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Benjamin Netanyahu Under Pressure From International Community Not To Oppose A Palestinian State; U.S. Making Fresh Push For Two-State Solution; New Strikes Stoke Fears Of Regional Conflict As It Emerges In Syria, Iraq And Pakistan; Ron DeSantis Drops Out Of Presidential Race And Endorses Donald Trump; Ukraine Denies Responsibility For Donetsk Attack; More Mass Demonstrations Against Germany's Far-Right Party; E.U.: Opposition To Two-States Solution is Unacceptable; New Backlash After Netanyahu Rejects Palestinian Sovereignty; Controversial Hindu Temple In India Is Inaugurated. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 22, 2024 - 10:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: This hour, the Israeli Prime Minister's opposition to a two state solution draws criticism from Brussels

and Washington as divisions deepened between Israel and its allies over the war in Gaza.

And then, they were two, Ron DeSantis drops out of the presidential race and endorses Donald Trump, leaving Trump and Nikki Haley to go head-to-head

in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

Millions tune in across India to watch the opening of a vast Hindu temple seen as the crowning moment on the prime minister's nationalist agenda with

months ago until nationwide elections, but it's laced with controversy. We'll explain why, just ahead.

As bombs continue to fall on Gaza, ministers from Europe and the Middle East star in what one E.U. official calls a complex ballet of meetings to

look for a way forward. Diplomats from Israel, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are in Brussels meeting their E.U.

counterparts. It comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu double down on opposing the creation of a Palestinian state.

After a call to discuss Gaza with U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday last week, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel must have security control over Gaza in the

future, drawing criticism from the U.N. and many in the international community. Here's what the E.U.'s top diplomat said a short time ago.


JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Which are the other solution they have in mind? To make all the Palestinians leave? To kill of them? 25,000

already in Gaza, 70 percent of woman and childrens.

Certainly, the way you're trying to destroy Hamas is not the way they're doing because they are seething the hate for generations.


GIOKOS: We are covering this from multiple angles. We've got Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv and Arlette Saenz at the White House for us to give us a

breakdown of what this means.

Jeremy, I want to start off with you. We've heard from Netanyahu basically reiterating this point that a two state solution isn't something that he's

considering, he doesn't think it's viable. This isn't in alignment with what the U.S. has been thinking and frankly, many in the international

community that have been also speaking out about what this means.

Many are questioning whether this is, you know, Netanyahu's major plan, given what we've been seeing playing out in Gaza and importantly, his

political career and his ability to survive.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, I think there -- it's quite clear that when he talks about, you know, refuting the notion of

a two state solution, refuting the notion of a Palestinian state, he is primarily doing that to a domestic audience because he is trying to shore

up his right flank, as poll after poll shows that he is deeply unpopular in Israel and that if elections were to be held today, it would not be him but

rather Benny Gantz who would most likely be able to form a government and become the next prime minister.

Benny Gantz of course a member of the opposition who was brought in as part of this unity war cabinet, but perhaps for Netanyahu more concerningly

domestically are not his comments on the possibility of a Palestinian state but rather, the fact that his government has yet to be able to secure

another deal to secure the release of more hostages.

There are an estimated 132 hostages still held in captivity in Gaza, 25 of whom are believed to be dead. And the families of those hostages are

ramping up the pressure on Netanyahu and his government. About a dozen people, most of them relatives of hostages storming a meeting of the

Finance Committee inside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, demanding that government officials there do more to secure the release of hostages.

There are also families of hostages camped out outside of the prime minister's residence and today, the prime minister actually met with the

families of some of those hostages. And what he told them as he rejected just yesterday, this proposal from Hamas that would somehow see the

withdrawal of all troops, the release of Palestinian prisoners and something that the Israeli prime minister described as untenable because it

would see the deaths of Israeli soldiers in Gaza as something that would have happened in vain.


The prime minister said that he has his own proposal, an Israeli position that has been put on the table, although he wouldn't get into detail on

exactly what that is. But it is clear that there is a lot of movement right now in the Middle East, in the direction of trying to secure either another

deal to secure the release of hostages, or perhaps even something broader, a grander kind of bargain here that would potentially see a longer term

ceasefire in Gaza, a longer term solution and an end to the war there.

But we are, of course, very far from that actually happening, but certainly a lot of activity in the region, both from the United States from Egypt,

from Qatar, but also a lot of domestic pressure here internally weighing on the Israeli Prime Minister, pushing him towards that next deal.

GIOKOS: All right, Jeremy, great stuff. We've got Arlette Saenz standing by as well. And frankly, Arlette, the U.S. has been putting a lot of pressure

on Netanyahu in terms of the way the government or the IDF is waging the war in Gaza, we've heard those comments.

And then, of course, Netanyahu's opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state and what that might mean down the line. We know a lot of

conversations are happening behind closed doors. What are you learning right now in terms of the way this is playing out as the international

community ways in showing its discontent by what Netanyahu had to say?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden said he will continue to try to convince Benjamin Netanyahu to support this two

state solution even as the Israeli prime minister has shown no signs of budging so far, as was mentioned over the weekend, he posted on social

media saying that he would not compromise on full Israeli security control in Gaza.

And this episode really highlights the latest flashpoint of disagreements between the two men, as we've seen some of those disagreements that rift

spill into public view most recently around what happens in Gaza after this conflict ends.

Now, Biden and Netanyahu spent about 40 minutes on the phone together on Friday, just one day after Netanyahu appeared to pour cold water on the

idea of a Palestinian state.

But a source says that during that phone call, Netanyahu told Biden that his comments were not meant to rule out that outcome entirely. The two men

spoke in great length and detail about what possible attributes of Palestinian state would have, that would still need to be negotiated.

One thing that Biden administration officials have been talking about is the potential of full demilitarized Palestinian state. That is an idea that

is intriguing to President Biden, according to some of his advisers.

But after that phone call between Biden and Netanyahu, Biden told reporters that he does still think it's possible, that there will eventually be some

form of a Palestinian state.

But the big question is, what exactly that would look like and whether they can actually reach that final outcome, especially as you have Netanyahu

publicly speaking out against the idea of a two state solution.

Now, it all comes as the U.S. has very publicly supported Israel. But there has been some frustration bubbling up behind the scenes about the fact that

Netanyahu so publicly pushes back on some of America's proposals, and it comes as Jeremy was outlining, Netanyahu is facing extreme political

pressure back at home when it comes to the release of Israeli hostages, and also the way that this -- he is waging his campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

So, all of this really speaks to the challenges President Biden faces as he's trying to apply further pressure on Netanyahu, not just when it comes

to a two state solution, which the U.S. has backed for quite some time, but also when it comes to how he is waging that campaign against Gaza, which

has received a lot of pushback from the international community among the deaths of civilians, thousands of civilians there.

GIOKOS: Arlette Saenz and Jeremy Diamond for us. Thank you both for that analysis.

Well, the conflicts human toll meantime becomes more staggering by the day. The Hamas run health ministry now says more than 25,000 people have been

killed in Gaza since October 7th. Israel says 9,000 of the dead are Hamas fighters. And since day one, there have been fears the war could blow up

into a regional conflict.

Since then, we have seen a ramp up of strikes. Just this weekend, we saw the U.S. striking Houthis, an Iranian backed militia hitting a U.S. base in

Iraq. And he runs Revolutionary Guard was hit in a suspected Israeli attack on Damascus. The U.N. envoy for Iran warns the region is at a critical


And of course, there have been those strikes between Israel as well as Lebanon. We've got CNN's Ben Wedeman in Beirut with a lot more, we're going

to talk about the regional spillover and what we've been seeing.

And also, importantly, what is happening in Gaza right now, the death toll, Ben, above 25,000. We've seen a nine day communications blackout, we're

starting to see so many images is now emerging of what, you know, people in Gaza have been experiencing. A lot of harrowing stories coming out, take me

through some of the most significant things you've learned.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this mark, this sort of 25,000 people dead now in Gaza after 108 days of war is a fairly

grisly number, and the numbers are growing.

In the last 24 hours, according to the Palestinian health ministry, 190 people have been killed. And as we've heard time and time again, the

majority of those who are being killed are women and children.

Now, we've seen continued displacement with at least 90 percent of the population now having been moved. Several -- many of them have been moved

several times. In fact, we heard from one woman today, who said she's been moved seven -- she's had to move seven times since the beginning of

October. And in fact, she probably thinks that they have been moved more.

We're continuing to see for instance the increase in the numbers of hepatitis A cases in Gaza, according to health officials there, the numbers

are up 16 times. There's problems with gastroenteritis, jaundice, skin disease. People are crammed into very much the center and the south of the

Gaza Strip, there continue to be shortages of food of medicine, of water, of basic sanitation, very little access to clean running water to showers.

So, the situation there is -- to sum up the situation in Gaza, it is simply catastrophic and only getting worse, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes, Ben, truly some of the stories are really difficult to get a grip on. In terms of what we've been seeing, tensions spilling over into

the region. Just this weekend, we have seen strikes coming through and just to reiterate U.S. striking Houthis, Iranian backed militia hitting U.S.

bases in Iraq. We saw a strike in Damascus as well. Are we witnessing a full on spillover into the rest of the region? Because this is the big

concern, what it means regionally.

WEDEMAN: Yes, what this means is that the war in Gaza has spilled over. I mean, essentially, people are worried about the outbreak of a regional war.

But in fact, there's a regional war already going on, low intensity compared to what's going on in Gaza, but low intensity, nonetheless.

And what we're seeing, for instance, here in Lebanon since Sunday, Israel has carried out a series of strikes, one of them near an army checkpoint

about eight kilometers north of the border, that killed several people, including a woman. We understand that Hezbollah has admitted to three of

its fighters being killed.

And of course, on Saturday there was that Israeli strike, we assume it's an Israeli strike on Damascus, on the residence of the Islamic Revolutionary

Guard Corps. In that instance, it appears that one of their senior intelligence officials was killed.

And as you mentioned, seven strikes on the Houthi since the United States began its campaign there. And so, there is a fear of a real full blown

regional war.

Now there is a solution, of course, the United States could pressure the Israelis to ceasefire in Gaza. And what we've seen here in Lebanon is that

when there was that seven day truce, so to speak, while hostages were released and Palestinian detainees were released by Israel, there was no

fire from Lebanon.

But as long as the war goes on in Gaza, and the United States sits on the sidelines, sits on its hands and does nothing in terms of bringing about a

ceasefire, the danger of a regional full blown regional war comes ever closer, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes. Ben Wedeman, great to have you on. Thank you so much.

Violence has also been escalating in the West Bank where a U.S. citizen was fatally shot on Friday. 17-year-old Tawfic Abdel Jabbar was buried on

Saturday. The circumstances around his death aren't clear. His father says he was driving to a picnic.

The Israel Defense Forces says he was throwing stones. Israeli authorities say both an off duty police officer and an Israeli civilian and Israeli

forces were at the scene but the teen's father blames the U.S. saying that, through its support of Israel, it is indirectly responsible. The USA

department is asking Israel for answers.


And then they were two, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropping out of the presidential sweepstakes on Sunday. It is down to former President

Donald Trump and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for the Republican nomination and now it's just one day until New Hampshire voters

head to the polls.

During his announcements, DeSantis also threw his support behind Trump, endorsing the former president.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I have a record of leading with conviction, championing an agenda marked by bold colors, delivering on my promises and

defeating the people who are responsible for our nation's decline. That is the type of leadership we need for all of America.

Trump is superior to the current incumbent Joe Biden. That is clear. I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and I will honor that


He has my endorsement because we can't go back to the old Republican Guard of yesteryear, a repackage formed of warmed over corporatism that Nikki

Haley represents. The days of putting Americans last of kowtowing to large corporations of caving to woke ideology are over.


GIOKOS: All right, well, covering this for us, we've got Jessica Dean in New York City where the former president is in court today before campaign

rally in New Hampshire tonight.

Jessica, great to see you, so much happening. DeSantis is out, Nikki Haley and Trump are going to be -- of course, going for it in New Hampshire. But

Donald Trump was supposed to be back in court today. From what we understand, that not happening. The court has now been adjourned. Give us

an update of what you've been hearing.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Eleni, obviously, Donald Trump has been using his time in the courtroom as really a complimentary time -- to

his time on the campaign trail. And it's worked really well for him. So many of these other candidates, Ron DeSantis included, truly believed that

all of these indictments and all of the legal chaos surrounding the former president would make him vulnerable, this go round, and that has simply not

proven to be the case.

Instead, it has only bolstered Trump and he continues to just have this stronghold on the Republican Party. And now with Ron DeSantis out, as you

mentioned, we look to New Hampshire, of course, it is the first in the nation primary. We had caucuses in Iowa last week. These are actual

primaries where people can vote all throughout the day. And we're going to see him face off against Nikki Haley. It's the two person race that Haley

has said she wanted.

But the fact remains, Eleni, that looking forward if the polling hold and we just -- we CNN just put out a new polling showing Trump again, with this

big lead in New Hampshire. The question becomes, what now, if Nikki Haley couldn't beat him in the state where she was supposed to have such a great

chance that then turns to her home state of South Carolina. And if he can beat her there, it really is off to the races for the former president. And

there doesn't seem to be any more competition in sight.

But of course, we have to let people votes tomorrow, but that is how things are currently shaping up.

GIOKOS: So, Nikki Haley, I mean, from what we just saw, it's 41 percent right now, Trump is leading. It's a big gap. I mean, the question is, what

is she going to, you know, get in New Hampshire? And is she going to stick it out for the next ride as well? I mean, what are you hearing on that

front in terms of her ability to stay in its full long term?

DEAN: Right, and that generally comes down to one thing, and that is money. And that is what pushed Ron DeSantis ultimately out of this race, there was

not going to be enough money all the way down the line, it got increasingly hard to raise that money and then to find a path forward.

Nikki Haley does have the powerful Koch brothers network behind her. It's a super PAC that has aligned itself with her, so she does have money to stay

up on the airwaves and that sort of thing, but her campaign is also going to have to raise money.

And what you have to remember is after New Hampshire, we have almost a full more than a month, a little over a month between that and South Carolina.

That's a long time to keep paying staff, to keep campaigning, and so she will have to carry on.

Look, there is a huge -- there is a part of the Republican Party that remains the NeverTrumpers, the people who have tired of Trump, maybe

supported him in the past but would like a fresh face. There is kind of the old guard of the Republican wing of the party. A lot of the establishment

Republicans, if you will, that would love to see somebody like Nikki Haley really take on Trump and be able to beat him.

Their case is she has a much better chance to in a general election in these swing states that are going to be decided by independent voters.

But the fact remains, this is a primary. And in New Hampshire, independents are allowed to vote in that primary. So, it's a better state for her.


But with these primary voters, the Republican voters, they continue to tell us that they want Donald Trump and we will see if that bears out again in

New Hampshire, in Nevada and South Carolina.

GIOKOS: Yes, lots to talk about, Jessica Dean, I think for the next few weeks in the very least. Great to see you. Thank you so much.

Well, as we mentioned, Donald Trump was supposed to be back in court today but court has just moments ago being canceled. We'll look at why and how

this could impact the trial's timeline. That is coming up next.

Plus, Ukraine's armed forces deny they shelled a market killing dozens of people in Donetsk. A live report from the region. Stay with us.


GIOKOS: Poland's Prime Minister is in Kyiv where he's meeting Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Their

meeting comes a day after Russian officials accused Ukraine of launching artillery fire that killed at least 28 people in the market in the Russian

controlled city of Donetsk on Sunday, Ukraine has denied responsibility and accused Moscow of spreading misinformation.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from eastern Ukraine. With what we're seeing these images from this market strike, take us through what is going

on right now.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it's very difficult to ascertain right now what exactly happened. But

you're absolutely right. This market strike was certainly one that was very gruesome, and apparently caused a lot of casualties.

What we're hearing from the local authorities, the Moscow controlled authorities, they're in Donetsk, because that apparently 28 people at least

were killed. And dozens of people were wounded when apparently several artillery shells landed in that very busy area.

It was quite interesting Eleni, because the Moscow installed head of the Donetsk region Denis Pushilin, and he came out and he said that all of this

happened at a very busy time of day. And on a very busy day for that market happening there on Sunday.

You mentioned the fact that the Russians immediately blamed the Ukrainians for this, calling this obviously a very gruesome attack by the Ukrainians,

but the Ukrainians now are giving their own version of what apparently happened.

They are saying that they're categorically not behind it, it was quite interesting because all of that came from the southern military command,

the Tabria (PH) command of the Ukrainians. This is the sort of south eastern front line in the war in Ukraine.

And they not only said that they were categorically not behind it. But they also said that Moscow needs to be held accountable, Russia needs to be held

accountable, obviously very much insinuating that they are saying that the Russians were behind the shelling, even though this area is of course

controlled by the Russians.

So at this point in time, it's very much unclear what exactly happened. But one of the things that we need to point out, Eleni, is that the city of

Donetsk is one that is very close to the frontlines, and very close to one of the most active frontlines in the war in Ukraine. There's two places

that we've been speaking about a lot in the past couple of weeks and months, one of them was called Marinka and one of them is called Avdiivka.

And both of those places are suburbs of Donetsk, and they have seen some extremely heavy fighting.


In fact, just last week, I was on the front line both of those places, and there certainly is a lot of shelling that is going on there.

One of the things that we did notice there, that the Ukrainians have been saying as well, they do have a distinct lack of artillery shells that

they're actually able to use against Russian forces in that area. So, unclear whether or not they would fire several of those shells into the

center of the city or whether or not they'd even have the range to do that.

But certainly both sides right now sort of trading accusations on all of this. Nevertheless, one thing is clear, that this is a huge loss of life

and has already been condemned by the United Nations as well, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

Hundreds of thousands of people are turning out in Berlin and cities across Germany protesting for a second straight week against the country's major

far-right party. The demonstrations have gained momentum after reports emerged that senior members of the Alternative for Germany party have

discussed a "master plan" for the mass deportation of migrants and even German citizens who originally came from other countries. Many are

comparing the party's alleged stance to the Nazi era. As CNN's Michael Holmes reports


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): A huge turnout in Germany to protest against the rise of the far-right, and an ideology reminiscent of

the country's darkest days.

Waving signs that say, Never Again, and Nazis are disgusting, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in cities across the country over the weekend

against the far-right party, The Alternative for Germany and its anti- immigrant policies that many Germans say are similar to the Nazis.

JORG LAURENTSCH, PROTESTER (through translator): Germany is undergoing a huge shift to the right, just as it was almost before the war or before the

Second World War. And I don't think it's ever been this bad since the war.

HOLMES (voice over): The AFD struck a nerve with many Germans after it was revealed that senior party members attended a secret meeting last year of

Neo- Nazis and other extremists, and discussed plans for mass deportation of migrants including German citizens.

The AFD denies it is a racist or extremist group, and denies such plans are part of their policy, although calls to ban the party are growing.

But it has also recorded high polling in some states, and is expected to make gains in regional and perhaps European elections this year. Something

protesters say needs to change.

KATRIN DELRIEUX, PROTESTER (through translator): I hope that it will make people change their minds. Some may not yet be sure whether they will vote

for the AFD or not. But after these demonstrations, they simply can't do that anymore.

HOLMES (voice over): German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has encouraged people to join the protests, saying extremism in the country is a threat to

democracy, and a throwback to a time of hatred and violence.

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): If there is something in Germany which must never ever find a place again, it is the national

race ideology of the Nazis. The repulsive relocation plans by these extremists is just that.

HOLMES (voice over): Michael Holmes, CNN.


GIOKOS: Well, coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, the backlash grows over Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial comments on Palestinian statehood. One

of the best source Israeli journalists Barak Ravid joins us now to discuss, we'll be right back.



GIOKOS: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos, live in Abu Dhabi. Now, the backlash is growing over Benjamin Netanyahu's comments that

apparently rule out the possibility of a Palestinian state.

The Israeli prime minister said last week, Israel must have security control over Gaza in the future.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): The state of Israel must control the security of all the land, which is west of the

Jordan River.

That is a truth that I'm saying to our friends, the Americans. And I've also blocked an attempt to force upon us a reality which will hurt the

security of Israel.

Prime minister in Israel must be able to say no, even to the closers of our friends.


GIOKOS: Well, that puts him squarely at odds with key allies in the United States and Europe. Today, E.U.'s top diplomat, Josep Borrell described Mr.

Netanyahu's position as unacceptable. So, tonight we ask is a two-state solution still a viable path to achieving peace?

Joining us now is Barak Ravid, CNN political and global affairs analyst and Axios politics and foreign policy reporter.

Barak, great to have you with us. Thank you so much. We just heard what Benjamin Netanyahu says. He feels that he should feel comfortable enough to

say no to his friends with such important issues. But it goes back to the question of what does Gaza look like, after this war, post war?

And what does Israel look like post war? There was a hope they'd be, you know, a probability on opening opportunity for a two-state solution.

Netanyahu says, this isn't what he is thinking.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think that if anybody had or has real expectation, and Netanyahu will support a two-

state solution, then, the -- either just landed from Mars or wasn't conscious in the last 15 years.

You know, there is record. It's not like Netanyahu is this new kid on the block that nobody knows his positions. Netanyahu himself, said publicly

that one of his biggest achievements is that he managed to take the two- state solution off the table.

So, I don't see any reason to believe that he will change course now, especially that he's having the most extreme right wing government Israel

has ever had in its history.

On the other hand, I think it is clear that what the U.S. and countries in the region are telling Netanyahu is that without a clear change, of course,

he'll find himself alone dealing with the Gaza problem.

GIOKOS: Yes, really interesting point. I mean, is he speaking to, you know, his domestic audience, because this isn't what the U.S. says. But then,

again, you make a really good point, that this was Netanyahu's stance from the beginning. This shouldn't be big news.

But yes, the international community is responding very aggressively to his comments, saying that if you want lasting peace, that a two-state solution

should be on the table, at the very least.

RAVID: Yes, I think it's not only that, that Netanyahu wants a deal with Saudi Arabia. OK, he has been talking about this a lot over the last year

long before the war in Gaza broke. And before October 7th, the Saudis were ready to go forward with a peace agreement with Israel with some sort of a

Palestinian component that obviously was not state.


Now, post October 7th, every Saudi I spoke to, and I think you hear it from the Biden administration too, in order to get such a deal with Saudi

Arabia, a path -- a revert -- an irreversible irrevocable path for the Palestinian state must be part of this deal.


GIOKOS: Yes. That's a really good point, because we've actually got a soundbite from the Saudi ambassador to the United States, saying just that

princess Reema. Listen in.


PRINCESS REEMA BINT BANDAR AL-SAUD, SAUDI ARABIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: While there is violence on the ground, and the killing persists, we

cannot talk about the next day or the day after, because we have to solve the immediate.

But what I can tell you is the kingdom has continuously extended a hand for peace, like when we look at the other hand that carries the Palestinian

people in statehood for them, and that is a responsibility that we have. And it's a responsibility that we take seriously.

And peace means we have as I said, the kingdom's policy is a finite irrevocable path. That is today, for the Palestinian people. That is how we

get security. We carry peace, we carry prosperity, we carry safety, and we deliver it through the Palestinian statehood.


GIOKOS: So, that was Princess Reema, Barak. So, you know, how important is normalization with Saudi Arabia for Israel?

Because the Saudis have made it clear that it has to be, there needs to be an irreversible path to a Palestinian state of formation of Palestinian


RAVID: Well, I think it's very important for Netanyahu, because that's his only way to try and, you know, exchange, his current legacy, which is

Israel's worst security, failure in history, in some other legacy, which is peace, with historic peace with Saudi Arabia.

And Netanyahu and his advisers, for some reason, feel that they can get into that Palestinian state and without a pathway for Palestinian state,

and we'll just, you know, mumbling some words about that it might be possible in the future.

And I have to tell you, maybe they're right. I don't know. I -- the Saudis and the Biden administration are saying both publicly and privately that,

you know, this is part of the deal.

But we all know that Biden needs some sort of an achievement before the presidential election. And we know that the Saudis want to deal with the

U.S. on all sorts of other stuff that are part of it. So, I think it is still unclear whether this thing is possible on them.

GIOKOS: So, Barak, the other important thing that happened was, of course, Netanyahu saying that, you know, the deal that was on the table to release

hostages, and potentially a ceasefire was something that he couldn't agree to.

We saw hostages -- hostage families taking to the streets, and we saw them interrupting in the Knesset.

Domestically, Netanyahu is losing popularity. We've seen the polls as well. What is your sense about his survival domestically? And what he's saying

and doing right now, hide speaks to all the rhetoric that's coming out, in line with, with him trying to survive?

RAVID: Definitely. And, you know, I think the Israeli war cabinet, Netanyahu, first and foremost, realize that continuing the war and

releasing the hostages are at odds with each other, and that if somebody wants a deal on the hostages, then, it will include maybe not immediately,

but at the end of the road, some sort of ceasefire in Gaza.

And Netanyahu knows that some of his coalition partners will not accept it.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the radical right-wing minister said this morning that if the word stops, he will leave the coalition. And if he leaves the

coalition, this means elections and this means that Netanyahu, at least, and if you look at the current polls will not be the prime minister on the

day after.

So, I think that, you know, for his political survival, Netanyahu just cannot stop the war.

GIOKOS: Yes. All right, Barak Ravi, thank you so much. Good to see you. And just ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, as a nationwide election looms, we'll look

at the timing of today's opening of a controversial temple in India. The editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine joins me up next.



GIOKOS: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hailing today's opening of a new Hindu temple as the realization of what he's been calling a new

India. But the temple is controversial. It is built on the site of a mosque that was destroyed by Hindu hardliners in 1992. That attack turbocharged

India's Hindu nationalist movements.

Earlier we heard from some pilgrims to the temple. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have walked 70 kilometers, and they have come from Sultanpur. I have come here to seek a blessing from Lord Ram. Modi ji (PH)

has done so much. I feel very good being here.

For 500 years Lord Ram lived in a hut. But today, Modi made him sit inside a temple. The whole country is celebrating and it's like it's Diwali.


GIOKOS: The temples opening is expected to boost Narendra Modi's reelection campaign. India goes to the polls in a matter of months, CNN's Vedika Sud

was watching the ceremony.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Millions tune in from all corners of India and abroad to watch the consecration of a Hindu temple in the city of Ayodhya.

In this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the ceremony up front and center, but the event is also very controversial. The temple is being

built on land that was once home to 16th century Mosque, the Babri Masjid, and stands on the side one of the bloodiest communal clashes in independent


Many Hindus believe it's the birthplace of Lord Rama, Hindu deity. After decades demanding a temple in his honor and years of legal battles over the

land. A Hindu nationalist mob tore down the mosque in 1992. It ignited communal violence across the country, over 2,000 people lost their lives.

In 2019, after decades of legal battles in district court a lot of decide to Hindus, calling the mosques demolition illegal. It gave the Muslim

community another plot of land, but the ruling was seen as a blow towards India's Muslim minority.

For some, today's consecration ceremony has reopened old wounds, Mohammed Azees lost his father in the 1992 riots.


MOHAMMED AZEES, RESIDENT AYODHYA: What I feel towards that incident is that was our mosque, and will remain our mosque, to the end of my life, my

judgement day.

Even if they give us the whole of Aotea (PH) in return, it will not matter to us, our plots, our mosques, those lands that belong to us then will

always belong to us.


SUD: This temple inauguration is the combination of a relentless and protracted push by right wing groups for a Hindu nation. Many opposition

leaders boycotted the event, they claim all these using a religious occasion to consolidate his Hindu vote base, calling it, "a big name of a

new time cycle."


NARENDRA MODI, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA (through translator): The son of the 22nd of January has brought with it a wonderful aura. 22nd of January,

2024, is not just a date on the calendar, but a beginning of a new time cycle.

SUD: But analysts fear today's event could further weaken India's secular fabric in the world's biggest democracy. But there is little doubt that it

strengthens Modi's legacy as a Hindu nationalist leader in a year he is seeking a historic third term in office.

Vedika Sud, CNN, Ayodhya, India.

GIOKOS: All right. We're going to a very short break, and we'll have more news for you after this.


GIOKOS: Welcome back. And, of course, we've been showing you images of the new Hindu temple that has opened up in Ayodhya, and we saw the Prime

Minister Narendra Modi on the ground there, inaugurating the temple.

And our next guest is Ravi Agrawal, editor in chief of Foreign Policy Magazine, and also a former CNN New Delhi bureau chief, joins us now live

from New York. Great to see you.

So much happening. I mean, I have to say the images are pretty extraordinary. You see all these fireworks and, you know, really incredibly

moving. But within all of this, it's very controversial, and importantly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the ground, inaugurating this opposition

parties, you know, some of them showing how critical they are of this entire move, because it's election year. And, you know, there's a sense

that this is all about gaining political points.

RAVI AGRAWAL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: It is, and this is something that Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP

have promised in their election manifesto, not once but several times over.

So, in some senses, this is the fulfilment of a promise that his party has made decades ago, going back even to when the site at which this temple is

being built, when it was a mosque in 1992. And it was destroyed at the time, by, you know, a group of Hindu politicians, but also a giant mob.

And, you know, all of that, I think, points to this year, why now, a lot of it has to do with the elections that will be coming up in a few months'

time, for which by the way, Prime Minister Modi is an overwhelming favorite to win.

But much of this is also about him solidifying his image in India as, you know someone who is devout, someone who is seen as someone who delivers on

his promises.

Remember, this is a very popular move, while it is being criticized by some in the opposition, it is being criticized by people who want to see a -- or

India. This remains a move that is popular among a country that is 80 percent Hindu and where Prime Minister Modi is quite popular.

GIOKOS: Yes. Really good points there. I mean, this would propel him into a third term and unprecedented third term. You mentioned his popularity.

This, you know, many say is set to boost his popularity. But in the same breath, this is really opening up old wounds and we saw the violence that

broke out in 1992 when the mosque was destroyed and what that meant.

Can you give me a sense of just, you know, what, what we're expecting down the line of this, and you know, we're seeing these images. But what is it

ultimately mean for Modi and his governments, and also the minorities?


AGRAWAL: You know, I think what it means if you take the big picture sweep is that India itself is changing. I think the India that Modi became prime

minister in 2014 is a different India than the India that we look at in 2024.

India has become more majoritarian, India has become more nationalist, India has become more pro-Hindu. India has discovered a sense of Hindu

pride and India pride that it didn't quite have before. Some of this is partly economics. Some of it is also a realization of the power of

nationalism and mythmaking, and the ability of this particular government more than any other to sort of point to India's history, and point to the

wrongs that they perceive India to have faced.

First, from centuries of ruled by the Mughal Empire, and then, by the British Empire. And they see themselves as redressing many of these

historic injustices. When you look at that backdrop, that framing, that this government has been very good at putting forward, this is immensely


And so, in that sense, the country itself has changed where there is not that much protest anymore, about, you know, what is effectively a very

majoritarian move that harms India secularism, a lot of this is also linked to weakening of other pillars of democracy in India, whether it's the

media. India has very low press freedom rankings, whether it is the judiciary, which has also been weakened in recent years. A lot of that is

linked to --



AGRAWAL: In a sense, the project that this particular administration began 10 years ago. And again, remember the backdrop to all of this is that,

despite these criticisms, which I am making, and many other people have made, this is a government that is popular. This is a country whose economy

is doing quite well. It's a bright spot in Asia and around the world in difficult times.

So, it's a complicated story.

GIOKOS: Ravi, it absolutely is. And it's really great to have you on this with us today. Much appreciated. Ravi Agrawal there for us.

And, of course, CNN is ready to be your guide to what Narendra Modi calls divine India. As it gears up for its election season.

We'll also look at the nationwide votes. And what that could mean to the wider international community just ahead. You can head to our online

platform. Use the CNN app on your phone. All the information is there.

Well, it was a weekend of high sports drama in the United States. The NFL playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs did it again, breaking the hearts of the

Buffalo Bills and their hometown fans with a dramatic win in the divisional round playoffs that had Taylor Swift to add the shirtless brother of her

boyfriend Travis Kelce's jumping for joy across the country in much warmer California.

Nick Dunlap became the first amateur in more than three decades to hold it up a Champions Trophy on the PGA Tour.

Patrick Snell is here to deconstruct all of this drama for us. Some incredible NFL playoff action, Patrick. Tell us all about it.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Oh, Eleni. Yes, what a weekend to sport it absolutely was. As you rightly say, drama all across

the United States, the weekend the chiefs in the bills rivalry, quickly becoming one of the best in the National Football League, and they put on

another instant classic on Sunday night.

Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, connecting for their first of two touchdowns on the night, passing Brady and Graham (PH) for the most fire

quarterback receive a combo in playoff history.

The lead would change hands six times on the night, Kansas City was up by three Buffalo's Tyler Bass had a chance to win it, but the kick sailing

agonizingly wide right just as it did for Buffalo when they lost the Superbowl back in 1991.

Chiefs win it 27 to 24. They'll play the Baltimore Ravens in next Sunday's AFC title game, upon it fine margins it really is, it kills your sport at


Meantime, Detroit Lions playing for the NFC title for the first time since 1991. They beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 to 23. They'll play in San

Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship. Huge weekend in the NFL.

I tell you what this story -- love this story in California. What a day for 20-year-old Nick Dunlap on Sunday.

The University of Alabama star becoming the first amateur player since Phil Mickelson back in 1991, seats is a female with 1991, isn't to win on the

PGA Tour. The youngest since 1910. Just look at the emotion there. You needed that six-footer on the last part to seal a one-shot victory as

parents. Absolutely bringing in the love there.

These are really incredible scenes. He's fight the young lad barrel, Eleni, just fighting back tears, the hugs and loves from his parents.


Because he's an amateur though, here is the thing, he does miss out, Eleni on just over $1-1/2 million in prize money. But this day will be forever

special to him.

That is one absolutely ecstatic university students here in the U.S. Amazing story.


It is it's absolutely fantastic. Listen, I am following the Africa Cup of Nations. It's nearing the end of the group stages and maybe some

encouraging news about Egyptian star Mo Salah.

SNELL: Yes, this is interesting story, actually. Mo Salah is returning it to his club side, Liverpool today. This is for treatment, after he picked

up a hamstring injury in the game against Ghana.

Remember, Egypt have drawn their first two games. They got a big, big game later on today, Reds' boss, Jurgen Klopp saying Salah could return to the

tournament if Egypt make it to the latter stages in the Ivory Coast.

But there is always when it's Egypt, you know, Eleni, their seventh-time when is the tournament's most successful team. They have to really get the

win against Cape Verde later really qualified to the last 16. Back to you.

GIOKOS: All right. Patrick Snell, great to see you. Thank you for those updates on the sports fan.

Well, that's it for CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos, stay with CNN. Casey Hunt is up next to "STATE OF THE RACE". Stay with CNN.