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NANCY GRACE

Violence in Middle East Intensifies

Aired July 17, 2006 - 20:00:00   ET

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


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, 25,000 Americans trapped, all under order for evacuation. Could this new outbreak of violence on the other side of the world threaten U.S. security at home?
And later tonight: A Nebraska sex offender walks free because the judge says he`s too short for jail. Judge Kristine Cecava, you are in contempt! This sex offender now classified as the single highest risk to reoffend on children. Tonight, we are taking your calls.

But first tonight, we are live in Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel has a right to defend herself. Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Let`s go straight out to CNN reporter Fionnuala Sweeney. She is joining us from Jerusalem. Thank you for being with us, Fionnuala. What is the latest tonight?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight, the bombardments continue of positions in southern Lebanon, and also, likewise, Hezbollah rockets firing a round, a barrage of attacks on Israeli cities. It seems to have settled into some kind of momentum, for want of a better word here, because this conflict now, or confrontation, has been ongoing for about nearly a week.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, made a speech to the Israeli parliament this evening, which was by all accounts a fairly feisty, rousing speech, in which he said that Israel was at a crossroads in its relations with terrorism. He said the enemy`s willingness to attack Israel may have been an attempt to see Israel as weak, but if that was the case, then these people were wrong. Then he went on to say that terrorists were the subcontractors of regimes who support terrorism, from Teheran to Damascus, and he said he wouldn`t give in to Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

However, there are signs, Nancy, that some diplomatic solution, or at least diplomatic workings, are under way, Israel sources now telling us that they would be willing, at least, to look at the implementation of the U.N. resolution of two years ago called 1559, which called for the Lebanese government to dismantle Hezbollah along that border area, create a buffer zone, and to have Lebanese army patrol that entire area. This would stop the war, as it is at the moment. It would prevent Israel from having to send in ground troops. And this seems to be the way, at least, Israeli authorities are heading now in terms of the next strategy.

GRACE: Fionnuala Sweeney is joining us now there in Jerusalem. Fionnuala, apparently, Arab TV is reporting that an Israeli plane has been shot down. Is that true?

SWEENEY: Well, there had been a report earlier in the day that an Israeli F-16 bomber had been shot down over Lebanon. That turned out not to be true, according to the Israeli military sources, who say that they actually led a missile strike against a (INAUDIBLE) truck that was carrying a number of rockets. These rockets have quite a distance in which they can fire. In fact, we`re told that they could be fired from the border and reach Tel Aviv. And when the Israeli military hit this particular truck carrying all these rockets, one of the rockets exploded and itself went up into the air and landed some distance away on a beach. And it was that, it is thought, made people confused this missile semi-launch, aborted launch, for what -- for need of a better word, with an F-16 being shot down, but it wasn`t the case.

GRACE: Joining us from Jerusalem is Fionnuala Sweeney. Fionnuala, it`s my understanding that the United States is now going to send a cruise ship to get the 25,000, some of them, anyway, Americans trapped there. What can you tell us about that plan?

SWEENEY: There are a number of ships from international countries that are on their way to Lebanon. Indeed, it would appear that refugees who are able to get out of Lebanon are heading towards Cyprus, which is maybe only half an hour away by plane. There are plenty of people in Lebanon who are deciding to stay put in northern Beirut because they think it`s too dangerous to leave, and also people who are trying to get up even to Syria and cross the roads over there by the border. But the Israeli military have been bombing those roads, as well, because they don`t want Hezbollah to bring in arms from Syria back into Lebanon.

So the situation is that there are some 25,000 estimated U.S. nationals living in Lebanon at the moment. Arrangements are being made. Helicopter gunships are being sent, and at a time when it`s deemed safe enough or stable enough, the U.S. will try to evacuate its citizens.

GRACE: Fionnuala, it`s interesting. Israel is bombing as far north as Beirut. The Hezbollah is bombing as far south as Haifa. Was there any warning that Hezbollah could bomb that far?

SWEENEY: There was the knowledge that Hezbollah had some 10,000 to 15,000 rockets at its disposal, different kinds of rockets, and some that could reach further than the usual town of Kiryat Shimona, which is just across the border with Lebanon in Israel. But this was a shock, to discover that Haifa, which is about 25, 35 kilometers across the border, could actually be reached by one of these rockets.

And indeed, it would appear it`s not just once or a coincidence. A number of rockets have hit Haifa, killing a number of civilians over the last few days. And indeed, across the band of northern Israel from the west to the east has been hit increasingly this evening, and a few times actually not very many hours after Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, made that speech, that defiant speech saying that he and Israel would not give in to Hezbollah or Hamas.

So yes, there was a bit of surprise that those rockets could hit. But as I was saying earlier, Nancy, those -- that truck that was hit by an F-16 earlier today was carrying rockets that can travel some 45 kilometers or more, could hit Tel Aviv, which is quite far south.

GRACE: Fionnuala, any Americans dead?

SWEENEY: Not to the best of my knowledge, Nancy, at all.

GRACE: Let`s go to Professor Michael Barnett, professor of international relations at University of Minnesota. Professor, thank you for being with us. We know, or we have been told, that some of the rockets being fired are Iranian rockets. We assume that some of the Israeli rockets that are being fired are American rockets. So when it`s all said and done, is this between America and Iran?

PROF. MICHAEL BARNETT, UNIV. OF MINNESOTA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: No, it`s not. Right now, it`s a confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah. There is always the possibility of a conflagration in which, at the end of the day, we`ll try and trace the elements and we`ll go back to the sources, and that`s the United States and Iran. But for the moment right now, this is very much localized. The fear, of course, is that it may widen itself and involve not just simply Hezbollah and Israel, but of course, Syria and Iran, and which would then, of course, involve the United States.

GRACE: To Charlie Hurt. He is the Capitol Hill bureau chief with "The Washington Times." What about it, Charlie? We know that Iranian missiles are being used. American missiles are being used. How can we say with a straight face that this does not involve America and Iran?

CHARLIE HURT, "WASHINGTON TIMES": I don`t think I would try saying that with a straight face. I think that, clearly, this is a war by proxy between the U.S. and Iran, if not Iran and other Middle East countries that have not been very friendly towards us in the last few years. The bottom line is that, you know, the U.S. policy for the past -- since 9/11 has been, If you support or harbor terrorists, then you are every bit as guilty as being one of those terrorists.

And so that is why President Bush has had a very hard time joining some of his world leaders this past weekend in condemning Israel in any way. In fact, Bush has been very supportive of Israel and says that they should, you know, do whatever they need to protect themselves. And we`ll see this week the Congress, probably in a very bipartisan way, draft some sort of resolution that will basically, you know, back up Israel, and say, Look, you know, Israel must be able to defend itself in this part of the world.

GRACE: Speaking of our president, President Bush, take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: What about Kofi Annan? I don`t like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire, and everything else happens.

TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER, U.K.: I think the thing that is really difficult is you can`t stop this unless you get this international presence agreed.

BUSH: See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (DELETED) and it`s over. I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We`re not blaming Israel and we`re not blaming the Lebanese government.

Israel has a right to defend herself. Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life. We`ve been working very hard through the United Nations and with partners to strengthen the democracy in Lebanon. The concern is that any activities by Israel to protect herself will weaken that government. We have made that (INAUDIBLE) that government

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Out to Bill Schneider, CNN correspondent. Bill, thank you for being with us tonight.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure.

GRACE: Here`s the concern I have, a legal concern. If America sends a cruise ship to go rescue Americans, once it is in the middle of a war zone and it has been commandeered by the U.S. government, will it then be treated under the law of war as a U.S. battleship? I mean, are we setting ourselves up to be dragged into this conflict?

SCHNEIDER: There is always a risk of that in any kind of war zone, but the United States is not a direct party to this conflict. And I think precautions are bound to be taken. Like what? Like publicity. If the United States is rescuing some thousands of its own citizens, first by helicopter to the cruise ship, it`s going to have to make it known to all parties involved that these are American helicopters, that it`s an American ship, and anyone who fires on any of those vessels is going to have to pay a price. And I think people would be reluctant to do that.

But it can not be done in secret because then they would be vulnerable to attack because they would say, We didn`t know it was an American ship.

GRACE: Do you really believe the Hezbollah will pay attention to Americans saying, Don`t bomb us?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, because this is the United States of America, and they do not want to start a war with the United States. If they do that, if they were to bomb an American ship or even an American helicopter, believe me, the rage of the American people would be felt very, very quickly.

GRACE: Point well taken. I want to follow up with you, Bill, regarding this cruise ship that may be going to rescue our citizens, 25,000 Americans that we know of, trapped there in the middle of a war zone now. Is it correct, could it be true, that America is planning to charge its own citizens for their rescue, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: That I don`t know anything about. I haven`t heard that. I know that the Pentagon has done what they call prudent -- has urged prudent contingency planning and said anyone who can get out safely should get. But they`re essentially leaving these citizens on their own. As far as charges are concerned, well, the question is, should the taxpayer pay for it, or are these people responsible for getting out themselves? I don`t know the answer to that, and I haven`t heard.

GRACE: Take a listen to what Kofi Annan had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: I have appealed to all concerned to spare civilian lives, to spare civilian infrastructure, because these are things the civilian population will need for their livelihood, for their daily activities, and we should not inflict any more suffering on them. Both parties should bear that in mind and respect international humanitarian law.

We are extremely concerned about the situation, and as the prime minister said, we need to find ways of bringing this to a halt. And obviously, you saw the statement that the G-8 issued yesterday. But in addition to that, I think we need to get the parties to agree as soon as practicable to a cessation of hostility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Ellie (ph), what are America`s plans to charge our own citizen for rescue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the State Department sent out a message to Americans in Lebanon and said that it is the practice of the U.S. government that they don`t provide no-cost transportation if you need to be rescued from one of these countries that is under attack. So if you don`t have the money to pay for your escape, you can sign a promissory note and they will bill you later.

GRACE: Bill you later for your trip from Lebanon for rescue.

To Charlie Hurt with "The Washington Times," have you ever heard anything like it?

HURT: I think I-- I feel like I`ve heard of some of those Coast Guard rescue missions charging people that they rescue.

But you know, going back to that issue you were asking about with the boat, you know, whether Hezbollah knew -- if Hezbollah knew that this American ship were picking up people, I don`t think I would want my family on that boat.

GRACE: Well, I mean, it`s going to be clear that it`s an American cruise line ship. It`s going to be very obvious. If they have it in their sights, they can see that it`s American, Charlie, so they will know that. But I don`t have all the confidence that Bill Schneider has that to trust the Hezbollah.

(LAUGHTER)

GRACE: Let`s go back to Fionnuala Sweeney, joining from us Jerusalem. Fionnuala, the whole controversy started over Israeli soldiers being kidnapped. Now, the bombing as far north as Beirut -- the Hezbollah is not in Beirut.

SWEENEY: Hezbollah does -- has its stronghold, Nancy, in southern Lebanon right along the border. But it also has, as the political wing of the military wing, it has a strong base in southern Beirut, and many people -- it`s a Shia base, Shia Muslim base and that has been persistently and consistently bombed over the last number of nights. Other people have fled that part of Beirut and have moved to other strongholds north of Beirut.

The question part, away from that particular area, but that is one of the reasons that that part of Beirut has been bombed. In fact, the Israeli military as early as maybe a day or two entered into this campaign, were sending leaflets out, down through helicopters onto the ground in southern Beirut, warning people to stay away from Hezbollah party political offices.

In fact, they came close, or at least, they tried to bomb the apartment of the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon but he managed to escape. And it was shortly thereafter that he went on a radio announcing that he had escaped. So southern Lebanon in general is very important for Hezbollah. It`s a stronghold there particularly also in the southern part of Beirut.

GRACE: Joining us now, the consul general of Israel, Ambassador Arye Mekel. Ambassador, thank you for being with us.

AMB. ARYE MEKEL, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL, NEW YORK: Thank you, Nancy.

GRACE: Ambassador, it`s my understanding that your parents actually survived the Holocaust, but now they are in a Haifa bomb shelter. Is that true?

MEKEL: They are. My mother was orphaned at the age of 12 when the Nazis killed both her father, her mother and three siblings. She somehow escaped and survived. Now they are stuck in a shelter in Haifa. I really think that they deserve better at these -- for their remaining years.

GRACE: Ambassador, are we at a point of no return? Is there any way to salvage this? I mean, the Hezbollah, when you ask, What do you want to solve this, they want to discontinue the state of Israel. OK, that`s not going to happen. So my question is, Is there any room for negotiation?

MEKEL: We must put this in some proportion. Israel had many more difficulty challenges. Let`s not forget `67, `73, we fought with all the Arab countries combined, with the a million soldiers. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. They sit on the Israeli border. Every time Iran and Syria give them marching orders, they attack our villages, cities, military. This is what they are, a terrorist organization. They are not a danger to the state of Israel.

We will reach our goals, which are that Hezbollah will no longer be anywhere near our border. We will destroy their military capabilities. The Lebanese army will come to the Israeli border. And we need our soldiers to be released. We will achieve it. Maybe it will take another few days. But you have to understand this is not an existential danger for the state of Israel.

GRACE: Ambassador, how is bombing as north as Beirut helping get the two soldiers back, who are not in Beirut that we know of?

MEKEL: Well, first of all, we don`t know where they are. But we are attacking Hezbollah strongholds. We are attacking depots of these missiles. We are attacking Hezbollah facilities. Some of them are south of Beirut, where they have their stronghold. Some of them are elsewhere. But this is supposed to weaken Hezbollah and bring them to a situation that they can no longer endanger the state of Israel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRACE: (INAUDIBLE) violence all the way around the world. What does it mean for the American homeland, and what does it mean for the 25,000 Americans trapped there? What is the legal precedent for sending a cruise ship, as well as helicopters, to rescue Americans?

Let`s go out to Phil Zabriskie, reporter with "Time" magazine. Phil, thank you for being with us. What is the sentiment there in Jerusalem tonight?

PHIL ZABRISKIE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, right now, it`s quiet, of course, because it`s the middle of the night, but for the past few days, the sense has basically been one of resolve and determination and a belief that there`s a lot of support behind the government`s actions for the time being.

GRACE: Phil, from what you can tell, what is the indication as to how long this conflict will last?

ZABRISKIE: It`s a difficult question, of course. The reports in the Israeli media, you sometimes see that there`s a sense that the military officials here believe that they have a short window before some -- before the criticism from abroad gets too large. But at the same time, they`re quite determined, as well. I don`t think they`re going to pay a whole lot of attention to any criticism from abroad.

And they have a sense of a certain series of benchmarks that they want to see accomplished, in terms of pushing Hezbollah back from the border and seeing some action on at least the beginning, I would imagine, of the implementation of this U.N. resolution 1559, which would involve disarming Hezbollah.

GRACE: Joining us is the president of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby. Sir, thank you for being with us. Do you think America should be taking a bigger role in this conflict, since there are 25,000 Americans trapped there?

JAMES ZOGBY, FOUNDER AND PRES., ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, we should be taking a bigger role for many reasons, one of which is that we have a lot at stake in the Middle East, and not least of which, 130,000 American soldiers fighting a war in a deeply divided sectarian Iraq, but also because we have interests in the broader region, interests that are so overwhelming that if we lose popular support, which we are losing, we`re in grave danger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wanted war, an open war? It will be an open war. You want your government to do -- - to change the rule of the game? Will it change -- this game will change. Now you know who you`re fighting with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: How will violence a world away affect the American homeland, 25,000 Americans trapped in the dispute at Lebanon?

Let`s go out to the lines. Cheryl in Kentucky. Hi, Cheryl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. How are you?

GRACE: I`m good, dear. What`s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, when do we think the president may get involved in this?

GRACE: Good question. What about it, Bill Schneider?

SCHNEIDER: If American interests were directly affected, the president would get involved. And I think if there were a large number of civilian casualties, larger than there are now, he would get involved. And if the war were tragically to broaden to Syria or Iran or other countries, there`s no way the United States would not get involved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) * (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid for your children?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sure. It`s a big responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you expect that this was going to happen?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really a shock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Why is the president for America charging Americans to get them out of a war zone?

I`m reading right now from a message sent by the State Department this past Saturday. It says, "The Department of State reminds Americans the U.S. government does not provide no-cost transportation, but you can sign a promissory note, and we will bill you at a later date."

OK, to Charlie Hurt.

Have you ever heard any legal precedent for that?

CHARLIE HURT, CAPITOL HILL BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": No, I haven`t, but, then again, I`m not really an expert in -- in all of that.

GRACE: You mean Americans being held overseas in a war zone, Americans being taken hostage...

HURT: I...

GRACE: ... transporting Americans home safely?

HURT: I certainly know that -- that, as I said, you know, that the Coast Guard usually charges people if they go out~, you know, if they have been out in a storm, and get -- get into trouble. The Coast Guard will charge people to be rescued.

But, then again, that may be a slightly different situation than, you know, finding yourself in a war zone.

GRACE: So, you`re comparing this to, like, being out on a Sunday afternoon in your motorboat, and you run out of gas, and you have to pay the Coast Guard back? Do you want to retract that?

HURT: I`m not really making that comparison, but I could see the similarities.

GRACE: Charlie, please, go with me on this. I`m very concerned.

And I`m also concerned, Charlie, about what it means for an American cruise liner, commercial liner, to be sent into basically a war zone. In my mind, when you commandeer a cruise liner, it becomes essentially an American battleship, and any act on this cruise ship, in my mind, constitutes an act of war on America.

HURT: Well -- well, it certainly wouldn`t be a peace offering, I don`t think, if you -- if you lobbed a bomb towards it.

Out to Linda Antonius. Her husband is trapped in Beirut.

Linda, thank you for being with us.

LINDA ANTONIUS, HUSBAND TRAPPED IN BEIRUT, LEBANON: Hello.

GRACE: Linda, when did you last speak to your husband?

ANTONIUS: I spoke to him this morning, this morning in California time.

GRACE: Why is he there?

ANTONIUS: He went there with his sister and his 8-year-old nephew for a family reunion.

GRACE: When you spoke to him, what did you hear in the background, if anything?

ANTONIUS: Well, actually, let me -- let me back up to when I spoke to him last night. It was a very distressful conversation. His voice was exhausted.

He sounded very exhausted, tense. And, then, I heard a lot sound. And I asked what that was. And he said it was a bomb. And then I heard another loud sound, and it was another bomb. And he abruptly had to hang up the phone.

And, from there on, I have just been heavily burdened and distressed.

GRACE: Linda, how is he planning to get back?

ANTONIUS: Well, we`re waiting. I mean, our -- my goal is to bring him and his family home as quickly and safely as possible. But the only thing we`re hearing is, is he registered? And the answer is yes. And they keep telling us that he will be informed when there`s a plan. And, you know, I...

GRACE: What do you mean registered? What does registered mean?

ANTONIUS: I believe it`s to make sure with the embassy where he -- where he is at, so, when a plan is developed, they can contact him and get ahold of him to tell him what the plan is.

GRACE: Linda, is it true that he is being told not to go to the U.S. Embassy?

ANTONIUS: Correct. He has been told to stay put, until he`s been given a -- a different -- a direction.

GRACE: So, it`s a "Don`t call us; we will call you" situation?

ANTONIUS: I believe so.

GRACE: Have you tried calling the State Department or anyone in the U.S. government?

ANTONIUS: Absolutely. I have done everything I can. And my friends and my family, we are all doing what we can. And, basically, they`re telling us, make sure he`s registered with the embassy, and that they will inform him once the plan is in place.

GRACE: Linda and Terry (ph) have been married 15 years. They have two sons, 5 and 10 years old. Linda Antonius is just one of many, many, 25,000, American families being affected by this violence in the Mideast.

Linda, if you could speak to him tonight, what would you say?

ANTONIUS: That I`m doing everything I can to move these mountains and get him and his family home safely.

To Dr. Robi Ludwig.

When I hear Linda Antonius`s voice -- and we can talk about violence in the Mideast. We have been talking about it, I know, for 46 years. But when you hear an American, a fellow American, in such pain, it`s hard for me to understand why so many Americans are apathetic about this.

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: See, I -- you know, I think, in the past, it used to be, you know, Israel is a world away, and, so, they`re -- the feeling was, well, it`s happening over there, but it`s not necessarily happening to me or the people I love.

And, post-9/11, I`m not convinced that that`s the case. What we realize is that, when terrorists attack Israel, anyone that`s anti-Israel is basically anti-American. And, if it can happen over there, it can happen over here, and it has. So, there`s this odd feeling perhaps of relief: If Israel can take care of themselves as a country, perhaps America can do the same.

GRACE: Back to the consul general of Israel, Ambassador Arye Mekel.

Ambassador, again, thank you for being with us.

AMBASSADOR ARYE MEKEL, ISRAELI CONSUL GENERAL: Thank you.

GRACE: At this juncture, would the release of the two Israeli soldiers stop the violence, at this juncture?

MEKEL: No, not at all.

At this point, we are determined to destroy any capabilities that Hezbollah may have to endanger Israel. It`s not just about the soldiers anymore. It`s about destroying those capabilities. It`s about removing Hezbollah from our borders. It`s about putting the Lebanese military at our borders, and, of course, the release of the soldiers. But it`s all of this together.

To James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute.

Response?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, listen, I would really like to focus on the -- the question of the Americans, Nancy. It`s an issue I have been dealing with now for six days now, and talking to hundreds and hundreds of families, those who have lost loved ones and those who are trapped there.

And there are many, actually, who are trapped in the south of Lebanon, no way out, because the roads have been bombed. The bridges have been bombed. Some of them in -- are -- are in, actually, underground shelters, and they`re running short of food and water. It`s a desperate situation.

They are, many of them, Lebanese-Americans. They have lived here. And they felt it was safe to go home this summer. And it turns out that it wasn`t. And I think that we have been dealing with the State Department. I know that the folks there are working hard. But the Pentagon is having some difficult time.

I mean, when you -- I don`t think that the ship is in danger, but I think flying American helicopter gunships over Lebanon is, in fact, putting the helicopter gunships at risk, because those ships, people know them. They`re the same as the -- the ones the Israelis fly. And I think that you -- you might end up seeing a dangerous situation, which is why the Pentagon is -- is in a difficult strait.

But I -- I can`t see we can`t ask Israel to cut it the hell out, so we can get 25,000 Americans out of there, because, in fact, people are paying a very dear price.

GRACE: Well, Mr. Zogby, can I go back to the...

ZOGBY: Sure.

GRACE: ... original question?

ZOGBY: Sure.

GRACE: Apparently, what sparked this round of violence...

ZOGBY: Right.

GRACE: ... is the kidnap...

ZOGBY: Right.

GRACE: ... of two Israeli soldiers...

ZOGBY: Right.

GRACE: ... by the Hezbollah.

ZOGBY: Right.

GRACE: Why won`t the Hezbollah release the soldiers?

ZOGBY: Well, look, it was a provocative act. And it was -- and it -- frankly, it was foolish and wrong. And -- and it -- it actually did provoke this situation.

But let`s understand that the Israeli response to this now has upped the ante to such a degree that it is a -- I mean, everyone`s in a difficult situation, which is why, I think, American mediation is so important right now, to help unwind this crisis.

The president said Israel has a right to defend itself, but that doesn`t mean bombing in the way that they have bombed, and killing the people that they have killed. And you said as far north as Beirut.

But you know what? They bombed Jounieh, which is a port, a Christian port, north of Beirut. They bombed Tripoli, which is a Sunni city north of Beirut. They have bombed all the way up to the -- the almost the -- northern border of Lebanon...

GRACE: And -- and -- and...

ZOGBY: ... where there is no Hezbollah there. And it`s...

GRACE: ... on the other side, the Hezbollah has bombed...

ZOGBY: Right.

GRACE: ... bombed as far as Haifa and Nazareth.

ZOGBY: That`s why American leadership is...

GRACE: Nazareth has been bombed...

ZOGBY: ... is -- and it`s an Arab...

GRACE: ... over the weekend.

ZOGBY: And it`s an Arab city. Nazareth is an all Arab city. And that is why American leadership is so important.

GRACE: Well, clearly, you understand what Nazareth means to many Americans.

ZOGBY: I do. And I know what it means to many Arab Christians and Arab Muslims.

I`m a Christian. I have been to Nazareth. I have been to the birthplace of Jesus Christ. And I feel very, very angry that Nazareth was bombed.

But, understand, American leadership can help unwind this. I`m angry that Nazareth was bombed, angry that Jounieh was bombed and Beirut was bombed. America has to help end this. And we`re not doing enough right now, frankly speaking.

GRACE: Response, Ambassador?

MEKEL: Well, America is doing everything necessary. America supports Israel. We are very gratified with the administration, with the Congress and public opinion.

As far as Israel is concerned, it is not true that we are bombing all these places that Mr. Zogby mentioned. What is true is that we are bombing Hezbollah strongholds.

GRACE: Ambassador, do you think the Israeli response is overkill to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers?

MEKEL: No, it`s not just -- no, not at all. We are using every measure of restraint that we can.

ZOGBY: No.

MEKEL: But we cannot allow these terrorists to sit there at the border, attack us every time the marching orders come from Iran and Syria, just because they feel like it.

You know, they are acting against the interests of Lebanon. They are serving foreign interests. They are bad for Lebanon. And I think most Lebanese realize it. They hate Hezbollah.

ZOGBY: And it would have been easier...

MEKEL: They hate Hezbollah.

ZOGBY: It would have been easier to resolve had you not overreacted, as you did.

MEKEL: We did not...

(CROSSTALK)

ZOGBY: I -- I -- I -- excuse me, sir, but you did bomb Jounieh, and you did bomb Tripoli. And you did bomb Amchit (ph). And you have bombed in areas of the country where there are no Hezbollah.

And the simple fact is, is that the devastations to the infrastructure is incalculable right now.

MEKEL: It`s very far from being any overreaction. And we are using every restraint that we can.

(NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Thompson may not have to do hard time, the 50-year-old man from Sidney, Nebraska, convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl on two separate occasions. But Thompson may not have to wear the orange jumpsuit, the rubber sandals, and he may not have to live with other inmates. That`s because a district judge gave him 10 years probation, a lighter sentence, reportedly, because Thompson is 5`1``.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s an abomination. And my office will appeal it. I don`t care if he`s 3 feet tall. It doesn`t make any difference. You abuse a child, you`re going to pay a price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Judge Kristine Cecava there in Sidney, Nebraska, you are in contempt. You allowed this man to walk free on probation. Now he has been classified as a sex three -- a level-three sex offender.

Straight out to Shannon Black, clinical director with the Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender Registry.

What is a level-three offender?

SHANNON BLACK, CLINICAL DIRECTOR, NEBRASKA STATE PATROL SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY: A level-three offender is somebody that has been determined to be high-risk to re-offend. It doesn`t mean that they will re-offend, but they have factors consistent with those folks that we do know have re- offended.

To Jon Bruning, Nebraska attorney general.

Sir, thank you for being with us now.

Explain to me what this means. Is there any way the judge`s decision can be revoked?

JON BRUNING, NEBRASKA ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is. And I hope it will be.

We -- we appealed the sentence on May 31. We have had some success with prior appeals. I think we`re going to be successful here. This guy got no prison time. Clearly, he deserves is. I feel good about the end result, that -- that we will get him in prison eventually.

To Jim Hedley, the editor of "The Sidney Sun Telegraph."

What is the latest on this? Has -- has the judge shown any regret over her decision?

JIM HEDLEY, EDITOR, "THE SIDNEY SUN TELEGRAPH": Oh, definitely not. Definitely not, Nancy.

GRACE: Why?

HEDLEY: She doesn`t talk to the media. She doesn`t talk about this case. She really has no comment to make.

GRACE: Doesn`t she have to answer to the voters?

HEDLEY: She will in two years.

GRACE: Now, is it true that there is a grassroots effort to have her thrown of the bench?

HEDLEY: Absolutely, and that started right from the beginning, right after this decision was handed down in the first place.

To Mickey Sherman, defense attorney.

Mickey, I know you have gotten a lot of people off at jury trial and light sentences. That`s your job. You`re a defense attorney. But have you ever heard of a judge keeping someone out of jail, a level-three sex offender, because they`re too short?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Not because they`re too short, but I have had a lot of judges do things which other people disagree with, take a chance, go out an a limb, make a decision or issue a sentence which a lot of people aren`t happy with for any number of reasons.

Maybe they -- maybe they`re effeminate. Maybe they will think that they will be a greater target in jail. And that`s what this is about. It`s not about the size. It`s about the judge looking at this guy and saying: You know something? You`re more at risk at jail -- in jail than a lot of other people.

It`s particularized justice. And everyone`s pissed off about that. And you know something? If this judge had a long history of bad decisions, that would be one thing.

GRACE: Mickey Sherman...

SHERMAN: But this judge made one call based on what she saw. And I don`t know why everyone is all over her. That`s just not right.

GRACE: To Robert Wolf, defense attorney.

Agree or disagree?

ROBERT WOLF, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I agree 100 percent.

It`s not fair. The judge stuck her neck out. The district attorney didn`t ask for jail. The legislature allows for it. This is a sentence that apparently was otherwise justifiable. The judge just misspoke and said: I`m concerned about your size. You`re vulnerable in prison. It`s completely out of context.

GRACE: OK.

WOLF: It`s not fair.

GRACE: Let`s go to Jon Bruning on that, the Nebraska attorney general.

Is this sentence otherwise justified? Can you get straight probation for what he is now convicted of doing to a 12-year-old girl?

BRUNING: Well, you can, under the statutes. But the question is, should he?

I mean, this is somebody who repeatedly molested a 13-year-old girl. And, so, I mean, common sense tells me that -- that probation is not enough.

GRACE: Wasn`t she 12 at the time, Jon?

BRUNING: She was 13. We don`t know. It could have been 12 as well.

But it was repeated. He was waiting for her outside the shower, waiting for her outside...

GRACE: Sick.

BRUNING: ... of her bedroom. Again and again, this happened. Probation is not enough. He needs a stronger message. And we think we`re going to be able to give it to him.

To Judge Carl Fox, senior resident court judge, joining us out of the North Carolina jurisdiction. Judge Fox is not just a judge, but he was a veteran trial lawyer before he took the bench.

Judge...

JUDGE CARL FOX, NORTH CAROLINA SUPERIOR COURT: Yes.

GRACE: ... what do you make of this?

FOX: Well, I think she worded her -- her pre-sentence words a little bit the wrong way, by saying that he had earned his way to prison, and then she looks at his size. If she`s going to give him probation, just give him probation and give him the terms of probation.

GRACE: Oh. Oh.

FOX: Then talk with him about what his risk is of -- of -- of getting into trouble and being abused in prison, if that`s what she wants to do, once she`s given him the sentence, because -- because I`m sure she was trying to scare him. And -- and she put that, the scare part, up front, before the sentence, and made it seem like she was giving him probation because of that. And that`s where the problems came about.

GRACE: Right. Well, I disagree with you. I think probation for a -- at least two-time sex offender is -- is way beyond the pale.

Let`s go to the lines.

Angela in Pennsylvania, hi.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. I love your show.

GRACE: Thank you.

CALLER: Nancy, I would like -- my question is, why can`t the prison system make accommodations for a gentleman -- this, not even...

GRACE: Well, you know what, Angela?

CALLER: ... a gentleman -- a man this short, when we can do it for other people that are disabled all over the country?

GRACE: You`re darned right.

CALLER: This is absolutely...

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: And not only that, Angela. We make special provisions for cops that go behind bars, for politicians that go behind bars, for informants that go behind bars.

This judge could easily have done that.

Robi Ludwig, what does this mean for the general public, when they see a judge behave this way?

LUDWIG: It`s really devastating and irresponsible. It`s an irresponsible decision, because what we know is pedophiles, especially severe pedophiles, will -- will do the same thing over and over and over again.

And they need treatment. They need to be incarcerated. Otherwise, they`re in danger to the public.

GRACE: Everyone, let`s quickly go to tonight`s "All Points Bulletin."

Law enforcement on the lookout for David Lam in 2005 murder of Susan Lam. He`s 54, 5`7``, 160 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. If you have info, call the FBI, 310-477-6565.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRACE: Good news, and a major victory for America. After a 13-day mission, the space shuttle Discovery and six-member crew make a picture- perfect landing at Kennedy Space Center -- 230 years and counting, America. -- America, the home of the brave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I would like to just thank the folks at Kennedy Space Center for a -- for a really, really clean vehicle. This is my fourth flight. And I have done four walk-arounds. And I have never seen a vehicle that looked as clean as this one did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Altitude 250 feet. You`re down (INAUDIBLE)

And the vehicle was clean all the way through the flight. We had very, very few problems. And I would like to thank all the folks here around NASA, the shuttle program, for -- for providing us with a great vehicle.

We had two major objectives on this flight. The first one was to complete the return-to-flight test objectives that 114 started. And the second one was to get us ready back for space station assembly. And I think we accomplished both of those objectives, and we`re ready to go assemble station, and we`re ready to start flying shuttles on a more regular basis.

And, finally, I would like to thank this crew standing here. They were absolutely superb the entire flight. I couldn`t have asked more out of them. They were nearly perfect. And they got everything done that we needed to get done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back, Discovery. And congratulations on a great mission, expanding our knowledge and experience with orbiter repair, and bringing the space station back to a full crew compliment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Tonight, we remember Army Private Travis C. Zimmerman of the 101st Airborne Division, just 19, killed, Iraq.

Zimmerman, from New Berlinville, Pennsylvania, joined the Army just weeks after high school graduation. He especially loved John Steinbeck`s classic "Of Mice and Men" leaving behind a loving family, remembered as a great student and friend -- Travis Zimmerman, American hero.

Thank you to all our guests.

Our biggest thank you to you for being with us, inviting us into your homes.

Nancy Grace signing off for tonight. See you here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern.

And, until then, good night, friend.

END

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