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Israel Bombing of Beirut Resumes Tonight

Aired August 2, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Explosions tonight in southern Beirut. The Israeli airstrikes have resumed. Hezbollah pounds Israel with more than 200 rockets its heaviest barrage yet in three weeks of warfare, thousands of Israeli troops fighting Hezbollah along the border.

Dramatic pictures of last night's daring Israeli raid deep into Lebanon near Syria's border did Israel hit a hospital or a Hezbollah base? And the death toll in Lebanon tops 600. Hundreds of thousands displaced, still no end in sight.

What's next? We'll ask an American who's fought Hezbollah as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces and he could be called up again.

Plus, all the latest with reporters at the front lines, it's next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We'll also have some very lively debate during tonight's program concerning this whole situation, especially involving Israel, yea or nay.

But let's go first to Michael Ware in Beirut, our CNN International Correspondent. Israel has resumed bombing of Beirut just about an hour ago. What's the latest Michael?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, since the return of the Israeli Air Force campaign targeting Beirut which commenced, as you say, about just over an hour ago with what seemed to be four strikes in the south of the capital, the traditional heartland of Hezbollah, there's been a respite. We haven't heard anything after that.

So, we heard the Israeli Defense Force confirm that, yes, the campaign is back on. We should now expect from that from past experience a rolling series of airstrikes and bombings. But for now the airs are quiet. We had the jets over us just before, Larry, but for now things are quiet.

KING: Michael Ware, we'll be keeping in touch with you throughout the hour.

John Roberts is in northern Israel, our CNN Senior National Correspondent. Now what's the story there? What are the Israeli commanders saying about these Hezbollah attacks?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About what, Larry? I'm sorry I just missed the very end of that.

KING: About the resumed Hezbollah attacks and the increased amount of them?

ROBERTS: Well, you know, it's interesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said just the other day that they had destroyed 80 percent of Hezbollah's infrastructure. And yet today we see 231 Katyusha rockets come into northern Israel. That's a new record by a wide, wide margin, Larry.

Now, what the Israeli Defense Forces say is that they've had a lot of success in hitting the long-range launchers, those long-range missiles that can go into places like Afula and one long-range missile today went in and hit the West Bank.

They've had a lot of success against those but these smaller range rockets, these very, very portable Katyushas, very difficult to get because you can literally put them in your garage.

You can walk in there, grab four or five of them, point them toward Israel within the space of just a few minutes, light them off and then run away and you've got all those missiles headed toward Israel.

It's pretty obvious though, Larry, from what's happened in the past couple of days that there is still an enormous amount of ability on the part of Hezbollah to be able to coordinate its activities.

When Israel declared that 48-hour partial pause in the bombing, Hezbollah seemed to declare a concurrent pause in the Katyusha rocket attacks. And then this morning they lit everything off that they could find and fired it at Israel, so somebody is talking to somebody on the other side of the border.

KING: That's John Roberts, our CNN Senior National Correspondent in northern Israel.

Let's go to Wilmington, Delaware, Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a possible presidential candidate. Still no ceasefire, your Senate colleague Republican Chuck Hagel called for a ceasefire the other day and said it's time to stop the slaughter. What do you make of that?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I think we should have a ceasefire as soon as we can, Larry, but we can't let things go back to the status quo ante. The ceasefire has to include a stabilization force that is a force that will be along the Israeli border to keep Hezbollah from just renewing exactly what it's been doing.

And so, I think we can do that. I think the president should appoint a special envoy. He should appoint former Secretary Baker or former President Clinton to be the envoy to negotiate that arrangement. I think it's doable. But just having Israel stop with no implementation of any force to protect Israel from Hezbollah just reconstituting and doing it again I don't think is an answer for Israel and I don't think it's an answer we'd accept as a nation.

KING: Should the administration talk to Syria and Iran?

BIDEN: I think the administration should be prepared to talk to everybody. Talking is not a sign of weakness. As a matter of fact, I don't think talking to Iran would be much good here but I think talking to Syria would, in fact -- has a potential to produce the beginnings of a solution here.

And I do not mean bringing Syria forces back into Lebanon. Syria has been isolated as it deserves to be but Syria has turned to Iran. Iran is no long-term friend of Syria.

There may be the makings of a way in which they could cut off support for Hezbollah and return for -- then joining in a more responsible course of action. I don't know that to be the case but I wouldn't be afraid to talk to them.

KING: With Iraq, with Israel, with Iran, with this war would you call the administration's Mid East policy a failure?

BIDEN: I think it's an absolute failure and let me explain what I mean by that. God love the president. He's trying as hard as he can now to put the pieces back together but look at the position we're in.

There is no credible threat in the eyes of Tehran, little credible threat in the eyes of the folks in Damascus, in Syria that somehow we are going to be able to take them on because they know we're bleeding in Iraq.

And, on top of that, here we had a deal where the United Nations, led by France and the United States, said "Get Syria out of Lebanon" a year ago. That was part one.

The other two parts, as you know Larry, were the international community was supposed to disarm Hezbollah and help train the Lebanese Army and move the Lebanese Army into the area, the vacuum left by Syria when they pulled out. Everyone knew if someone didn't fill that vacuum Hezbollah would and we sat on our hands for a year. So, I do think the policy has been a failure. It needs a dramatic change.

KING: Senator, Israel has been at war with its neighbors I guess 58 years now. Is this solvable?

BIDEN: It is solvable in my view, Larry, but what it takes it takes some real serious leadership. Look, there was an opportunity here at the beginning of this encounter with Hezbollah to unite the Arab world, who the vast majority of the Arab world is Sunni. The vast majority of the Arab world is scared to death of Hezbollah. They view them as an agent of Iran, who are Shia, and they believe are their enemy.

You had Europe worried about Hezbollah thinking it's a real danger. And, we wait so long to try to put together the pieces, we always end up behind the 8-ball. There was an opportunity. I believe there's still an opportunity. But I think it takes more than the secretary of state, God love her. She's in there and out. She's good but she has so many problems on her plate.

A very high level envoy should be appointed by the president of the United States to get the Sunni nations, led by Saudi Arabia and others, to put pressure on Syria to cease and desist and organize NATO to bring in a force that does not include Americans led by the French as a stabilizing agent and begin to build out from there. It is possible but I'm not sure this administration has the wherewithal to do that.

KING: Thanks, Senator, always good speaking with you. We'll be calling on you a lot more again, Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Lots more to go, our panel will join us and they are George Mitchell, Robin Wright and we'll check in again with John Roberts. Don't go away.


KING: Joining us now in Washington is Robin Wright, the Washington Post correspondent and Middle East analyst. Her upcoming book is "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East."

George Mitchell will be joining us in a little while, so we've asked Senator Joe Biden to remain and get in on the discussion and John Roberts is with us in northern Israel.

Robin, they said we're going to have a ceasefire. Secretary Rice talked about a comprehensive one this week, going to get it?

ROBIN WRIGHT, WASHINGTON POST: It doesn't look that way. The Bush administration's diplomacy seems to be stalling. There are severe differences between the United States and France, who are both necessary to co-sponsor a joint resolution at the United Nations.

France is the former colonial power or has a mandate over Lebanon. Their cooperation in the past led to the withdrawal of Syrian forces a year ago and there's a severe debate over the sequence of a ceasefire and the deployment of a multinational stabilization force. It still has to be sorted out.

KING: Who changed us or them?

WRIGHT: No one has changed. That's the problem. There is -- there is a debate about what happens first because the French troops are likely to lead a force that goes in there is deep concern, given the French and American experience in the early 1980s when they came up against the early form of Hezbollah about the danger if they don't have a mandate, if they don't have a ceasefire before they go in that they become part of the -- of the conflict rather than part of the solution.

KING: Senator Biden, who we've asked to remain with us for a while, if this goes on what's going to be the impact on Lebanon?

BIDEN: Well, I think it's going to shatter Lebanon. It already has a very weak government, as Robin knows more than anybody, more about than anybody. And, I think it's going to make it virtually impossible for already a fragile government to be able to lead anything remotely approaching a united country. The only thing that will be united is their -- is their opposition to Israel.

And I'd like to ask Robin, and I'm not being solicitous, she knows a great deal about this, Robin are the French insisting that somehow there's a Syrian sign off on this?

WRIGHT: Well there's a difference between the United States and Europe generally. The Europeans have reached out to both Iran and Syria because they believe that they have such influence over Hezbollah that they're necessary to convince Hezbollah eventually to disarm, to go along with some kind of ceasefire.

And, you know, this is one of the problems for the United States. They do not want to engage with either Damascus or Tehran. They believe they are part of the again part of the problem and they've armed, abetted, aided Hezbollah for a quarter century. And this would be a dramatic change in Bush administration policy and would be seen by both Damascus and Tehran as if they were winning diplomatically.

KING: John Roberts, what are they saying in northern Israel about the ceasefire?

ROBERTS: Larry, there's a lot of people here who would like to see an end to hostilities, not the least of which are the men and women who are going into battle. They say that they would like this war to be over as quickly as possible.

All they want is to be able to live in peace but they do not want to go back to the way that things were before July the 12th and the Israeli government is determined on that point as well.

On the terms of a ceasefire, the Israeli government and the Israeli military are saying they do not want a ceasefire first before a stabilization force comes in. They're afraid that if that happens Hezbollah will be able to walk away with its weapons, reconstitute itself perhaps in a different part of the country, and remain a very strong fighting force.

They are saying they want that international stabilization force in first before any ceasefire is declared and that's where, as Robin Wright said, there's a real sticking point between the United States, which really is representing Israel's interest at the United Nations and the other nations who are involved with the Security Council, particularly France.

KING: The panel will be returning. We thank Joe Biden. George Mitchell will replace him in a little while. Robin Wright remains, so does John Roberts.

When we come back a lively debate over all of this between James Zogby, president of the Arab American Initiative or Institute rather and Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, author of "The Case for Israel." We'll be right back.


JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: ...a new political formula in Lebanon that would have absorbed the Shia community into a different power equation. So, the result is, is that the anger and the sense of dispossession among the Shia community actually became reinforced and grew into the kind of army that Hezbollah is today.

What this force is doing right now, what Israel is doing, bombing as they are bombing in Lebanon, is only making that anger worse. Hezbollah is becoming stronger and is gaining credibility throughout the whole Middle East. It's a very dangerous situation.

KING: Alan, is it self defeating?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: No, I don't think so. Look, this is the beginning of a major series of wars between democracies and terrorist groups. The terrorists have figured out a way of winning these wars.

What they do is they fire rockets from behind their own civilians. They kill Israeli civilians and then require that for Israel to respond it has to inevitably kill some Lebanese civilians and Hezbollah applauds when Lebanese civilians are killed because that gives them the tactical victory they're seeking.

Democracies have to figure out a way of fighting this battle and it's a terrible tragedy when any civilian dies. But when a bank robber robs a bank and takes a hostage and shoots from behind the hostage and a policeman in an effort to kill the bank robber accidentally kills the hostage, it's the bank robber not the policeman who's guilty of murder. The same thing should be true in the international community. Hezbollah must be blamed for the civilian deaths that they cause by firing from behind civilians.

KING: James?

ZOGBY: Well, Alan's made that argument over again and frankly he's a good lawyer for guilty people on trial. But in this instance...

DERSHOWITZ: Innocent ones too.

ZOGBY: ...I think what we -- what we saw was enough to convince us day after day after day innocent people dying throughout Lebanon, not just in the south but in the central of the country and in Gaza as well.

The fact is, is that there have been hundreds of civilians killed and, you know, if you did it once maybe you could make Alan's argument, but when you do it repeatedly at some point there has to be accountability.

This has become a barbaric war against the entirety of Lebanon and the fact is, Larry, when they bombed the infrastructure and so the roads and the bridges are gone so people can't flee, you can't then turn it back and blame Hezbollah.

You have to understand Israel has created the fear and then trapped people in that fear and Hezbollah is operating in that region, yes, but Israel is committing atrocities against people in Lebanon. And, frankly, ask the Lebanese people how they feel about it. They'll tell you.

KING: Alan, does violence ever work?

DERSHOWITZ: Of course violence worked. If violence had been used against Nazi Germany in 1935 instead of Chamberlain not engaging in violence against the early Nazi Germany we could have prevented the Second World War.

In fact, when Israel has tried to trade land for peace, as they've done twice recently, once getting out of Gaza and once getting out of southern Lebanon, it was only interpreted by Hezbollah and by Hamas as signs of weakness. That's what strengthened Hezbollah, Israel leaving southern Lebanon. That's what gave Hamas the election, Israel leaving the Gaza.

The best way to defeat terrorism is to destroy it. Hezbollah will lose face if it loses this war, if Israel is allowed to continue with minimum, minimization of casualties, I agree with that.

And you say that the Lebanese can't flee. I saw myself on this network when leaflets were dropped warning the civilians to leave people were tearing them up and Hezbollah was preventing people from leaving. There was a two day lapse...

ZOGBY: Alan...

DERSHOWITZ: an opportunity for people to leave and the blame for all of these civilian deaths lies squarely at the feet of Hezbollah. That's their tactic. We must understand it. And when human rights organizations, and even my friend Jim Zogby blame Israel completely that only encourages Hezbollah to kill more civilians and to hide behind more civilians because they win a double victory. Every time they kill a civilian they win. Every time Israel kills a civilian Hezbollah wins.

ZOGBY: Alan...

KING: Jim.

ZOGBY: ...the Israel you claim you love deserves better, a better defense than this. And, frankly, what they deserve is to be restrained at this point because what they're doing is creating hatred that's going to last a long time. You will not defeat animosity and you will not defeat violence by this kind of war that is taking place right now.

And you know what Israel did wrong in Gaza was that they left unilaterally and they left Palestinians locked in a reservation of poverty and despair. Let's not forget that.

DERSHOWITZ: You and I agree with that. Jim, you and I agree with that.

ZOGBY: Let us not forget too that when they left Lebanon they left behind a 22-year history of a brutal occupation that created an awful lot of bitterness. And what the international community should have done, if we had wanted to help Lebanon, was after Israel left and after Syria withdrew we would have helped Lebanon reconstruct and strengthen its democracy and we didn't.

DERSHOWITZ: I agree. I agree with that.

ZOGBY: And so, I agree with Joe Biden. I agree with Joe Biden that there's a failure on the part of this administration not to have helped. We abandoned the peace process for six years. We abandoned Lebanon.

And, frankly, we are not doing a real good job in Iraq. We're making a mess almost wherever we go. Let us get this picture straight. We are not helping Israel by letting Israel create more enmity in this region today.

KING: Alan, do you support the United States' position generally in this?

DERSHOWITZ: I do. I think the United States' position is sound that there should be a ceasefire but it can only come when an international force with teeth can preserve the status quo. But first you have to establish a status quo that's preservable.

And, remember that when Israel left Gaza, when Israel left southern Lebanon, Jim and I agree, it would have been much better if it could be done bilaterally. Let's never forget that the Palestinians were offered a state in 1938, 1948, 1967, 2000, 2001. They rejected it every time.

I've often thought if Jim and I could sit down together we could resolve the Israel-Palestinian issue in about an hour. The problem is with Hezbollah and Hamas now it's not any longer an argument about dividing land. It's an argument about Israel's right to exist.

Hezbollah and Hamas will never be satisfied as long as there is an Israel, even an Israel the size of a postage stamp, and no country will ever commit politicide (ph). And so, if Hezbollah and Hamas are not defeated, we can never resolve the Middle East crisis.

Once they're defeated then the land can be divided, the two state solution, the end of the settlements, all the things that Jim and I could agree upon because Jim's a reasonable guy and he's a decent man. And I think we could reach agreement if you will agree to reject Hezbollah and Hamas, do you? ZOGBY: Alan, the issue here is -- actually it's becoming tiring to have to go through this. Frankly, I don't support what Hamas has done, nor do I support what Hezbollah has done. But what I do not support as well is Israel's overwhelming violence against the people of Lebanon and the people of Palestine, which only fuels this extremism.

The best way out of this is to stop digging the hole deeper. A ceasefire first and then we begin to address the political questions which we could address. Frankly, if Israel would stop this killing now and let the international community finally implement, not just 1559 but all the other U.N. resolutions that haven't even begun to be addressed in this era.

DERSHOWITZ: But, Jim, you -- Jim, you say that a ceasefire would resolve it. When Israel did the right thing and left southern Lebanon, when they did the right thing and left Gaza, it only emboldened Hamas and Hezbollah. If Israel were to agree to a ceasefire now with a strong Hezbollah sending in 250 rockets today...

ZOGBY: Oh, Alan.

DERSHOWITZ: will only strengthen Hezbollah. The only answer is...

ZOGBY: Alan, let us count the thousands of air sorties that Israel is flying every day as well.

DERSHOWITZ: ...a strong response to terrorism.

ZOGBY: Let's understand the 215 is a joke number frankly and I don't support what they've done at all.

DERSHOWITZ: It's not a joke to that man on the bicycle today. It's not a joke.

ZOGBY: But neither are -- neither are the thousands of air sorties and the 500-pound bombs that Israel is dropping on Lebanon. For God's sake, Alan, there's disproportion here and you count one side but you don't count the other. I condemn the killing of that one man...

DERSHOWITZ: I count both sides.

KING: Alan.

ZOGBY: ...but I also condemn...

KING: Alan, you get the last word.

ZOGBY: ...I also condemn the 57 killed in Qana.

KING: Hold it Jim. Alan, go ahead, 30 seconds.

DERSHOWITZ: Jim, what would you do if you were the prime minister of Israel and rockets were raining down on your civilians? Today a man riding on a bike is killed by anti-personnel missiles which send barbaric shrapnel out to kill as many civilians as possible. You have to respond! And you have to -- let me finish my point, Jim.

ZOGBY: And what would you do if you were the people of Lebanon seeing their country devastated as it is today?

DERSHOWITZ: And you have to...

ZOGBY: Alan.

DERSHOWITZ: have to stop those rockets and whatever it takes to stop those rockets.

KING: Gentlemen.

DERSHOWITZ: And whatever it takes to stop those rockets and it's a war crime to hide behind civilians.

ZOGBY: And it's a war crime to bomb innocent civilians in Lebanon, Alan.

KING: I got to break it, hold it. James Zogby and Alan Dershowitz, a lively debate, we're trying to concentrate on this a very important debate nightly.

Tomorrow night Dennis Prager takes on Arianna Huffington.

We'll be back. Don't go away.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Here are late developments. Israeli bombing of Beirut resumed tonight. Hezbollah has fired over 200 rockets into Israel. Thousands of Israeli troops are battling Hezbollah inside Lebanon. In the Lebanon picture, over 600 have been killed, more than 2,100 wounded. In Israel, 56 are dead including 19 civilians and 580 wounded.

Anderson Cooper, the host of "ANDERSON COOPER 360," is standing by in northern Israel. What are they saying there about this resumption?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well it was certainly a day of major developments, and what they're saying is that it is likely, at least Israeli soldiers I've been talking to, saying look, this thing could go on for weeks and weeks and weeks. What they are facing is stiff resistance there in south Lebanon. We watched some of the battle of Aita Al-Shaab happening today on a nearby hilltop.

One Israeli soldier there was killed. Four others were wounded. We watched as they mounted a rescue operation trying to get back those Israeli troops. But Larry, the fighting is very difficult indeed. I've talked to a lot of the soldiers who are returning straight from the combat zone. They are tired, they are weary, they're saying this enemy has courage and is fighting back hard. Ultimately, they say they will win, however. But the rockets keep on coming down, Larry, as you mentioned. More than 200, some 215 rockets hitting all across northern Israel today.

One man was killed riding his bicycle. It was a day of dramatic developments, as we're really seeing the first day and now we're entering into the second day of this major Israeli push to points further north in south Lebanon, trying to push up to that Litani River, trying to establish a buffer zone. But Larry, it is going to be some difficult days of fighting ahead.

KING: Anderson Cooper will host "360" at the top of the hour, a two-hour presentation from northern Israel. He's been there practically from the get-go.

Let's go to Beirut and Michael Ware. What's the mood, Michael, in Beirut? Is there gasoline rationing now?

WARE: Yes, Larry. We're seeing gasoline rationing, electricity rationing. We spoke to a pharmacist. He's -- they're rationing medicine, both at the dispensaries and at the hospital itself. So really, this is a city, a society very much with the feeling that it is under siege. And don't forget, we have an urban population here, very open, very cosmopolitan, in many ways very modern. You know, the former Paris of the Middle East. And it is currently under aerial bombardment. That's the way people are living at the moment, Larry.

KING: Michael, we haven't heard from the prime minister lately, have we? What's the story there?

WARE: Well, he's got to play these days very, very carefully. I mean, clearly this is a critical time. He would love nothing more than to be able to deliver an immediate cease-fire. As unlikely as that seems, it just does not appear to be in the cards at this stage, he's got to play for that win.

Now, if he doesn't get that, and that seems to be the case -- I mean, that will reflect more on other international players than him. But it has to be said that at this stage, every day longer that this conflict proceeds in some ways, certainly in terms of the public information war, Hezbollah becomes stronger. Larry?

KING: Would you therefore say, Michael, I don't want to put words in your -- that the mood is very pessimistic in Lebanon?

WARE: Oh, absolutely, Larry. This is a Lebanese population that's far too accustomed to war. I mean -- and it's the old foe. Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Hezbollah. They've gone toe-to-toe so many times over the last 20-odd years that this is just all too familiar. These people have come to expect the worst in these sorts of environments. I mean, right now we've just come out of a period of 48 hours of a partial voluntary suspension of aerial activity by the Israeli Air Force. Some were hoping that that was a turn for the better. Yet most quite frankly look at the ways the queues for fuel have gone, the queues for medicines have gone, people have been stocking up. Why? Because they just think that it's going to get worse and not better. Larry?

KING: Thanks, Michael, outstanding reporting -- Michael Ware, our CNN international correspondent in Beirut. Our panel resumes right after this. Don't go away.


KING: Robin Wright remains with us in Washington. Her upcoming book, by the way, is "Dreams and Shadows: The future of the Middle East." John Roberts remains with the panel, our CNN senior national correspondent in northern Israel.

And now joining us is George Mitchell in Northeast Harbor, Maine, the former Senate majority leader, international peace negotiator. George, President Bush has said the war offers a moment of opportunity for broader change. Richard Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations quoted in the "Washington Post" this week said, "Lord spare me. I don't laugh a lot, but that's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq?" How do you respond to that?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, of course, I'm not a spokesman for the administration, Larry. I think that the words of the administration's spokesman increasingly are divorced from reality and therefore lead to a loss of credibility. I think that's the problem.

All of the talk about the new Middle East, great opportunity, obviously it's a disastrous and tragic situation there now. And the best hope, I think, is to try to push hard on the proposals that are on the proposals that are on the table that your correspondents have discussed to try to bring it to a conclusion that both sides can accept. Last night there was hope expressed that it would be this weekend. I think it's not likely to be. But I think what you're seeing, Larry, is both sides, the Israeli Defense Force and Hezbollah, making their claim for the post-combat interpretation that will occur. Who won, who didn't win, who suffered militarily, who gained politically. All of that will be a huge part of discussion when the combat stops.

KING: Senator Biden was asked, Robin Wright, if the administration's policy is a failure. He said definitely yes. Do you concur?

WRIGHT: The Bush administration faces the biggest challenge of arguably any administration in that it has so many wars to deal with in the Middle East. This is a really brutal time. And this is a cataclysmic event. You can see one of two things happening, either it is the moment which because of the level of catastrophe on both sides, the human loss, that there is new momentum generated to try to solve not just what's happening along the Lebanese-Israeli border but something bigger or it goes in the other direction. Because at the moment Hezbollah feels that it actually is winning.

It may not be winning militarily but it's winning politically. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is probably better known and more popular in the region, not only among Shiites, but also among Sunnis, than he's ever been. And you know, you could see as the alternative to this moment of opportunity a real confrontation increasing, where there are real existential threats to Israel in a way that we haven't seen in the past.

KING: John Roberts in northern Israel. Is there a feeling, a lot of it through this program tonight, of hopelessness there?

ROBERTS: There's not a feeling of hopelessness here, Larry. There's a sense that if the Israeli military can do what it's tasked to do, what its goals are, then maybe things on the ground will change. But I talked with Major General Benny Gants today. He's famous in Israel because he was the last Israeli soldier to walk out of Lebanon in the year 2000 when they withdrew. And I interviewed him for a time today, and we were in an area down by the sea of Galilee, at which he pointed out that during the time of the crusades there was a major battle that was fought and leaving of course the battle for the Muslim side was Saladin, the famous Muslim warlord.

And he said it just goes to show the generations upon generations of war that have beset this region. He said we've been at war for 8,000 years. Why should anything really change? So there's a sense, Larry, that while this battle may eventually be over that the greater war of territory and ideology in this region is never going to end.

KING: But John, that doesn't lead to hopelessness?

ROBERTS: It leads to a sense, Larry, here that the people want to live their lives and, you know, they're on this earth even though Israel's got a tremendously long life-span compared to other areas of the world. It's about 75 years for men, 82 years for women. There's a sense that they want to live at least part of their life in peace. And people who have been alive since the 1940s will know that there's never really been an opportunity for them to have a lengthy time where there wasn't war going on in this region. And I think they're kind of used to it to a large degree here, Larry, but everybody wishes that one day everyone can live, if not in harmony, at least without trying to kill each other.

KING: One can only wonder. Our panel will return for our entire remaining segment. When we come back we'll talk with Adam Harmon, the former paratrooper with the Israeli Defense Forces. He has fought Hezbollah, has earned a red beret. He's a reservist with the Israeli special operations. He's an American citizen who's lived in Israel for ten years. He's in Washington. He'll join us next.


KING: Joining us now is Adam Harmon in Washington, former paratrooper with the Israeli Defense Forces. Explain, Adam, how it came that you fought with Israel, you're an American citizen. Give us the logistics here. ADAM HARMON, U.S. CITIZEN AND FORMER IDF PARATROOPER: I traveled to Israel while I was in high school and continued to return to the country on visits, and during that time I realized I wanted to make my life there. And since service in the military is mandatory in Israel, I joined just like everyone else.

KING: And you now live there?

HARMON: No, I now live in the D.C. Area. But even though I'm living and working in the U.S., I return to serve in the military.

KING: What kind of work do you do in America?

HARMON: I'm a marketing manager.

KING: And so you just go over and volunteer?

HARMON: Well, I keep in touch like, what I try to do is live my life here in the states as if I was in Israel. I stay in touch with the friends, the people who I served with, and when they're called up I go.

KING: And what kind of service are you, you're a paratrooper?

HARMON: Yes. I initially served with a paratrooper unit and then I was invited to serve with a special operations unit. And have served with them since then.

KING: And is that what they call a red beret?

HARMON: The red beret is associated with the paratroopers, but a lot of the special operation units also carry the red beret.

KING: Is it an award?

HARMON: It's actually just signifies an achievement of being accepted and belonging to one of the special units.

KING: All right. Tell me about Hezbollah. You fought them. Are you surprised at how tough they are?

HARMON: Not at all. They are a well-disciplined, highly trained and also military force. You know, they function as guerrillas on the one hand, meaning that they work in small groups, they target civilians, but at the same time they receive the same level of training as most militaries in the world. They also have the same type of weaponry. And that as a result makes them very difficult to defeat.

KING: What do you make of what happened in Baalbeck?

HARMON: Well, I think that the mission achieved its objective, which was first and foremost, to demonstrate that Israel has the capability to enter Hezbollah's heartland. And at that time they were able to enter a hospital that they believe was also being used as a center for logistics for the Hezbollah. They were able to capture several of the foot soldiers of Hezbollah as well as to receive intelligence documents, which I'm sure are being pored over as we speak.

KING: Adam, what's it like when you're with the Israeli military and you inflict damage on civilians?

HARMON: Well, I was fortunate in my service to actually perform much like you're seeing the soldiers in South Lebanon today, that we go house to house and we do that in order to mitigate the loss of civilian life. Instead of using the overwhelming power that we have at our disposal, Israeli soldiers are going in small groups into each house to ensure that they are only targeting threats, that they are only targeting Hezbollah fighters. In that way we're mitigating the loss of civilian life.

KING: Do you expect to be called back?

HARMON: I think it's possible. It depends what is going to happen in the next few days. Israel already has called up about 15,000 reservists, which is, relatively speaking, a small number. They have yet to really enter and engage fully in Southern Lebanon and if they do, over the next few days, if the Israeli military is able to advance and continue its operation over time, then it's possible that I'll be called up.

KING: Now Adam, you don't have to go. You're back in America. You're an American citizen. You could just decline, right?

HARMON: That's true. I'm not under any legal obligation to serve. But at the same time I feel that I have a moral obligation to share the burden of the rest of, just like the other members of my team.

KING: How much longer do you think this is going to go on?

HARMON: The Israeli military believes or it has indicated that it could take up to a month in order to achieve their objective. If they're allowed to continue, I believe that they will succeed and defeat Hezbollah militarily and disarm them. And it's just a question of whether they're able to do it.

KING: Are you optimistic?

HARMON: I'm optimistic that we'll succeed. And I'm just hopeful that we'll be able to stay the course.

KING: Thanks, Adam.

HARMON: Thank you.

KING: And good luck. Adam Harmon, the former paratrooper, who's fought Hezbollah, earned a red beret, reservist with the special Israeli operations, an American citizen. Lived in Israel on and off for ten years and would go back if called.

Back with our panel after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with our panel. For George Mitchell we have an e-mail from Eric in San Jose, California. Israel has said that it will not stop until certain goals have been achieved. It seems unclear as to what the Israelis objectives are? Do you know what they are, George?

MITCHELL: Yes, I do. They want to disarm Hezbollah and to defeat them, hopefully to completely disband them, and to prevent them from regrouping close enough to the northern border to once again rain rockets on Israel. I think those are their objectives. Larry, could I make one additional comment on the discussion of hopelessness that you had earlier this evening?

KING: Yes.

MITCHELL: We can't afford to succumb to hopelessness. Nobody, certainly not those who consider themselves to be leaders in our administration and others. For a lot of reasons, not least of which are two. There are a lot more people, and the technology of killing has advanced more rapidly to kill a lot more people. It took 1,800 years after the birth of Christ to have the population of the earth reach one billion. The last billion was added in 20 years.

When you combine that with the tremendous increases in technology, rockets, nuclear weapons, these horrific weapons which on explosion stray shrapnel around, killing and maiming dozens, hundreds of people, the potential for human loss, human disaster, is so much greater than it ever was that there has to be a redoubling of effort as opposed to a sense of hopelessness.

KING: Robin Wright, your upcoming book is "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East." Does it have a future?

WRIGHT: I think it does. I think we're seeing some very important turning points in the region. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy for so many, but there has been a mood in the last couple of years, it's begun to see people trying to strike out on their own, challenge autocratic regimes, take very bold actions that we haven't seen in the past. And so I think that once we get through this very difficult period we're likely to see some beginnings of flowering, not necessarily because of the United States. In some cases, tragically, despite some of the things the United States has done. But there is a desire for real fundamental change in the region for the first time.

KING: President Bush has just arrived back at the White House after a trip to Ohio today and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told reporters on board Air Force one that the president talked for about ten minutes with British leader Tony Blair to discuss the status of negotiations in the Middle East. Snow said they think it's getting close but there is still sequencing. What does that mean, Robin?

WRIGHT: Well, that's the fundamental issue, is what point do you have a cease-fire, at what point do you deploy the multinational force? And there's a huge difference. And there's no bridging so far. The United States and Britain have always been on the same page. The real question is where is the European Community? And since many of them will provide the troops, since the United States doesn't have enough to deploy again in Lebanon, they will have enormous say in the outcome of the resolutions that will be debated probably next week at the United Nations. Probably not one, maybe two. And potentially even more than that.

KING: John Roberts in northern Israel, is that thought about cessation by Sunday, is that out of the picture now?

ROBERTS: It seems to be sliding now, Larry. That was the feeling yesterday. And I think maybe there was a little bit of optimism that was buoyed by the pace at which Condoleezza Rice suggested that the diplomacy might move in addition to the 48-hour partial pause in the bombing campaign in northern Lebanon. But with the sides in the U.N. Security Council still being a long way apart on this issue of sequencing, which comes first, the cease-fire or the international force, it looks like negotiations are going to be pushed back and Israel will take every moment of opportunity it can to keep going after those Hezbollah strongholds and those missile-launching batteries, trying to degrade its infrastructure, perhaps even more commando raids to try to capture high-value Hezbollah targets. And the longer that it delays, the more troops it will throw into Southern Lebanon and the longer this will go on.

KING: Thanks, John. John Roberts. George Mitchell, you've been involved in so many conflicts. You've served Israeli, Palestinian on a fact-finding committee. Any desire to go back? Would you like to go as an envoy?

MITCHELL: I certainly wouldn't like to, Larry. I chaired a five-member commission, and when we turned our report over to President Bush at the instigation of the commission, I told him that we would be prepared to resume our efforts if asked. And of course we've not been asked. I want to make one other comment Larry, about the discussion of this sequencing. Just a week ago Prime Minister Blair was in the United States, and the impression existed among the press certainly that he fully supported the administration's position on this sequencing. But a few days ago the European Union foreign ministers allegedly unanimously took a different position. I think what may be happening now is the prime minister trying to work his way between the two to bring them together.

KING: And you think that will happen? George, do you think that will happen? Oh, I'm sorry. Robin wright, we only have 20 seconds. Do you think it'll happen?

WRIGHT: I think the international community has to do something fairly soon. The political and physical costs of this conflict have gotten to the point that there's a growing urgency with every day. Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to go to the Crawford ranch with the president this weekend, and I suspect there will be a lot of discussion about what comes next.

KING: Thank you, Robin. Thank you, John. Thank you, George. Thanks to all of our guests. More tomorrow night, including Queen Nor will return. She will be with us in studio. And we'll have that big debate about Israel and lots more from our correspondents as well. Speaking of our correspondents, let's go to northern Israel. Anderson Cooper is standing by to host "ANDERSON COOPER 360" right from the war zone. Anderson, go.


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