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Storms Threaten 30 Million Along East Coast; Ceasefire Falls Apart In Mideast; Interview with Amb. Ron Dermer; Time to Spit Out the Chew

Aired July 15, 2014 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The National Lead, 30 million people up and down the I-95 Corridor on the east coast are in for a rough drive home today. Severe thunderstorms and some serious flooding are pushing up the east coast.

Let's bring in Chad Myers live in the CNN Weather Center. Chad, there could also be isolated tornadoes you tell me?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Sure. Actually just had a tornado warning not that the far from Nashua, New Hampshire moving up to the north, not toward Boston at all. Yes, any one of these storms at least briefly could spin up a brief tornado. That's always the possibility when you have a severe thunderstorm warning or watch in effect.

Some of these storms all by themselves, one storm at a time, we call them a supercell. That storm can rotate. You can certainly get a brief tornado. Actually had some damage. You don't need a tornado to get damage today. Winds are gusting 60, 70 miles an hour. Nassau County in New York right along the ocean, had a couple trees down.

The storm did moved through New York about two hours ago. It was so heavy. Rain was everywhere across the city, flooding, even had the cross Bronx expressway closed. Think what that would do to the night time travel. Airports are a mess. One to three in some places four hours of a delay.

If your plane is even still flying because a lot of the planes have been canceled. There's your flash flood watches from Maine even to the nation's capital. It's all part of this polar air coming down from the north. Bigelow pressure center there crashing through the northeast. Making what you would want to go out and look at the fall colors tomorrow. But there won't be any fall colors. Everything will just be green -- Jake.

TAPPER: Chad Myers, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD, Israelis are now dealing with what Palestinians have faced for over a week. One of their own killed in shelling. Does that end any chance for a ceasefire? We'll get a live update on the ground coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time now for the World Lead and a first in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. An Israeli citizen has died from a mortar shell that came from Gaza. He was apparently a volunteer delivering food to Israeli soldiers at a nearby checkpoint near the border. That makes one fatality for Israel and 194 for the Palestinian territory.

This on the day that there was a glimmer of hope for the rocket fire to end overnight. The Israelis had agreed to a ceasefire proposed by Egypt, but Hamas rejected that truce and rockets kept coming from Gaza, 47 to be exact according to the Israeli defense force. So after six hours of holding fire, Israel restarted its air strikes and the fighting continues.

Let's bring in Wolf Blitzer, he is live from Jerusalem. Wolf, the Israeli security cabinet has met once again. What are you hearing there about what Israel plans to do next?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, there's clearly they're indicating they're going to step up their campaign against Hamas in Gaza. The Israeli security cabinet meeting in Tel-Aviv even as we speak right now. It's unclear what precisely they're going to do. I don't suspect there's going to be a massive full scale ground invasion to occupy, reoccupy Gaza.

But I do expect that there will be some limited ground activity sort of along the lines of what happened in recent days when an Israeli commando unit went in for about half an hour and did what they said they had to do and got out. You know, as far as the prime minister of Israel is concerned, very interesting the politics here, Jake. He's getting a lot more criticized, a lot more hammered are from his own right wing base than he is from his left wing base.

In fact, the opposition Labor Party leader, Isaac Herzog spoke with me earlier today and basically endorsed Netanyahu's military strategy. Listen to this.


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER: I think the Israeli government showed restraint throughout and accepted the Egyptian proposal and waited for 36 hours and Israel was fired at constantly, and people in the shelters don't give a damn. They just want this over. I definitely there as leader of the opposition to support my people. Absolutely.


BLITZER: It's interesting that he's getting really criticized from some of his right wing members of his own cabinet including his foreign minister. He went ahead and fired his deputy defense minister because he was so critical of Netanyahu's acceptance of that six-hour ceasefire -- Jake.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem, Thank you. Stay safe. I want to bring in Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States. Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for being here. We should note there are fatalities on both side as Mr. Blitzer referenced. An Israeli has been killed a mortar shell that attacked near Gaza. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed since this military campaign began. How many of them were, was Israel specifically targeting and how many of them were collateral damage or innocent victims?

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We weren't targeting any civilians that's for sure. How many of the total number of people who were killed were non-combatants I don't know the exact number. After any time you have these types of activities, military activities we have an investigation into each and every incident. We do not target civilians. That's is the difference between us and Hamas. We're doing everything to keep their civilians out of harm's way. We're not perfect. It's a very dense urban area.

TAPPER: Isn't that the point when you the go after people in a very dense urban area, you're going to by fact kill innocent civilians?

DERMER: You may do that. We have an issue now where we have nearly three-quarters of our population, the equivalent of 200 million Americans in bomb shelters. We have to defend ourselves. They put their missile batteries next to schools, next to mosques, next to hospitals. We're doing everything we can to keep their innocents out of harm's way.

But we're not perfect. We're sending flyers, text messages, or phone calls. They're saying go into harm's way. Hamas is telling the Palestinians in Gaza to ignore the warnings of the Israeli defense forces and to go into harm's way.

TAPPER: When you struck, when the Israeli defense force struck the home of the head of the Gaza police, that killed 18 people, 17 members of his extended family. Among the dead were a 2-year-old, 7-year-old, 12-year-old. Al Botch, the guy you were targeting I believed survived. Is it the official position of the Israeli government that it is worth 17 people who you're not trying to target being killed if that one person is in the house?

DERMER: No, it's not the official position. We call off actions time after time if we know ahead of time a lot of civilians are going to be killed. It's very important to understand what it means for a disproportionate response. Sometimes say Israel is being disproportionate because more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis, 200 versus one.

It has to do with that. It has nothing to do with a body count on both sides. Twenty times as many Germans died in World War II than Americans. It didn't make the American response disproportionate and didn't make the Nazis right.

TAPPER: But dozens of civilians who are innocent civilians children who are being killed, what about when Israel bombed the charity for the disabled and the two mentally disabled women were killed? DERMER: We didn't bomb a disabled center. Here's the people you have to ask are the people using these civilians as human shields. They are using civilians as human shields. It's a tactic of war. If the international community condemns Israel for defending itself legitimately, and you've heard the words of the American president, you've heard the secretary of state. We've appreciate the strong backing they've given for Israel's right to defend itself. If you place the blame on Israel, Hamas is going to put more civilians in harm's way.

TAPPER: Mr. Ambassador, if you fire a missile into the home of somebody you're trying to kill, and 17 members of his family die, Israel is responsible for them dying. He wasn't using them as shields. He was in his home.

DERMER: We're sitting in a studio right now. Thousands of miles away from the exact action. I don't know exactly what the details were of the case you're talking. He know for a fact having been in a war room with the prime minister the extent that Israel goes, an extent I think is unprecedented in the history of warfare to keep civilians out of harm's way.

We call off actions time after time. If you can really tell me that if 200 million Americans were in bomb shelters then the American government and the American military would use less forces in Israel then that's very surprising.

TAPPER: I want to ask the ceasefire which Israel accepted. It was proposed by Egypt. Hamas says they will not accept it. One of the reasons is it still has the blockade and doesn't call for the lifting of the blockade. As you know has resulted among other things be contributing to it to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza where it's tough to get food, it's impossible to get employment.

Isn't it in the best interests of Israel to lift the blockade over Gaza and to allow some sort of revitalization of that area so there aren't millions of Palestinians surrounding your country who seeing no other option but violence.

DERMER: There's no blockade in Gaza. You should put up a graphic on what the IDF is putting into Gaza every single day. Humanitarian supplies --

TAPPER: You're saying there's no blockade.

DERMER: There is no blockade. What we is we have a policy to prevent the import of weapons. The smuggling of rockets into Gaza.

TAPPER: That doesn't stop anything else?

DERMER: No, we have crossing points into the Gaza where we provide food, medicine, the supplies that the Gazans need. They actually fire on crossing points. Hamas is firing on crossing points that we're using to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza. We're treating patients in Gaza in Israeli hospitals while the war is going on. TAPPER: Ambassador Dermer, thank you so much for your time.

DERMER: Thank you.

TAPPER: A tradition older than peanuts and cracker jacks. Cheekfuls of chewing tobacco. But the death of another baseball legend has baseball taking yet another look at getting it off the field. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The Sports Lead now. Tonight at the all-star game in Minnesota, it will be hard not to think of Tony Gwynn. He was an all-star 15 times. A man who lived to play and teach and talk baseball and a man who died way too early because of a habit associated with it, chewing tobacco. Now, after more than 100 years, there's a renewed push to get it off the field.

CNN's Athena Jones has more.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Major League Baseball. America's favorite pastime, immortalized in films like "A League of Their Own" and "Field of Dreams."

All too often another constant has been baseball players using tobacco, especially chewing tobacco, a known cause of cancer. It's what led to the early death of hall of famer Tony Gwynn who died in June of cancer in his salivary gland, a diagnosis Gwynn blamed on chewing tobacco.

Baseball great, Babe Ruth, also a long time chewer died of oral cancer. Now nine major public health organizations are pushing Major League Baseball to pan all tobacco use by players and staff at games and on camera to honor Gwynn's memory. They sent this letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Players Association Chief Tony Clark calling on them to set the right example for America's kids.

ERICA SWARD, AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION: Kids see their heroes on the field and they want to emulate and be just like their favorite slugger or their favorite pitcher.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It's flawed. What? Chewing tobacco?

JONES: The 1993 "The Sand Lot" illustrates that point.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: All the pros do.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yes, yes, gives you tons of energy.

JONES: If only it weren't pure fiction. A June CDC report found while smoking rates for high school students have fallen by more than half since 1999, smokeless tobacco use by students has held steady. These groups have been waging this battle over baseball and health for years. Similar letters in 2011 and 2012 pushed the league to act as did this tobacco free kids PSA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the age of 13, I wasn't really thinking about the long-term effects of tobacco.

JONES: Commissioner Selig pushed for a total ban in 2011, but the players union instead called for restrictions opting to let players keep their habit as long as it was out of the public eye. The 2011 labor contract banned smokeless toe back could use during TV interviews and club appearances, orders players and staff to hide the products when fans are around and bans carrying them in their uniform or on their bodies. Still --

SWARD: You can't go through a three-hour game and not see players with a big wad of chau in their jaws. What we need to have with the agreement starting in 2017 is an end of smokeless tobacco use in general on the field.

JONES: Advocates are hoping that if they build awareness for it, their dream of tobacco free fields comes true. Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


TAPPER: Coming up, pay no attention to the cameras and the microphones, just go about your business. Was someone spying on investigators looking into the VA scandal?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In national news, allegations that congressional investigators may have been spied upon in Philadelphia while looking into the rampant ineptitude and cover-ups at the VA Department. In a hearing that lasted until just before 1:00 this morning, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller claimed that investigators from the committee were placed in a room with live microphones and cameras by VA officials.

Miller also says a writing pad was found from the acting regional director with instructions to an underling to stonewall the committee on certain questions. The VA's undersecretary for benefits apologized during her testimony.

In the Money Lead, spending more than you make. Some might call it irresponsible. You might call it down right American. If the government refuses to do something about the federal debt, the Congressional Budget Office says that it will exceed the gross domestic product meaning all the services and new goods we make and sell within 25 years.

Here's the CBO's projection. By 2039, federal debt held by the public will equal 106 percent of GDP. What will drive it up? The CBO which is nonpartisan for the rest of the sentence blames the coming spike in spending on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Safety net programs over the next 25 years.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. That's all one word and at the lead at CNN and check out our show page for video, blogs, extras.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is live in Jerusalem with "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.