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Communication Breakdown in the Holy Land; Obama Slows U.S. Troop Drawdown from Afghanistan; Imagine a World. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired October 15, 2015 - 23:00:00   ET




FRED PLEITGEN, CNN HOST (voice-over): On the edge, Israelis and Palestinians steel themselves after a surge of violence. We speak to an

Arab Israeli journalist who says leaders on both sides are failing.


LUCY AHARISH, ARAB ISRAELI TV ANCHOR: . as an Israeli, as Muslim, as an Arab, I'm telling you that it seems that also our leaders, from both

sides, gave up on us.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): And he promised American troops would leave Afghanistan but now President Obama says U.S. forces will need to stay.

Is that political realism or an embarrassing U-turn?


PLEITGEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane.

Israelis and Palestinians are on the edge as talk of a third intifada grows louder following a wave of stabbings across Israel and intense

clashes in the West Bank as well.

This latest upsurge in violence began over two weeks ago when a Palestinian killed two Israelis with a knife in the Old City of Jerusalem.

There have been multiple attacks across Israel since then and Israeli forces have responded by shutting down access to some Palestinian

neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is there and he filed this report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost two weeks of lone wolf attacks and once again Jerusalem is on edge. Daily

city residents either witness scenes like these or see them on TV. For those who lived through previous waves of violence, there's a sense of deja


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember riding on the buses then and it's a similar feeling as now. It's almost like we're looking like this around us

more, not knowing if that really would help, just more conscientious of when we're walking, when we're talking. Like right now, I'm more aware

with my peripheral vision.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Sharon Gat served in the Israeli special forces for more than 20 years and now runs a company providing weapons training

for security guards for ordinary people.

SHARON GAT, FORMER ISRAEL SPECIAL FORCES: The civilians that come over here are under a lot of pressure. People want to protect themselves,

protect their families. They feel they cannot walk without a weapon in the streets because the attack can come from anywhere.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The Israeli government has made it easier for citizens to obtain weapons licenses. Less lethal means of defense are

available but they are selling out.

WEDEMAN: Aaron (ph), do you have any pepper spray?

AARON (PH): No, not else. Empty.

WEDEMAN: All sold out?

AARON (PH): Sold out. Don't have in Israel now. Maybe next week, maybe.

You can open it and we can -- if something attack you...


It's a self-defense tool. It's good for a womans, for a girls. Cheap and it's very easy to use with this.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Such things may help adults but the sense of vulnerability, especially for the young, is more difficult to address.

NAOMI BAUM (PH), PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, acknowledge that it is scary. It is scary. I'm scared, you're scared, we're all scared. But we don't let

that fear paralyze us.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Psychologist Naomi Baum (ph) has been treating trauma victims for almost 20 years. Her advice to parents:

BAUM (PH): Try to keep routine as much as possible: regular meal times, regular bedtimes, reading books, doing all the things that you do

with your children within your level of comfort.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A level of comfort that falls with every new attack -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.


PLEITGEN: And in that tense environment, communication between the two sides would, of course, be essential. But there's far too little of

it, says my next guest.

Lucy Aharish is the first Arab Israeli to present the news in Hebrew. She straddles the divide but with unbridled passion and some unexpected

views. I spoke to her from Tel Aviv earlier.

PLEITGEN: Lucy Aharish, thank you for joining the program.

AHARISH: Thank you very much, Fred, for inviting me.

PLEITGEN: Lucy, you said that one of the main issues right now with the situation that's going on is that people aren't listening to each

other. The communication seems to be breaking down.

Why is that?

And describe for us the sort of atmosphere of fear right now in your country.

AHARISH: As a citizen of the State of Israel, when you're walking in the streets, when you're walking on the streets, you are --


AHARISH: -- feeling the tension. You can feel that people are afraid. People are looking at each other in a really, really, you know,

suspicious way.

People are looking behind their backs to see if somebody is actually coming to stab them or somebody is going to kill them or somebody's going

to just yell, "Allahu Akbar," and he's going to start killing and murdering people.

Or on the other side we are seeing also cases of Jewish people stabbing our people because they are only Arabs. It seems that Arabs are

not -- and Jews are not able anymore to trust each other. Arabs and Jews are not able anymore to listen to each other.

We are talking. You can hear, I can condemn, for example, 102,000 and 1 million times the fact of murdering innocent people and going against

stabbing and massacring people. But people stopped listening to it.

Unfortunately, if we used to speak of war between Jewish and Arab, if we used to speak of war about Israelis and Palestinians, it's not a war of

Israelis and Palestinians anymore, Fred. The war is the war of religion.

PLEITGEN: But, Lucy, as you said, this is not something that happened overnight. And you could see, over the past couple of years, I mean, I

travel to Israel quite frequently, how you've had Israelis who, in the past, they would go to the West Bank, who, in the past, they would know

Palestinians, many of them didn't want to go to the West Bank anymore.

On the other side, you had Palestinians, you had Arabs, who were becoming more apprehensive about their Israeli neighbors.

Isn't the problem that, for a very long time, people have become more and more alienated in the society?

AHARISH: You know, it's for a long, long time, we are seeing that the Israeli and the Palestinian society is going more further from one another.

The Israeli and the Palestinian society, although we are living on the same land, the ideas, the lack of diplomacy, the lack of initiative, of peace

initiative, is creating a vacuum.

And when you have a vacuum, we have a perfect example of what is happening in the Middle East.

When you have a vacuum, you have terror. When you have a vacuum, you have and you're giving the stage to extremists from both sides. You are

giving the stage to the extremists from the Jewish extreme right side and from the Muslim extreme side.

And when you don't have leaders that are giving you something to control, when you don't have leaders with a path, with a direction, with

something -- when you don't have a mother and a father that is telling you, hey, stop doing it because I said so, it seems that we are starting to act

like children.

But we are starting to act like terrorist children and we are doing whatever we want and however we want because nobody is telling us not to.

PLEITGEN: The big problem right now, Lucy, isn't that the big problem that right now, on the one hand, you have the Israeli government that says

it wants to find a security solution to all this, crack down hard on terrorists.

And then you have the Palestinian leadership that's saying basically nothing, is not trying to stop anyone, is basically being defiant.

It seems that on both sides there seems to be a lack of will to try and resolve all this.

AHARISH: Somebody needs to do something. The silence that is coming from the United States, this is something that you cannot just stay silent

on. This time it's different. Fred, it's different.

People are afraid in the streets of Israel. And I'm usually saying to people, you know, what you're watching on TV, it's not the same what -- in

what is happening on the streets, what you are -- it's different; we are not stabbing one another, we are not killing one another.

We are killing one another. We are killing ourselves. We are killing Jews and Arabs. We are -- we lost control. And it seems that the United

States is not doing anything about it.

And maybe, I don't know. Maybe the United States doesn't want to intervene anymore. Maybe the United States gave -- given up on us.

But I can also say today to the United States, it seems that also our leaders -- and I'm talking to you as an Israeli, as Muslim, as an Arab --

I'm telling you that it seems that also our leaders, from both sides, gave up on us.

PLEITGEN: Well, one of the things -- though, first of all, John Kerry is going to the region. So we'll see what comes out of those diplomatic


But isn't one of the things or one of the things that I think many people are really worried about is, when you have these stabbing attacks,

is that it's often very, very young people who commit these things. It's in some cases people who are 13 years old. And you've tried speaking to

some younger Palestinians.

What motivates them to do this?

AHARISH: You know --


AHARISH: -- I ask myself the same question. And you know, when people don't have hope, when they are not going to school, when, in their

school and in their neighborhoods, they are seeing martyr posters and the posters of terrorists portraying them as people who are heroes, this is

what you will get.

Because when a 13-years-old boy doesn't have a playground, when a 13- year-old boy doesn't have, let's say, even PlayStation or he doesn't have an iPad or he doesn't have a book to make him interest or to put his

interest in other things, he will find himself another way or another, let's say, path to idolize.

And this is where, where, again, we're saying, this is what happens when there is a vacuum, for these 13-, 16-, 14-, 17-year-old boys, they

don't have a persona to actually see and look up to and to say, this is how I want to be when I will grow up.

I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. I want to conquer the world and I want to be successful and I want to have life and I want to go

and have fun and I want to listen to music and I want to live my life and I want to be, you know what, famous. I want to be a fireman. It -- people

are don't think that way.

PLEITGEN: Lucy Aharish, thank you for joining the program.

AHARISH: Thank you very much, Fred.


PLEITGEN: And, after a break, from Syria to Afghanistan: President Obama's foreign policy is in the firing line.

But what other options does America's leader have?

We'll debate that coming up.




PLEITGEN: Welcome back.

For years, President Barack Obama has been touting his plans to bring home U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But today, in a major reversal, he

announced that Afghan forces can't yet stand alone and American troops will have to stay longer than expected.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be. They are developing critical

capabilities, intelligence, logistics, aviation, command and control.

And, meanwhile, the Taliban has made gains, particularly in rural areas and can still launch deadly attacks in cities, including Kabul.

The bottom line is, in key areas of the country, the security situation is still very fragile. And in some places, there's risk of



PLEITGEN: And that fragility of the Afghan security forces was on full display when the Taliban recently stormed the city of Kunduz, the

attack prompting fears the Afghan army could go the way of the Iraqi army and completely collapse under threat.

Obama's been criticized for withdrawing troops from Iraq too quickly. We're going to discuss all this and take a wider look at Obama's foreign

policy decisions with Jeremy Shapiro, a foreign policy expert at Brookings.

Jeremy, thank you very much for joining the program today.


PLEITGEN: So what do you make of this decision to keep the troops in Afghanistan longer, at least 5,500 of them?

SHAPIRO: Look, one of the things I imagine that the president has learned in dealing with U.S. military deployments over the past six or

seven years is that you have to set -- you have to set hard, difficult targets or you don't really move anything. And they -- the president very

much wanted to get these troops --


SHAPIRO: -- out by the end of his term. But I think he's also probably learned that those targets, in the end, sort of secretly need to

be flexible. And I think he saw from some of the conditions on the ground in the last few weeks that this target probably needs to be pushed back.

PLEITGEN: But internationally, there is the perception among many nations, among many allies of America that America's foreign policy is


You have Afghanistan, where the Obama administration says they want to pull troops out, now they can't.

You had Iraq, where they pulled out; Iraq fell apart. ISIS took over.

And you have Syria, where now Vladimir Putin is the one who holds all the cards in his hand.

What do you make of America's foreign policy?

SHAPIRO: Well, that's a big topic. I would say that it is very popular in Washington and in a lot of capitals abroad to say that American

foreign policy is weak these days. But as the president himself said, that is a misinterpretation of where strength and weakness comes from.

Sending U.S. troops to fight battles that don't really matter to the United States in faraway countries isn't where U.S. strength comes from and

it isn't where Russian strength will come from.

I think that a president really does have to have the courage to say I don't need to engage in machismo pissing matches with people like Vladimir

Putin. I'm going to do what's in the long-term interests of my country.

American strength is not built by engaging in military adventures which are purposeless and which can't work. American strength is built by

recognizing where your real interests are and by devoting resources to that and by making sure you are strong fundamentally at home.

PLEITGEN: But American foreign policy for years has drawn strength from being strong in the Middle East. It is a vital area for the United


Iraq is vital. Syria is vital as well to the overall Middle East.

So taking on the position of allowing the field to Vladimir Putin, isn't that a sign of weakness?

In the end what Vladimir Putin did is he --


SHAPIRO: I don't know that --


SHAPIRO: Fred, I'm sorry. I don't think I can accept your premise. The idea that the United States has drawn strength from the Middle East

over the last few years doesn't seem right to me.

When we look at what the American military intervention in Iraq has done, I don't think it's made the United States stronger by spending

several trillion dollars there, by sending hundreds of thousands of forces there. We haven't enhanced our credibility. We haven't enhanced American


I think that one of the things that President Obama has recognized is that, of course, we have interests in the Middle East. Of course, we need

to be engaged in the Middle East. But we need to be smart about how we engage with the Middle East. And that doesn't mean showing strength for

the purpose of showing strength.

It means recognizing there are limits to our power in the Middle East and there are limits to the things that we need from the Middle East.

Syria is not vital to the United States. Syria is obviously a humanitarian tragedy and that tugs at American hearts and we'd love to do things about

it and we are doing some things about it.

But I don't think it's vital to the United States and I think we have to understand that.

PLEITGEN: But Syria is vital to a lot of very important partners that America has in the Middle East, for instance, Turkey; for instance, Saudi

Arabia, who are very angry at the way the U.S. is handling this.

SHAPIRO: I think that Syria is very vital to Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Those are strong countries. Those are countries which have a lot of

resources to put into the problem. Those are countries that are putting a lot of resources into the problem, not necessarily for the better.

I think maybe some people might want to ask themselves, if Syria is so important to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, why aren't they dealing with the

problem more directly?

Why are they appealing to the United States, in a sense, to take care of the problem for them?

I think that what -- we have had a problem in the Middle East for a long time with allies for whom these issues are more important, essentially

relying on us to take care of the problems for them.

And I think that it is important that we support especially countries like Turkey in the Middle East -- and we are. But these countries have to

take the lead if these things are truly vital to them and not to us.

PLEITGEN: Well, isn't one of the issues, though, that, of course, these countries are going to take the lead but they are going to take the

lead in the way that they see fit?

For instance, the Turks are going to say, we are going to start a campaign foremost against the PKK, who, of course, are allied with one of

America's main allies, the YPG --


PLEITGEN: -- in Syria and bomb the PKK instead of bombing ISIS.

The Saudis are going to deliver weapons to groups that maybe America doesn't like very much and the Russians are going to go ahead and identify

their man, Bashar al-Assad and support him.

So it's out of America's control, isn't it?

SHAPIRO: The Middle East has for a long time has been out of America's control. I don't recall a time when it was ever in America's


I think that the points that you made, which are very important, indicate that, even with our partners, we don't have precise interests.

What are our interests in Syria and the Middle East?

Fundamentally, they're the humanitarian interests but also they're broader stability. And what we have to do -- and the only way that we can

really help that interest is by bringing the various external supporters of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq together. And we can have some role in


But ultimately, we're not going to be able, through force of arms and through American power and through strong speeches to simply say to

countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Syria and Iran, you know, you have to do what we say. That's beyond our power.

And I think it's -- one of the things that I think the president has been trying to communicate, although I would say he hasn't been very

successful at it, is that we have to recognize the limits of our capacity to control events in a place like the Middle East. And I think the points

that you make actually help point that out.

PLEITGEN: What about the fight against ISIS? That is something that the Obama administration has identified as a core interest, of course,

because it's such a ruthless terror group.

But even there, it seems as though things are going very slow. There was talk of a Mosul offensive that was supposed to happen early this year

and still there seems to be very little progress.

SHAPIRO: Yes. I think that the United States has definitely identified ISIS as a core interest.

The president, when he -- when he announced the anti-ISIS campaign in August of 2014 said it would take a very long time. And I think that what

he was hinting at -- and to a degree what he said -- is that he's really going to count on local partners for the majority of that campaign or for

the hard slog of that campaign.

What U.S. airpower has done versus ISIS is essentially stop their spread or at least stop it moving into new geographical areas. And that's

largely been accomplished.

But you're certainly right that ISIS has not been degraded, as the president says needs to happen. And I think that the idea there is to

slowly build up local forces, especially in Iraq, that can ultimately take on ISIS. But I think that that's a multi-year struggle and, from the

United States' point of view, it needs to be led by local actors.

And that's important because, if the United States simply goes in and puts a lot of power on the ground to wipe ISIS out, that will create no

political context for actually solving the broader problem that created ISIS, which is a sense of lack of governability and extremism in that area.

And so another group will simply arise and we will be playing whack-a- mole in that area until time immemorial.

PLEITGEN: Jeremy Shapiro, thank you very much for joining us today.

The impact of the crisis in Syria can be seen the world over. Europe continues to feel the shock waves as millions of refugees knock at its


Today, E.U. leaders met yet again to discuss the crisis. Among them, German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose refusal to put a limit on the

refugees her country will take has made her a target of harsh criticism at home.

And while all eyes are on the world's most powerful woman in Brussels, after a break, we imagine a world where women fade into the background.

Tanzania's forgotten farmers step into the spotlight. That's next.




PLEITGEN: And finally, imagine a world filled with unsung heroes but hidden in plain sight.

The female farmers of Tanzania have long been driving the country forward, occupying three in four agriculture jobs there. Yet the essential

community building and assistance offered by the women has never really been appreciated, that is, until now.

A blockbuster reality TV series called "Female Food Heroes" is now several seasons in. The popular program sets tough tasks for the nation's

fearless female farmers, who have to perform agricultural tasks under 24- hour TV surveillance.

The women also get advice from experts about things like domestic violence and finance and each contestant leaves with gifts of equipment and

support to aid their small farms, while the victor wins around $9,000.

The show is a massive success, with more than 20 million people regularly tuning in. Once ignored, Tanzania's women farmers are now local

celebrities. As they leave the contest, many share the benefits of their experience, empowering other women across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When I leave this place in my community, I will teach them about the transformation of women, to know

how to protect their families through knowing how to give back to society and to work hard without depending on men.


PLEITGEN: And that's it for our program today. Remember you can always see all our interviews online at Thank you for

watching. Goodbye from London.