN: The one who attacked the Gaza and before the West Bank was the Israelis.

So simply, we're not talking about preconditions; we are talking about what the Israelis are doing. This will be effective in the Palestinian decision. If they were acting in a positive way, that will give a positive reaction. If they were not, this needs to be studied and evaluated. And that is not a condition. It's a real position for the Palestinian delegation.

CUOMO: Right. The reality is, though, of what happens when you decide to act. The recent videos that shows Hamas fighters, or some militant fighters, setting up rocket bases in civilian areas is very dangerous and you know it draws Israeli fire into those civilian areas, creating the humanitarian crisis that the entire world is watching.

Now, there are two theories on that, Mr. Hamdan. One is that it makes --

HAMDAN: Well, you know that --

CUOMO: -- sympathy from Hamas. The other is takes sympathy for Hamas because you are exposing these people to attacks by firing from there. What's your response to that?

HAMDAN: We are not looking to have sympathy by letting the Israelis killing our own people, or we're not looking for sympathy by exposing our own people to be dead or killed.

Israel is murdering the Palestinians on purpose. They murdered children and civilians. We have, out of the killed Palestinians in the last 30 days, 482 children, 268 women. They were not fighting the Israelis; they were in their homes. And all the Israeli's lies about putting the rockets inside the houses, et cetera. It is lies, and they claimed it is in the schools and the United Nations said they are not saying the truth.

So let us put the Israeli lies aside.


CUOMO: What about the video? Mr. Hamdan --

HAMDAN: We are talking -- CUOMO: There's clearly video showing fighters launching rockets from

civilian areas. Forget about the U.N. Forget about what they say. Forget about what anybody says. We see it in the video. It is a known tactic. It is a dangerous one, but it may be all you can do, but why deny it at this point?

HAMDAN: Well, I want -- I want to tell you clearly we challenge anyone to prove that there was rockets launched from the civilian areas. We challenge that.

CUOMO: Then who were the people in the video?

HAMDAN: We say clearly there was no -- there was no rockets launched. It was from other areas. It's not -- it's open areas, and this is the problem. And this is the problem of the Israelis. It was open areas. They bombed open areas. There was no results, so they bombed the civilians in order to punish the Palestinians, a collective punishments against the Palestinians, like what the deputy of Knesset speaker said three days -- six days ago.

He called -- he had a plan which he called it the complete destruction of the Palestinians in Gaza where he suggested to put the Palestinians in a concentration camp. He's talking about concentration camps like the Nazis have done in the Second World War. He's talking about humanitarian crime.

I want to say that clearly we are not using the civilian operations, and let's concentrate on what the Israelis are doing. We had a chance to achieve an agreement. If the Israelis show a positive will, there will be a positive reaction from the Palestinian side. If there is not -

CUOMO: Well, they are saying -- Israel is saying --

HAMDAN: This is supposed to be evaluated.

CUOMO: Israel is saying it will extend the cease-fire and that is the best way to keep people safe in Gaza and continue negotiating. Will you meet that part of the agreement and say, yes, we also --

HAMDAN: I expect --

CUOMO: -- will not fire rockets?

HAMDAN: No. If they are -- sorry, if they are willing to have something good, I expect them to say we are going ahead to achieve an agreement --

CUOMO: That is what they are saying.

HAMDAN: -- which can fulfill the Palestinian essential needs. They have to say that initially.

CUOMO: They are saying that.

HAMDAN: They have to accept that there is -- they are not saying that yet. They are talking about cease-fire. They are still talking about cease-fire. There was no real comments from the Israeli side, or positive comments from the Israeli side, about the negotiations. If they are willing to do something good, they have to make positive notes and comments on the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations going on in Egypt.

If they show that, if there was some clear positive actions on the table --

CUOMO: Like what?

HAMDAN: There will be a positive reaction from the Palestinian side.

The cease-fire, the purpose of the cease-fire is to open an window to achieve an agreement. If they decide to use this window in a positive way, this will open a real horizon for both Palestinians and Israelis.

CUOMO: What do you want?

HAMDAN: In they decide to close the window, they don't have to blame the Palestinians for that.

CUOMO: What do you want to extend the cease-fire?

HAMDAN: We want -- we want -- we want three guarantees that Israel will not attack Gaza another time. We wanted a lift of the blockade on Gaza. We want to stop all the actions which was taken after what was claimed, the disappearance of the three settlers, because everyone knows now that those settlers were killed in a criminal attack, not by Palestinians. So they have to stop everything they have done according to that. And also we want a real open to reconstruct Gaza after they destroy it.

CUOMO: The Israelis say they arrested a member of Hamas who is supposedly responsible for the kidnapping.

But let's put that aside. If Israel were to say, fine, we're going to stop the blockade, we're going to let in the humanitarian aid, we're going to keep negotiating for peace, would Hamas say that they recognize Israel's right to exist? And would you become demilitarized when it comes at least to long range rockets? Would you give those two?

HAMDAN: Well, you have to know, as everyone knows, that there is an Israeli occupation for the Palestinian lands. If that ended, this will be a good thing to talk about it. They have to end their occupation to the Palestinian lands.

CUOMO: Right.

HAMDAN: After the end of the occupation, there will be a kind of a Palestinian army which is supposed to protect the Palestinian land, as each country --

CUOMO: But it doesn't need long range rockets. HAMDAN: -- as any other country. And at this moment -- and at this

moment, when we are talking about the Palestinian army and the Palestinian independent sovereign state, that is an army. No one has to have weapons except that army.

So let's start from the real problem, why the Palestinians are having weapons? Why they are trying to launch rockets? Because of the occupation. Because they are not safe. Because they are not certain about the future of their children. Because they can't guarantee that their children can play as any children in the world. Because they don't know if they build their houses who can destroy it or who may destroy it from the Israeli side the next day.

So we want to be certain that there is an independent Palestinian sovereign state. At this moment we can talk about the real future. We can't talk about future while the Israelis are putting a pistol on our heads or a knife on our necks and they want to slaughter our throats and everyone is asking us what you are supposed to do?

Expect that someone attacks your country, and he occupied part of your country, what will you do? You will accept the occupation or you will defend yourself, and you will fight until the real occupation is removed?

CUOMO: But if you want -

HAMANDA: This is what had happened in Europe, when the Nazis occupied Poland and France and they tried to occupy Europe. If there was no resistance against the Nazis, Europe would talk German until now. This is a clear situation. We want an end for the occupation.

CUOMO: Yes. I understand what you're saying. But I have to say the analogy -- hold on one second, Mr. Hamdan. Go ahead, make your point, please.

HAMDAN: The second point, the Israelis are playing a game all the time. They say we want to do this, but they don't do it at the end. They said in 1922 we want peace. There was - there was Oslo Agreement and it was expected to have a Palestinian state after five years, 1998. We are now in 2014. Until now there is no Palestinian state.

In fact, we are losing more land in West Bank by the settlers. We are losing Jerusalem. We are losing the Jordan Valley, and even Abu Mazen himself have nothing after the last nine months of negotiations. Mr. Kerry himself understands that the Israelis are not willing to have peace.