Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. to Maintain Afghanistan Troop Levels; Future of the Two-State Solution; Imagine a World. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 25, 2015 - 15:00:00   ET



[15:00:16] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight: the Afghan president thanks President Obama and the United States Congress for slowing their

troop withdrawal as a massive suicide bomb blows up near his palace in Kabul. I talk to the nation's chief executive.

Also ahead a revealing interview with the man who lost the Israeli election. How did he snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER: Netanyahu carried out personally along a campaign of fear, a campaign with racist undertones.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And later in the program:



AMANPOUR (voice-over): A voice that will never sing again: remembering all that has been silenced amid the debris of the Germanwings flight.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, is on a charm offensive to the United States opening up a new chapter after years of poisonous relations under

his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, taking to the floor of Congress, just hours after a massive suicide attack close to the presidential palace in Kabul

killed six people and injured dozens more.

It's this continued danger that's the main reason President Obama has agreed to keep the full U.S. force in Afghanistan until the end of the

year. And President Ghani offered a public thank you in return.


ASHRAF GHANI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan has been the front line of the global battle against extremists. America, as a result, has been

safe. But that safety has been ensured to the loss of American and Afghan lives in the fight against terror.

We have made great sacrifices, we Afghans. But then it's our patriotic to do so. You on the other hand have a choice and we came to a fork in the

road, chose to do the right thing. Thank you.



AMANPOUR: So I asked Afghanistan's chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who has joined the president on this breakthrough visit to the White House,

whether he could be sure now that his country wouldn't suffer the same fate as Iraq after the U.S. pulled its forces out of there.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Abdullah, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining me today.


AMANPOUR: So you got what you wanted. Your government, the president, has been asking for an extension of U.S. forces. President Obama has said they

will keep the full complement at least for another year.

Is that enough?

Or do you want it to keep up a good strength for even longer than that?

ABDULLAH: That is enough to keep us through a very challenging time, which is the upcoming few years. And they will be able to maintain their bases

in different parts of the country and that will help us in the program that they are following, which is train, advise and assist to our forces. And

of course we are grateful to President Obama in his administration, that they are taking that decision.

AMANPOUR: So let me just ask you in general. There's a massive explosion in Kabul.

Doesn't this just point out such a fragile security situation, that you still face a big threat from the Taliban and others?

ABDULLAH: There is no doubt that security is our main challenge. Terrorism-related, Taliban-related security incidents are there. And

that's why our partners here, in the United States, realizing the need for a transitional period, they made the decisions which we referred to


But nevertheless, security is a challenge in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about a change of tone in the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan. It's no secret that, under

President Ghani's predecessor, President Karzai, there was what some people have called a poisonous relationship.

Do you think President Ghani's presidency and yourself there as chief executive are heralding a more friendly face of Afghanistan to the United


ABDULLAH: It should've been like this throughout, as partners.

[15:05:03] The -- I think that we missed a lot of opportunities in the past 2.5 years because of what yourself described earlier, those poisonous

relations at the top -- at the level of top leadership. We didn't need that.

That was critical time for Afghanistan and Afghanistan could've taken advantage of surge military, civilian assistances in order to stabilize the


And it's good that President Ghani talked about the sacrifices of the American forces.

How come that we wouldn't do that? They sacrificed their lives. They paid the ultimate price. Appreciation of the contributions, taxpayers' money,

being grateful for that, that's not just symbolism of it. But deep down in relations, there is a true spirit of partnership at all levels.

AMANPOUR: Obviously the disputed election led to this rather unique president and chief executive. You are the chief executive of the nation.

The question is are you actually being able to do your job?

There's all sorts of reports that President Ghani is centralizing power and somewhat maybe marginalizing some of your initiatives and ministers.

Give me an idea of the truth of that and how is the partnership between you and the president?

ABDULLAH: It is working. We are in a -- we have inherited a very difficult legacy and a legacy that every aspect of it needs prioritization

and immediate focus. And unity government is an enduring phenomenon; it's not something that was imposed upon us.

It's something that we decided to go through that path. It's in the interest of the country. And we will make it work, by all means. That's

the expectation of the people of Afghanistan. That is what we are committed to do.

If you are talking about discussions, consultations, even without unity government, without this experience, there will be issues within

governments which even one single party forms.

Not only that, we will have to prove our competence and efficiency in government in dealing with corruption.

AMANPOUR: Well, you mention corruption and that is something that has really upset the Afghan people and upset your international partners as

well. This is what President Ghani said about it in his press conference with President Obama. It was rather a dramatic admission. Listen.


GHANI: Leadership is about commitment to reform. It's about the honesty of knowing that we are among the most corrupt countries on Earth and this

is a national shame and we will not tolerate it.


AMANPOUR: Wow, the most corrupt country on Earth.

ABDULLAH: Yes. Look at the transparency international list; there are only two, three other countries which are considered more corrupt.

So I earlier talked about the legacy that we have inherited and to deal with that. The political will is there. If the other challenges of

Afghanistan are being dealt with, when we are not able to deal with the issue of corruption, still Afghanistan will have a chance to turn, God

forbid, into a failed state.

So it's as important, it's as critical and that admission is an honest approach towards the challenge that we are faced with and to people of

Afghanistan. Most and foremost, people of Afghanistan are expecting us to deliver in this ring.

AMANPOUR: And particularly the women expect you to deliver. While you've been abroad, there's been this horrific, horrific case of this young woman,

who essentially has been burned to death on charges that may or may not be true of burning a Quran.

I mean, this is still happening, 2015, in Afghanistan.

Give women of Afghanistan some kind of hope about where their future lies under your government.

ABDULLAH: First of all, a lot has changed positively in the past 13, 14 years. But this sad incident was not taken lightly by anybody.

A serious investigation is underway and we will get to the bottom of it. It was a heinous crime. Let the investigation be finished and then we will

deal with those who have committed this heinous crime according to the law.

You see the reaction of the people. You see how people of Afghanistan have come to the streets. That's another side of it.

[15:10:01] And as far as women's situation in Afghanistan is concerned, the unity government is sincerely and seriously committed to upholding our

commitments to our people -- not just as a symbolic act in this regard but rather as a deep, core belief that we cannot survive as a nation if half

our population is deprived from their basic rights.

There are lots of changes, but the problems are still there and we have to address those challenges which are ahead of us.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Abdullah, chief executive of Afghanistan, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

ABDULLAH: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And on that note, the warning signs from ISIS-controlled Iraq continue. A couple stoned to death for adultery in Mosul and a long, hard

slog to wrest back Tikrit before even trying to retake Mosul.

Meantime, in the U.K., a starkly different religious view, the Church of England has named its second-ever female bishop, Reverend Alison White,

will be officially consecrated in July. And since her husband is already a bishop, another first, together they'll be affectionately known as Mr. and

Mrs. Bishop.

Now after a break, an altogether different religious force played a powerful role in last week's Israeli election. I'll speak to the man who

would have been prime minister. How did Isaac Herzog lose after being ahead in the polls? His first international interview -- next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

It is make or break time for negotiators from Europe, Russia, China and the U.S. with less than a week to reach a deal with Iran over its nuclear

program. Israel has denied a "Wall Street Journal" report that it spied on the American negotiators in an attempt to undermine them.

But where does Israel go next? On patching up the damaged relationship with the United States, on healing the deep divide within the country

itself and on that all-elusive peace process, now that Benjamin Netanyahu has been reelected?

I asked the man he beat, Isaac Herzog, Israel's opposition leader, who joined me from Tel Aviv for his first international television interview

since that bitter battle.


AMANPOUR: Isaac Herzog, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me.

HERZOG: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: You know, it's a week since you got the news that you actually will not be forming the next government and you lost the elections.

How do you feel today?

Is there still an opposition, a strong and viable opposition in Israel?

HERZOG: Absolutely. There is a very strong and viable opposition in Israel, which I lead, a very large camp.

In fact, I'll tell you, my feelings are mixed because I've led my party, the Zionist Camp, which is a combination of the Labour Party in Israel and

with Tzipi Livni's party, to remarkable achievement where we got 24 seats in parliament, something we haven't seen since Yitzhak Rabin's victory in


[15:15:18] However, of course, I'm extremely sad as to the outcome of not being able to form a government because Netanyahu managed to shift within

the right-wing camp in Israel most of the seats towards Likud rather than the other parties and therefore that's what gave him the lead to be able to

form the government.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you to drill down a little bit.

Why do you think you lost?

I just want to read a couple of statistics.

Heading into the election, 56 percent of Israelis told the Knesset Channel that they'll vote on socioeconomic issues. Half a million Israelis joined

demonstrations against the country's high prices and social inequalities; 60 percent of respondents tell "Jerusalem Post" Netanyahu shouldn't remain

prime minister.

This is all before the election.

What happened?

Why did you lose?

HERZOG: In the last 72 hours towards the Election Day, Netanyahu carried out personally alone a campaign of fear, a campaign with racist undertones,

a campaign which had a very strong element which touched upon the innermost phobias of Israelis by telling them, look, if Herzog takes over, Iran will

attack Israel.

If Herzog takes over, Hamas supports Herzog.

If Herzog takes over, the Arabs will swarm in, all sorts of nonsense. Now he's, of course, trying to apologize to whoever wants to hear him. But

this is what gave Netanyahu the lead within his own bloc, which opened a gap with my party.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, do you think you had any shortcomings? Many people say that Israel, Israelis like a strong leader, that perhaps you

didn't look like the strongest leader. They point to that, you know, sort of TV debate where you misspoke and Netanyahu, on a huge screen behind you,

laughed at you.

They talk about charisma.

Do you think that something about you, I don't know, just didn't convert at the last moment?

HERZOG: Well, look, in hindsight everything can be possible. But let's look at the facts.

Eight hundred thousand Israelis, almost 800,000 Israelis voted for us. So that's a remarkable achievement. Thereafter, if you look at it

objectively, speaking, all the rest is technicalities, the big screen; it wasn't a real debate. It was just a TV program. The big screen was placed

there without our knowledge. These are all things that don't necessarily influence the mood of the public.

Now I'm not running away from any falls or mistake. But I must tell you that there -- I lead a very strong camp, the camp gives me major support.

I don't think Israelis or is always there to look for another general. I think Israel was already in ripe for a civilian type leader like myself.

And I don't necessarily think that this is what really influences Israeli public because we didn't see a weakening of our camp.

We didn't see a weakening in the center. What we saw was a total crush of cannibalization on the Right by Netanyahu.

AMANPOUR: So let me drill down on some of these issues. This is what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about Israel's Arab citizens on the day of

the election and then his apology afterwards.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): The right regime is in danger, the Arab voters are coming in huge amounts to

the polls. The leftists are bringing them in huge amounts to polls using buses. Dear alls (ph), we don't have V15. We have an urgent wake-up call.

Bring your friends, bring your family, vote for Likud.



NETANYAHU (through translator): I know that the things I said a few days ago offended Israel's Arabs. I had no intention for this to happen. I

regret this. I consider myself as prime minister of each one of you.


AMANPOUR: So Mr. Herzog, which is the real Benjamin Netanyahu?

Is there a possibility that he can be prime minister for Israel's Arabs as well?

HERZOG: I've been telling the Israeli public in the last few months that they ought to replace Netanyahu. And you've seen in clearly in what you've

just shown. I'm challenging Netanyahu on that specifically. And I've said it to the Israeli public following the election.

I think this is dangerous. These are things I wouldn't do. I guess in the schools that learn how to campaign, it will be learnt and taught because it

may give ideas to people that what they need to do in order to win is scare tactics, which are baseless, but anyhow, I cannot tell you which is the

right Netanyahu right now.

[15:20:05] AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then about the idea of the international commitment to a two-state solution. This is what he said

about basically ditching the idea of a two-state solution on the eve of the election. Listen.


NETANYAHU (through translator): Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today is

simply giving a base for attacks to the radical Islam against Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if you are prime minister, a Palestinian state will not be formed?

NETANYAHU (through translator): Indeed.


AMANPOUR: So again, Mr. Herzog, where does the international community go?

Who does it negotiate with?

Is the two-state solution viable?

Is that what Mr. Netanyahu's going to go back to?

Will people believe him?

HERZOG: I tried to convince the Israeli public during the election that they -- that we need to reignite a process yet again with the Palestinians,

with all the problems and all the faults which lie between the parties, especially in their way. We have to go unilaterally to the international


And I must tell you, at the end, still it's the same Israel. It has the same challenges. It's the same Israeli public which will sign a deal with

the Palestinians if it knows that there is a viable partner which adheres and sticks to its commitment, especially on security issues, which are the

basis for any agreement, and which are vital for Israel.

I am, as an Israeli patriot, I'm extremely bothered by the atmosphere that is surrounding Israel since the election because the Israeli leadership is

basically surrounded by an international community which doesn't trust it. And I'm worried about it. I do whatever I can to convince all our allies

and friends around the world despite the fact that I'm the leader of the opposition, as to the need to understand Israel's needs for security and

peace. But as an Israeli citizen who challenged Benjamin Netanyahu, I don't have an answer for you at all to which direction Netanyahu wants to

go. And we will pose that question at the plenary, at the floor of the Knesset, to Netanyahu.

AMANPOUR: Are you concerned about Israel being able to get back its strong relationship with the United States?

Do you think that has been damaged or will it be OK now that the election's over?

HERZOG: The strategic relationship between Israel and the United States are of vital importance, vital importance to Israel and unfortunately I

worry that some of our enemies may be looking at us, smiling at this new rift between Israel and the United States. They may even misinterpret it

in the wrong direction. I do again what I can to enhance and foster the relationship with U.S. administration and with the United States. It's a

linchpin of Israel's policies since its creation. It's definitely something which is a basis for a lot of things in Israel and I will be

adamant in trying to resolve that crisis. I think that it's also at the doorstep of Benjamin Netanyahu to answer and say exactly what he intends to

do and how does he intend to resolve it because it is a very, very big item on our national agenda these days.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Isaac Herzog, leader of the Israeli opposition, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

HERZOG: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: Now Herzog also says he trusts Israel's U.S. allies to strike the right nuclear deal with Iran. See what he means online at

And one Israeli passenger was among the 150 crew and passengers who perished in the Germanwings crash yesterday.

When we come back, we'll hear more about those who were killed, two powerful voices lost but not forgotten.




[15:26:41] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world robbed of the sound of music. Among the schoolchildren, the business people, the holiday

makers all aboard the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps yesterday, we now know were two opera singers, the German alto, Maria

Radner, age 33, and traveling home with her baby and her husband -- her beautiful voice will now only be remembered.




AMANPOUR: She was a young, up-and-coming singer, while her colleague and traveling companion, 54-year-old Oleg Bryjak, was an established star. And

together they had performed in Wagner's opera, "Siegfried," that had been staged in Barcelona's Opera House.

Bryjak's powerful baritone saw him rise from humble beginnings in Kazakhstan under the Soviet Union to become a performer in demand all over

the world. And trustees and colleagues from the Opera House in Barcelona today came outside to mourn their loss and to remember the passion that

those two showed for their art.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see the whole show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching. And we leave you now with the voice of Oleg Bryjak.