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Interview With Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Netherlands Mourns Flight 17 Victims; John Kerry in Israel; Dutch Mourn As First Caskets Arrive

Aired July 23, 2014 - 16:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST HOST: Some of the victims of Flight 17 are finally closer to resting in peace.

I'm Brianna Keilar, and this is THE LEAD.

The world lead: 40 coffins unloaded in the Netherlands, where Flight 17 originated before it was shot out of the sky over Ukraine, tens of thousands of Dutch lining the roads to say goodbye.

And Flight 17 went down less than a week ago, and rather than asking for the world's forgiveness, both the pro-Russia rebels and the Russians themselves were accused of shooting down two more aircraft in Ukraine with impunity.

Also in world news, the FAA barring U.S. flights into Israel's busiest airport for another 24 hours, but Secretary of State John Kerry still managed to land there. What can he say or do to help end the fighting?

Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar, filling in for Jake Tapper.

In our world lead, in a moment, we will bring you the incredible images from the Netherlands as the country finally receives the first remains from Flight 17.

But, first, the FAA extended its ban on U.S. flights to Israel's main airport for another 24 hours, after a rocket from Gaza landed close to the airport on Tuesday, but one prominent Jewish-American says he isn't the least bit afraid to fly into Israel, and he's putting his considerable money where his mouth is.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, flew into Tel Aviv on an Israeli airline, El-Al, calling the flying restrictions a mistake that gave Hamas a -- quote -- "undeserved victory."

The former mayor is sitting down with our own Wolf Blitzer, who is standing by live in Jerusalem -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, thanks very much.

And Mayor Bloomberg is here, together with Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem.

Good to have you guys in Jerusalem. This decision that you made, Mr. Mayor, why are you here right now? Tell our viewers back home.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, I just wanted to do something personally to show my support for standing up for what's right.

I think Israel is doing that. Hamas is trying to kill the Palestinians and kill the Israelis, and somebody has got to say that they have got to stop this. And then along comes the FAA, which I think made a mistake. I hope they will rectify it soon, but they said they didn't want American planes flying into the world's most secure airport.

And so I decided I would take a trip over here on the world's most secure airline going to the world's most secure airport. It's a good lesson for all of us how to run security. Unfortunately, in America, too many times we find people walking across runways, people carrying guns and getting through security onto planes, baggage not being claimed afterwards.

And so it's a good lesson for us how to run an airline and how to run an airport and I think the FAA should try to make sure that American airports and American Airlines follow what is done here. And we certainly don't want to stop flights into airports in America. It would be devastating for America. It's devastating for Israel when you stop flights in.

BLITZER: Well, what do you mean, I just want to clarify -- when you say Hamas is trying to kill Palestinians?

BLOOMBERG: Well, Hamas is hiding among Palestinians and firing rockets at the Israelis, knowing full well the Israelis have no choice but to do anything they can to stop the carnage of the rockets falling on Israeli citizens and knowing full well that if Israel does come in and do that, civilians, sadly, are going to also suffer.

BLITZER: The whole notion of coming here, the FAA has extended another 24 hours this ban on United, U.S. Airways, Delta, the major U.S. carriers.

BLOOMBERG: All registered -- planes registered to the United States, including private ones.

BLITZER: But don't you think they're primarily concerned -- their job, these experts at the FAA, is to protect American passengers. And they saw this rocket come into -- near Ben Gurion Airport yesterday, land about a mile away. And they say they want to err on the side of caution, especially after what happened in Ukraine with the Malaysia airliner.

BLOOMBERG: I'm sure they do, but if you have a standard, you would close every airport in the United States. You would close down every airline.

Unfortunately, our security isn't very good then. The real world is that there are things going near airports all over the world. Ben Gurion Airport, because Israel has been threatened since it was formed in 1948, is the most secure air airport. El-Al, because it is the national airlines of Israel, is the most secure airline.

And so we have got to do is say, you have to take reasonable precautions, but you cannot shut down everything just because one terrorist some place on the other side of the world says, I'm going to be a threat.

BLITZER: Here's what folks are going to say. You're a pilot. We know you're a pilot.


BLITZER: But these are experts at the FAA. Are you suggesting that the FAA is being politicized, if you will?

BLOOMBERG: I have no idea. You will have to call the FAA.


BLITZER: But the FAA in their statement, they're...

BLOOMBERG: No, I didn't write the statement. I don't know what they said. You can't put words in my mouth, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to tell you what they said.

BLOOMBERG: I'm just telling you what I think about the FAA.

They are well-meaning. It's a great organization. They make airlines and airports safe in America, but not as safe as Ben Gurion and El-Al are. And the fact that one rocket falls far away from this airport, a mile away, doesn't mean you should shut down air traffic into a country and paralyze the country.

BLITZER: Let me ask the mayor of Jerusalem, Mayor Barkat

Here's what the FAA said today: "The agency is working closely with the government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated, so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible."

Here's the question. Do you trust the FAA that it is providing accurate information to pilots, airlines and the American traveling public that maybe it's not a wise time to fly in and out of Israel?

NIR BARKAT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: Well, the Israeli government and the Israeli air force and Israeli security forces care about Americans and Israelis the same, about anybody.

So I anticipate that we're talking about rockets that are fired indiscriminately. This is not a missile, not a guided missile like the one that took down the plane in Russia. And if we would have thought that there is a risk for anybody, I would call Michael and say don't come.

On the contrary, this is an indiscriminate rocket. We know how to protect it. Follow our strategy. Follow the Iron Dome. If it would have been a problematic missile, rocket, we would have taken it down.

So the security in Ben Gurion and in Israel is as good as it gets, and I want to repeat and thank Michael for his leadership in coming here. The reality is that the risks coming to Israel is minimal. And if it would be larger, we would take the initiative and tell everyone not to come here.

BLITZER: You know that as soon as the FAA announced that it didn't want U.S. carriers to fly to Israel, the Europeans basically did the same thing.

BLOOMBERG: That's not true. British Airways had the courage to fly.


BLITZER: I was going to say, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, most of the major European airlines aren't flying in and out of Israel right now either.

BLOOMBERG: British Airways is. El-Al is. There are other airlines that are.

And they have got to make their own decisions. But we have got to stand up and do what's right. You can't just get cowed when somebody says something and everybody goes on the side of ultimate caution. That's how terrorists win, Wolf. Can't do that.

BLITZER: Here's the statement from Hamas today. And I want both of you to react to this. This is a statement from Fawzi Barhoum, the Hamas spokesman.

"The resistance success in stopping the air traffic and isolating Israel from the world is a great victory for the resistance."

They're pleased.


BLOOMBERG: I probably don't agree with very many things Hamas says, but that is clearly true.

Somebody who didn't come close to doing any damage at Ben Gurion Airport, didn't come close to doing any damage at any airline has paralyzed air traffic, which is the only way we get around this day and age, in and out of another country. If they were to say that about JFK, what would you expect us to do?

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, what do you say when Hamas boasts that this is a great victory for them, the decision by the FAA to stop U.S. carriers from flying in and out of Israel?

BARKAT: If somebody scares you and goes boo and you get scared, then it's your problem. We're not scared.

We think it's a non-issue. If we thought it's an issue, we would probably guide all, including and maybe first of all El-Al, to maybe do something else than the normal. But, right now, residents of Israel, Americans, Europeans fly all airlines. They're all the same for us

And the reality is that if Hamas goes boo and you get scared, you're helping Hamas get its goals.

BLITZER: You spent most of the day here in Israel.


BLITZER: As you know, a couple of days ago, the State Department issued a travel advisory saying Americans shouldn't come for nonessential visits to Israel or the West Bank.

BLOOMBERG: Couldn't disagree with them more.


BLITZER: What has it been like? What have you seen that -- you have been here several times.

BLOOMBERG: Everybody seems comfortable. Everybody thinks they're well protected by an army and an air force that knows how to fight and is out there trying to protect them.

And when they walk down the streets, when they send their kids to school, when they go to the parks, when they get to a concert, they feel safe. If you're not -- if you don't feel safe here, I don't know where you would feel safe. And I think the State Department is just overreacting in typical bureaucratic fashion.

BLITZER: Political reasons for that?

BLOOMBERG: That's -- why would you think that, Wolf?

BLITZER: Do you think it -- I'm asking you.

BLOOMBERG: Don't be ridiculous. Why would you think that?

It's an outrage for you to accuse one of our agencies...

BLITZER: I'm not accusing any -- I'm just asking.

BLOOMBERG: By asking the question, you're implying that our government does things for political reasons. And maybe every once in a while, they do. But it's your job to prove it.

Just the allegation against our government, I personally take as an offense.


BLITZER: No, I'm just asking you if you thought that there was some political motive behind the travel advisory or the FAA decision.

BLOOMBERG: Number one, I wouldn't know.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people in Israel do, you know.

BLOOMBERG: I don't know. You don't know. And the other people don't know.

But just the -- the tone of the question of trying to create dissension, it is insulting to America.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BARKAT: Well, when terrorists try to terrorize us, the reality is that their ability is minimal, especially what the Israeli government and the army does in protection and security, and in offense, by the way, same.

You walk the streets of the city of Jerusalem, speak to people. We just met a group of American teachers that came in for a week. And we asked them, how safe do you feel? They feel safer than they do at home, at least as good, if not safer.

And so you walk the streets, you go to the restaurants, you go to every -- all around the country, practically, and people are very cautious, but running their life as usual. And we don't get scared from terrorists. As a matter of fact, we will haunt them and hit them.

BLITZER: You know, so much of Israel's economy is based on tourism. It's a huge export.

BLOOMBERG: It absolutely is.

BLITZER: But the tourists are not coming right now, because they're worried about what's going on.

BLOOMBERG: Well, tourists -- why do you think that?

BLITZER: Because there is a war with Hamas going on. Sirens are going off.

BLOOMBERG: All I know, if the airplanes can't fly, the tourists can't come.


BLITZER: Even before that, but now especially.

BLOOMBERG: I have never seen statistics that say tourism slowed down.

Now you're going to see an outflow of people from the around the world who want to come here to demonstrate that they value their freedoms. And if you take away the freedoms of the people here, you will be taking away their freedoms, no matter what country they come from.

BLITZER: Tourism is down, though, right?

BARKAT: Well, one new tourist that just came here tonight, and I want to thank Michael for his leadership.

And the reality is that it's not real. And that's what terrorists try to do. They try to terrorize you. They try to fear you. And the best way to fight terrorism is exactly go on with your normal life. Do the right things.

BLOOMBERG: And that's what we did in New York City. We didn't let the journalists scare everybody away.

More people live in downtown New York than before 9/11. More businesses are down there. Today, it's become a thriving community. And all of those people, the talking heads who kept saying it was the end of the world for New York, they couldn't have been more wrong, because New Yorkers and Americans pulled together. And you see the same thing happening over here of Israelis and people in Jerusalem.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.

BLOOMBERG: Wolf, all the best. Thank you.

BLITZER: Mr. Mayor, thanks to you as well.

BARKAT: Thank you as well, Wolf. You are also...

BLITZER: I have been here for almost two weeks.

BARKAT: How secure do you feel?

BLITZER: I feel very secure.

BLOOMBERG: But you want to make sure that's on television?

BLITZER: It's on television. People are watching you right now back in the United States.

BLOOMBERG: Way to go.

BLITZER: They will be watching you around the world on CNN International.


BLOOMBERG: Everybody watches CNN.

BLITZER: Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

BARKAT: Pleasure.

BLITZER: Brianna, you heard it right here, the former mayor of New York, the current mayor of Jerusalem -- back to you in Washington.

KEILAR: And, Wolf, it was so interesting to hear former Mayor Bloomberg really take issue with that question of whether this is politics that we're seeing this travel ban for many U.S. flights into Tel Aviv.

Tell us what you're hearing there in Israel. We're also hearing some of this from politicians here in the U.S.

BLITZER: Well, some of the Israelis, if you read the Israeli newspapers and you listen to the media, they suspect there is an element of politics in this.

They don't necessarily trust the FAA. They don't necessarily, at least if you listen to some of the critics here in Israel, trust the Obama administration. They think there may be a little political motivation to try to squeeze Israel right now into accepting some sort of cease-fire, but that's just -- you hear that on the streets of Israel.

You hear that among some Israelis. And certainly that is going to be strongly, strongly disputed by officials back in Washington.

KEILAR: All right, great interview, Wolf. Thank you so much.

And coming up on THE LEAD: He stood with his fellow Dutch citizens as the victims of Flight 17 made their way through the streets of the Netherlands. Next, we will talk about the outpouring of grief and how his country can move forward.

Plus, parents speak of the heartbreak of losing their three young children and living in a hell beyond hell. Stay with us. We will be right back.


KEILAR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar, filling in for Jake Tapper.

They were used like bargaining chips, their families sat powerless. Those pro-Russian separatists took free domain over their bodies. Days passed before a train carrying the remains from Malaysia airlines flight 17 was finally allowed to leave rebel-controlled Ukraine.

But, today, nearly a week after the plane was shot out of the sky, the first group of bodies arrived in the Netherlands, where the flight originated, restoring to them a measure of dignity. The Dutch finally got a chance to pour out their grief over their national loss.

Forty bodies in coffins were flown back to the Netherlands today, loaded into hearse after hearse. Then, a procession formed to make yet another leg of this journey. The mourning Dutch people lining roadways and overpasses. Flight 17 had an international passenger list, though most of the 298 people onboard were Dutch citizens.

The procession taking a long drive to its final stop, a Dutch military base. It's likely that some in those coffins are finally back in their homeland, but we don't know for sure who is inside each of them and finding out could take weeks or even months until forensic testing is complete.

A Dutch official says 74 more coffins will be flown to the Netherlands tomorrow.

And on the phone now, we have Eelco Bosch Van Rosenthal, a Dutch reporter who was there to watch all of this unfold.

Eelco, these are the kind of stories that it's really tough to distance yourself from as a reporter. Tell us what you and what the people of the Netherlands are feeling right now.

EELCO BOSCH VAN ROSENTHAL, DUTCH REPORTER (via telephone): It is, you are completely right. It's not something you ever expect to report on when they're of your own country, it doesn't matter where this happens, it's always terrible, but the plane landing in the Netherlands with coffins coming out, about 48 with many, many more coming, that's just -- it's really difficult to explain and it's really difficult to see and you notice that across the Netherlands today that people were quiet. People usually are not quiet in this country.

This time, they were and they were standing on bridges and overpasses just watching this, and I was at the army base when the coffins arrived, and people were silent first and then they started applauding when the coffins came in and you get goose bumps. It's not something you're used to and not something you want to get used to.

KEILAR: Something we were struck by here, Eelco, watching was that there were cars stopped on the road and people actually walking off of off-ramps so that they could go up and line the roads here. Were you surprised by the outpouring, by the fact that there were so many people who really wanted to pay respects to these passing hearses and these bodies as they came in?

VAN ROSENTHAL: I wasn't even surprised because I've been here for the past week and this happened on Thursday evening. I think Friday, Saturday, it really started to sink, what this meant, and that of those 298 passengers, about 200 of them were Dutch nationals, and there has been grief ever since. This is a very small country and it's not that everyone knows one another, but it's 16 million or 17 million people, so it's really easy to know somebody who knew somebody who was on the plane. That goes for me, that goes for my friends, that goes for my colleagues and so I'm not surprised.

They always say the Dutch are -- they keep to themselves and they're not too emotional, but when it comes to something like this, I think that's a cliche that goes overboard.


VAN ROSENTHAL: We saw today what this country is made of, I believe.

KEILAR: We sure did here watching.

I wonder, you said people were quiet, but I wonder knowing that this was no accident as well. All signs point to this being essentially a crime. Was there any anger that you saw today?

VAN ROSENTHAL: Not today, actually. Of course, there is anger, but I think this was a national day of mourning and our first national day of mourning since 1962. It's not something that happens every day.

I'm sure -- I mean, of course, there is a lot of anger, but this day was very important. The first coffins coming in, more over the next few days and the bodies back in Ukraine are at least in safe territory and they cannot be used as a bargaining chip anymore. So one phase of this process, I think, has almost been finished now and now the next phase stars and yes, there is a lot of anger and this was a crime and people want to make sure that that crime is being resolved, and the Dutch will lead the investigation into this crime and fortunately, there is a lot of international support.

So, yes, there's anger, but today was really a day for grief, and I think tomorrow and over the next few days, and there's really a new phase starting.

KEILAR: You talk about the next phase and investigation, but beyond that, what do the Dutch want to see as you're talking to people there?

VAN ROSENTHAL: Well, there's a lot of talk about our relationship and Europe's relationship to Russia. The past year was the so-called friendship year between Holland and Russia. It was celebrated, our prime minister went there. Our king went there a couple of months ago during the Olympics and the infamous photo here now, our king with President Putin drinking a beer together at Sochi, at the Olympic site.

That was last year and six months later, everything completely changed. There is a lot of anger with Russia right now, since everyone is quite well aware that Russia did not push the button --


VAN ROSENTHAL: -- there are obviously (INAUDIBLE) with these separatists.

So, there's a lot of -- the Netherlands was one country against stronger sanctions against Russia, that will definitely change.

KEILAR: OK. And we'll be watching for that a well, along with you.

Thank you for telling us about the day as you saw it. We watched it on television and it's important to get your firsthand account.

Eelco Bosch Van Rosenthal, thank you so much.

Now, coming up next, a heart wrenching moment especially for families who still don't know where their loved ones' bodies are. Next, I will speak to a man who lost his brother-in-law. And we'll talk to him about the long wait.


KEILAR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. While the world watched, the Dutch received the first remains from Flight 17. Two parents have been trying to put the pain of losing their three children into words. Anthony Mazlin and Rin Norris's three kids, Mo (ph), 12, Evee (ph), 10, and Otis (ph), 8, were on Flight 17 with their grandfather, Rin's father Nick.

The couple released a statement that described their pain as, quote, "intense and relentless. We live in a hell beyond hell. Our babies are not here with us. We need to live with this act of horror everyday and every moment for the rest of our lives."

Another victim is Cameron Diel (ph), husband, father of two, and a helicopter pilot, he had recently moved with his family to Malaysia and was on his way home after taking a training course. His brother- in-law, Shane Hattingh, is joining me now.

And, Shane, I know that you have been watch part of the procession today in the Netherlands. It's obviously a very different experience for you and your family.

Take us through that. Tell us what you thought as you saw this.

SHANE HATTINGH, MH17 PASSENGER'S BROTHER: It's totally surreal. I've seen disasters like this before and I never - you're kind of removed from it and it's - it was the weirdest feeling know that my brother- in-law in one of those caskets. And I just found myself wanting him to be there but at the same time, that's too selfish at this time. And it's - I just - I know my sister's been watching it today and she's destroyed.

It's surreal. That's the best I can do.

KEILAR: It strikes me that you said that felt selfish by hoping that his body was among those that were there today.