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News Warnings on Ebola from CDC in the U.S.; Does Israel Really Want to Destroy Hamas; Is Anti-Semitism Rising in Europe, U.S.?

Aired July 31, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Jerusalem.

Much more on the war between Israel and Hamas coming up, but there's breaking news now on the Ebola outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has just released a new alert on the growing crisis.

Let's go straight to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's joining us from Atlanta.

Sanjay, you were at that briefing. You heard all about it. Give us the headlines. What do we know?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The CDC says that the situation in West Africa is getting worse. It's not getting better. That's obviously not the news people wanted to hear. They tried to put a little bit of a time line on things as well, although that's unpredictable. But they say three to six months, still, best- case scenario in terms of getting this under control.

Already, Wolf, as you know, it's the longest, most widespread and most people affected outbreak in Ebola history. Out of all the cases throughout the history of Ebola, more than one-third of them have now occurred during this outbreak alone.

The CDC is also recommending that nonessential travelers stop their travel to West Africa. It was interesting, the reasons why. In part they don't want to expose more people to Ebola for obvious reasons. Although, they make the case, it's unlikely to be exposed walking around a city or doing things a typical traveler may do. But in the situation where you may be injured yourself or need hospitalization, could you be coming in contact, then, with patients who have Ebola? That's a possibility. And that was enough of a concern for the CDC to issue that recommendation. Again, nonessential travelers no longer go to West Africa.

They talked about several different things, including a question that comes up quite a bit with regard to vaccines, some sort of treatment for patients with Ebola. And Dr. Frieden, who's the head of the CDC, says he believes that's still a year away before something like that's approved. It doesn't mean things like that won't get used in an experimental standpoint, but the idea about having a vaccine available for mass vaccinations, that's just not going to be available for at least a year, probably not during this particular outbreak.

So there are lots of different considerations. The CDC is sending more people on the ground, 50 more personnel at least to try and stem the tide. And they reminded people that every outbreak in the past has ultimately been controlled, but this one's been really challenging.

BLITZER: It certainly has been. What do we know about those two American patients, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting. A few days ago, we heard that their conditions had deteriorated a bit. Yesterday, we got a little bit of good news saying that the conditions may have stabilized, maybe even improved. We're talking about two American health care workers working with a relief organization who both contracted Ebola. We also heard that the gentleman there -- you're looking at a picture of him -- he actually received the blood of a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola. And the reason that would be done, Wolf, is because someone's blood who has survived Ebola likely has antibodies, certain cells that can help fight the infection. So whether or not that will work is unclear. And also the woman, we hear, has received some sort of experimental serum, although it's unclear exactly what that is.

The talks about evacuation are still out there. It is tough to evacuate people in this sort of situation. You need to make sure they were medically stable enough to survive a flight. You'd have to make sure they wouldn't potentially infect other people who are helping transport them. And you also have to make sure they have someplace to go. And those are questions that are still lingering -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting for us.

And just to repeat, the CDC now recommending stay away from nonessential travel.

Not just to Sierra Leone, but throughout all of West Africa, is that right?

GUPTA: That's right, three countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

BLITZER: Liberia.

GUPTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Liberia, that's what I thought.

All right, Sanjay, thanks very, very much. We'll stay on top of this story. Very, very worrisome developments.

Coming up, Israel's prime minister, as you know, he has often compared Hamas to ISIS and al Qaeda, other terror groups, but does he really want to destroy Hamas, or does he want to contain it? We're going to explore that question when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said today the military operation in Gaza is just the first phase of demilitarizing the area. He vowed Israel will complete its goal of destroying Hamas's tunnels, which are used to smuggle weapons, launch attacks. But does he want to destroy Hamas itself?

Josh Rogin is senior correspondent for national security and politics for "The Daily Beast." Josh is joining us from Washington.

You wrote a rather provocative article today with the headline, "Bibi Wants Hamas to Stay." Why would he want Hamas, an organization he considers to be like ISIS, al Qaeda, a terrorist organization, why would he want it to stay?

JOSH ROGIN, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY & POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. Several Israeli officials told me and my colleague, over the past few days, over the past few weeks, really, that the Israeli government knows that if they actually got rid of Hamas, totally, in Gaza, destroyed its leadership, what could come next could be actually much worse. This is the opinion of some senior U.S. officials as well. General Michael Flynn, the head of the DEA (sic), said last weekend that if Hamas actually were destroyed in Gaza, what could come up behind it would be something like ISIS, the nefarious group that's even worse than al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.

So the Israeli mission is actually modest in its goals. Despite the rhetoric and actually contradicts the rhetoric of some officials including Netanyahu, they want to pressure Hamas. They want reform, not regime change in Gaza. They want a Hamas that's defanged, demilitarized, and is willing to do what the Israelis say and that plays by the rules, but that still can govern Gaza because they don't want to occupy it themselves again.

BLITZER: Just one tiny correction. You meant DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency.

ROGIN: Exactly.

BLITZER: General Michael Flynn is the head of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency. DEA, something very different.

ROGIN: Right.

BLITZER: But you're right, he did say the other day, in Aspen, Colorado, you know what, Hamas is bad, but it could be worse. It could be another organization like ISIS or something along those lines.

Did you get the sense, based on the interviews you did, that the Israelis feel that maybe Hamas can be reformed, maybe it could be brought into the Palestinian Authority, maybe it can change its position, accept Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism, accept previous agreements with Israel? Those are the conditions for U.S. talking to Hamas. ROGIN: Right. There's no expectation that Hamas is going to change

its character fundamentally. At the same time, the mission is aimed at proving to Hamas that they will achieve none of their objectives by continuing their violence. So it's not as if they think Hamas is going to change its stripes. But they want to convince Hamas that they have to stop what they're doing and move toward a political role. In other words, they can be an unhelpful part of the Palestinian coalition where they have some power.

But this is all wrapped into the growing sentiment in Israel, especially among the leadership -- and I know you spoke to former Israeli president, Shimon Peres, recently -- that this has to end somehow, that the ongoing mission is having diminishing returns. And the Israeli government, including Benjamin Netanyahu, are looking for a path out of this.

And what does that path look like? In the last cease-fire, which was largely as a tie in Israel, Netanyahu did not achieve his main goal, which was to make sure that this doesn't happen again in 16, 18, 24 months. So he has to find a way to declare victory so that the Israeli public can feel confident that their sacrifice was worth it. At the same time, he can't go too far. That's a very tricky balance for Netanyahu to strike. And he's searching for that right now.

Some of the concessions that he could make would be to allow a cease- fire to be instituted while the tunnel work completed. That is something that an Israeli official told us this morning was under consideration. That's new. That's a concession. So there's all sorts of signs that there's going to have to be some settlement with Hamas. Israel just wants that settlement to be on its own terms. Hamas is not quite ready to agree to that yet.

BLITZER: All right, Josh Rogin, of "The Daily Beast." Josh, thanks very much for joining us.

ROGIN: You bet.

BLITZER: For decades, he's been a voice for peace and cooperation with Israel's neighbors. Just ahead, the former president of Israel, Shimon Peres, speaks exclusively to me about the current conflict with Hamas, how it should be handled. My interview with Shimon Peres, that's coming up.


BLITZER: Earlier today, I sat down for an exclusive interview with Shimon Peres. He has a unique perspective on the current conflict since he's played so many roles in Israel's history. In 1974, he became Israel's minister of defense. In 1984, he became the first prime minister of the national unity government in Israel. In 1994, he won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East. In 2007, he became the president of Israel, serving a seven-year term, which ended July 24th.

This is his first television interview since leaving the Israeli presidency.


BLITZER: When you see the pictures of what's happening in Gaza right now, the enormous number of civilians, children, elderly, women, who have been killed over the past -- this is now week four of this war, the criticism of Israel is that it's reacted disproportionately. You say?

SHIMON PERES, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't know in that case what is appropriate. Imagine that you see a child on your knees on their knees and somebody is shooting at the child and yourself. What is the proportion? Not to shoot back? I mean, they put before us an impossible question. But you cannot escape it. We wish we could have left to do it. We have nothing against the people. We don't like to see anybody being killed. It's not our purpose. But if they put it in their homes with the children and there they plant the rockets and the different weapons they collected, what can we do? I mean, I would like to --


BLITZER: You know the White house and the State Department both have said Israel can do more to prevent civilian casualties.

PERES: To the best of my knowledge, Israel is trying to do so. I spoke with many pilots, many fighters. They're inevitably aware of it. It's a small place, extremely densely populated, and they made every place a part of the fraud. They planted the mines. They put explosives in houses. If you touch, the house explodes. It's unbelievable. It is sort of a war that you don't give a chance to make it at least a little bit more humane.

BLITZER: Is the criticism here in Israel of President Obama and Secretary Kerry and their role in this current crisis justified?

PERES: I know President Obama quite well. And also I know Secretary Kerry for many years. The president is a responsible friend of Israel. He answers many of the questions, particularly in the domain of defense and security. So if he has a remark, he may have his remark. But you shall not forget that basically he's a great friend and a good friend, and I trust him, and I don't mind to hear criticism from a friend. I hope he doesn't mind to hear it, too. Friendship is not all the time -- basically, I trust him. I think he's an outstanding person. I think he tries to bring an end to all the wars. And Kerry is a sworn friend of Israel. You know him and I know him for many years. So I believe America is a friend, and I think friendship is more important than gossips. I don't want to go into it.

BLITZER: Do you think the current government in Israel, led by President Netanyahu, is still committed to a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine?

PERES: Yes. For me, yes. They think that -- what I hear from the prime minister is they think (INAUDIBLE) is not capable to do it. I think we should not find a better man to do so.

BLITZER: You disagree with President Netanyahu on that issue?

PERES: Yes. Notice that Prime Minister Netanyahu recently is beginning to change his mind vis-a-vis Israel. But I know with certainly, I know the man, experienced. People are criticizing also, but created a campaign of peace among the Arabs, which never existed. I wish there would be a united focus. Otherwise, they would be united for terror. Look, I wish everything would be gone in an envelope. Unfortunately, life is more complicated.


BLITZER: Much more of interview with Shimon Peres coming up later in "The Situation Room." You'll be anxious to hear what he has to say on several, several very sensitive issues hear in Israel. Stand by for that.

We'll take a quick break. Much more coming up after this.


BLITZER: The conflict between Israel and Hamas is sparking protests across the U.S. and Europe. Many fear the anger at the situation will translate into violence against the religious.

Deborah Feyerick reports.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the West coast --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is an apartheid state!

FEYERICK: -- to the east --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop the genocide.

FEYERICK: -- anti-Israel protests are gaining momentum and getting nasty.


FEYERICK: Almost 200 rallies across America since fighting intensified weeks ago between Israel and Hamas.


FEYERICK: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators with signs and slogans show images of Hitler, the Holocaust and apartheid. Images, Oren Segal says, that confuse historical facts and fan the flames of religious intolerance.

OREN SEGAL, DIRECTOR CENTER OF EXTREMISM, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It conflates issues that people may have with Israel, with the issues they have with Jews. That is anti-Semitism and that's what's dangerous.

FEYERICK: Segal heads the Center of Extremism for the Jewish Anti- Defamation League which tracks protests.

SEGAL: Increasingly, it's not just Israel or Israeli being compared to Hitler and the Nazis, it's Jews. So the focus for many of these people at these rallies is to demonize Jews. They don't see the difference.


FEYERICK: Europe has seen a rise in anti-Semitic attacks over the last few weeks. Most blatantly, Jewish-owned businesses vandalized and one burned in Paris after an anti-Israel rally.


FEYERICK: The U.K. has also reported a spike, more than 100 incidents reported.

And America is not immune. Smaller acts of vandalism directed not towards Israeli institutions but towards synagogues, like the one in Miami sprayed with Nazi swastikas, the word "Jew" written in cream cheese on a car.

The ADL says anti-Semitic hate speech is spreading on social media sites. And online hackers have targeted synagogue websites with claims denying the holocaust.

Zead Ramadan, with the Islamic-American group CAIR, warns the rise in anti-Semitism "could trigger an anti-Muslim backlash," like this flier found in a Brooklyn neighborhood.

ZEAD RAMADAN, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, CAIR: I think the rhetoric has to be contained to the point of the questioning of human rights and to the question of politics, but not anti-Jewish.

FEYERICK (on camera): No one can say whether the level of anger and violence in Europe will spread to the U.S. But some Americans Jews feel the growing anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate speech can reach levels not seen in decades.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Later in "The Situation Room," more my interview with the now former president of Israel, Shimon Peres. And we discuss a sensitive issue, the rise of Jewish extremism, revenge, all sorts of problems going on, tiny element, but very dangerous in Israel as well. You'll want to hear what the former president of Israel has to say about this. That interview coming up later in "The Situation Room."

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next.

For our viewers in the United States and North America, NEWSROOM with Don Lemon starts now.