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THE SITUATION ROOM

Israel, Hamas Reach Cease-Fire Agreement; Interview With Israeli President Shimon Peres

Aired November 21, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it's not clear how much control he has -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Fascinating, fascinating information.

Brian, thanks for that report.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Cars and people crowd the streets of Gaza to celebrate the new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, but how long will it hold? I will ask a Hamas spokesman what he expects in the hours and days ahead.

And a reminder that many Israelis are still in danger. A public bus in Tel Aviv bombed just hours before the truce was announced. I will ask the Israeli prime -- the Israeli president, I should say, Shimon Peres, if a cease-fire might give Hamas more influence in the region. Stand by for our interview at this historic moment in the Middle East.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're keeping a close watch on the situation in Gaza right now as well as the situation in Southern Israel four hours into the cease- fire between Israel and Hamas. Here's a look at the situation in Gaza first.

People have been celebrating the truce agreement, a break in Israel's deadly eight-day air offensive against Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's trying to give the cease-fire a chance, though Israel says militants in Gaza have fired at least five rockets since it went into effect.

Netanyahu warns a ground war of Gaza is still an option if -- if the truce fails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I know there are those who expect an even more intense military response, and that may perhaps be needed. But at this time, the right thing for the state of Israel is to exhaust this opportunity to obtain a long-term cease-fire or an ongoing cease-fire. As the prime minister, I have the supreme responsibility to take the right steps to safeguard our security. That is what I have always done and that is what I will continue to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The cease-fire was announced by Egypt's foreign minister and the visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo. Both Egypt and the U.S. played critical roles in these negotiations.

The agreement was reached despite the bombing of a public bus in Tel Aviv earlier in the day; 24 people were injured. No one was killed. Western leaders strongly condemned it as a terrorist attack.

I have been talking to top Israeli officials about the cease- fire. Now let's get the Hamas point of view.

We're joined on the phone by the Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan. He's in Beirut.

Mr. Hamdan, thanks once for joining us. You joined us yesterday before there was an agreement.

Is Hamas now prepared to stop all shelling of rockets, missiles, firepower into Israel?

OSAMA HAMDAN, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: Well, thank you very much for this question.

In fact, we have agreed on (INAUDIBLE) and they have negotiated for the last three days through the Egyptians. And it was clear that Hamas has said clearly (INAUDIBLE) restricted from the (INAUDIBLE) and with guarantees, we will accept that and we will respect that.

Today, there was press conference for Mr. Khaled Meshaal, the head of the politburo, one hour after the cease-fire, and he said Hamas will be committed to this agreement and Hamas will fulfill its commitments directly. And I think this will be seen clearly in the coming few hours and days.

BLITZER: So there's no more shelling, no more rockets going into Israel. What other commitments were you asked to make by the Egyptians, who acted as the mediator?

HAMDAN: Well, in fact, if the Israelis continue fulfilling their commitments, respecting what they have agreed on, not attacking Gaza, lifting the siege (INAUDIBLE) making the life of the Palestinians more easy in Gaza, Hamas also will respect the and there will be no more rockets.

I think the Egyptians have guaranteed that after they received guarantees both sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I hope that they can -- they can succeed in maintaining that and observing both sides in doing that.

BLITZER: Have you made a commitment -- it's a little unclear to me -- to stop some of these weapons, the rockets that have been smuggled into Gaza through those tunnels, especially missiles coming in from Iran?

HAMDAN: Well, I think the commitments are clear, the commitments of -- both sides are not going to attack the other side through the borders. And that's clear.

If you want to talk about other commitments, I think this is something to be negotiated another time. This time, we have negotiated the cease-fire. And those were the commitments, no attacks, both sides, opening the crossing border, lifting the siege. That's it.

So if anyone is asking about any other commitments, we didn't negotiate that. No one has negotiated this. If that was on the table, to clear, there is a statement in the agreement if there is anything to be discussed, it's supposed to be put on the table and discussed later on. So we did not discuss the points which you have mentioned.

BLITZER: We heard from a spokeswoman for the Israeli military say that there were five what she described as relatively minor incidents, rockets coming in, since the agreement went into effect.

But I want to make it clear, does Hamas completely control all of Gaza, or are there other splinter groups that might be launching some of those rockets that Hamas perhaps doesn't necessarily control?

HAMDAN: Well, in fact, the movements who participated in the negotiations or (INAUDIBLE) negotiate and they said we will accept an agreement, they will be committed for that.

And it's clear on the ground that the major parties, the major resistance movements, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and some other groups, have all agreed on that, and they have declared that either through the negotiations or after that by saying they are supporting that and they will back up this.

This time, I think it's clear. I hope that no one was caught (INAUDIBLE) trying to put obstacles or sticks in the wheels. Let's see what will happen, and I think the commitments in the agreements are clear, and our speech after that is also clear.

BLITZER: There was a terrorist bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv today; 24 Israelis were injured. No one was killed.

I know that Hamas issued a statement earlier praising this, although denying any responsibility. What, if any, role did Hamas perhaps have to play in this incident in Tel Aviv?

HAMDAN: Well, as you have mentioned, someone else proclaimed the responsibility of this operation. We are in the situation that the Israelis are bombing us and the Palestinians are resisting that. Now we are in a different situation. And according to this new situation, we have to see if anything has been part of the agreement or not. And I think that asking such questions will not be useful, because the agreement was clear. And we are saying more also clear we will not break down or violate this agreement.

If someone else who was not part of that violated that, I think that will bring the blame on him, not on any other parties.

BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Hamdan, before I let you go. If the cease-fire holds over the next several weeks, do you hope it will lead perhaps to real peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, leading towards what is called a two-state solution, Israel alongside Palestine?

HAMDAN: Well, I hope that cease-fire can maintain itself and we can maintain it for the needed time in order to make real change in the situation.

In fact, the Palestinian people are looking forward to have their rights and to achieve their goals of creating their independent sovereign state. And they are trying to and they are hoping to do that and the minimum rights which is supposed to be big.

And I assure you, if they can do that by the help of the international community more easier, they will do it. But at the same time, they are ready to resist, to fight, to strike (INAUDIBLE) to assist that if there was no peaceful possibility to do this.

BLITZER: Osama Hamdan is a spokesman for Hamas.

Mr. Hamdan, once again, thank you for joining us.

Let's hope this agreement, the cease-fire works and eventually this peace process can get back off the ground. Appreciate it very much.

The White House is making it clear that President Obama strongly encouraged the Israeli prime minister to agree to the cease-fire. In fact, they have just released these photos of the president on the phone with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, as well as a picture of him talking to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about sending her to the Middle East.

Let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's over at the White House watching this story for us.

Jill, you have learned more about the president's direct role behind the scenes. What are you picking up?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, the White House of course is praising Secretary Clinton, saying she did exceptional work on or all of this. But they are also making it clear that the president, as one senior official told me, was involved in this shuttle diplomacy, not actually physically, of course, the way Secretary Clinton was, but certainly with those phone calls, as you pointed out. In fact, this official said that it was really the last two phone calls that the president made, he would argue, that clinched the deal, that made the difference.

And those were the phone calls to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also to the Egyptian president, Morsi. They also point out -- they gave some background details that during this trip, even though we were initially told that the president was being briefed by Secretary Clinton and his national security adviser, we're told now that he was on the phone a lot, of course, almost every day, as one official put it, to Benjamin Netanyahu, a lot of conversations, three in fact in the last 24 hours, with President Morsi.

And that Morsi relationship is of course very important. It's a burgeoning relationship and they say based a lot on trust.

BLITZER: Certainly is.

Beyond the cease-fire, which is critically important -- people are going to stop dying if this cease-fire holds -- what about each side? What else did they gain?

DOUGHERTY: I think starting with Israel, you would have to say they got the agreement to help stop getting -- allowing those weapons into Gaza, especially the weapons that come from Iran, and then also the extra money pushing for extra funding for Iron Dome, which has saved a lot of lives, and other systems.

Then if you looked at let's say the Egyptians, I think this role that White House is stressing a lot, the relationship with Morsi, his personal role, Morsi's personal role, is going to be very important in the future. There was a lot of criticism of Egypt on Capitol Hill. That could help to salvage money certainly. And then also for Hamas, you would have to say not targeting individuals, that would be very important for Hamas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed. Jill Dougherty at the White House for us, thanks very much.

For the first time in several years, there's been a major terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. We're going live with the latest on the bus explosion right in the heart of the Israeli commercial center.

Plus, my interview with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and his take on the idea of making the former U.S. President Bill Clinton the next special envoy for the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: I have the highest regard for President Clinton. I think he's an outstanding person. He's the most sunny president I can think of. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Just hours before the announcement of a truce between Israel and Hamas, militants took their fight with Israel right into the heart of the country. A bomb exploded on a public bus in Tel Aviv; 24 people were injured.

Our senior international correspondent Sara Sidner is in Tel Aviv.

Sara, what's the latest on the investigation?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that they are -- they might be close to an arrest or may have already arrested maybe potentially two people in this case.

We're still trying to get confirmation about that from the police, but that is what we're hearing. We also know that there are still five patients who are being treated at the hospital of those two dozen patients that were affected by this bomb.

It blew up around noon. We know that there were helicopters in the sky. There was a high alert in the city. They have dropped that alert down to a normal alert, so, really, right now, I think the city is very, very calm. You're not seeing a lot of people in the streets.

And there were fewer people in the streets after that blast for worry that there would be more of that kind of activity, but I think people are glad to hear about the cease-fire. However, we talked to couple of people, quite a few people actually in the streets over the past few hours about the cease-fire and what it meant to them.

And one person said, look, we would have preferred for Benjamin Netanyahu to go all the way, as he put it, and to finish this off for good, so really wanting a permanent solution. They don't want to deal with any more rockets coming into Israel and the consequences of having the airstrikes then over Gaza.

And we talked to someone else who said, look, we want it finished as well, but we don't want to see a ground war. We didn't want to see it get to that point, but they do want to see a permanent solution, Wolf. And that's the word that we have been hearing from the civilians here, the people who have to live with these rockets coming into Israel over the past few days, that they want a permanent solution, but for right now a cease-fire is good enough so that people can at least have a restful sleep at least for a while -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. Sara Sidner in Tel Aviv for us, thank you.

Reaction calm on the streets of Israel -- in Gaza, though, people are celebrating the cease-fire. Arwa Damon is standing by in Gaza. We're going there live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Approaching 1:30 a.m. here in Jerusalem and in Gaza, where people have been jamming the streets now for several hours. They're celebrating the new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, has been in Gaza for the past several days.

What's it like now, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after people were celebrating for the few hours after that cease-fire was announced, the streets are in fact quiet.

It seems as if people went home wanting to be able to get some rest after everything that they have been through since this all began last Wednesday. Now we can once again hear the drones buzzing overhead. But just to give you an idea what the streets were like before, they were so crowded.

There was a traffic jam. For the first time, we were hearing ambulance sirens not because they were responding to an attack that had taken place, but because they too had taken to the streets. Guns were firing in the air. Horns were blaring. We were down speaking to people, some of them saying that they were celebrating because they felt this was a victory for Hamas, for the Palestinians, others simply saying they piled their families into their vehicles just because they could go out for the first time, again, because people have been spending the better part of the last eight days hunkered down in their homes, unsure where an airstrike was going to take place and living in complete and utter fear.

But, of course, there are great concerns amongst many that this is just a short-term solution, because that long-term solution for peace does still remain elusive as well, you know only too well, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will see what happens. Don't want to get overly optimistic based on this one cease-fire agreement. Let's make sure it holds.

Arwa, thanks very much.

We are also hearing a lot of praise right now for Egypt's president and his role in brokering this cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas.

The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, here in Jerusalem tells me what he thinks of Mohammed Morsi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERES: He is not acting on behalf of Israel. His heart is somewhere else, but his behavior is responsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here in Jerusalem, indeed across the Middle East, all the key players in the new cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas know this. They know this is just the first step.

And that's not discouraging the people of Gaza, though, from celebrating. Israel agreed to halt its deadly eight-day air offensive against targets in Gaza. Israeli defense officials say militants aren't entirely holding their fire. They have launched five rockets, they say, toward Israel since the cease-fire began, but they say the incidents have been minor.

Not long before the cease-fire was announced, I had a chance to sit down with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres. We spoke about the possibility of a truce and how that might affect the region.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

PERES: Thank you.

BLITZER: How concerned are you that, if there is a cease-fire, that the status of Hamas will be dramatically elevated at the expense of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas?

PERES: Hamas will not permit it.

Hamas is taking a position which is unacceptable not by Israel, but by the quartet. Actually, what Israel is asking from Hamas are the three conditions are put forward by the quartet, which is the United States of America, Russia, Europe, and the United Nations.

They say stop shooting, recognize Israel, start talking. We are not alone in that. And if the world will agree that they can shoot and everything will be open and they won't be punished, it's a fantasy. I think even the Egyptians understand deep in their hearts that this will not fly.

And I'm presently surprised by the responsible position taken by the president of Egypt.

BLITZER: President Mohamed Morsi?

(CROSSTALK)

PERES: Yes.

BLITZER: And he's been doing a good job, you believe?

PERES: I think he's doing a responsible job from his point of view.

I don't want that somebody will think that he is acting on behalf of Israel. He is not acting on behalf of Israel. His heart is somewhere else. But his behavior is responsible, and because responsibility is needed for everybody, not only for us and for them.

You know, people say who in the world (ph). I don't think this is the problem. The problem is Hamas is losing the peace. Because what people say from the outside -- politicians, newspapers, -- they say take out your settlements -- take out your settlers, take out your settlements and lead your own life.

They did it in Gaza. Unilaterally. Nobody faults us. We took out -- we have had 18 settlements. We took them out. There were close to 9,000 settlers. We froze them out. They built their homes and houses and gardens, and we needed 70,000 policemen to do so. We left Gaza free, open, with Gaza and Israel.

Now when we want to continue with the Palestinian Authority, the president, the West Bank, people are coming saying, what are you doing? We should leave those (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We have to have in ourself, why all the shooting? What do they want? Independence? Because that is not there. Freedom? They can move where they want.

BLITZER: What is the role of the United States, the secretary of state, for example, Hillary Clinton, who's been here?

PERES: I think the United States is playing a role by talking with Morsi, the Egyptian president and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I think the United States took a moral position on the side of Israel for which I am extremely thankful.

And no, it's not simple to go through these days, for mothers, for children, for citizens. I could say the president was clear. I think we should be also thankful for the anti-missile missiles. That's the way we were helped by the United States.

BLITZER: The Iron Dome.

PERES: Yes, the Iron Dome. And we are grateful to the president, to the American people, and we think, too, America is fighting multiple (ph) wars. It's fighting for a peace.

BLITZER: When you see what's happening in Gaza, you see the pictures of innocent civilians who have been killed and children, families. What goes through your mind?

PERES: It makes me sad. I think it's not needed. I think they are responsible people for it under Hamas. They should stop shooting in a moment. Nobody would be killed. It's in their hands, not in our hands. Any child is a child. It doesn't give me any pleasure, any satisfaction to see somebody suffering. Our enemies don't know their lives (ph); our enemies don't know they're people (ph); our enemies don't have their mothers, but they are doing it, and they can stop it unilaterally in one second.

BLITZER: Are you worried that a second front could open up in the north with Hezbollah coming in from Lebanon? They have a lot of rockets and missiles, too.

PERES: I say everything is possible, but I am satisfied with the report on those issues by the United Nations about Lebanon and Hezbollah to say they're a government within a government. And interestingly enough, they tried now to shoot through Kartushes (ph) from Lebanon to Israel, most of them the Lebanese army. Why? Because the United Nations took their position.

The world must decide is terror permitted and welcome? And whoever is terrorized should carry the cost? Or not? It's not a joke.

BLITZER: The Palestinian Authority, and President Mahmoud Abbas, wants the United Nations to give Palestine a new recognition within the coming days. Is that something that is acceptable to Israel?

PERES: No. For the following reasons. No. 1, the nature of the agreement between us, that you don't change the situation on the ground without agreeing by both sides. And this is out of it.

Second, it is a mistake, because today you have the Quartet that is a negotiating body. The minute they reaccept it, you don't have the Quartet, you don't have the road map. Everything will be hanging in the air.

They will accept it in ten agencies of the United Nations. One of them is the international court. And I assure you that this negotiation of the two sides to try to accuse each other who is the war criminal. They're going to spend their lives on that.

And then the president was just elected. He will enter the White House officially the second part of January.

BLITZER: President Obama.

PERES: President Obama. He has to form his government. In Israel, there are elections on the 22nd of January. You don't negotiate during an electoral campaign, obviously, in a Democratic country. So we say wait.

BLITZER: Have you said this to President Mahmoud Abbas?

PERES: Yes. I verified (ph) everything. And I really appreciate him, and I have respect for him. I don't give him advice.

So let him wait another two or three months for the American government. We should know who is the government in Israel. And then also we can even improve the meaning of opening negotiations without prior conditions, because they say no prior conditions and now prior conditions. All this can be settled.

And they say it will take another two or three months. If they don't do it, the Congress may stop the financial assistance to the Palestinians. Hamas will get money from Iran, from Turkey, from many other countries, and it will look like Hamas is winning the story. It's a mistake.

BLITZER: I know your time is limited, so I'll ask you the question I've been asking people. The other day John McCain, a senator, suggested that President Obama ask former President Bill Clinton to serve as a special envoy to try to revive Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations. George Mitchell did it until about a year and a half or so ago.

Hillary Clinton is leaving the State Department. Do you think that's a good idea?

PERES: I have the highest regard for President Clinton. I think he's an outstanding person. He is the most sunny president I can think of. But it's not for me to nominate American representatives.

BLITZER: Would he be welcome, though, as a mediator, as a negotiator?

PERES: I don't want to answer, because I think the president of the United States must be free to make his choice, and I think we should respect his choice. But I don't think it is proper for me to indicate that we have either favor this or that.

I assure you that our respect for the two presidents, for Obama, for whom I have the highest regard, and for Clinton, for whom I have the highest regard, as well. But who will be what, that -- in America, that is a decision for the American president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: There's more of my interview coming up with Shimon Peres. Up next, his take on President Obama and something the president of the United States did that Shimon Peres says Israel will never forget.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Obama administration clearly played a crucial role encouraging Israel to agree to a cease-fire with Hamas. That's been under way now, by the way, for the past several hours.

I spoke with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, about relations with the United States and his own longevity on the world stage. Here now, more of my interview with Shimon Peres.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You remember during the American presidential campaign, the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, accused President Obama of throwing Israel under the bus.

PERES: Well, let's look at the facts. Israel is not under the bus. The fact is that President Obama, and we shall not forget it, helped us to fire those missiles.

It was clearly a conflict or anything that we asked him in, he responded positively. And he's the president of the United States. We enjoyed the support of the two parties, and I don't want to say anything about candidate Romney any time, but we are not taking part in the American campaign. And we are lucky to have the support of the two parties.

And, you know, it's very hard to become the president of the United States, you know. And I met other presidents for the last 50 years, Republicans and Democrats. I must say, they are exceedingly friendly. Exceedingly.

BLITZER: What about you? You're getting close to 90 years old. It's hard to believe, you look so great. How do you feel?

PERES: I feel that I'm too young for the job. What can I tell you?

BLITZER: Because you still have some energy left.

PERES: I think that everybody can be like me, and I think I'm lucky to serve my people. I'm not here to woo the people. I think whoever wants to woo should not be a representative of the people.

But if I can serve my people in any way, I am glad to do so. And if I'm in good shape, I don't have reasons to protest against it. I mean, it's acceptable for me.

BLITZER: I read in the Israeli press there was even some idea that maybe you should challenge Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming election.

PERES: Don't you think that I'm too young for the job?

BLITZER: I think you look great. Is there any truth to...

PERES: I have a responsibility in the constitution. I am the president of the Israeli people. I have to fulfill my time, which is another year and a month, and I shall be done (ph).

BLITZER: Finally, is there one piece of advice for our viewers who are watching right now that you want to share how you've managed to stay so youthful, so energetic, so alert all of these years?

PERES: The first thing is self-control. Before you try to control anybody else, every person is the best doctor of himself. He knows how -- how much to eat and how much not to eat, how much to work. Use your own experience to control yourself.

Secondly, be engaged. If you ask me, don't go on vacations. I think vacations -- I don't know what people are doing during vacations. It's a waste of time. The best vacation is to work, o work, to be engaged, to be curious, to care, to love people.

And to be an optimist. People are saying I'm too optimistic. My answer is that optimists and pessimists pass away the same way. They live differently. And if the people say optimists are wrong, may I say the pessimists are wrong, as well.

And I believe that you really have to sell to be positive, to try and help. I believe generosity is wiser and stronger than cruelty or indifference or trying to hurt somebody else. The real secret of life is goodwill and not the march of process (ph) to be powerful and strong.

And also that is an honest (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Look, the highest degree of wisdom is the moral code. There is nothing wiser in life than to be an honest man. I'm trying to.

BLITZER: Mr. President, thank you very much.

PERES: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Hard to believe he's 89 years old, almost 90 years old. He's amazing, amazing, indeed.

Coming up, Jesse Jackson, Jr., he explains why he's now decided to resign from Congress. We have details of his very candid letter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN's coverage of the Israel-Hamas cease-fire continues right at the top of the hour on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."

Erin, you're going to be speaking with Israeli and Palestinian officials. Tell us what's in store.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, we're going to ask the question you've been asking as you talked about how there have been more rockets coming since the cease-fire. Only a few. Will it hold? That's the big question.

And some of the elements of the cease-fire, are these even reasonable? What is going to happen from here? We're going to be joined by the Israeli deputy foreign minister. Danny Ayalon will be our guest, as well as the PLO ambassador to the United States, who had supported Hamas earlier this week. Both of them going to come "OUTFRONT" to answer those questions tonight.

That's coming up top of the hour, wolf. Until then, back to you in Jerusalem.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Erin.

All right. This just coming in THE SITUATION ROOM. Brand-new comments by the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, about the attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Joe Johns has got the details. What's going on, Joe?

JOHNS: Wolf, just minutes ago at the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice broke her silence about the controversy other her response to the September 11 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Many Republicans, including Senator John McCain, say her comments after the attack were intentionally misleading.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.

Everyone, particularly the intelligence community, has worked in good faith to provide the best assessment based on the information available.

I have great respect for Senator McCain and his service to our country. I always have. And I always will. I do think that some of the statements he's made about me have been unfounded. But I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Rice also said the U.S. welcomes the Israeli-Hamas cease- fire, and whoever President Obama picks as the next secretary of state will pursue a two-state solution.

The son of the civil rights leader, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., has been out of the public eye for months, being treated for what he calls several serious health issues. Now he's out the Congress, as well. He's being investigated by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee.

In a resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Jackson says, quote, "Over the past several months, my health has deteriorated. My ability to serve my constituents and my district has continued to diminish. Against the recommendations of my doctors, I had hoped and tried to return to Washington and continue working on the issues that matter most to the people of the Second District. I know now that will not be possible."

India hanged the last surviving gunman from those 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people. It was the first use of capital punishment in India in eight years. The Pakistani Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was one of ten armed men who attacked Mumbai landmarks, including hotels, train stations and a Jewish center. Indian forces killed nine other suspects.

And now back to Wolf right there in Jerusalem -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe, thanks very much. If I don't see you before, have a very, very happy Thanksgiving.

This just coming into CNN right now. The NYPD has made an arrest in the shooting deaths of three Brooklyn shopkeepers. Ballistics indicated shell casings found in the three crime scenes were fired from the suspect's rifle. Police have been trying to determine whether the string of murders, the most recent of which occurred only a few days ago was the work of one serial killer.

The latest out of the Middle East just minutes away. Next, we'll tell you what's going on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Washington, members of the National Guard and their families receive food for a Thanksgiving meal.

In Bolivia, a family gives information for the national census.

In England, a horse and cart passed through a flooded street.

And in India, a camel trader keeps warm under a blanket at a livestock fair.

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

Today a bankruptcy judge gave preliminary approval to the Hostess brand's request to begin liquidating the 82-year-old company. Chances are another baker will buy the recipes and rights for its best-known products, including Twinkies. So this Thanksgiving won't be your last chance to do what Jeanne Moos and sample -- get this -- a Twinkie- stuffed turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do you get when you combine a Turkey with a bunch of Twinkies?

(on camera) You're not kidding?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not kidding. I'm serious.

MOOS: Your mother fed you Twinkies in a turkey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a turkey. It actually tastes good, if you tasted it.

MOOS: No. It's not what you think. Caterer's Butch Imali's (ph) mom didn't shove whole Twinkies up a turkey. That would be animal molestation. But because Butch and his brother didn't like turkey and did like Twinkies, their mom concocted what we're calling tur-Twinkie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It made us eat the turkey.

MOOS: Here's the recipe. De-cream your Twinkies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm! Creamy filling!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we're breaking down the Twinkies, we reserve the cream. That's sweet. It has the sugar in it. We rub the Turkey with that.

MOOS: Thus, creating a Twinkie filling glaze.

Next, crumble the golden sponge cake into regular stuffing. For a pan this size, they added about ten Twinkies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not fully Twinkie. If it was all Twinkie, it would be a little too sweet.

MOOS: Stuff and cook the bird. Voila.

The presentation took place at Kennedy's restaurant on New York's 57th Street. Time for the tur-Twinkie taste test.

(on camera) It's very good. But I don't taste any Twinkie.

(voice-over) And what about that skin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It caramelized so nice.

MOOS (on camera): Look at that. Mmm.

(voice-over) Again, delicious, but hard to detect a Twinkie. It's a lot more subtle than delicacies like...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deep-fried Twinkies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were putting hotdogs inside of them.

MOOS: Once you survive Twinkies deployed as hot dog buns, drizzled with Cheez Whiz, geez, what's a little tur-Twinkie?

(on camera) Now it's time for dessert.

(voice-over) Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: I want to leave you with the live picture of Gaza right now. Quiet on the streets of Gaza several hours now after the cease- fire took hold. So far, no major -- major interruptions. Let's hope this cease-fire continues for everyone in the region.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. To all our viewers back home in the United States, I want to wish all of you a very, very happy Thanksgiving.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

BURNETT: "OUTFRONT" next, cease-fire in the Middle East.