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Interview With Former Israeli Labor Party Politician And JVP And Margalit Startup City Founder Erel Margalit; Interview With U.S. Ambassador To NATO Julianne Smith; Interview With University Of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre Director Alexander Betts; Interview With "The Face Poor Bride" And The Atlantic Staff Writer Author Xochitl Gonzalez. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 11, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This summit is a historic summit.


GOLODRYGA: The door is open to Sweden as NATO leaders meet in Vilnius. With the crucial summit kicking off, I'm joined by the U.S. ambassador to

the alliance, Julianne Smith.

Then, Israelis take to the street to oppose controversial judicial reforms. I speak to Erel Margalit, a former Labor politician and high-tech


And a world on the move. As migration numbers surge, how can humanity adapt? I ask Alexander Betts, who heads up the Refugee Study Center at

Oxford University.

Also, ahead --


XOCHITL GONZALEZ, AUTHOR, "THE FACE POOR BRIDE" AND STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I think it was a great position to sort of observe class in

America, observe sort of different social strata of life.


GOLODRYGA: -- the confessions of a luxury wedding planner. Author Xochitl Gonzalez tells Michel Martin what the wedding industry reveals about

American society.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York city sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, got a rockstar welcome in Lithuania as he arrived for the NATO summit in Vilnius. Take a look at

these pictures of his and first lady Olena Zelenska's extraordinary reception. The president has expressed frustration though about the lack of

a timeline for his country's membership of the alliance, calling it absurd.

Mr. Zelenskyy is set to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden tomorrow. The American leader comes to the summit with a win already in that bag as

Turkey opens the way for Sweden to join the alliance. That would be the fifth largest country in Europe, and you can see it on this map, that

Sweden's entry would increase NATO territory dramatically.

Our Melissa Bell is in Vilnius, Lithuania for us. So, Melissa, you know, rockstar reception for the Ukrainian president, but it doesn't look like

he's walking away with the one thing he really wanted, and that is some sort of timeline in terms of entry into NATO for the country.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And you heard his very clear frustration expressed in that tweet. He put out, even as he headed

here to Vilnius, it was all about that calendar, the timetable. It was, at once, he said, absurd and unprecedented. That he should be -- his country

should be being given no clear timetable either to have a very invitation into NATO or too membership itself, with conditions placed in the way


On the other hand, Bianna, we've been hearing from the NATO secretary general in that really congratulatory tone about what the NATO allies had

achieved here over the course of the day, and that is essentially an agreement on what the final communique will be. The question of its thorny

wording had been up in question, because of the deep divisions there are about exactly when and how and how far NATO should go towards its Ukrainian

ally in terms of the specifics of this succession.

One of the questions Jens Stoltenberg was asked was why, why so much hesitation in laying out a clear timetable? Whilst the secretary general

couldn't quite reply, the fact is, Bianna, that this is a summit being closely watched by Moscow, and the fact of any clear timeline or timetable

be given to Ukraine would tie NATO -- the NATO alliance clearly to the outcomes and the duration of the war in Ukraine, and some of its members,

the United States and Germany in particular, that was simply unacceptable.

So, instead, what we have is nonetheless some serious steps being taken by NATO. For instance, removing the requirement of a map, a membership

accession plan for Ukraine is a substantial one, said Jens Stoltenberg, since it turns a two-step process into a single step process.

Now, to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with all the sacrifices and all of the many lives lost and all of the time that has passed, frankly, Bianna, since 2008

and the pledge that the accession of Georgia and Ukraine would follow, you can hear the frustration. As you say, it was a rockstar welcome that

greeted him, this is all through all the country that understands all too plainly the difficulties of trying to prize oneself away from Moscow's

sphere of control, the Baltic States themselves only achieved accession to NATO back in 2004.


And what we've seen over the course of the day here are many, many young people walking around, draped in those Ukrainian flags. You'll see them on

so many of the homes and many of those Lithuanians turned up to greet President Zelenskyy, understanding very much the struggle that he

represents. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And it's those Baltic States that are representing members of NATO that really would like to see that timeline and an expedited

accession for Ukraine into NATO and joining the alliance. Melissa Bell, thank you so much.

And in a moment, we'll speak with Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, for more on this topic. But first, we move to Israel, where large-

scale demonstrations are once more taken over the streets as people take part in a day of disruption and resistance. They are protesting judicial

reforms that some people fear will weaken the country's court and its democracy.

For more on these reforms and the protests, I'm joined by Jerusalem from Correspondent Hadas Gold. So, Hadas, before we get into the protests

themselves and what you've witnessed there in your reporting today, talk about what transpired last night at the Knesset?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, part of the reason why these protesters have come out in such force today is because of the

legislation that was passed last night.

Now, the protests have been going on for months now, but the legislation of this judicial overhaul had been essentially frozen in place since March,

that was when there was massive general strikes across the country. The defense minister had come out against this overhaul, and the legislation

was frozen and there were negotiations with the opposition, trying to reach some sort of compromise.

But last night, the coalition government, led by Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, started the process once again. This was one vote of

three for one aspect of this overall package of reforms. This specific legislation has to do with trying to remove the Supreme Court's ability to

declare government actions unreasonable.

Right now, the Supreme Court has rather broad ability to declare that a government action, even if it doesn't break a law, is unreasonable and

cannot stand. So, this is just one of three votes to try to strip that away. But it almost doesn't matter what that specific legislation would

have said. The fact that it's part of this overall, judicial overhaul package, the fact that it's back on the table, that votes are being taken,

that's what prompted these protesters to come out with such force on what they called this day of disruption across the country, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: And how did the protest that you saw today compared to those that we've seen at the height of this rebellion, amongst Israelis, going

back to even March? After this initial package, as you've mentioned, of judiciary reforms are introduced, that was in January, but subsequently, we

have seen weeks upon weeks of protests. How does this one rate?

GOLD: Yes. There had been weekly protests every Saturday night. Sometimes protests will pop out at different places. But this, today, has been the

biggest that we have seen, definitely, in months. We were just actually at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel's main airport, and it had essentially been

taken over completely by protesters. There were thousands of protesters. They had essentially plugged up the entire arrivals area of the airport. I

would definitely say there were at least thousands of them there, and that are -- those types of scenes are things we have not seen in some time.

And the protests have been going on all day long, from the morning and they plan to continue through the evening and across the country, not just here

in Jerusalem, not just in Tel Aviv, but also, in smaller places. Even as we were driving along the highway, we saw certain bridges over the highway

filled with protesters, waving their flags, showing their signs off to the drivers along the way. So, definitely some of the biggest protest that we

have seen, and it's been sparked by this legislation passing and the fears that this overhaul package is once again very much on the table.

GOLODRYGA: What is the reaction been from the Netanyahu government, from the prime minister himself? Is there any indication that this could perhaps

stall the second round of voting that is expected here?

GOLD: Well, Benjamin Netanyahu has not made any specific statement regarding the protesters today. We have heard something from National

Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir about police trying to restore order and calling on them to be -- to restore order against the protesters. We do

know there have been at least 70 arrests so far of protesters, at least a dozen have been lightly injured.

But that line that you hear from the government is actually that these protesters are trying to stop democracy. Protesters, during the voting last

night actually, at one point, did a sit-in on the floor of the parliament. They were removed forcibly by parliament security, and there was a lot of

comments, including from the speaker of the parliament, who is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's party, saying, these people are trying to stop the

democratic process, because from the government's point of view, they fairly and squarely won the last election.

They have a majority in parliament. They have the seats to do this, and they say this is what their voters want. They say that a reform in the

judiciary is sorely needed, and there are even people who say that the judiciary could stand some of the reforms. But I think the problem for the

opposition, the problem for these protesters is the way this reform was pushed through and how fast it was pushed through, and also how extreme

some of the measures are.


Now, while Benjamin Netanyahu has walked back a little bit from some of the more extreme elements of this package, including the -- there was a

proposal that the parliament would be even able to overturn Supreme Court decisions, he says that is off the table. These protesters, the opposition,

essentially, don't believe that. They are very fearful this will still be very much an extreme reform. And for them, the only acceptable option is

for this judicial overhaul to be just completely off the table.

GOLODRYGA: Well, as we mentioned, these protests have been ongoing for months now and it doesn't look like they're going to subside anytime soon.

Hadas Gold, thank you so much for your really important reporting.

And for more on these protests, I'm joined by Erel Margalit, a former Labor politician and a prominent Israeli businessman. He is the founder of

Jerusalem Venture Partners. Welcome to the program.

First and foremost, what is your reaction to this latest move overnight of parliament passing its first reading of this reasonableness act? Why do you

consider it dangerous?


sector, it's doctors, it's pilots, it's reserve special forces units, it's teachers, it's all over the country. It's people that are coming from the

center, from the left, from the moderate right that are saying that a judicial overhaul that Netanyahu is trying to lead together with some of

his very extreme right ministers is just unacceptable, and is taking Israel from democracy to a very different way of governing.

And so, what we're saying is no, this will not be acceptable. We will not continue to act this way in a country which has so many social bondage

between people, so many volunteers, so many people that are doing so much for this country, to let a government, which is an extreme right-wing

government, to sort of hijack the judicial system, and to try to turn it from an open democracy that Israel has been proud of, our Declaration of

Independence, our founder of the country, Ben-Gurion, was so proud of the democracy that we were able to establish here, to take it to something

which is a different way of governing, like you have in Poland or like you have in Hungary, that's just not going to be acceptable by the Israeli


GOLODRYGA: Are you surprised to the degree that this divisiveness has turned sort of a fever pitch and having leaders, multiple high-level

officials, in the country over the past few months really deeming this an existential threat that you are seeing internally? The threat throughout

Israel's history, notably had come from the outside and now, this is something that is transpiring within the Israeli society itself. Does not

surprise you?

MARGALIT: Well, I know that, you know, we have been a country that was fighting for its existence and its survival, and it's a country that has

been regular to fight for its existence, militarily and from an existential stand of view.

Well, sometimes in the history of countries, you also have a moment which is a critical and existential moment from a point of view of what are your

values. It's not just a battle within Israel, it's the battle within the nature of the Jewish people at large. Do the Jewish people want to be open?

Democratic? Open to other countries? Open to the Muslim world around us? Open to some other countries around the world?

And technology for JVP, for many of us has been the bridge to a lot of cooperation, not only with the U.S and in with Europe and with Asia but

also newly so the Middle East, with UAE, with Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, with Egypt.

And for us, democracy and the openness of our society is the very fundamental condition of innovation, of creativity, of being able to live

here in a way that we choose freely, and nobody is going to give that up. And what Netanyahu will find many of us it's just like we've been warriors

on the front line. We're also going to be warriors in the battle for democracy. It's a battle that is worth fighting for. We will do it in

peaceful manners. But the high-tech industry in Israel, in general, is standing up and saying to Netanyahu, no to dictatorship, and yes to


GOLODRYGA: I want to get to the other conflict that we've been covering, and that is the increase in violence we've seen in Jenin and in the West

Bank as a whole. But one last question on this judicial overhaul, and that that, you know, A, President Biden has been critical of it, but, B, there

are some in the opposition within Israel who say that he is not doing enough, to pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu enough on this particular

issue. What is your take on this?


MARGALIT: Well, I think that Netanyahu and his government have been so extreme in some of their policies, not only on the judicial overhaul, and

we'll talk about it perhaps in the next part of the discussion, but they have been extreme in many ways.

You have to understand that Israel is a country that is surrounded by countries that it's not always been easy to deal with. And so, the ability

-- I'm from Jerusalem, we have innovation in Jerusalem not only as creating get great companies, and JVP had 40 of Israel's largest exists, but it's

also a way for coexistence.

In our technology companies, we have aired entrepreneurs, we have ultra- orthodox Jewish entrepreneurs. We have people from all parts of society. And for us, the democratic process, the openness, the pluralism has been so

crucial to the ability, not only to invent companies. But also, if you remember, in Jerusalem, it was very tense 15 years ago. We've been able to

open society up through innovation and through cooperation.

And what Netanyahu and his government are trying to do right now is to take us back 70 or 80 years, and nobody in their right mind would want democracy

which raises their kids on the values of democracy are going to agree to that.

GOLODRYGA: You've talked a lot here and focus really on the impact on the economy and the tech sector. This is something that, up until recently,

Prime Minister Netanyahu has viewed to be a champion of and taking credit for, reviving Israel's economy over the past several decades.

Do you think that he understands this severe impact all of this could have, not only on the economy, but even as you mentioned, the Abraham Accords,

and that's less focused on the judicial reforms, but on what I just mentioned and that is the increased violence we've seen in the West Bank

and those extremists in his coalition who are pushing for further settlement expansion? Where is he and all of this, given the larger-than-

life figure that he has played in this country?

MARGALIT: Well, it's anybody's guess where is he. But I think that a lot of his actions are influenced by the fact that he's on trial and that he's

been indicted for some very severe felonies that he's on trial with. And right now, he's acting to save his own skin, not just ruling the country.

And I have to say that in Israel, we have a complicated reality. On one hand, we need to be very strong. We're fighting against people who are

attacking us, whether it's from Iran, whether it's from Hezbollah, whether it's from Hamas, whether it's from other terrorist organization, and we

need to be -- to have a very firm hand. I myself was part of a -- you know, a special forces unit. And as much as we're -- you know, we're doing things

in light of the economy, we're also -- we need to be tough in Israel to survive.

On the other hand, Israel has been part of the region. Many of our companies have been operating in the UAE, in Abu Dhabi, in Dubai, in

Bahrain, in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia, cooperating more so with Egypt, with Morocco, with Jordan. And what we want is to treat the Palestinians and to

treat the moderate Palestinians with respect.

And some of the people in the right-wing government of Netanyahu, by having gestures which somehow symbolically do things against Islam and an act

disrespectful to some of the other religions in the region, that's really bad. Jerusalem is a city which many religions love, but one thing that we

have learned, living in Jerusalem and creating companies in Jerusalem, that you need to have respect for the other. You need to have respect for the

Muslims, for the Christians, the Jews, you need to work together because Jerusalem is a city, just like Tel Aviv, is the exciting City of Israel,

Jerusalem can become the exciting city of the Middle East, but the only way to do that is to work with respect, act against those that are terrorists

or trying to create harm --


MARGALIT: -- but treat with respect those moderate people that are willing to live with us together and to be part of a region which is about food

tech and agri-tech, and water and health care, I.T., and cybersecurity and fintech, many of these things.

GOLODRYGA: Can I ask you a question specifically related to the protests that we've seen not only today, on this day of disruption, but that we've

seen over the past few months, and that is some disagreement as to whether these protesters should also be speaking out and rallying against the

occupation and some of the factors that you just laid out for our viewers about the decisions in the policies that this administration, that this

coalition is trying to push forward.


Do you think these two issues should be separate in terms of what these protesters are out on the streets demanding and protesting against or do

you think that these two, if not more, should be all and coming?

MARGALIT: That's a very good question, Bianna, and people were having -- are having dilemmas because there are people who come from different

political views to these protests. One thing that we have learned, we're raising the Israeli flag. We're taking a centrist position. We're allowing

people that are moderately religious to join us. We are allowing people that are from the Arab sector to join us, the Jews. People that are from

the right-wing party of Netanyahu are joining us. And the reason that they're joining us is we are creating a common denominator of democracy.

So, we're not necessarily going into all of the intricacies of Israel's problems, including the ones with the Palestinians. Many people think that

it should be about -- also about the coexistence with the Palestinians. But we -- what we are saying, let's find the common denominator, democracy, a

way to go forward, a way for Israel to be part of the region, not against the region, a way for Israel to be part of the nations and not against the

nations, a way for Israel to have the next generation of entrepreneurs, of innovation, of people that can participate from all parts of this country,

because that's what we need.

But in order to do that, sometimes you need to not only build things, you need to fight for what is right. And fighting against dictatorship and for

democracy is what we're doing. And we're finding many people that are not like myself, but different than me, that are joining us in the process, and

we are proud of that.

GOLODRYGA: We're seeing massive turnout as we've been reporting. Erel Margalit, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

MARGALIT: Thank you Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, let's return now to the critical NATO summit. I'm joined now by U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith. Ambassador, welcome to the

program from Vilnius. Really appreciate the time.

So, the NATO communique is out. And in it, members are prepared for Ukraine to ultimately join the alliance and pledged to "extend an invitation for

Ukraine to join when allies agree and conditions are met." We know that also in this communique the process has been expedited for when those

conditions finally are agreed upon.

But you know that this drew a sharp rebuke from President Zelenskyy who said that he wants a timeline. How does this communique and what members

have agreed to differ from the much criticized read out in 2008, which opened the door and said, Ukraine would become a member, but never laid out

a timeline for when?

JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Right. So, in 2008, the allies agreed that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of the alliance, and

they said at that moment that what would be required is something called the Membership Action Plan. And what we did, today is we actually told

Ukraine, thanks to all of the good progress that they've made, we no longer need the Membership Action Plan, and that has been removed from the table.

So, that is a major step forward for Ukraine and for the alliance.

In terms of a timeline, it's very tough to try and agree to some sort of timeline while there is a war raging on Ukrainian territory. In addition,

even the Ukrainians themselves will tell you that they need to make further reforms. They've made good progress on a variety of democratic and security

sector reforms, but they will have to continue working and that direction.

GOLODRYGA: So, President Zelenskyy said that it is unprecedented and absurd when a timeframe is not set, neither for the invitation nor for

Ukraine's membership. And Ukrainian argument is that without that timeline -- and I think President Zelenskyy has acknowledged that now, in the midst

of a war, is not when they expect to be welcomed, but they do also say that without that timeline this gives Russia an opportunity to continue fighting

this war for as long as necessary because it is not in Russia's interest then for the war to end and Ukraine to a seat to NATO?

SMITH: Well, look, Putin assumed, when he started this war, that he could wait us out, that the West would look the other direction and it would

ultimately lose interest in Ukraine, and the reality is, we're at day 500 of this war and no one's going anywhere.

There are leaders in Vilnius right now committing to Ukraine's future to its membership in the alliance and to long-term practical support, not just

for Ukraine to prevail on the battlefield right now, but over the long-term to ensure this doesn't happen again.


So, this is a major step forward. Zelenskyy is joining us at the summit tomorrow. We all look forward to welcoming it into what will be the first

NATO Ukraine council, that's a big step forward. NATO is elevating its relationship with Ukraine. So, we're thrilled that he is here. And I think

this sends a very strong signal to President Putin.

GOLODRYGA: What are the longer-term security guarantees that both the United States and the alliance are prepared to offer Ukraine, perhaps even


SMITH: Well, so, United States has been in discussion with Ukraine on a series of long-term assurances that again will be a series of bilateral

commitments to not only help Ukraine today but to help build out its force in the future so that it will not face the situation again.

So, those bilateral security assurances will be forthcoming. I think we'll have some news from the G7 on that front tomorrow. It's separate from what

NATO is doing but it works together and that NATO is rolling out a longer- term relationship with Ukraine and lifting that Membership Action Plan. And then, individual countries are prepared to step forward and make long-term

bilateral commitments to Ukraine's security.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. I believe France says that they will supply cruise missiles to Ukraine as well. Let me turn to the other big headline out of

the summit, and that is Turkey clearing the way for Sweden to join the alliance. Any other time, this would be the major headline of this meeting

and it is a big step forward for the alliance, but it comes with President Erdogan getting something from United States in return, and that is

President Biden at least agreeing to supply the country with F-16s.

What do you say to people who view this as a quid pro quo?

SMITH: Well, the issues were separate in many ways. First and foremost, Sweden, Finland and Turkey have been talking about the concerns that Turkey

raised about their membership in the alliance for about a year now.


SMITH: We just got Finland across the finish line in April. And now, we had the terrific news last night that Turkey is ready to move forward on

ratification and we get that done. And we can't wait to welcome Sweden as our 32nd member.

But we also have a situation where you have heard from President Biden that he supports Turkey's long-term military modernization. He has supported the

F-16 package for Turkey. And now, we have a situation where Congress will be involved in also advancing a decision to lift that tiered review and we

will be moving out on that front.

But these issues are, in many ways, on the one hand, about Turkey's longer- term modernization, again that this president supports, and about our excitement and determination to welcome both Sweden and Finland into the


GOLODRYGA: Turkey, as we know, was expelled from the F-35 program back in 2019 after acquiring Russian made air defense systems. Did the U.S. get a

guarantee that Turkey, in the future, will no longer make these steps that really violate NATO commitments to move away from purchasing Russian


SMITH: Well, our friends in Ankara have heard the United States loud and clear, but not just the United States, really all allied about the concerns

of the purchase of the S-400s. But other than that, that issue hasn't been really relevant to our conversations about Sweden and Finland. Again, what

we wanted to send as a message throughout the alliance is that -- and really around the world, that Sweden is ready to join this alliance, it's

an incredible capable ally. It has addressed the concerns of our friends in Ankara and it is ready to be a security contributor to the NATO alliance.

GOLODRYGA: We heard President Biden and other members, Jens Stoltenberg, also referencing that the other requirements that Ukraine has yet to meet

and that is one of them fighting corruption and other matters in the country. There's been some concern about the direction that Turkey itself

has gone in now Turkey is a member of NATO. But have those numbers been raised as well between President Biden and President Erdogan?

SMITH: Well, I don't want to share the details of the specific meetings and phone calls that have occurred in recent months and years between the

President Biden and President Erdogan. I will say that all allies make a commitment to uphold the democratic values that the alliance is designed to

protect. And we will continue to do so and make that a key focus of what goes on inside the NATO alliance.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Ambassador Julianne Smith, we really appreciate your time. I know you were stuck in some traffic early, but we got you on. Thank

you so much.

SMITH: Thank you.


GOLODRYGA: Well, now, a desperate search is underway for three migrant ship that left Senegal more than two weeks ago. The boats lost at sea are

carrying hundreds of people between them. Though the Spanish Coast Guard did save 86 people from a migrant boat on Monday, it was not one of the

missing boats.

This current crisis is a tragic reminder of the disaster that's saw hundreds of people die after a boat sank off the Coast of Greece in June.

And many fewer accidents like this will continue as political instability, war and the rapidly changing climate fuel migration numbers.

So, what are the solutions? Joining me now on this is Alexander Betts, an Oxford professor and head of the university's Refugee Study Center.

Alexander, thank you so much for your time.

I've just laid out a few of the recent crises that we've seen transpire for migrants and the loss of life, it is incalculable and horrific. Lay out for

us, how do you assess the current situation in terms of the migrant crisis?

ALEXANDER BETTS, DIRECTOR, REFUGEE STUDIES CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: We've seen another human tragedy, and this has been ongoing for

the years. So, the International Organization for Migration estimates over the last 10 years about 30,000 migrants have lost their lives crossing the

Mediterranean to Europe. And we see similar situations around the world. What's going on behind this?

But we see more and more people fleeing across borders, fleeing desperate circumstances. Many as refugees, fleeing war and persecution. But

increasing numbers also fleeing failed states, food insecurity, and increasingly climate change. And countries are struggling to grapple with

these new types of movement, these new forms of displacement that don't always fit neatly into the traditional boxes of either voluntary migration

or refugee as defined and recognized in international law.

And so, these mixed migration movements are a challenge for governments. But as government struggle and simply close their borders and fail to

provide safe routes and safe passages as to vulnerable people, the consequence is people revert to human smuggling networks, gangs, and they

lose their lives in very tragic circumstances like these.

GOLODRYGA: There's no doubt that this issue has political ramifications in countries not only from where these migrants come from and try to escape,

but also other countries where they're destined to go. And we've seen just the fallout just this week in Europe with the Dutch government dissolving


That having been said, are you concerned at all that given the other really important issues that we've been covering, and that is the war in Ukraine,

though that has created refugee crisis as well, that this issue, as a whole, is not getting the global attention that it deserves?

BETTS: I think so. Compared to 2015, '16 when we have the so-called refugee crisis in Europe, amid people coming from Syria or across the

Aegean Sea, when migration was really the number one issue dominating politics in the media or in Europe, it's fallen down the agenda, and it's

off the radar of the public.

But when we see people dying, 300 people from Pakistan drowning last month off the coast of Greece, three boats missing off the Canary Islands coming

from Senegal, this needs to be addressed. And it needs political leadership and political will from European leaders. What they're failing to do is put

on the table realistic solutions, concrete proposals, and agree on them.

The European Union, for a long time, has been divided about updating its current European asylum system. And around the world, leaders are really

burying their heads in the sand about new drivers of displacement. How, in the future, are we going to draw the line about who has a human rights-

based entitlement to cross an international border? It's not just about the refugee definition, it's about people feeling climate change, the people

leaving Pakistan were fleeing hyperinflation, serious economic impacts on the availability of basic food items. There are vulnerable people in

desperate situations coming to Europe, and European leaders are failing to address the issue.

GOLODRYGA: What should be the consequence or the response when we talk about the Greek migrant boat tragedy, that's 750 passengers just crammed

onto this vessel, and Greek authorities really faced criticism for how they responded. There are still some questions as to how that all transpired.

But what is the adequate response from countries that, you know, are just off the coast of where these migrants are trying to lead better lives, move


BETTS: Well, the very first thing is to recognize that migrant rights are human rights. And regardless of why people leave, all migrants have a right

to life. So, the first thing we have to do is ensure that we save lives, that we invest resources in rescue at sea, that the coast guards of these

countries, including Greece, are sufficiently equipped and have the capacity to rescue people from boats that capsize.


We also, of course, need to try to prevent smuggling gangs from departing, from smuggling people in desperate situations and limit that as much as

possible. But the only ultimate ways in which we are going to limit these movements are to address the root causes, address the circumstances of war,

conflict, persecution, climate change that's leading more and more people to move and ensure that we have clear rule-based safe routes by which

people can access, secure, safe countries and the most basic rights in international law.

Until we have that, people will resort to desperate and very dangerous journeys. Now, it's not a case of having to have an open borders policy,

absolutely not.


BETTS: But it is a case that, at the moment, the only way many people can seek asylum, people who are refugees, people who have fled wars, like the

war in Sudan, can actually get to Europe is by using smuggling networks. And that's because more and more countries in Europe and around the world

are making seeking asylum, seeking sanctuary effectuate illegal.

For instance, in my country, the United Kingdom, this legislation, the so- called Illegal Migration Bill, which is effectively proposing to make it illegal to come into Britain as an asylum seeker, as a refugee, and say, I

want to seek sanctuary in this country, because it's suggesting that unless you have a visa, you can't come to the country and claim asylum.

Now, people who flee war and persecution don't always have access to the means to get a visa or adequate paperwork. The idea in traditional refugee

law is you should be allowed to flee for your life across the border if you're in very desperate circumstances and at least make a claim to a

country. We need those safe routes that allow people to access due process and a legal route to safe and secure migration.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. These laws are just antiquated and really not efficient. You mentioned Sudan, nearly 2.8 million people have already fled that war-

torn country. And you mentioned, climate change. International law currently does not get protections to those who are fleeing due to climate

change. And we know that number is well above 1 billion people over the last decade. We've seen a doubling in the number of people so -- being

displaced by climate change.

So, obviously, these are really important issues that need to be addressed. Alexander Betts, thank you for your time today and your expertise.

BETTS: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, now, a little bit of a gearshift as we turn to weddings. The milestone event often leaving couples with their hearts full, but their

wallets light. The average American, get this, spends around $30,000 on their wedding, and our next guest says they are only getting more


In her recent article, "The Fake Poor Bride," award-winning author Xochitl Gonzalez reveals the world behind this lucrative industry. And she joined

Michel Martin to talk about her experience as an ex-wedding planner.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Xochitl Gonzalez, thank you so much for talking with us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Some people may know you as the author of a novel, "Olga Dies Dreaming," but I think a lot of people know you from your work in "The

Atlantic," your kind of transient analysis of race and class and politics. OK. So, luxury wedding planner, like, how did that happen?

GONZALEZ: Well, I think my clients are wondering the same thing. They're sort of all scratching their heads, being like, I guess still waters ran

deep. No, I think it was a great position to sort of observe class in America, observe sort of different social strata of life, and I can just

sort of been -- I wouldn't say stewing in my own juices, but cementing a lot of observations over the years. And then, the novel gave me a chance to

kind of put that all into play.

And "The Atlantic" has given me a lot more room to kind of just keep chewing on things. And we thought this would be a fun way to meld my old

life with my new life.

MARTIN: One of the things I kind of realized and thinking about your piece is that nowadays, maybe people understand that job.


MARTIN: They understand that there is a person who does that job or a team. But I think when you started out, it was kind of a hidden --

GONZALEZ: It was a hidden career. I think I say in the peace, my family who was very working class and literally had what he was called a football

wedding was like, I just don't understand what you do. And they couldn't even understand the kind of levels of wealth of the people that I was

working for. That, you know, again, their fixation was on, but they could buy a house with that money. And it was like they have several houses. But

like, how do I explain that to my grandmother?

But, you know, it was sort of a new profession, and we sort of rode that wave, and it was a lot of fun. And then, at a certain point, it became

unfun. I wrote about that a little bit in the piece. I think as our politics -- it was funny, you know, as our politics became -- came more to

the forefront of the country, it became harder to sort of separate who you are as a person from who you are as a professional in some sense. Yes.


MARTIN: Here you are, you so you come, as you said, you know, working class background. I'm just curious about like that first wedding that you

did when you realized, oh, this is different from the way we do things in my family.

GONZALEZ: There's a wedding strata, and the wedding strata replicates our class strata, right, like where people are charging at different price

points and the weddings have different budgets. And I remember when I finally realized, OK, we're in a different field here, is when there was a

separate person involved that dealt with the money versus anybody involved in the actual planning.

So, the parents were paying, the bride was making a lot of decisions. You know, the mom might have been consulted, but then you talk to a completely

separate entity that actually wrote you the check and dealt with the budget. And you suddenly understood that this is not just a family, it's

sort of a small corporation. And I think for a lot of couples, just the average couple in America or anywhere, honestly, in the world really, the

money is what makes the wedding planning stressful.

MARTIN: And this is where we have to have some fun, which is like what are some of the crazy requests?

GONZALEZ: Oh, my God.

MARTIN: Somewhat crazy requests?

GONZALEZ: Well, I talk in the story about wanting to have a pony make an appearance, and that it could be gifted to the bride on the floor during

the groom -- the father of the bride's toast. That was one of my favorites because it involved animal wrangling.

MARTIN: He wanted to give her a pony because?

GONZALEZ: He felt like, you know what, I'm all in, but the kitchen stink. Let's give her everything she ever wanted. And it was like she was -- ever

since she was a kid, she always wanted a pony. And so, we sort of bring out this pony, and it was really fantastic because, you know, no one was

expecting it.

I mean, we've like -- I mean, some of the more normal requests are like having like rock stars perform at events, like -- which is like a funny

side hustle that a lot of people don't realize like musicians will do. I mean, we've had -- a lot of the time, some of the harder requests were

actually trying to make like culturally appropriate things happen in spaces where they weren't designed to. So, let's say having a fire during a Hindu

ceremony, like it was a negotiation to like be able to have open flames. Like -- really, like a lot of the time the requests were not so much

strange as they were not a cultural to the place where the event was maybe happening. Or maybe I got frog boiled into thinking that nothing was

strange. That's also possible.

MARTIN: One of my favorite stories you talked about was the fake poor bride.


MARTIN: Tell me about the fake poor bride.

GONZALEZ: Oh, my gosh

MARTIN: Tell -- what happened there?

GONZALEZ: I think that there was, post-recession, a certain amount -- in the immediate aftermath of the recession, a certain amount of fear of

seeming like a wealthy person. So, what happens is she's getting married and she does not want people -- no one knows she has money, and she has

real money. You know, like her mother had thrown another sister a wedding and I think plastered the ball room of one of New York's hottest hotels

like with orchids, right?

And so, we knew what the mother could do and left her own devices. And the daughter was just like, if that happens, everyone will know. And what they

decided was that they were going to hire me. Now, what the bride didn't understand is that she thought I was being hired to keep her mother under

control. But because her mom was actually paying me, I was actually being taught -- like hired to get whatever the mother wanted while making the

bride think it didn't cost anything and it wasn't going to be out of hand.

And it was a funny story about class, because the bride's mother also had been raised with not a lot of money, and it kind of married into a

situation where their wealth increased as their years went on. And the bride had always been raised in money. And so, it was almost as though the

mother of the bride was like, why do you shun this thing that I wanted my whole life? And the bride herself, was like, why does this hold so much

value to you, that people know we have it? And I was just the person caught in the middle.

I was really amused, honestly, in the process because I was told to just tell her that any upgrade was already included in the contract. But I was

kind of amused by the idea that like you'd say like, well, what about these little baby lamb chops instead of the pigs in a blanket? Would that cost

more? And you're like, no, it's already included in the contract. I was sort of her own like either gullibility or lack of awareness of the actual

cost of things like -- or common sense about cost of things was sort of amusing to me and kind of undermined how little she actually did have to

think about money in reality, even though she wanted to make sure nobody knew that she had it.

MARTIN: How did they communicate to you that budget was not an issue, that money was no object? Did they actually come right out and say it?

GONZALEZ: Oh, they just said that.

MARTIN: They -- money is not --

GONZALEZ: They just said that, yes.

MARTIN: Really

GONZALEZ: Like they just said that. And oftentimes, you know, and I talk about this too, most often, if money was an issue like it was because they

were given a lump sum and had to do a few things with it. So, they'd be given a seven-figure sum, a couple, let's say, I talk about this --


MARTIN: Wait, did you just say a seven -- wait. Can I just process that? A seven-figure sum?



GONZALEZ: A seven-figure sum. And with this seven-figure sum, they would need to get an apartment and have a wedding. And so, the battle was not so

much that there wasn't more to potentially get, the battle was they wanted to be respectful and stick within the sum but they wanted a great house,

but they also wanted a great wedding.

So, the fighting was less because of a lack of resources than it was internal angst about how they were going to manage to do everything that

they wanted while still seeming like respectful to this kind gesture of their parents. It was a fascinating time to just see how tortured,

ironically, people could be about their own privilege, which is hilarious because, in turn, that privilege is torturing other brides that have less

because they want to have all of these things.

MARTIN: So, honestly -- I mean, let's just keep it real. So, chill. It's really easy to like not like these people. I mean, you're like, would you

make an interesting turn in your piece where you actually kind of stand up of the extremist (ph), you know. Tell me about that why you -- and I was

surprised that -- you know, coming from you, as I said, that you are very kind of transient observer of, you know, race and class and how it

functions. And, you know, all of the unfairness that can attached to that. But you actually make a turn and you actually stand up for the extremist

(ph). So, make your case.

GONZALEZ: Yes. And I'll tell you why.

MARTIN: Make you case.

GONZALEZ: You know, I think I always root for the little guy and we love to say how much we love small business in America, in particular, and yet,

they are very, very few industries that actually support small business. And when Jeff Bezos, king of Amazon, finally has his wedding, he will be

forced to support small businesses, because there is no Amazon of weddings. It is like one mom and pop operation, after another that all like retain --

like, you know, most of these people got through COVID with PPP loans, if they could qualify, if they were even big enough for that.

And so, you really see people where -- it's like people that have artistic inclinations that need part-time work. I mean, like it's such a -- that

industry employs so many people that need side hustles and supplemental income because you can work on a Saturday, you could just work on the

weekends and keep a day job.

I used to employ so many teachers that needed extra money, that we're trying to like save for a down payment or save or something. And so, to me,

it's like one of the few flexible industries that allows people, women, immigrants, to work around their certain circumstances and also have a

creative outlet. And if you are going to have money and pump it into the economy, I can't think of a better way to do that than -- rather this than

give money to a corporate conglomerate like LVMH, you know, like let me see you support 40 to 50 small businesses who are each employing 20 to 40

people, right? Like that's -- for -- and I talk about it at least at this kind of events, it's not just even a weekend, it's like you're employing

them for like upwards of two weeks.

MARTIN: You highlight some of the crafts people, the small business people who make these extravaganzas happen. So, two things here. Like tell me a

little bit more about these folks and why was it so important for you to write about their work?

GONZALEZ: Oh, I mean, it felt so exciting to actually give them space. You know, one of the things that I -- I learned everything I know, and I know a

lot about flowers. But getting up at 5:00 in the morning and going to a flower market in Manhattan that was completely powered by that time, this

is in the (INAUDIBLE) Mexican and Salvador immigrants. And literally, people would get -- if I was there at 5:00, they were there at 3:00, right,

unpacking things from Holland, unpacking things from Latin America, from Rose Gardens from like TUA Farms, and knowing everything about these

blooms, right, because they've been in this business.

It's like they came to this country, somebody else brought them into -- from their country, brought them into the business, they will bring someone

else into the business. And so, you're really seeing -- it's not just sort of -- it's manual difficult labor, but it also is labor that needs some

expertise and some skill, and I just loved the idea that I was able to sort of highlight that, because I think you can see a photo and not realize -- a

photo of a beautiful tent and not realize that like, you know, 40 young guys working their way through the summer to try to pay for their first

year of college might be that's their summer job, is like erecting tents all summer long, right, and like they're going to be like literally


And I think in a time where labor is so often rendered invisible, it was just a really beautiful thing to be able to like remind people that it's

actually human hands that make all of that stuff happen.

MARTIN: Do you see that people who are kind of less resourced being kind of influenced by what's going on at like the top of the food chain as it


GONZALEZ: Yes. You know, I do think that there is a desire to sort of compete with the Jones's. And as I said, what's happening is every year

like how do you get the Jones's, when the Jones's invested in Facebook early on, right?


But I think one of the things that I -- why I always buckle a little bit about that trend is like I don't -- there's a tendency to feel like its

vendors sort of taking people for a ride. And in reality, what it is, it's small businesses trying to operate. And there's just not quite as much of

an incentive if you have a limited inventor, which you are on weekends, to cater to sort of the mid or the lower tiers of the market.

And so, I think as there has been more affluence and more willing to spend among the affluent, more vendors are kind of catering to that market share.

And so, it is -- I think there's a bit of a crunch. If a couple is looking for a "Instagram worthy wedding" to get those kinds of people working on

your event at a price that fits your budget.

MARTIN: Yes. Say more about that, if you would. I mean, you were saying that -- you know, that surveys found that some 30 to 45 percent of couples

report taking on credit card or other debt to pay for them. And now, there's this whole new thing called wedding loans --


MARTIN: -- which are -- which can carry interest rates as high as 30 percent.


MARTIN: Like you think it's in partly sort of this -- I hate to use this word -- trickledown effect, you know, people seeing this kind of hyper

luxury now feeling like that's what they're supposed to have?

GONZALEZ: Yes. I think it's a twofold thing. I think it's trickledown of seeing hyper luxury but it's also -- if you think about at the arbiter of

media, like we used to have like magazines, let's say, like -- and that really were editorialized, that had some information coming -- kind of

coming in, it could -- they would educate a bride, a potential bride about like what things cost.

And now, it's sort of like lots of sensory information. Like Kim Kardashian's flower wall, and just being like, I want that, but no

understanding that like, OK, that is like -- you know, you used to see it in like fashion magazines. Well, here's the look and here's a look for

less. Like bridal magazines used to do that for people. And now, that sort of doesn't exist.

So, I think what's happening is there's a lot of tempting visuals that come across in social media, you know, in reality television, and then there's

not a lot of education. So, the gap between what you decide that you want in this very emotional time where everything is a little bit driven by

getting likes, I talk about how there's a new service that's emerged called social media management for weddings, right? And one of the things they

talk about is, they'll help you develop a strategy.

And I remember being like, wait, a strategy for what? It's just wedding photos? But their slogan -- one of the company's slogan was, you -- the day

that you spent 14 months planning should be seen by the world, right? So, it's really -- it's not just about what's happening in the party anymore,

it's about what the aftermath and what the reception of those images will be.

MARTIN: What do you think it means that there is this obsession not just with, you know, over the topness but also then broadcasting it to the

world? Do you think that means something?

GONZALEZ: I think it actually is a strange holdover from when kind of time free feminine, where the wedding was kind of the woman's last hurrah, and

it emerged as part of like coming out of World War II, like the history of weddings and sort of weddings being a phenomena, they became like a way of

showing that you are part -- for parents to show that they were part of the middle class, but it was also sort of the last thing that a woman would do

on her own before she then became like a misses to someone.

And so -- and then, as bridal culture kind of emerged and this idea -- you know, I talk in the piece -- about the not and how it turned a day into

sort of a period of time, because you had these little communities forming online, and being a bride became an identity. And it was an identity that

came with a lot of permissions, right? Like to have like bad moods, to have little outbursts, you know, like bridezilla. And I think that the -- it all

have sort of snowballed into -- even though maybe those same tropes aren't necessarily necessary, you know, even the wedding -- if you think about it,

the wedding gown, it was like modeled after like Queen Victoria. A way to be a queen for a day. But now, it's sort of like your chance to be a

celebrity for a day.

MARTIN: OK. So, Xochitl, I'm going to put you on the spot. You shared some personal news in the piece about how you actually went through a divorce

while you are doing wedding planning. And so, that had to have been hard. But, OK. Truth. If you were to get married again, and I don't know if you

have, would you hire a wedding planner?

GONZALEZ: I think if I were to get married again, and I have not, I think we would run to the courthouse and have a nice little lunch with 10 friends

afterward. Like I don't I could do it. And it doesn't mean I don't want to support small business. I think I know too much to enjoy it. Yes, I know

too much to enjoy it again. And I really probably would spend the whole time worrying about how hard everybody else was working and not necessarily

enjoying the thing.

MARTIN: Xochitl Gonzalez, thanks so much for talking with us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you so much for having me.


GOLODRYGA: You know, one of the many things I love about this show is the wide variety of stories we get to cover. And today was definitely one of

those shows.


Thank you so much for joining us today. Remember, you can always catch us online, on Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram and on our podcast. Thank you so

much for watching and goodbye from New York.