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Interview with Ron Prosor, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations; Ebola Patients Coming to the U.S.; Crisis in Israel; Ebola Fears

Aired August 1, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Palestinians now accused of abducting an Israeli soldier during the cease-fire. So if you thought Netanyahu was angry before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead: Hamas denies it has him, but Israel says someone took one of their soldiers after violating the cease-fire in spectacular fashion. Forget peace in the region. Now it seems that even a temporary truce is further away than ever.

Also, you know those commercials asking you to help change a child's life for the cost of a cup of coffee? American families are now getting heartbreaking notices that the children they sponsor in Gaza are among the many killed.

And many Americans alarmed that two of their fellow citizens infected with Ebola are expected to be flown back into the United States very soon. What is the embattled Centers for Disease Control doing to make sure the virus does not escape on U.S. soil?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin with the world lead. It was supposed to last 72 hours but it was over in maybe 90 minutes. A humanitarian cease-fire brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations between Israel and Hamas was over more quickly than the running time of the new movie "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Each side blames the other. Hamas says Israel broke the cease-fire by advancing forces farther than agreed upon and setting up sniper positions inside civilian homes, but Israel says Palestinian militants broke the cease-fire when one of them emerged from their network of tunnels from Gaza into Israel and attacked Israeli soldiers with a suicide bomb.

According to the Israelis, two of their soldiers were killed and one was abducted, which could take this already incredibly violent conflict to a whole new level. President Obama today calling for the immediate release of this soldier.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third.

If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.


TAPPER: The Israeli government, searching high and low for the missing soldier, says there's enough circumstantial evidence to positive that Hamas took him, but Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza and has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, Hamas claimed right here on CNN that they are not holding this Israeli soldier.


OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: It's clear that the capture of the soldier is an Israeli story. Until now, there is nothing from the resistance saying that there was a capture. So I really want to emphasize that the Israelis have created this story.


TAPPER: With no claim of responsibility from Hamas, it's possible that another militant Palestinian faction actually grabbed this Israeli soldier or it's possible that there was a miscommunication or it's possible that Hamas is lying.

But whatever the case, Israel says it is not about to stand for one of its soldiers being taken. You can probably forget about negotiations for another cease-fire anytime soon.

Let's bring in our Wolf Blitzer standing by live in Jerusalem.

Wolf, just moments ago, we heard strong words from President Obama about this conflict. Take a listen.

Oh, we're not going to play the clip. OK.

In any case, so, Mr. Blitzer, we heard this language from President Obama saying that Israel has the right to defend itself, blaming Hamas. It would seem, with this soldier abduction, that the stage is set for this conflict to escalate even further. Is that what your impression is from on ground in Jerusalem?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely.

It looks like it is going to intensify. There had been hope, all of us had -- hoping that this 72-hour three-day cease-fire would work. It lasted, as you point out, just an hour-and-a-half or so. It looks like it's going to intensify.

There's no great desire on the part of the Israeli government and certainly population in Israel right now for a cease-fire. They first and foremost want to make sure they find that Israeli 2nd lieutenant who has been captured they believe by Hamas. They're going house to house in that Rafah area in southern Gaza. They're looking for this Israeli soldier.

Thousands of Israeli troops are on the hunt there. They're trying to find out where he is. But then they're going after these tunnels and they're going after the rocket launchers, the other weapons that are being stockpiled. This military operation that the Israelis are engaged in is about to intensify.

And you're right. It doesn't look like a cease-fire, despite diplomatic efforts by the U.S., the U.N., Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, other countries. I don't think they're necessarily going to get off the ground anytime soon.

TAPPER: Wolf, earlier this week, the White House, the Pentagon expressing a desire for Israel to do more to prevent civilian casualties. My understanding is that Israeli government officials, Israeli military officials bristled at that. What reaction did you hear?

BLITZER: The Israelis weren't happy about that because they say they're doing everything they can to avoid civilian casualties, even though there have been large, significant numbers of civilian casualties.

The Israelis blame Hamas for putting their rocket launchers, their other weapons right in the midst of heavily populated areas. They were very encouraged by what they heard from President Obama within the past hour or so, the president basically siding almost completely with the Israelis, their timeline on what happened, the breaking of the cease-fire there, the president defense of Israel.

He says, yes, heartbroken, the images civilian casualties in Gaza very painful to observe. But he took the Israeli line that Hamas is at least in part to blame, because they use these populated centers almost as human shields.

I have learned, Jake, that one of the reasons why the president of the United States has now almost completely, unequivocally accepted the Israeli version of the breaking of that cease-fire is because the Israelis did provide, I don't know what, but they provided some direct evidence to the United States backing up their line, backing up their version, and apparently the U.S. has -- not only the president, but the secretary of state and other U.S. officials have accepted that Israeli explanation for what happened.

The Israelis presumably have some evidence to back it up. I don't know what it is, but that was presumably once again significant in the president's very strong statement of support for Israel.

TAPPER: And then let's play -- I want to play that sound bite that I referred to earlier about Hamas from President Obama just minutes ago.


OBAMA: When they sign on to a cease-fire, they're claiming to speak for all the Palestinian factions. And if they don't have control of them, and just moments after a cease-fire is signed, you have Israeli soldiers being killed and captured, then it's hard for the Israelis to feel confident that a cease-fire can actually be honored.


TAPPER: So, Wolf, we have President Obama in that statement saying that even if Hamas was not responsible for the abducting of the soldier, they are still responsible because they are supposed to be in charge, in control of Gaza, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and the president believes that. The Israelis believe that. When I spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, the spokesman for the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, he said they're not sure who has this soldier, but they do hold Hamas responsible because Hamas for all practical purposes is in charge of running Gaza right now.

So, they're holding Gaza responsible. Even if let's say Islamic Jihad or some other Palestinian faction may have this Israeli soldier, the U.S., the Israelis, they are holding Hamas responsible. They say that if Hamas wanted to, the soldier would be freed. I suspect it's going to take awhile.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much. Stay safe.

Let's bring in Nabil Shaath. He's the former Palestinian foreign minister. He joins me now live from Ramallah on the West Bank.

Mr. Shaath, thanks so much for joining us.

Hamas is saying they have no information about the soldier, but President Obama saying Hamas is supposed to be in charge and responsible for what's going on in Gaza. They must have some control. What's your take?

NABIL SHAATH, FORMER PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I'm not so sure exactly whether Hamas has that guy or not, but we are sure who killed the 120 civilians today in Palestine and Gaza.

And that's the Israeli air force and the Israeli army. We have no doubt about that. They're in -- quote, unquote -- in search for the missing man who is a combat officer in the Israeli army attacking Gaza, 120 men and women are killed.


TAPPER: I hear what you're saying. Sir, I hear what you're saying.


TAPPER: I hear what you're saying, but according to not only the Israeli government, but I think the United Nations put out a statement leaning heavily into the idea that they took the Israeli word for how the cease-fire was broken, if the cease-fire was broken by these Palestinian militants killing two Israeli soldiers, kidnapping another, do you condemn that?

That seems to, at least based on the evidence we have right now, including from the U.N., seems to have broken the cease-fire. SHAATH: We are the mothers of that cease-fire.

We have been after the Egyptian -- our Egyptian brothers to start with Egyptian initiative to have a cease-fire. We're doing our best to have a cease-fire to save Palestinian people from Israeli bombardment.

But, in this case, we don't have information. And the Israelis have created the possibility of such a clash by insisting that the cease- fire does not stop them from searching and destroying tunnels.

And by destroying these things in a wartime, they have blown up today after the cease-fire about 190 homes in search for these tunnels, in search for these hiding places. And, therefore, if you go to a cease- fire intending to continue to bombard, then anything could happen, which I don't know.

TAPPER: Sir, do you hold Hamas responsible at all for launching attacks from population...

SHAATH: I hold Israel responsible. Israel is the attacker.

TAPPER: But do you hold Hamas responsible at all for embedding itself within the population?



SHAATH: What do you mean embedding itself?

Hamas is part of the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people in Gaza are 1.8 million people stuck in a very small area, which is less than 100 square miles.

TAPPER: What I mean, embedding...


SHAATH: ... Gaza knew that, and you...

TAPPER: What I mean by embedding in the population is launching rockets from centers of populations from near -- from hiding rockets in U.N. schools, having a media center inside or below a hospital, that sort of thing.

Obviously, let's just posit for the sake of argument, obviously, it's the Israeli shells, the Israeli missiles that are coming down, but does Hamas not bear any responsibility for putting the Palestinian people in Gaza in harm's way, if they fire and store and have bunkers in these densely populated population centers?

SHAATH: Yes, blame the victim again. Blame the victim.

You send -- and the air force, which is the fourth largest air force in the world, the Israeli air force, and all the tanks that have been surrounding Gaza, and all the naval pieces that have been sending fire and horror over Gaza, and you blame Hamas for defending itself.

TAPPER: No, I asked you...

SHAATH: This is ridiculous. The amount of disproportionate power...


TAPPER: Sir, I didn't blame anyone. I didn't blame anyone.

I asked you, if a militant organization is firing rockets from next to a school...

SHAATH: I don't know.

TAPPER: ... whether they bear any responsibility for Israeli bombs then hitting that school?

SHAATH: I don't know.


SHAATH: I don't know.

I have no information about where Hamas throws its rocket from. But I have information where Israel have been sending its bombs on. And it's on my people, on my cousins, on my brothers. I am a Gazan. I have lost seven cousins in this war, people who are innocent standing in their apartments doing no harm and sending no rockets against anybody.

That, I know. But I'm not so sure exactly where Hamas sends its rockets out of a very densely populated place called Gaza.

TAPPER: Well, sir, I hope that the West Bank proposals from the Palestinian Authority for a cease-fire do find some more success in the future.

I offer you my deepest condolences on the loss of the members of your family.

Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Coming up, is any discussion of a cease-fire off the table as long as this Israeli soldier is missing? I will ask the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations coming up next.

Plus, a message for Vladimir Putin, cut it out, or else, NATO warning the Russian president that it's ready to respond with military action if he pushes the limits any further. But is Putin buying it?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Continuing with our world lead, Israeli military forces are searching for one of their own. Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, they believe he was taken by Palestinian militants after one of its militants blew himself up and killed two other Israeli soldiers. They say it was the group Hamas, but Hamas says the Israelis have made the story up as an excuse to engage Hamas and Palestinians just 90 minutes after a 72- hour cease-fire began.

Let's bring in Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

Ambassador Prosor, good to see you. Thanks for coming in.


TAPPER: Does Israeli know for certain that Hamas is responsible for the abduction of this Israeli soldier? I have not seen anything definitive although certainly those missiles and rockets you're firing upon Gaza are definitive.

PROSOR: Well, the fact is an Israeli soldier was abducted and kidnapped in an area controlled by Hamas. And this is -- this is absolutely outrageous. Look at what they're saying, you know? Israel just invented this idea of an abducted soldier?

The problem is that people have to really get away from giving Hamas this free pass, this romantic thing of Hamas and see Hamas for what it really is.

TAPPER: Well, sir, every single show --

PROSOR: It is a terrorist organization really targeted to really destroy the state of Israel.

TAPPER: Every single show, we point out that the U.S. government considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

PROSOR: Absolutely and rightly so.

TAPPER: But if you do not know for certain that Hamas is responsible for this, how is this different theoretically from when Israeli extremists kidnapped that poor kid, Mohammed Khdeir and burnt him alive? Certainly, I would not hold the Israeli government responsible for that action and I understand that you are trying that person. But it seems to me perhaps Israel without having all the facts about who suspected the soldier then went off and continued to break the cease- fire assuming that Hamas had broke the cease-fire.

PROSOR: Let's put things in clear perspective here. Facts are the following: 90 minutes after a cease-fire, Hamas broke a cease-fire and with a suicide bomber that killed two Israeli soldiers, abducted an Israeli soldier.

TAPPER: But how --

PROSOR: Those are the facts. Hamas -- this is the fifth time that Hamas has broke a cease-fire, it's a humanitarian cease-fire, with the whole idea of basically bringing relief to the people of Gaza. So, in the sense what Hamas is doing and the only times we're basically bringing relief to their own people, they make sure they break every cease-fire that Israel abides by trying to bring relief to the people of Gaza.

TAPPER: Where were these IDF soldiers? I understand they were in the tunnels. Were they in the tunnels that were on Israeli territory or were they in Gaza?

PROSOR: Well, as you know, I'm sitting here in New York and you're sitting in Washington, D.C., what I gather is that our soldiers basically were exactly where they should be, and the idea is that Hamas --

TAPPER: That's not --

PROSOR: -- from our point of view, Hamas used knowing exactly where our soldiers are going to be, used the fact that the cease-fire is going into effect to do exactly what they did, break the cease-fire, break the humanitarian relief, showing that they really, the last thing that they're care about is the relief of their own people.

TAPPER: I want to ask about a larger issue. I've spoken to a number of Palestinian who's say that the people of Gaza and even the West Bank seem supportive of an ongoing campaign despite the heavy toll on the population of Gaza because Palestinians believe they're not going to be able to survive in Gaza by 2020 in these conditions wrought by the blockade or whatever word you want to use to describe it of Gaza, the control by Israel of its borders and its land, its air and its seaport.

Does that fact, the fact that they seem so desperate because of conditions in Gaza, does that change the Israeli government's calculus at all regarding this operation?

PROSOR: Two things, one as you know, this is not a democracy. You can't ask or hear dissenting voices. At least I cannot, maybe you can.

But the other thing is, let's remember what happened here. We disengaged out of Gaza completely and gave them greenhouses and wanted Gaza to flourish and be a Singapore. We have nothing to do in Gaza. We went out of Gaza never to look back into Gaza.

What motive do we have in Gaza, if someone found oil in Gaza, natural resources? At the end of the day, the equation in this complicated area is quite simple. If it's going to be quiet in the Israel, it's going to be quiet in Gaza.

TAPPER: Right. But --

PROSOR: And the problem is, that the international community is looking at those terror tunnels, from my point of view, with tunnel vision, because that tunnel vision which is very narrow puts all the blame on Israel and basically lets Hamas off the hook of what it really is, a terrorist organization. And look at what they're doing, 3,100 rockets against Israel. Booby-trapping buildings, one street, 28 buildings, 19 were the completely booby-trapped and the whole eight from the international community, good people, going to basically building schools and kindergartens, they build terror tunnels, hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, if there's one thing I'd like to you remember from this interview is that Hamas had a chance in five cease-fires to bring relief to the people of Gaza and they chose not to.

TAPPER: Ambassador Prosor, thank you so much. That's all the time we have.

Coming up, potential catastrophic consequences. The World Health Organization sounding the alarm over the deadly Ebola outbreak. But as two Americans with the disease arrive in the United States for the treatment, what's being done to make sure nobody gets it here. I'll ask the CDC director coming up next.

Plus, American family sending overseas to help children in need. Now, some of those families are getting tragic news about boys and girls they adopted from Gaza.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake tapper.

The U.S. State department says the two the American Ebola patients will be evacuated from West Africa in the next few days and likely coming back to the United States. This could be the first time someone stricken with this virus which has no known cure and very low survival rate crosses into the continental United States.

But don't worry, government officials say. They can handle it.

And while the Centers for Disease Control tries to ease fears here in the United States, the World Health Organization today said the outbreak is moving faster than the efforts to control it.

Our Pamela Brown has all the latest for us -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, officials, we're learning from them the two Americans are stable enough to be medically evacuate and at least one of them could be back in the U.S. as early as tomorrow.

The head of the Centers for Disease Control telling our Sanjay Gupta, he does not believe there's a risk with bringing them here.


BROWN (voice-over): The high stakes return of Ebola infected health care workers is under way. This Gulfstream jet equipped with an isolation pod touching down for refueling early Friday at this remote Portuguese air base in the Atlantic before continuing on to Liberia. That's where Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol continue to fight for survival. Both are said to be in serious condition, but evaluated to be stable enough to travel. They'll be brought to Emory University in Atlanta. DR. BRUCE RIBNER, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We have been informed

that there will be two patients ultimately coming to Emory. The first will come in the next several days and then the second patient will be coming a few days after that.

BROWN: Emory is one of four facilities in the U.S. with a highly specialized isolation unit to treat people with serious infectious diseases. Americans in the three Ebola-stricken countries are fleeing the epidemic after the U.S. government warned against nonessential travel, like Jerrel Gilliam who cut short his research trip to Sierra Leone.

JERREL GILLIAM, LEAVING SIERRA LEONE FOR U.S. (via telephone): I wanted to stay as long as I could, but the situation is out of control. It seems like it's going to get worse before it gets better.

BROWN: The Penn State fellow talked to CNN from Sierra Leone's airport where he just underwent enhanced screening.

GILLIAM: As soon as you get into the arrival today (ph), you are prompted to fill out a form, showing any of the symptoms of Ebola over the last two weeks or so.