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Syrian Ceasefire Collapses, Thousands Trapped; Obama Adviser Responds to Trump's Russia Stance; U.S. Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates; Outcry Over Israeli Outposts Bill; Scrambling to Protect Climate Science Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 14, 2016 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:13] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, a collapsed ceasefire, no evacuations, no letter for the people of Eastern Aleppo. Will Syria

stay in President Obama's legacy? His deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes joins the program.

Also ahead, a controversial settlement bill that could cement illegal settler outpost on the West Bank is dividing Israelis and we hear from both


Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christian Amanpour in London.

And some breaking news just now as we go on air. The U.S. Federal Reserve has raised interest rates for the first time in a year. Now the Federal

Reserve chief Janet Yellen was expected to make that change and we'll have a little more analysis on that later in the program. It has been raised by


Now turning now to Aleppo, where trapped civilians thought they may finally get a break from the horror, but they were wrong. Activist say that

today's ceasefire completely collapsed. Government forces are shelling the last rebel-held enclave. And buses meant to take civilians and fighters to

safety reportedly sat empty before heading back to the depots.

50,000 people are still trapped, an estimate, the U.N. says Bashar al-Assad backed by Vladimir Putin is on his way to wrestling back all of Syria's

largest city and thus securing a hold on major urban segments of the country.

When asked about keeping the United States largely out of the Syria war, President Barack Obama recently said this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it is the smartest decision from a menu of bad options that were available to us.


AMANPOUR: So the tragedy of Syria will long plague the international community. And it will always be part of U.S. President Barack Obama's

legacy as he wraps up his term next month.

Ben Rhodes has been alongside the president since the beginning. First, writing his foreign policy speeches and since late 2009, he's been deputy

national security adviser and he joins me now from Washington.


AMANPOUR: Ben Rhodes, welcome to the program.

I mean, it can be easy for you all sitting there to see what's happening in Aleppo right now. And I do want to first start by asking you why the

president has not made public remarks about it. One of your own former ambassadors to Russia said maybe time for Potus to speak in public about

this crime against humanity even if no actions can be taken.

Why is the president not talking about it, Mr. Rhodes?

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Christiane, good to be with you. He will certainly have the opportunity to speak about the

situation in Aleppo over the coming days. And so I would expect that you will hear from him.

We have been outspoken about the situation in Syria. Of course, for some time now. And we've also try to exhaust every diplomatic effort we can to

try to help those who are in need including Secretary Kerry working exhaustibly though the weekend with Russia.

They're trying to find some agreement for a safe passage for the civilians. Tragically, the Russians have not follow them through on any agreement,

either with us or recently with Turkey. We're going to continue those efforts because we are deeply concern, heartbroken about the situation in

Aleppo right now.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you whether this is a -- you said the president will say something. He will have the opportunity to say something. You know,

the IRC chairman David Miliband, who is the former British foreign secretary has called for the president and president-elect Trump to make a

joint statement indicating that the United States will demand accountability for atrocities in Syria.

Can you imagine that is something that's even possible between President Obama and the incoming President Donald Trump?

RHODES: Well, we have one President at the time in our system so I would not expect them to make a joint statement on foreign policy. Frankly, the

president-elect is putting together his own team appointment (INAUDIBLE).

We have supported accountability including ICC referrals for crimes against humanity in Syria. We will continue, of course, to do so. We would urge

the incoming administration to similarly support accountability for what's taking place.

[14:05:06] AMANPOUR: And what is your answer to many people who are asking about the stain on this president's legacy, on this administration's


I mean, the most unspeakable crimes being committed there, and you know, the president's term is ending with this on going.

RHODES: Look, we have lost many nights sleep on this and spent hours and hours and hours in the situation room wrestling with this question. I

think, Christiane, what we would say is, you know, President Obama has been willing to use military force in different scenarios, including to protect

civilians in Libya when we had a clear military option to stop an advancing force on the city of Benghazi.

I think the challenge that we face in Syria, even as we've exhausted every diplomatic effort even as we've been the largest provider of humanitarian

assistance for those in need. We have not had a military option that we felt could resolve the situation. Could make the situation discernibly

better. You have a brutal dictator backed by Russia and Iran. You have a variety of extremist groups who are fighting on the ground. And really we

have not had a military option that we believe could be implemented to resolve the situation.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you then, because this has been handed off now to another president who has a much closer relationship apparently with the

Russian president and has, as you've seen, nominated a secretary of state who also has a very close personal relationship.

Can you -- have you discussed within your own selves what you expect the on going U.S. policy towards Syria will be?

Well, Christiane, I think there are some basic U.S. interests that will endure under the next administration. We have prosecuted a very aggressive

effort against ISIL in principally Eastern Syria, pushed to that, have a lot of territory and they are now focused on squeezing Raqqah, ISIL self-

declared caliphate. I think those efforts certainly will continue.

I think as it relates to Russia, yes, you have seen a different tone taken by the incoming administration. The fact of the matter is, though, there

is no end to the suffering, no end to the killing, no end to the refugee flows, absent of political resolution even in the aftermath of what's

taking place in Aleppo. You still have large loss of the country that are not controlled by the government. You still have huge opposition to Bashar

al-Assad from a Sunni majority.

There is going to have to be some form of diplomatic resolution to this crisis for there to be an end to the things that threatened the civilians

that's out of Syria and a number of very important U.S. interest.

AMANPOUR: So if Syria is a massive failure, Iran, the nuclear deal, is considered by most people around the world as a big success and also the

rapprochement with Cuba.

What do you make of? And do you believe that the next administration will and can, quote, unquote, rip up these deals, make better deals, whatever

the terminology is. They don't like these deals. Can they do it? Can they get the United States and the world out of the Iran nuke deal for


RHODES: Well, look, I think, first of all, these are connected. I think in Syria, part of what we wrestled with were the limits of what U.S. can do

with its military and how do we learn lessons from Iraq.

And one of the lessons that we have sought to find in other places is diplomacy needs to be front and center. So with Iran, you have a nuclear

program that is rolled back without firing a shot. With Cuba, you have an opening that is bringing a better life to the Cuban people, but also is

elevated in American standing across out hemisphere.

So we believe in the Paris climate deal, of course. Also, rallies the entire world to deal with the fear of climate change. I think we would

make the case that these deals work on their own terms, that they are in the U.S. interest. I think the other important thing, Christiane, as these

are international agreements.

It's not just a bilateral agreement between the Obama administration and Iran. This is the P5+1, the major European powers. Russia and China, all

invested in this. Paris has 200 countries invested in it. So I think the incoming administration is going to have to contend with the fact that

whatever criticisms they have made in the past, these are international agreements that are having an effect right now. And there's a huge cost to

turning their backs on them.

AMANPOUR: Ben Rhodes, thank you very much indeed for joining us from the White House.

RHODES: Thanks, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And just a note, Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, called any opposition a terrorist. And he said again today that Donald Trump will be,

quote, "A natural ally of Russia" if he fights terrorism.

Now more on that breaking news story. The United States Federal Reserve is increasing interest rates by 0.25. What does that mean for us all? And

what does it mean for the Fed under a Trump administration.

Richard Quest joins us now with that from New York.


RICHARD QUEST, ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: I think if you start off with the decision, not a surprise as you rightly point out Christiane. The Fed

has made this. And many people have said it should have been taken sooner but for Brexit and economic uncertainty in China maybe in the middle of the

year, but they had done it. And now the issue as always with interest rate rises, Christiane, is when does the next rate rise take place?

[14:10:14] And the tradition is, of course, that it is a series of rises that moves interest rates back to a neutral position, as they say. Now

it's been a year, Christiane, since the last rate rise because of these other factors. But there is one big difference now, Donald Trump. And his

economic plan to try and boost the economic to 2 or 3 or 4 percent is what he liked it.

Christiane, the statement which had just come out from the Fed basically says that they will continue to look at the data, but if you look at the

numbers that they are now quoting, it seems they are expecting rates to rise faster than before.

AMANPOUR: Interesting. Of course, Janet Yellen, the Fed chief is going to have a press conference that's scheduled for 2:30 Eastern Time.

Richard, thank you very much.

And now we are going to Paris, where the Eiffel Tower has gone dark in solidarity with the civilians trapped in Eastern Aleppo and towards the

international community to take action.

When we come back, we go to Israel, Trump and the Middle East peace process. Will the next U.S. administration accept a growing move there to

legalize controversial West Bank outpost? Two Israeli party leaders with deeply opposing views on this -- Naftali Bennett and Tzipi Livni join me

after this.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now thousands of Israeli settlers living in illegal outpost in the West Bank could be allowed to stay if Israel's parliament gives them the go

ahead next week. Many say that would bury any hope for the two states solution.

Supporters of the bill have been emboldened by the recent election of Donald Trump and they believe he could be their chance to carving out a new

map for peace.

One settlement, though, that likely won't survive is Amona. Our Ian Lee reports it could be the sacrificial lamb.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within days, life could change dramatically for the settlers of Amona. The Israeli high court has ordered

this illegal West Bank outpost demolished. Manya Hilal spent almost 15 years here raising her six children.

MANYA HILAL, AMONA SETTLER: These are people. There are 200 children living here. You know how devastated children area when being torn from

their home, having their life destroyed.

LEE: A few hundred people called this hilltop home, raising families, working the land.

Hilal points to the biblical book of Joshua as her land deed.

HILAL: It's time to declare these lands belong to us. It's time to say enough. No Jewish settlements should be evacuated. No child has to lose

his life and his home and his friends for nothing, for nothing.

LEE: The government tried to remove the Amona's settlers 10 years ago. The violent clashes left a nation traumatize.

(on-camera): This is all that is left from that day. Some twisted rebar and concrete. As for the settlers who are living here, they didn't have to

move far just up the hill.

(voice-over): Palestinian Ibrahim Yacoub knows how the settlers feel.

(on-camera): Which part is your land?

IBRAHIM YACOUB, PALESTINIAN LANDOWNER: My land is -- where is the trees? It is behind the trees immediately.

LEE (voice-over): Yacoub tells me his family worked this land for generations, nurturing the harvest, camping under the stars. Then in 1996

he says, the settlers illegally seized it.

YACOUB: I want you to see and imagine how you feel when somebody come to your house and he takes from you your car and your house and you cannot do

for him nothing.

LEE: The high court ruled with Yacoub and declared Amona must go.


LEE: Israel's right wing Jewish home party saw an opportunity setting in motion legislation to save Amona and legalize more than 50 other West Bank

outpost at the same time.

Palestinians and the outgoing administration in Washington are deeply concern seeing even the idea of a viable Palestinian state now on a point

of collapse.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: There's a basic choice that has to be made by Israelis. Is there going to be continued implementation of settlement

policy or is there going to be separation and the creation of two states.

LEE: In Amona, Manya Hilal and her community have a decision to make. As some built shelters for supporters they hope will defend them, the people

here are under growing pressure to leave peacefully.

December 25th is the deadline to clear the outpost. A move that could mark the end of one of legal settlement, but have far reaching ramifications

across the rest of the West Bank.

Ian Lee, CNN, Amona in the West Bank.


AMANPOUR: And I've been speaking to two opposing Israeli party leaders. Tzipi Livni who opposes this move. She was the main Israeli negotiator for

a two-state solution, but first Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party who is pushing for the outpost to be legalized.


AMANPOUR: Naftali Bennett, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because clearly, you want the court case to rule in your favor. But Amona, like many of the outposts, is illegal, not just

under international law, but also Israeli law, since it sits on private Palestinian land.

What are you expecting to happen? Are you expecting the settlement to remain?

BENNETT: We'll abide by the law. Whatever the Supreme Court will decide at the end, we will certainly abide. But I'll tell you that international

law -- or I -- I would say more accurately, the nations of the world, many of them don't recognize Jerusalem as our capital. In fact, I think most of

them don't. Yet Jerusalem is our capital.

So, you know, we can't act only by what the world will say.

AMANPOUR: But you've also said that you believe this whole situation is -- and I'll quote -- "the first step to extending Israel's sovereignty over

Judea and Samaria," which is what you term the West Bank.

Are you expecting all these outposts to be approved in terms of being annexed?

BENNETT: What you call outposts are, in fact, communities -- pretty big communities, in some cases.

Absolutely. My vision of the future is separation where we would apply Israeli law on the Israeli controlled areas in Judea and Samaria, where

there is roughly half a million Israelis and only about 70,000 Arabs who would be granted Israeli citizenship, full Israeli citizenship.

And the rest of the area, what's called Area A and B, would become an autonomy -- a self-governed area because the Palestinians already have a

full blown state in Gaza.

So that would be the end game. Separation -- they have an autonomy, a state, and we apply law on the Israeli areas.

AMANPOUR: Well, I -- I know you say that. However, it pits you against your current prime minister, at least that's what I understand from his

latest interview with "60 Minutes."

And I'd like to play that for you.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Two states for two peoples. That's where I'm focused. Yes, I'd like to help -- to have President Trump

when he gets into the White House -- help him work on that. I'd like to see if the Arab states can help me achieve that. It's a new reality, new



AMANPOUR: So he's claiming that his government still abides by the internationally accepted two state solution in which the West Bank, you

know, most of it, with the Palestinians, would be part of that.

BENNETT: I respect Prime Minister Netanyahu, but I profoundly disagree with that vision and what I am trying to do in Israel is garner more and

more support for my vision, which is an autonomy and a strengthened area in Judea and Samaria.

And I'll tell you more and more Israelis and more people around the world are understanding that, you know, if you try something once and twice, and

a third time, and each time, it fails, you've got to try something new.

AMANPOUR: The only thing is.

BENNETT: I come from the business world. If a manager of mine would come and say that three times I failed, I'd fire him.

[14:20:12] AMANPOUR: Here's the thing, though. You may be on the verge of committing national suicide. And I say that because even the Palestinians

are now coming to talk about potentially a one state solution.

But you know what that means for you, don't you? It means demographically, because of the birth rate, it would eventually be a Palestinian state -- or

it would not be a democratic Jewish-Israeli state.

So I guess what I'm saying, if you get what you want, isn't that the end of the dream as you see it?

BENNETT: Quite the contrary. My approach is of separation, the -- sort of the Puerto Rican model, so that the Palestinians would live in their

autonomy. They would elect and vote for their government. They would govern themselves. Everything barring one main thing, which is an army.

The second thing is they won't be able to flood Israel with six million great-grandchildren of '48 refugees, 1948 refugees.

AMANPOUR: Naftali Bennett, education minister in the current government, thank you very much, indeed for joining us.


AMANPOUR: And now we're going to move on.

As much as we've tried to get a debate on these issues, we could not convince either side to do that. So we are going now to Tzipi Livni, who

is former justice minister, and she is also one of the leaders of the opposition.

AMANPOUR: Tzipi Livni, you have been hearing and listening to this part of the conversation. What is wrong with Naftali Bennett's suggestion to have

some kind of separation in the heart of the territory there?

TZIPI LIVNI, FORMER ISRAELI JUSTICE MINISTER: Bennett and I represent completely different visions for the state of Israel. While he's speaking

about the land of Israel, and I do believe also in the right of the Jewish people on the entire land, my vision for the state of Israel is keeping the

values of Israel as a Jewish democratic state and therefore, separation from the Palestinians means that it should be based on two states for two

peoples, when each state gives an answer to the national aspirations of different peoples. And the only way to do so is by hopefully reaching an

agreement or taking some steps forward.

By the way, I heard that Bennett is saying that more and more Israelis support his vision about greater Israel, which is wrong.

AMANPOUR: OK. But there's a new poll from the Israel Democracy Institute, which, last week, polled and said 44 percent support annexing the West Bank

while 38 percent oppose it. That's of Israelis. Doesn't that concern you?

LIVNI: Yes, it is. What concerns me is the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. Basically, it's about us, it's not only about us and the

Palestinians or us and the international community. It's about the nature of the state of Israel. It's about the values of the state of Israel.

It's about Israel as a democracy and keeping the Jewish values, as well.

It is true that less and less Israelis, and unfortunately Palestinians also, believe in the idea that we can reach an agreement and there is more

and more despair, less and less hope. And part of our responsibility as leaders is to recreate this hope.

AMANPOUR: Then, in that case, Miss Livni, obviously this current government has not rekindled that hope and does not in -- hasn't seemed to

take any proactive measures.


AMANPOUR: And nor have previous governments --


LIVNI: No, it's not.

AMANPOUR: And nor has the opposition been able to rekindle this hope.

In other words, the narrative of the international community, the -- the vision of a two state solution is being allowed to die. What are you going

to do about it?

LIVNI: As I said before, it's about us. It's about a decision that Israelis need to make. It's not a favor to the Palestinians. It's not

even a favor to any president of the United States or the international community.

But first and foremost, I believe that this is something that we need to decide. We need to do decide here in Israel where are we going, what is

the vision for the state of Israel, how do we keep these values?

It's not a -- it's basically should be and it is a -- an internal debate here in Israel. This government represents a different vision. Prime

Minister Netanyahu still speaks about two states for two peoples, but I believe that this is also his test, whether he's willing to move forward on

the basis of two states for two peoples.

And I hope that having a new President-elect, this is a moment in which the vision and the policy should be defined between Israel and the U.S. --


AMANPOUR: What do you expect, because, there may be -- they pride themselves as businessmen, as does Naftali Bennett, who are able to make

deals. And you've seen populist sentiment not only in the United States, but in Europe. And you've seen in your own country the settlers movement

move from the fringe to mainstream.

[14:25:00] LIVNI: I believe that annexing the entire territory, the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, this is a lose -- a lose situation. This would

bring a clash between the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish democratic state and therefore I believe that this is the worst case


AMANPOUR: Tzipi Livni, thank you very much for joining us.

LIVNI: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, imagine a world of dangerous ignorance. It is one that some U.S. government scientists are going to desperate

measures to thwart. We find out what they are up to and what they are up against -- next.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine a desperate scramble to save science and our environment as a Trump administration approaches, U.S.

government scientists are desperately copying tons of vital data and transferring it to independent service for safekeeping, spurred by the fear

of decades of climate measurements, spurred by the fear that they will vanish under Trump's climate skeptic cabinet.

But the next president-elect could also be up against a growing popular trend for a greener future because a new report finds the value of

investment funds committing to divest a fossil fuel asset is up to $5 trillion. That's the trend.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast any time. You can see us online at and follow me

on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.