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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Bill And Melinda Gates: The World Is Getting Better; Israeli PM Denies Corruption Charges. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 13, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, darkness and light as damning sexual abuse allegations continue to swirl around the global

charity, Oxfam. My conversation with the billionaire philanthropists, Bill and Melinda Gates, who talk about the vital importance of aid and

accountability.

Plus, a dangerous new phase in the Syria War as now Iran and Israel face off. The Israeli investigative journalist and military analyst Ronen

Bergman on what it all means for the fiery Middle East. He joins me live.

Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Forget all the gloomy headlines. This is the greatest

time to be alive. So say Bill and Melinda Gates today in their foundation's annual letter.

Looking at the big picture, they see a world that's getting better and healthier. Now, that might be hard to digest especially as scandal rocks

even the philanthropic world. The British charity Oxfam is still struggling to contain the fallout after admitting some of its now fired

workers operated what amounted to a brothel after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Bill and Melinda are calling for total transparency in their field. They also spoke out about the responsibility of today's tech giants and

persuading the skeptical Trump administration that development and aid also helps America first.

Bill and Melinda Gates, welcome to the program. Thanks for having us. I just want to hold up this letter. I don't know whether everybody can see

it, but it is a very hefty response to some of the questions you get from the public.

But you do start by saying that you're explaining what you do, but also how you stay optimistic given what you see even in the worst and most difficult

of times. So, if I could ask you, just to say, what good is happening out there.

MELINDA GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Well, we're seeing the deaths of children all over the world come down. Ten million

deaths of children in 2000 and now we're down to 5 million as a world.

I think that's something people don't understand that the world is getting better for kids, they're surviving.

But if you go to places like - we travel India and Africa. The kids are also starting to thrive, which makes a huge difference.

AMANPOUR: And, Bill, I assume that you and Melinda and your philanthropic sort of endeavor must have been a little bit shaken when you see what's

happened in the Oxfam orbit over the last several days.

What do you think about those dangers, the idea of transparency and accountability? And do you think it's sector-wide or is it just specific

do you think to this one organization?

BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: I think Oxfam and other NGOs are out there doing phenomenal work. They have to be very

careful about who they send out there. And if they ever have any violations, they have to act immediately and be very tough on it.

But the overall work of CARE, Save the Children, Oxfam, the people out there on the front lines are really heroes. It's great, in this case, that

they've seen something is wrong and they're moving aggressively to stop it.

AMANPOUR: Melinda, do you think that they've moved quickly enough? You could have people who just disapprove of foreign aid budgets and the like,

saying see why we shouldn't be doing it.

M. GATES: Whether Oxfam started earlier enough, I can't really answer. I don't know which facts they knew when, but I will say this. It's important

to clean it up because we all have to believe in these institutions that are doing this very important work on the frontline.

AMANPOUR: I want to address something, Bill, that you wrote in this letter. You both have written quite a lot. But you've written, as much as

we try to encourage feedback, we know that some of our critics don't speak up because they don't want to risk losing money. That means we need to

hire well, consult experts, learn constantly and seek out different viewpoints.

Well, explain.

B. GATES: Well, in a lot of fields, like, say, getting an HIV vaccine, we're funding lots and lots of different approaches. And if somebody

thinks we're missing something there or one of the approaches has no merit at all, maybe they're not going to speak up as much.

So, we have to create lots of forums where people are open. We have to bring in many different voices. All we care about is getting that vaccine

as quickly as we can and saving, in that case, millions of lives.

So, the smart people, we need all their good thinking.

[14:05:06] M. GATES: Yes. And part of the reason for these ten questions that we put them out there because they're ones - they're tough questions,

they're things we've heard over time is, it pressure-tests for us our work. It makes us better.

So, to be transparent in our work, but also to pressure-test our optimism.

AMANPOUR: You talk about wanting to save more and more kids. One of the questions that you say you're asked a lot, which can sound quite cynical

and kind of cruel and cold, is what's the point of saving all these children? Doesn't that just lead to overpopulation? I mean, that's a

pretty difficult question and a point to take on?

B. GATES: Well, the key point is that the best way saving lives and reducing population growth is to get these vaccines out and help these

young children. There are no countries where you have good health and high population growth.

When parents see that their first two or three children are going to survive, then, as a whole, they choose to have less children. And so, we

were confused about this because unless you understand that change in thinking of parents, it seems like common sense that, if you save millions

of kids, you are going to have more kids who will have more kids.

But, in fact, that is completely wrong and it's what allowed us to feel so good about this amazing health work we get to do.

AMANPOUR: What would you say is one of the toughest, almost prescient kind of questions that you've got? You've got these ten that you list and that

you answer. Which were the ones that surprised you the most?

M. GATES: There were certainly more questions this year about us working with this current administration than we've ever had before. We get those

questions all the time, no matter which side of the aisle the administration is on.

But I think just in the environment that's out there, the news cycles, what's being said, we got far more of those questions this year.

I think the other thing that surprised both of us was how many people ask me about our working relationship, but don't ask Bill that question. And

so, we wrote about that in the annual letter just in case it's helpful to people.

AMANPOUR: But you know what? I was actually going to get to that sort of towards the end. But you bring it up.

Obviously, also in this gender parity time that we live in, in the #MeToo climate, in the whole idea of women being able to be perceived as and

valued as highly as men in the workplace, so, Melinda, tell us, and Bill also, what it's meant to you to work together, how you divide and conquer

the labor?

And how long did it take you, Melinda, to "be taken as an equal" to Bill?

M. GATES: It's an expressed goal of ours that we - first of all, we are equal partners of the foundation. And so, it's expressed goal of our to

make sure that people know and see that.

And as I write in the annual letter, it took a bit of time quite honestly because when Bill retired from Microsoft, which has been almost 10 years

ago, and we were doing more visits together with presidents and prime ministers, they would often turn to him first in the meeting and that's

kind of natural in a certain way.

But we had just create some space and some time and let a little time go by. And then, as soon as I would speak up, people would realize, oh, my

gosh, she's an equal partner here in this work.

But we would have these funny conversations at home, like, well, wasn't that a little bit strange. And we just make sure that we got over that.

And now, I think we are seen as equal partners.

And that's important because we're role modeling that for other couples, other businesses and, honestly, for our own kids too because we want this

generation to grow up knowing that men and women are equal. They just are.

AMANPOUR: Bill, how weird was it for you? You were the CEO. You're the master of the universe. What was it like actually kind of realizing that

your wife was an equal partner?

B. GATES: Well, I've always benefited from having somebody who cared about what I was working on and could advise me. At Microsoft, that was

Paul Allen in the early days, then Steve Ballmer.

And it's the best with Melinda because she knows me so well that if I'm over-energetic about something or pushing a group too hard, missing out on

something that she sees, partners help each other do a better job.

And we do specialize a bit. Some topics, I dive into, some of the science topics, somewhat more. So, we have different proclivities, but we have a

common goal and benefit from each other's perspective.

AMANPOUR: So, I guess, you could have described Microsoft as tech, Internet 1.0. And now, you've got sort of the 2.0s with the Facebook and

all the other major, major platforms.

It seems like they're having their day in the doghouse right now rather than their day in the sun. For both of you, how do you think that they

need to restore their reputation?

I mean, we're hearing - obviously, you know what's been going on with the interference in the elections, the use of social media as nefarious

platforms, the fake news, the ripping apart of the social fabric as even some of the people who founded these social media platforms say. What

advice would you have for your successors?

[14:10:14] B. GATES: Well, those are complicated questions. The tech platforms are now a type of media and the media business has always had to

think about how it balances viewpoints and represents the whole spectrum.

These companies deserve to be part of the public dialogue, the policies on what they allow to grow across their platform and how they deal with

privacy.

With their monumental success and profitability comes a responsibility to work with governments all over the world.

AMANPOUR: Back to the very important situation of how you deal with governments, particularly your own and the administration, you've talked,

in your letter, about dealing with all the administrations and you have been in talks with President Trump and his people too.

How does this administration, in your area of philanthropy and foreign aid and development, stack up? What do you say to them? What do they say to

you?

We create peace and security with that foreign aid budget. So, we're always advocating for that. This particular administration has been more

difficult in that arena. They've proposed cuts, substantial cuts in foreign aid.

Luckily, Congress held up those budgets. But we are constantly making that case for foreign aid and why it's so critically, critically important for

the world.

AMANPOUR: So, Bill, President Trump has talked about America first. How does America first jive with foreign aid budgets and development? Is one

at the expense of the other?

B. GATES: Well, I feel very strongly that, even if you just look at the benefits to Americans, that if you keep the world stable so that you send

our soldiers overseas less often, if you keep the rest of the world healthy, so pandemics aren't coming to our shores and making Americans

sick, if you keep those countries stable, so that economically they're buying our products and participating in the world economy, that has huge

benefits to Americans.

Our participation in the international system has been a great thing for America. And so, the discussion is, if you interpret America first as,

hey, we don't want to export anymore, we don't want to be in the UN, a very extreme view of that, it would hurt Americans.

And so, that discussion is taking place. And we can justify, I believe, the modest portion of the budget that goes towards these goals.

AMANPOUR: Bill and Melinda Gates, thank you so much for joining us today.

M. GATES: Thanks, Christiane.

B. GATES: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And where there is less development and less diplomacy, there is more risk of war. This weekend, Israel and Iran almost came to blows after

an Iranian drone crossed into Israeli territory from Syria.

Israel responded with a flurry of air attacks. And for the first time since 1982, an Israeli fighter jet was downed in combat apparently by

Syrians.

This is playing out as the legal noose appears to be tightening around the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli media is reporting that

the high court there has clear police to recommend charges against him in an ongoing bribery investigation.

Mr. Netanyahu tonight says that will quote end in nothing and that the allegations against him have no basis.

Now, investigative journalist Ronan Bergman is one of the most influential Israeli reporters and his new book is called "Rise and Kill First".

It documents Israel's long and secret history of targeted assassination and Bergman joins me now from New York. Welcome to the program.

RONAN BERGMAN, AUTHOR, "RISE AND KILL FIRST": Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Ronan, let me first ask you because the corruption case, all these allegations that are going on, you probably heard what the prime

minister said tonight, what to your best knowledge is the very latest? Why do you think the high court has cleared the way for a recommendation for

the police to go with it?

BERGMAN: The attempt to challenge the ability of the police to recommend - this is just a recommendation. It's not yet the attorney general decision

whether to prosecute Netanyahu or not.

But Netanyahu has been trying to delegitimize the police for a long time and said that they do not have the right even to say what the inquiry came

up or to recommend what to do with the evidence that they've collected. They appealed to Supreme Court. And as expected, the police threw them off

the courtroom.

The police has already notified, just a few minutes ago, the lawyers of Benjamin Netanyahu and some other individuals involved that he is going to

- or they'll recommend that he is prosecuted and indicted for severe bribery in two of the five different cases that are investigated about him

or with some of his involvement.

[14:15:06] One of them is called the Case 1000, in which, allegedly, he received of 1 million shekels, so $250,000, gifts from Arnon Milchan and

the billionaire James Packer. Arnon Milchan is also, according to the police, going to be charged with giving bribe.

The gifts include pink champagne, cigars and jewelry in exchange to give tax reduction and other benefits to Arnon Milchan.

One of the key witnesses, as it comes from the sources, my sources from inside the inquiry, one of the key witness is the former Minister of

Treasury Yair Lapid, who is the head of the main opposition group against Netanyahu.

And when he was the treasury minister, Netanyahu asked him to give tax exemption to Milchan.

AMANPOUR: So, we've got a quid pro quo going on and he's accused or facing accusations anyway in these two cases.

How does this affect the security situation that we've all been watching, for instance, over the weekend, as I referenced, the Iranian drone, the

fact that the Israeli fighter jet was shot down by Syrians apparently trained by Russians?

How is the prime minister's troubles affecting the situation, do you think?

BERGMAN: Well, there would be those who would claim that Netanyahu would be happy to have some sort of confrontation in the north in order to divert

attention from what is happening in his personal issues and the corruption business.

What happened in the last week was that the Middle East was on the brink of yet another war. As you described, Iranian drone intercepted into Israeli

territory, was taken down. Israelis were attacking the Iranian caravan inside a Syrian Air Force Base and where one Israeli airplane was shot

down.

And Israelis were starting to strike the Syrian antiaircraft defense system very severely and they were planning on striking all of Syria with immense

force just to make sure that the Syrians got the message that they should intercept - they should not intervene in Iranian-Israeli conflict.

But all that was put on hold after President Putin phoned Prime Minister Netanyahu. And he was furious after he heard that some of the bombs hit

targets very, very close to Russian forces.

And after that, the prime minister ordered the IDF forces, the Israeli Defense Forces, to stand down and to not fulfill the plan to strike with

immense force. So, it showed who is the real boss in the Middle East. It's Russia, not the United States.

AMANPOUR: Well, this is an extraordinary thing. And another journalist has tweeted that "Iranian drone took off from base under Russian control,

Syrians trained by Russians fired Russian missiles at Israeli planes. Israel coordinates operations over Syria with Russia and asked Russia to

prevent escalation. The US has never been less relevant."

Do you agree because, obviously, today, Secretary Tillerson said that observation that the US has no leverage is simply not true?

BERGMAN: Well, I would see a lot of people inside Israeli intelligence who disagree. Israeli appealed, begged to the United States to exercise as

much pressure as possible on Russia, so Russia would make sure that the Iranians do not deploy in Syria.

Israel has warned that it would not accept Iranian deployment on the Israeli-Syrian border and all that was in vain.

High-ranked officials traveled many times to Washington. And they came back and one of them told me, we really don't get what the Americans are

trying to do. We think that the US does not have a Middle East policy.

They have evacuated - in fact, as they have evacuated the Middle East, they have (INAUDIBLE) to the security of Israel other than words. Israel trying

to coordinate with Russia, creating a secret channel of coordination to make sure that the Russian airplanes and troops are not hit when Israel

operates in Syria. That work on a tactical level.

But on a strategic level, Prime Minister Netanyahu was not able to convince President Putin to have a better understanding to Israeli strategic needs.

AMANPOUR: So, this brings me to your book, which is called "Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations".

And this is, you document in painstaking detail, with incredible access to all the security and intelligence and military people, this program. So,

give me an overview first before we get into detail, the point of this targeted assassination program and how long it's been going on.

BERGMAN: It has been going on even during the pre-state time under British law. But, especially in the last 70 years of independence - Israel is

going to celebrate 70 in the coming May - Israel has used targeted assassination more than any other country in the Western world after Second

World War.

[14:20:02] Why? Because David Ben-Gurion understood the most important during the last 1,000 years. He understood that Israel cannot sustain

long-term war. That instead of having a reservist army stationed on the border, which would bring to collapse of the Israel economy, Israel should

build a very strong intelligence community and reserve itself to pinpoint operations way beyond enemy line, destroying facilities, hacking computers

(INAUDIBLE) killing individuals and, in that way, prolong the time between war and war and even prevent it.

And Israel was very, very successful. And of course, while doing that, also paying a heavy moral price.

AMANPOUR: You say heavy moral price. OK, what is that heavy moral price because that is the heart of this issue for a state like Israel?

BERGMAN: Heavy moral price is, first, that you need to make a call who are you killing. So, it's easy when you're talking about terrorists, people

who kill people and I'm going to kill people tomorrow.

It's harder when you're talk about proliferators, Iranian nuclear scientists. The Iranian are sure that few of the top scientists were

killed by the Mossad. Now, these people are in a sovereign - or working employees of a sovereign country in a legitimate project and they were

killed even though they didn't kill anyone.

But it's becoming much, much harder. We're talking about collateral damage. Christiane, this is a diabolic question. You're a leader of the

country. In Israel, only the prime minister is allowed to execute or OK a kill.

And you know that you have a target. Tomorrow, this target is going to kill more Israelis by sending suicide bombers. And you kill him only if

you kill him and his wife who he's using as a human shield. What do you do?

And the answer that many of Israeli leaders and commanders has given, yes, the collateral damage is a price that needs to be paid in these occasions

and sometimes the collateral damage was very high.

And this is the moral price that Israel has paid.

AMANPOUR: Except you also talk about a new document, some Israelis in the chain of command, in some of the instances has simply refused to carry out

the orders.

And you have, I believe, one amazing instance of Israeli authorities believing that Yasser Arafat was in a play and under extraordinary

circumstances were ready to shoot it down. Give us that story. It's incredible.

BERGMAN: So, in many cases, Israeli junior and senior officers fought for the ethic of wars and ethics of law of conduct and said we're not going to

do that because of collateral damage, not because they questioned the legitimacy of the target.

Yasser Arafat is one of them. He was called the head of the fish. And Ariel Sharon as the minister of defense in early 80s was obsessed to kill

him. And in one time, he ordered to take down a cargo plane that was going from Athens to Cairo where Mossad said Arafat is on board.

He said - the Mossad operatives on ground in Athens said he grew the beard - the target grew a beard, but still we understand it's him.

But the head of the Air Force General David Ivry had his doubts. He thought that Sharon is obsessed. He said Ariel Sharon is taking too

personal to kill Arafat.

And why? Also, why would Arafat travel on that plane and why from Athens to Cairo? He shouldn't be there. And he demanded more and more

corroboration from military intelligence and Mossad.

Now, F-15 and F-16 were already on air. They intercepted that cargo plane. And Ariel Sharon pressured Ivry to give the OK order, engage, take this

airplane down.

And only in the very last minute was it found that Arafat was aboard that plane, but Yasser, his brother Fathi, the head of the Palestinian Red

Crescent with 30 Palestinian injured children that were hurt in the massacre in Sabra and Shatila camp.

AMANPOUR: Wow!

BERGMAN: And only through the bravery and firmness of that courageous officer, Israel - the children were saved, but also Israel was saved from a

stain in war crime.

AMANPOUR: It really is chilling to hear that story on so many levels. I want to ask you, your book title, "Rise and Kill First", comes from a

Talmudic sentence, a Talmudic verse. Tell us about that.

BERGMAN: Christiane, I have met with 1,000 interviewees for the sake of writing this book. And for the first time, they're talking on the record

and some of them also kept a lot of documents in their private possession and I was fortunate to get it.

Many of them, when explaining why have they done what they did, why have they conducted targeted killing and assassination, why is that important?

They refer to the Talmudic phrase - the Babylonian Talmud who says, whoever comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.

[14:25:03] This is not a justification. It's not an alibi. It's a mindset. These people are convinced that they are the guards of the wall

that, every time, every decade, there's one prime nemesis, prime enemy who is after Israel to conduct a second annihilation. Saddam Hussein or Nasser

or (INAUDIBLE) Arafat and they were there to save Israeli people.

Whoever comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.

AMANPOUR: It's really very profound and tied with your history. But in very, very short period that we have left, has it worked strategically?

BERGMAN: It had worked strategically a few times. The assassinations that took place after the massacre of Israeli athletes in the Munich have

convinced the PLO to stop working in Europe, just as the campaign of assassination after the - or during the second intifada against suicide

bomber had made the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic stop suicide bombing, which was something that almost took the country to bankruptcy and a huge

crisis.

The assassination of nuclear scientists has delayed the Iranian nuclear project in years, but is also a threat. Israeli leaders drew the wrong

conclusion from the success of Israeli intelligence.

Israeli intelligence, arguably the best one in the world, sooner or later, was able to come with any solution - with solution to any challenge that

Israeli leaders presented to it.

But the Israeli leaders drew the wrong conclusion from that. They thought that, by using force, they can stop history. It's not a tactical, it's a

strategic tool. They do not need to turn to statesmanship, to diplomacy, to discourse with the enemy.

And, therefore, I think, the use of targeted killing, the special operation is a series of magnificent, unbelievable tactical successes, but also a

very significant and dangerous strategic political failure.

AMANPOUR: It's really a remarkable investigation. Ronan Bergman, thank you so much.

And that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. Goodbye from London.

END