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Interview with Mark Regev; Spy Scandal with Germany; Interview with Mike Rogers

Aired July 11, 2014 - 17:00   ET


HAMDAN: This is a decision is supposed to be made by the Palestinian and independent sovereign state. There will be an elected government and this government will make the decision and all the Palestinians including Hamas have to respect the decision of this government.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Osama Hamdan, a spokesman for Hamas, joining us from Beirut, thanks very much for joining us.

And coming up live, we're here in Jerusalem. We'll get Israel's response. I'll speaking with Mark Regev, he's the spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How close is Israel to sending ground troops into Gaza? I'll ask him.

And we'll also go inside the Iron Dome. That's Israel's hi-tech missile defense system, shooting Hamas rockets right out of the sky. I saw that up close earlier today.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Jerusalem.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem. You're looking at live pictures of Jerusalem. You see a live picture there of the Israeli Supreme Court.

We just heard a spokesman for Hamas blame Israel for this bloody conflict.

Joining us now, Mark Regev, he's the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He says you started it. You started this most recent campaign, you have to stop. Then Hamas will take its decision.

MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: If we took what he says seriously, we'd think that Hamas was a movement of boy scouts just interested in good deeds.

Unfortunately that's not the case and that's not just Israel says so. Hamas is legally, officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States, by Canada, by Japan, By Australian, by the European Union and many others.

This is a brutal terrorist organization. This flowery language and his kind words can't obscure that fact.

BLITZER: Is there a cease-fire negotiation going on at all right now?

REGEV: I can say the following, Wolf. Our goal is to bring peace and quiet to Israel's citizens that they don't have to live in fear of these rockets coming in from Gaza. Too many rockets, hundreds of rockets over the last few weeks. It has to stop. It can stop one way or another but it has to stop.

BLITZER: Is the Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, the United States involved in trying to stop the fighting?

REGEV: Many people want to help. We can't agree to a cease-fire that Hamas wants. Hamas wants a band-aid. Hamas wants, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said earlier today, they'd like to have a few minutes to rest, to bandage their wounds and then start firing again. That's not on the cards.

We want to come out of this conflict knowing that for a sustained period of time the people of Israel can live without the fear of these rockets coming in from Gaza.

BLITZER: So what I understand is there really aren't any serious negotiations underway for a cease-fire?

REGEV: We see. Hamas continues to shoot rockets even tonight. More and more rockets.

BLITZER: They say they're going to continue doing so as long as Israel pounds targets in Gaza.

REGEV: That's putting the cart before the horse because it's Hamas that over the last few weeks has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. And we didn't really respond. We responded in a way to give diplomacy a chance. We deliberately gave them time to de-escalate and Hamas chose to keep shooting rockets. And that's why Ben Wedeman reported, not Israel, the Palestinians themselves where angry at Hamas saying why have you escalated the crisis so we have this conflict. And the Palestinian people of Gaza are right. That it was Hamas' fault.

BLITZER: There have been very few casualties, injured in all these rocket attacks coming in from Gaza. No fatalities in Israel. A hundred Palestinians are dead. Many of them civilians, young kids, elderly, 700 or 800 of them severely injured.

There seems to be a disproportionality going on.

REGEV: I'm not going to apologize that there aren't Israeli deaths. And it's not because Hamas hasn't been trying. Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into our cities, into our townships. They're trying to kill, they're trying to murder as many Israeli civilians as they can. Why haven't they succeeded?

Two reasons. First of all, Israel has invested billions in sirens, air raid shelters, fortified buildings, all the things because we care about our public, we care about their lives, to fortify and to safeguard our population.

And secondly, the Iron Dome, which is a technological feat and it's a U.S.-Israeli joint venture, it's a very effective combat tested anti- missile system. And here I'd like to take the opportunity to thank the American people, the American administration, the Congress. This Iron Dome system works. It's an American-Israeli joint venture. And we thank the Americans for their participation.

BLITZER: Are commercial aircraft flying in or out of Ben Gurion Airport, the international airport, outside of Tel Aviv, in danger?

REGEV: No, we take precautions when there's a sound. I've got family myself who's coming in and out just in the last few days on the airport. I don't think there's any serious danger.

BLITZER: Because you heard what they said. They're telling international flights don't go to Israel because of all the missiles that are going on. Those flights could be in trouble.

REGEV: You know, Hamas says a lot of things. They put out also a statement that 100 Israelis dead here, 30 Israelis dead here. There's a lot of bravado there. The international flights in and out of Ben Gurion airport are safe.

BLITZER: You heard him also when I pressed him if Hamas, we know the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas accepts a two-state solution. Israel alongside Palestine. He was being a little bit diplomatic there. He didn't say yes, but at the same time, he said if this is the will of the Palestinian people at some point down the road, they would accept that will. You heard him say that.

REGEV: Look, I watched the whole interview and I have to say I smiled a bit. I've never seen someone be so disingenuous. He said we're not targeting civilians. No one believes that. Even the Hamas people don't believe that. Everyone knows Hamas is targeting civilians. Everyone knows that Hamas has a history of targeting innocent civilians. You only have to read the Hamas charter which has been translated into many languages.

That's what Hamas is all about. That's why so many countries around the world have declared them a terrorist organization.

BLITZER: If Israel sends ground troops, tanks, armored personnel carriers, commandoes into Gaza, what would the mission be?

REGEV: The mission is clear. The mission is to safeguard the Israeli public. I said to you yesterday our mission is defensive. It's to protect our people. And I'd ask viewers if you were living in a country in the United States or around the world and terrorists on the other side of the frontier were shooting rockets into your country, what would you demand of your government? You'd demand that your government act to protect you. And that's what the Israeli people are entitled to and that's what the Israeli government will deliver.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, the spokesman for the prime minister of Israel, thanks very much for joining us. REGEV: My pleasure, sir.

BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you, as well.

Coming up, live from Jerusalem. We'll get another Palestinian perspective. Mustafa Barghouthi, he's a member of the Palestinian parliament. He'll join us live.

Plus the fallout from Germany's extraordinarily move, expelling the CIA station chief at the United States embassy in Berlin. We have new details of a pretty strained relationship between these two allies over this developing spy scandal.

Stay with us. We're live here in the SITUATION ROOM from Jerusalem.


BLITZER: We're coming to you live tonight from Jerusalem as the air war rages on without any letup in sight. We've heard both sides tonight say they're preparing for a long fight and that could mean an Israeli ground assault on Gaza.

But is there any chance for peace moves right now?

Joining us, three guests. The former CentCom commander, the former U.S. special Middle East enjoy, retired U.S. General Anthony Zinni, the aviation security expert Rafi Ron, he's a former director of security for Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, and by phone, Mustafa Barghouthi, he's a member of the Palestinian parliament.

Gentlemen, thanks to all of you for joining us.

General Zinni, we heard President Obama suggest in that phone conversation he had yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu the U.S. is ready, in his word, to facilitate some sort of peaceful arrangement. Does the U.S. have any real leverage right now?

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNIA (RET.,), FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: Well, I think we certainly have leverage with the Israelis. I think what you need on the other side is an organization like the Arab League or at least a collection of countries that you mentioned, something like Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, maybe Qatar. I think the assurances from Hamas not to initiate action beyond a certain point in any ceasefire agreement would have to be given to them and I think they would have to stand behind it in some way for the Israelis to accept it.

And then I think on the other side, I think we would have to serve that purpose, too. I don't see that we can facilitate anything between Hamas and Israel. I don't think that will work.

And I should have mentioned that obviously the Palestinian Authority should be involved in this directly, too.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Mr. Barghouthi, do you think that there can be any kind of brokered ceasefire as there was at the end of 2012 when the Egyptians got directly involved, the former government of then President Mohamed Morsi and got the deal done?

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: Well, first of all, I think the most important thing that should be done immediately to save people's lives is to have a ceasefire as soon as possible. And Egypt cannot probably play the same role it played before for its own reasons. But that doesn't mean it cannot be helpful. But the PA definitely, the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian groups in general can play an important role as a broker with Hamas.

And the most important decisive factor here is the ability of the United States to restrain Israel's intention to initiate a ground attack because if a ground attack starts, we will see thousands of victims, mostly civilians as is the case today out of 120 Palestinians killed. More than two-thirds are women and children and they're mostly civilians. So we want to deter such a development. The United States can be decisive in convincing Israel or pressuring Israel not to proceed with a ground operation which will be disastrous for everybody.

And through peace -- through political process should be initiated to guarantee that there will be a quick ceasefire and then try to find a way to deal with the roots of the problem because the issue here is not just this most recent fight. It's the fact that there is an occupation that has been there for 47 years. The longest and --


BARGOUTHI: That has transformed into a system of oppression -- oppressive apartheid.

BLITZER: If they -- if they could get that peace process going again, that would clearly be so, so important.

Rafi Ron, how vulnerable are commercial aircraft flying in and out of Ben Gurion Airport?

RAFI RON, AVIATION EXPERT: Well, I don't think they're vulnerable at all. They -- actually, the threats that were made today by Hamas I think are empty threats that are a part of the psychological war. But if you see the difficulties that Hamas has to actually get their missiles into targets the size of Tel Aviv and you see the effectiveness of the protection, the anti-rocket system, the Iron Dome protection, that is provided to the important targets in Israel, then you can assume that the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv is just as safe as any other airport in the western world.

BLITZER: General Zinni, how significant is that anti-missile defense system, that so-called Iron Dome that has emerged over these past few years?

ZINNI: Well, I think it's certainly state-of-the-art. It's a point defense system. Obviously the city's major military installations, the airport, are well protected as you can see. So it's been effective certainly. The odd rocket may get through or hit in spaces in between the coverage but I think you can see as a result the lack of casualties or major destruction on the Israeli side its effectiveness.

BLITZER: Mr. Barghouthi, the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas leadership in Gaza, are they on the same page right now? Because we heard President Abbas say today to Hamas stop the firing of these rockets into Israel.

BARGOUTHI: Not exactly on the same page but let's remember that one of the main goals of Mr. Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, the main goal of his attack, one of the main goals is to destroy what was achieved in terms of unity between Palestinians. And he declared that very clearly which is a counterproductive approach because at the end of the day, only a unified Palestinian structure can make full peace and can achieve real stability in this region.

Unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu is playing tactics here because it's on one side he kept saying I can't make peace with Mr. Abbas because he does not represent all Palestinians and Palestinians are divided. And when we got unified he started to attack the unity structure. In my opinion, of course, both sides are not on the same page. There are differences but we need a unified leadership.

We need the unified leadership that can be responsible in making peace and can be responsible in whatever decisions it makes about our forms of struggle. On the other hand, let me reiterate one point here about your previous questions to us.

There is a very important point to note which is there is inequality here. You're talking about a very mighty military army, the Israel army, probably the fifth largest in the world versus Hamas which has basically primitive means in terms of comparison. And that's why you see so many casualties on the Palestinian side and so little on the Israeli side.

But what you see here is that Hamas is conducting some sort of a psychological war while Israel is conducting a real military attack.

BLITZER: All right.

BARGOUTHI: And it's true that maybe Ben Gurion is a safe airport. But I am sure now the whole sector of (INAUDIBLE) has been totally affected in Israel.

BLITZER: Mr. Barghouthi, General Zinni, Rafi Ron, thanks very much.

Important information certainly we're getting. We'll continue to stay in touch with all three of you.

Coming up, we're live here in Jerusalem. It's a missile defense system protecting millions of Israelis right now. But how does that Iron Dome system really work? We'll take a closer look at this state- of-the-art lifesaver.

Plus new strains on the relationship between the United States and Germany. Remarkable developments in a growing spy scandal.

Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM live from Jerusalem. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem. We'll have much more on the fighting between Israel and Hamas in a few moments. But first, the strained relationship between the United States and one of its closes allies. We're talking about Germany which actually expelled the top U.S. intelligence officer at the U.S. embassy in Berlin over allegations of spying against Germany.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is joining us now. She has more on this growing controversy.

Michelle, what are you hearing?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Both sides now trying to talk it out in private.

You know, it only seems like yesterday that President Obama hosted the German chancellor right here in the Rose Garden. I mean, he talked about the importance of this relationship even in a personal level, saying it pained him that the prior spying disclosure strained that. Well, now there's this. Just setting things back again.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): A public embarrassment. The CIA station chief in Berlin of all places capital of one of our closest, most important European allies, kicked out of the country when Germans uncovered what were allegedly some U.S. covert ops.

The Germans talking openly about the hurt, the betrayal of it all.

Today, the German foreign minister said expelling the CIA chief based at the U.S. embassy, was the right decision. A necessary step, a fitting reaction to the break of trust.

Taking action was unavoidable, he said. The U.S. has been far more quiet on the topic. No, the CIA isn't tweeting about it, but today the White House offered this.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Allies with sophisticated intelligence agencies like the United States and Germany understand with some degree of detail exactly what those intelligence relationships and activities entail.

KOSINSKI: The Germans say there is good contact still between top levels of both countries. The White House did confirm the conversations are going on right now in private. And that the U.S. respects Germany's choices on whom to allow in their country even adding some glowing praise for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an effective partner and effective leader who puts the best interests of her country first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States and the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. KOSINSKI: Just back in May, Obama and Merkel presented a united front

even on tackling this touchy, touchy spying issue. Remember a year ago, it came out that the NSA had spied on Merkel's phone conversations. Obama conciliatory.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I've also done is taken the unprecedented step of ordering our intelligence communities to take the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons into account in everything that they do.

KOSINSKI: Pledging, he said to Merkel, to also close the gaps in the ways German and U.S. intelligence operate and ensure clarity. Merkel not seeming fully convinced at the time saying there's still divisions that need work. Yesterday, calling apparent continued spying a waste of energy.


KOSINSKI: So now this alleged spying does not involve phone tapping but does include some German citizens, one reportedly worked for the Foreign Intelligence Services accused of slipping documents in the Edward Snowden investigation to the CIA. The other allegedly worked for the German Defense Ministry. So far, though, the White House says that Obama and Merkel have not talked about this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much. So Michelle is over at the White House.

Let's talk about this with Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us. You know, I've done some research. There may have been a case where a NATO ally expelled a CIA station chief. I don't remember a time when they publicly made that kind of announcement. How big of a deal is this?

REP. MIKE ROGERS, R-MI, INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, it's -- it's a huge deal. And for those of us who value the German-American relationship, I'm very, very, very concerned. But they sure seem to be spending a lot of time, Wolf, worrying about what the American intelligence services are doing and their parliament is not necessarily worrying about what the German intelligence services are doing.

And so again, I think this is -- these are important countries with important economies both the U.S. and Germany and the rest of the G-7 plus 1, if you will, economies, and it just doesn't seem like a very adult reaction to expel the CIA chief from Germany. And it's concerning and it's a political temper tantrum like I've never seen before that I think is not productive, it is jeopardizing both intelligence cooperation and relationships with beyond the intelligence relationship between America and Germany.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting, Mr. Chairman, as I think you are, that the U.S. had no choice but to engage in this kind of clandestine effort because the Germans themselves, their intelligence services were not really doing the necessary job?

ROGERS: Well, a couple of things. One, there -- I would never confirm or deny any intelligence operation by the United States government ever. And that's something we would never ever do. But I will tell you that I am very confident, as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, that the German intelligence services have at least peeked over the shoulder of American policymakers in their interests to collect intelligence for the benefits of Germany.

And we get it. This is an adult relationship. The problem here is that they have Iranian spies there. They have Russian spies there. They have the whole host and panoply of countries who are spying in Germany. I don't see them interested in throwing their chiefs out. And again, what's so concerning about this is there are times that the American intelligence services have provided information that have saved German lives because they had this convoluted rule system about what they can and can't do at the local level in Germany when it comes to intelligence that we know has disrupted terrorist plots in Germany.

It's frustrating to those of us who believe in a broader understanding and understanding that sometimes even our allies have relationships with our adversaries that are of concern. And some notion that they're going to jeopardize all of those relationships over this alleged incident that they may or may not have all their facts right is very, very concerning to me. It seems far more political. It seems far more temper tantrum like than it does an adult conversation about very important countries engaged in very important economic and military and I think stabilization efforts around the world.

BLITZER: The White House officials are suggesting the president of the United States was not actually informed of this kind of intelligence operation inside Germany. If in fact it's true. Shouldn't the president who is commander in chief know that the U.S. would be doing this if, in fact, it was?

ROGERS: Well, again, I am not going to confirm or deny any intelligence operation that the U.S. Intelligence Services do. Again, I'm going to tell you that it's really interesting to me -- I mean, I'd be glad to meet with the German parliamentarian that has the ability to understand current operations by their intelligence services that has the ability to oversee them, budget them and understand both future and proposed intelligence operations.

The problem is, Wolf, it doesn't exist. I'm going to encourage the Germans to understand fully what the German intelligence services are doing today. And that means to U.S. personnel, it means to personnel around the world, and by the way, I don't think that's a problem. I understand it. And so again, that's why I think this is so important. Do you want to have an adult relationship as we go forward on a very complicated world that's very dangerous and you're going to jeopardize the fact that U.S. intelligence services have provided information that have saved German lives, period, unequivocal, that's exactly what's happened.

And I worry that they're taking this as a political knee-jerk reaction and not knowing all the set of information that they need to understand, they being the parliament of Germany, even their executive branch, if you will, and being very candid with the German people. I think --


BLITZER: You don't think the chancellor -- you don't think the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is up to speed on what's going on?

ROGERS: Well, I can't say. I certainly see her reaction to throw out the CIA chief in Germany tells me that either she doesn't or she does and has made a serious mistake here. This is something that we would expect from the Russians. We would expect from the Iranians. We would expect from the North Koreans. We don't expect from our allies, the Germans where they know of this really important intelligence relationship.

And by the way, again, as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I feel very confident in telling you and your viewers, listen, the German Intelligence Services, they're engaged in espionage including against the U.S. persons. And so I'm a little surprised by this whole reaction. I think it's more political than substantive. And I would hope, I would hope that they would not jeopardize this very important relationship in the world between the U.S. and the German people on something that doesn't seem quite right to me. I mean if they have the facts and maybe they don't and if they don't, Wolf, I'm saying they'd better get the facts.

BLITZER: All right.

ROGERS: And they better get them pretty soon.

BLITZER: Very strong words from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.


BLITZER: Mike Rogers, thanks, Mr. Chairman, very much for joining us.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story.

And coming up live from here in Jerusalem more than 100 Hamas rockets shot from the sky by Israel's so-called Iron Dome Missile Defense System. We'll take a closer look at how it works.


BLITZER: We're live here in Jerusalem protected like much of the country by Israel's missile defense system known as at the Iron Dome. The Israel Defense Forces say it intercepted more than 100 Hamas rockets since the latest conflict began a few days ago.

CNN's Tom Foreman has a closer look at the Iron Dome.

Tom, what are you seeing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, just as Hamas has improved the range of its missiles substantially over the past few years since it first debuted three years ago, the Iron Dome for Israeli has been substantially improved. So much so that Israel is now claiming a 90 percent success rate in neutralizing the missile threat coming out of Gaza.

So how does it work? Three steps. First of all, detection. Any time any missiles rise up or rockets rise up out of Gaza and are headed up toward Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or anywhere else automatically high speed cameras, very technically advanced computers, start tracking those missiles and looking at those missiles. Figuring out how big they are, how fast they're moving, and most importantly which direction they're headed.

Simultaneously the second phase kicks in. The analysis and targeting. If they determine that some of these rockets are going off into the sea or either wind up somewhere in a rural area with nothing else around, they don't care about them. They just let them go. But if one is viewed to be an actual threat out there, then those computers release a barrage of Tamir missiles from Israel.

Those fly up. They are guided from the ground electronically, then their own on-board guidance takes over. They get right up next to it and boom, they blow everything apart there. This was originally developed by an Israeli company. It's been subsidized by the U.S. to the tune of about $235 million. Each of the Tamir missiles costs about $62,000. Why that money being spent? Because they want to expand the system bigger to get earlier detection, earlier interception and to deal with even bigger rockets that can be valuable for the U.S. and Israel in terms of dealing with bigger threats -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly could be.

All right. Tom Foreman, good explanation. Thanks as usual.

Coming up live here from Jerusalem Israeli airstrikes and the growing number of Palestinian civilians killed.

We're going live to Gaza where the death toll there is now over 100.

Plus a new front in the fighting opening up with a rocket attack on northern Israel from Lebanon. We're going live to Beirut. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Jerusalem.