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Fareed Zakaria GPS

War in Gaza: IDF Begins Ground Incursion

Aired January 04, 2009 - 13:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the global public square. Welcome to all of you around the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
We're devoting this entire show to the Israeli incursion into Gaza, what it means and where it might end. I usually begin the program with a few thoughts of my own. Today, I have more questions than answers. I start from the premise that Israel had ample justification for its actions.

If our cities, your cities, were subject to repeated rocket attacks, you would also believe that it was provocation enough to respond. So, it's justifiable. But is it wise? Is a massive attack on Gaza that inevitably will cause large-scale civilian casualties the smartest way to bring peace and stability to Israel?

I ask this question because I've just returned from another country that has been subject to another recent, gruesome terrorist attack, India. And yet New Delhi has chosen not to respond militarily so far.

The officials I spoke with all felt that they would be fully justified in striking at terror camps in Pakistan, but they didn't, because, in the words of one of them, what would the day after look like? Will an attack radicalize Pakistan more? Will military action make India more secure or less?

As I said, I have more questions than answers about the Israeli incursion into Gaza, which is a good thing since we have many people to whom I will put these questions. From the region, CNN's Nic Robertson and Christiane Amanpour; on his way into the Israeli army, the historian Michael Oren; from France, Bernard-Henri Levy; and back in the United States, former State Department official Richard Haas.

In the past few hours, Palestinian missiles have landed in several of the embattled towns along the Israeli-Gaza border. And right now, that's where our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is.

Nic, what is the latest out there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fareed, we can still hear the explosions, we can still hear the gunfire. The battle here has been going on for over 24 hours. It ebbs and flows, but it continues with an intensity. Israeli Defense Forces say that one of their soldiers has been killed. They say that more than 30 others wounded. They say that they are facing an enemy, Hamas, who is using roadside bombs, who is using snipers, who is using mortars, and automatic weapons fire. They say that they have engaged elements of Hamas and injured many dozens of Hamas fighters.

Also during the day, three Hamas leaders have been confirmed killed, two of them in the south of the Gaza Strip killed by an air strike, one in the north around the Jabalya refugee camp that is in the distance behind me.

What we have seen from our vantage point overlooking here is this continued battle. During the battle, the lights in Gaza have been going out. This time yesterday, there were many more lights on the horizon behind me in the houses in the north of the Gaza Strip. Tonight, it is much darker.

We understand from health officials inside the Gaza Strip that 37 Palestinians have been killed, many more wounded. Among the dead, children. The humanitarian situation they say in Gaza is desperate. People talk of intense fear. They talk of a lack of water in the situation there -- Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Nic, let me ask you, the Israelis you talk to, particularly from the military, what do they say the military objective here is? I've heard one Israeli spokeswoman say that the military objective is to break the will of Hamas. That sounds awfully difficult, given that Hamas is a pretty defined organization. And is that what they're waiting for? Is there a tangible military objective?

ROBERTSON: The tangible military objective as stated is to control and stop the Hamas rocket-firing, to take control of the areas that they are firing those rockets from. Over the past 24 hours since this ground offensive began, more than 40 rockets, the Israeli Defense Forces say, have been fired out of the Gaza Strip. That is actually up on the day before, when only 30 were fired out.

Two Israeli civilians were injured when those rockets -- one hit a nearby town of Sderot, the other hit the town of Ashdod. This is why the Israeli Defense Forces say they are going in with a ground incursion, to stop the Hamas rockets being fired.

But as we have seen from our vantage point, earlier this morning behind me, in exactly the area that was being contested on the ground, gunfire going on, explosions going on, and out of all of that, we saw rockets emerging. But that is the stated objective.

We also understand that essentially what the Israeli military -- Israeli Defense Forces have achieved on the ground so far is to have the effect of almost, in effect, cutting the Gaza Strip in two parts, a northern and southern part -- Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Nic, thank you very much. We'll be back with you.

In recent days, the rising death toll among Palestinian civilians has sparked criticism from many quarters. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been a vocal defender of her country's assault on the Gaza Strip. She exclusively today with CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Christiane joins us now live from Jerusalem.

Christiane, what was the main message that the foreign minister gave to you?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, twofold, Fareed. Basically -- and we had a briefing from a senior Israeli military official earlier this morning to lay out the military objectives, which are to reduce significantly the rocket fire into Israel.

They know that they cannot stop it all. They know that there isn't a military solution to this, but to reduce it and to make the pain of Hamas rocket fire into Israel so high that they hope Hamas will think several times before ever getting on to that tack again.

But what is happening, as well, as we've been reporting, is that it is causing a huge and disproportionate civilian casualty level in Gaza. In fact, a Norwegian doctor who is working at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has told CNN today that 30 percent of the casualties received at that hospital today, 30 percent, he says, are children. And this is beginning to have a huge effect around the region.

And when I talked to Tzipi Livni, she positively bristled at the notion that everybody from the U.N. to the E.U. to the Palestinians to civilians and demonstrators around the world are complaining about the level of Israel's attacks on Gaza, bristled at that, but acknowledged, also, that it would be eventually the street, particularly in this region, that puts a huge amount of pressure on Israel and eventually will dictate the pace of this campaign. This is what she had to say.


TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: I can't understand what is the nature of proportionality which is needed. They targeted last week a school in Beersheba, in Israel. Do you think that the proportionate action is to target a school? We are not going to do this. They are targeting civilians. We are not going to do this.

So, the only measure that we are taking is to have them understand that this needs to be stopped. This is the expression of -- the right of self-defense of the state, and we tried to -- we tried a truce. We decided not to target at all. We decided not to retaliate at all. It didn't work.

So this time we needed to say that, yes, maybe it is not according to -- we are not answering one-to-one, one mortar, one missile come from Israel. This needs to be stopped. So, the question of proportionality I think is being misused against Israel.


ZAKARIA: Christiane, one of the things I've seen in the Israeli press is speculation that Israel electoral politics is playing a role here. Bibi Netanyahu, who has been very tough on this issue of the Gaza rocket attacks, the people who wish to succeed Ehud Olmert, including Foreign Minister Livni, Ehud Barak, the defense minister, want to show that they are being as tough. Do you think electoral politics is playing some part here?

AMANPOUR: Yes and no. Of course, when you ask the principals who you've mentioned, they will vigorously deny it and they'll say that actually we had no choice, our own hand was forced, the pace of events was dictated by the cease-fire that expired on December 19th and the concurrent upsurge in violence.

Particularly, they point to Christmas Day when they say 80 rockets came from Hamas fire into the Israeli towns. And there has been four Israelis killed since Israel started its air assault eight or nine days ago. So that's for that.

On the other hand, they also -- it's making a difference in the polls. Right now, Ehud Barak, the defense minister who was trailing, is being bumped up politically and popularly by this campaign. Benjamin Netanyahu, who was leading, is now mostly neck and neck with Tzipi Livni, and he has also been brought on board by the government at the moment in a show of unity to batten down and show unity and to support the government campaign.

Interestingly, he goes a step further than the government has done. Benjamin Netanyahu tonight telling Wolf Blitzer that he would prefer to see the campaign oust Hamas from Gaza eventually, but Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, and the others who are launching this campaign, this military invasion of Gaza, have said that that is not their aim at this moment.

The aim is to considerably reduce the capability of the Hamas rocket fire and, more importantly, the motivation and the will of Hamas to continue that rocket fire.

ZAKARIA: Christiane, thank you very much.

Coming up next, one of the world's top experts on the conflict in the Middle East, and he is about to find himself in the middle of the current conflict.


ZAKARIA: Joining us from the border of Israel in Gaza is Michael Oren. Michael provides a unique perspective on the current situation in that he is both a scholar and a soldier. He is the author of bestselling books on the Middle East, including "Six Days of War." He was a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces, serves as an officer in their reserves, and has just been called up, hence his current location and his attire.

Michael, you did this once before, two years ago, during the war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Many people believe that that war was a failure and that it emboldened Hezbollah. It was able to show that it resisted Israeli attack, became stronger as a result, and is now part of the government. Why is this going to be different?

MICHAEL OREN, OFFICER, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE: I think Israel learned some very important lessons from Lebanon, Fareed, some very bitter lessons from Lebanon. One of those lessons is that an army cannot neutralize a threat of missiles and rockets just by using the air force alone.

The ground forces are needed to neutralize that threat against Israeli civilians, and we've had proof of that today. We've had about 40 rockets falling on Israeli civilian settlements and towns and villages.

Another lesson is, keep your goals modest. There were some rather far-reaching goals stated by the Israeli government back in 2006, and the government was incapable of reaching those goals. Israeli goals are modest now. They are to relieve the threat -- remove the threat of missiles to over a half a million Israeli civilians who are under almost constant rocket fire here.

I think the Israeli army is moving cautiously, very careful to protect its own soldiers as it advances into Gaza, but also very cautious to minimize as much as possible civilian casualties on the Palestinian side.

ZAKARIA: In order to make good on even those modest hopes or goals, will Israel have to in some way occupy parts of Gaza? Because how else do you deal with the problem that once the Israeli forces leave, after all, you can reconstitute the rocket-firing apparatus? This is all pretty rudimentary stuff. It's not difficult to reconstitute.

OREN: Well, the Israeli population in general is very much against reoccupying Gaza. I'll tell you personally as -- again, in the army in 2005, I participated in the evacuation of Gaza, one of the more traumatic events in my life, I can tell you.

Israelis are dead set against reoccupying Gaza. The government has stated expressly it is against reoccupying Gaza. It wants to remove the rocket threat and remove the caches of rockets, of...

ZAKARIA: Uh-oh. I think -- I think we've lost Michael. We'll try and get him back right after this message.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Michael Oren, who is speaking with us from the Israeli-Gaza border, where he is about to go into the Israeli army.

Michael, when you look at the objectives of the Israeli military, it does seem that the hope is to deal -- to strike a very strong blow against Hamas. And what I wonder about is, is that a misreading of the nature of Hamas' power and strength? Like Hezbollah, doesn't Hamas win by not losing? If they can withstand this Israeli attack and they come out and they have survived, won't they look to the wider Arab world as in some sense the victors, just as Hezbollah was seen that way two years ago?

OREN: Well, certainly, that's another lesson that Israel learned from Lebanon, that the bar for Arab victory is very low. In order to win, Hezbollah merely had not to lose, and that certainly is the case with Hamas, as well. And I think that the Israeli army is proceeding into Gaza with that in mind.

The idea is to -- the goal is to create a situation where Hamas cannot, as Hezbollah before it, declare victory, and that Hezbollah's -- Hamas' defeat will be unequivocal and undeniable to anybody in the Middle East and beyond.

ZAKARIA: Michael, what are you going to do when you go into the service? Do you know what your role is going to be?

OREN: Well, my role is, first of all, talking to you, Fareed, and dealing with the Western media. I'm a little bit beyond the age of charging through alleyways. But it's an interesting perspective for me.

In my civilian life, I teach history, I teach the military history of the Middle East. When I put on the uniform, I leave my political opinions behind and I speak for the Israeli army. And tonight, I feel very privileged to be able to do that.

ZAKARIA: Well, stay with us. I'm going to widen this discussion by bringing in an old friend, Richard Haas, formerly the director of policy planning at the State Department, Colin Powell's ideas man.

Richard, what does this say about the Bush administration's strategy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Because we, after all, the United States, pushed for elections in Gaza. Then, when we -- when Hamas won those elections, we decided that we were going to strangle them in some way.

We acquiesced, supported Israel's decision to impose an economic blockade. And now this is where we are. It certainly doesn't seem like the strategy is working.

RICHARD HAAS, PRES., COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Clearly, it's not working. But that said, it's not necessarily a disaster for President Obama. And that's really the more important question. There's very little -- indeed, there's nothing the Bush administration can do at this point.

But what you've got is a situation where Hamas is clearly going to be weakened. It won't be destroyed, it can't be eliminated, but it will be weakened. And the real question is then whether the United States steps in, because there may be an opportunity here.

We're seeing a shifting of the balance of power potentially with this weakening, so the real question is, do we take advantage of it or do we simply allow a vacuum to linger in which case Hamas would one day revive? And that would be the worst of all cases.

But if President Obama is willing to take a diplomatic initiative, economic initiative, and a security initiative, there's actually a chance to turn your situation, which clearly has been something of a shambles, into something positive.

ZAKARIA: Well, so what should he do? What are those initiatives?

HAAS: I'd say two things above all. One is on the security side, I think we should look at the idea of some type of an international force in Gaza. We don't want an Israeli occupation. We don't want the reestablishment of Hamas' primacy. Why not ultimately think about some version of an Arab League or Islamic Conference force to provide security in Gaza to make sure that smuggling stops once and for all?

And secondly, we need to give the moderates in the Palestinian world an argument. We need to give them evidence to say what Hamas is doing doesn't pay off, doesn't lead to a Palestinian state, but moderation does.

And the only way that will happen is if the United States and Israel make it happen. So, what we have here is potentially some military progress. But what we really need to see now is complimenting military progress with a larger security approach and with a diplomatic approach.

Israel cannot succeed by military means alone, but it might set a context in which imaginative foreign policy can prosper.

ZAKARIA: Michael, I was struck by the fact that the Saudi foreign minister and the president of Egypt both criticized Hamas at the Arab League summit, in somewhat veiled ways but very, very clearly criticized Hamas.

But their lives are being made more difficult now by the anger on the on the Arab street. So it seems to me if you were trying to drive wedge between Hamas and the moderate Arab states, the longer this incursion goes on, the more difficult it becomes for regimes like the Egyptian and the Saudi regime to continue taking an anti-Hamas line because it is seen as, in a way, supporting Israel.

OREN: Certainly, Israel has no desire, Fareed, in this conflict going on any longer than it has to. Israeli leaders and certainly in the army, outside in the civilian echelon, are aware of the delicacy of the situation and appreciative of the fact that many moderate Sunni leaders have expressed at least implicit support and understanding of Israel's situation here and have been critical of Hamas.

But, again, the goal has to be to eliminate the threat to Israeli civilians. That is first and foremost an Israeli priority. And, again, since 2005, over 7,000 rockets fired into Israel, dozens fired every day, over 500,000 Israelis still under that threat. That is the first goal of the Israeli military to remove that threat.

ZAKARIA: Michael, how many Israelis have been killed as a result of those rockets? OREN: Most recently, 11 Israelis have been killed by those rockets. But that is not reflective of the damage those rockets do to Israeli society, which simply cannot function under that threat.

Imagine in Washington or in New York, one or two or a dozen rockets falling in your neighborhood every week. Your life would become untenable. It would become literally a nightmare. And that is what life is like for the Israeli citizens under this unremitting barrage of rockets and mortar shells.

ZAKARIA: Richard, the leadership of Hamas, and actually many Palestinians argue that they have also been provoked by the blockade. There is a kind of very tight economic blockade on Gaza. The idea was, as I said, to sort of strangle Hamas.

What the Hamas leadership seems to say is, look, we would be willing to have a cease-fire -- at least at times they say this, but it would have to be a cease-fire that also includes a relaxation of the blockade. Has the economic blockade of Gaza been a failure?

HAAS: I think it's fair to say you can't simply expect to stop the rockets in isolation. There would have to be an economic loosening. On the other hand, I think the Israelis make a decent point that you can't then have renewed smuggling. It's going to have to be something fairly comprehensive.

But the economics alone can't bring Hamas to its knees. What it can do is make Gaza miserable, but in the long run then, as you know, that becomes something of a breeding ground, which, again, is why I keep saying an Israeli or Israeli-American approach can't simply be pressure, it can't simply be sanctions, it can't simply be military force. There has got to be something to complement it.

If I could just use one example, Fareed, it's Northern Ireland. Yes, the British army made a situation, created a context in which the IRA could not shoot its way to power, but at the end of the day, progress and peace only came about when there was also a political and an economic set of incentives. And the moderates in Northern Ireland ultimately grabbed on to those.

I think we need the same sort of thing here. Military pressure against Hamas, but there has also got to be some economic and some diplomatic incentives which then give, you know, some reason for the moderates to prevail and for Hamas essentially then -- it loses its argument.

If it can't shoot its way to power and moderates can negotiate the way to power, I think then we see a positive dynamic established.

ZAKARIA: So would you wish that the Israeli incursion stop at this point?

HAAS: No. I think the incursion -- there's a legitimate reason to keep going, to keep weakening Hamas. But it's never going to be enough. It has got to be complemented sooner rather than later with economic initiative, with the diplomatic initiatives. These can be made conditional.

If we say, if we get a cease-fire, here are all the positive things that would then follow and would ensue for the Palestinian people. So I think it's legitimate to continue to weaken Hamas, but again, the Israelis shouldn't kid themselves. They can't destroy it, and they want to avoid occupation.

I think Michael Oren is right. Occupation would be counterproductive for what the Israelis want. Incursions are one thing, but occupation is something very different.

ZAKARIA: Michael, a quick last word. You've written recently that Iran is the real threat here and Iran is behind some of this. But Iran is emerging at least on the Arab street as the great winner. Iran is seen as the only country that is willing to vocally support Hamas and, therefore, Palestinian resistance. Is that something Israel should worry about?

OREN: Something they should worry about, but it's also -- I think it reinforces the need to deal Hamas a decisive defeat here, unlike Hezbollah in 2006. Iran has really for the last 30 years not suffered a serious setback in the Middle East, and this is the chance, I believe, to do precisely that, something that could be a real turning point, a game-changer for the Middle East.

And I think that is essential. Anybody who cares about peace in this region I think has to be supportive of Israel's effort to deal Hamas and its Iranian backers a decisive defeat at this very important point in history.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, Michael Oren from the Israeli-Gaza border, and Richard Haas. We will be back with the latest live reports from the region.

And coming up later, the view from Paris with Bernard-Henri Levy, one of Europe's top intellectuals. He has got strong and strongly- informed opinions on most topics. And the conflict in the Middle East is no exception. We'll be right back.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "Fareed Zakaria GPS" will be back in a moment, but first we have the latest on the conflict in Gaza.

Israeli ground troops and tanks cut deeper into Gaza today. Palestinian security sources say parts of northern Gaza are now under Israeli control.

Israel sent thousands of troops into Gaza yesterday after eight days of blistering air attacks. The military says its operation is designed to stop Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel.

The push has resulted in casualties on both sides. The Israeli army says one of its soldiers was killed today in northern Gaza. Palestinian medical sources say at least 37 Palestinians have been killed since the ground attack began.

And at the United Nations, Arab countries say the U.S. has blocked their demands for an immediate cease-fire. The U.S. says a cease-fire must require Hamas to stop those rocket attacks on Israel.

Let's check in with our Karl Penhaul who is live on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, and that's where a number of wounded Palestinians are apparently seeking medical treatment. Karl, can you tell us about what kind of efforts are underway to help those in need?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, RAFAH BORDER CROSSING, EGYPT: Well, today, it's been a very frustrating scene, Fredricka.

In fact, aid workers and truck drivers, who were manning about 30 trucks piled with medical supplies for Gaza, were held up at the Rafah border crossing the entire day. They didn't manage to cross. And that led to a great deal of tension.

At one point, the aid workers and the drivers were beating on the gates of the Rafah border crossing and chanting slogans in favor of Gaza, and apparently cursing the border guards for not allowing them to cross.

So far, Egypt has only opened this border crossing for a few hours a day. And it's certainly not letting able-bodied Palestinians flee the fighting and come across.

Now, in this part of southern Gaza -- or this, the part of southern Gaza closest to the Rafah border crossing -- there has also been fighting in the course of the day. There were bombings. We heard missiles slamming into targets only a few hundred yards away from us.

That was also the picture last night, and there was also apparently ground combat between Hamas militants and Israeli forces, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Karl Penhaul from the Rafah border. Thanks so much for that update.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. Back to Fareed Zakaria GPS right after this.


ZAKARIA: We have this just in to CNN. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has announced that she is canceling her trip to China, which was scheduled for this week. The State Department says she wants to devote her full attention to the situation in Gaza.

We'll have more on CNN as details become available.

Now, Bernard-Henri Levy has been on this show often, and we're glad to have him back to speak about the Israel-Gaza conflict. He is the author of the book, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl," and has written extensively on the issue of anti-Semitism and Islam.

Bernard-Henri Levy, what do things look like in Europe? There seems, from New York, to be a great deal of criticism of what Israel is doing. Is that right?

BERNARD-HENRI LEVY, AUTHOR "WHO KILLED DANIEL PEARL": Yes, of course. There is a -- there is a great deal of criticism, and there is a great deal of understanding, too.

I think that a lot of people understand in Europe that no one state in the world could accept to have his territory bombed every day by rockets. This is a very simple evidence France would not accept, Germany would not accept.

It's very unusual. There is no -- unprecedented situation.

ZAKARIA: But you feel ...

LEVY: The other evidence, which is more and more ...

ZAKARIA: But you feel ...

LEVY: The other evidence is that -- you just asked previously how many dead in Israel from these rockets. This is a good question. But the answer is, why so little casualties?

The price of that is that a lot of people in Israel, all of the southern part of the territory, lives in caves, lives in the basements of the buildings. So, of course there is little casualties. But the price of that is an absolutely un-normal life.

I was in Sderot, one of the cities bombed daily since month. I was there a few months ago. People live there like the people of Sarajevo 15 years ago, leaving the streets a ghost city, a ghost town. No city in America or in Europe could live this way.

ZAKARIA: But do you believe, Bernard, that the effect of the Israeli incursion is straining relations in Europe? Is it causing some kind of spillover, you know, the way that people talk about events in the Middle East as having a radicalizing effect around the world?

LEVY: Of course, it is a question. But there is another question, which is that Gaza has to be liberated from the Hamas. The worst enemy of the Palestinian people, the worst enemy is not Israel, is not, of course, Mahmoud Abbas -- is the Hamas.

Hamas is the enemy of the Palestinian people. This Israeli operation, of course, is an operation in favor of Israel, but also in favor of the Palestinian people.

You know, when the Hamas decided to break the cease-fire, when they said in a unilateral way would break the cease-fire, they knew what they did. They knew that they were exposing their people, their children, transformed into some living "boucliers," some human shields. They transformed them into targets. The worst enemy of the Palestinian is today the Hamas. This is the main question.

Now, spillover -- this is another question. The (inaudible) ...

ZAKARIA: But, of course ...

LEVY: ... is to liberate ...

ZAKARIA: But of course, Bernard ...

LEVY: ... the Palestinian people from Hamas.

ZAKARIA: But of course, Bernard, Hamas won an election in Gaza. So, how does one liberate a people from -- you know, this is not a small terrorist organization. This is an organization that has deep roots in the Palestinian community, does it not?

LEVY: You know, you have so many examples in history. I don't want to compare what is not comparable.

But when Hitler ruled Germany, he was elected by the German people. He had huge roots in the German people. Nevertheless, when he was defeated by the Allied armies, you had a great German president who said that it was the liberation of the German people.

You can be elected and you can be a tyrant. You can be elected, and you can be the curse, the malediction of your people. Hamas is one of the names of the malediction of the Palestinian people.

And number two, as the Israeli, for me the image of the Palestinian children killed is really heartbreaking. And for me it is the same. A Palestinian child killed breaks my heart as much, of course, as an Israeli child killed.

But the main difference is that Israeli army does not target the children. They do not target the civilians. The Hamas, when they bomb the cities of the south of Israel where there is not army, they really target the civilians. This is a huge difference.

The famous rockets, the famous Kassam of Hamas are targeting the civilians. So, it is a crime of war, "un crime de guerre," a war crime. It is clearly that since months and months and months.

Till when this could be stood? Till when?

ZAKARIA: But do you believe that this is ...

LEVY: And the real disproportion is that.

ZAKARIA: But do you believe, Bernard, that this military attack ...

LEVY: Yes, I'm sorry?

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that this military attack can deal a decisive political defeat to Hamas? I ask this, because, of course, in the Lebanese case that's not exactly what happened.

The fact that Hezbollah was able to ...

LEVY: I know.

ZAKARIA: ... to withstand it, made it politically quite strong.

So, I'm questioning whether this is strategically and politically wise, not whether it is justified.

LEVY: I know. It's, of course, a -- I'm not a military expert, and you are not. And of course we don't know. I hope so.

And what I know is that, of course, the military action will not be enough. We shall have -- we shall have to have also a political action.

This military action will have to be followed as quickly as possible from the Israeli side and from the allies of Israel by political actions -- very strong political gesture in the direction in favor of the Palestinians.

It will be a military operation for nothing, if it is not immediately followed, accompanied, followed by some symbolical, political, very strong gesture in the direction, in the sense, for the sake of the Palestinian people.

You are right. Military without political does not mean anything. I hope that the Israeli leaders know it, and I believe that they know. But we shall see.

ZAKARIA: You have tracked the issue of anti-Semitism in Europe very carefully. Do you feel that right now you are witnessing a rise? Is there something about the reaction that worries you in Europe?

LEVY: Of course there is something which smells that.

You have today -- you had yesterday in Paris some demonstrations, which appealed, which demanded not only the destruction of Israel, but also -- as does, by the way, the charter of the Hamas -- the destruction of every Jews.

As you know, the Hamas demands -- this is in the program of the Hamas, says -- it doesn't demand -- say that every Jew in the world is a legitimate target for the Hamas. So, you had, of course, in Paris yesterday, and you have in Europe some people who begin again to think like that.

So, you have a sort of anti-Semitic upsurge. But it is not the problem of today. The problem of today is what is happening on the ground.

What we have to hope with all our heart is that it stops as quickly as possible, and that the Hamas ...

ZAKARIA: Bernard, we have to -- we have to -- we have to wrap it up there.

LEVY: ... is defeated politically as quick as possible.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, Bernard.

LEVY: As quick as possible.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure, as always.

And we will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Judea Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by al Qaeda in 2002.

Akbar Ahmed is the chair of Islamic Studies at American University.

These two professors -- a Jew and a Muslim -- have an ongoing dialogue about Muslim-Jewish relations, and they join me now -- Judea Pearl from Los Angeles, and Akbar Ahmed from Washington, D.C. -- to talk about the events in Israel and Gaza and their repercussions.

Welcome, gentlemen.



ZAKARIA: Professor Pearl, let me ask you. People often say that it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is at the heart of the problem of the radicalization of the Islamic world.

Do you feel, when you think about it, that your son was murdered in part because of hatreds that stem or are fueled by the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?

PEARL: Well, there is no doubt about it. You can see it in the murder video. He was accused primarily for his relationship with Israel, for being a Jew. And it clearly shows anger, a very deep anger, aimed at his identity as a Jew.

ZAKARIA: And do you think that the Israeli attack on Gaza thus further radicalizes Muslim populations around the world?

PEARL: I'm not too concerned about radicalizing the Muslim world and radicalizing the Arab streets. We have paid too much attention to that danger. We should really talk with the Arab street rather than fear the radicalization.

ZAKARIA: Akbar, how do you think about this issue? Because when you think about the murder of Daniel Pearl as one example of some of the barbarism that has come out of al Qaeda and groups like it, it seems very deep, almost nihilistic.

And it's difficult to imagine that, if you had a two state solution, you know, and everybody signs some pieces of paper, somehow magically the hatred and nihilism of those people -- the fringe minority, of course -- but that hatred and nihilism would just disappear.

AHMED: Exactly, Fareed. I am really concerned about the question you have raised, because I do look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a long-term perspective. And I really feel that this particular conflict has profoundly saddened me, because all the commentary seems to suggest a dehumanization, a de-sensitivity to the pain and suffering of the other side.

So, you see a line in the sand being drawn, and supporters of Israel simply justifying what's going on in one way, and supporters of the Palestinians taking a completely opposed position. And we are not even concerned about innocent people dying anymore. We are somehow justifying this.

For me, if one innocent Israeli or one innocent Palestinian dies, it's one human being too much.

So, really, in a sense we need to go back to the basics to talk about human suffering, to be able to get on with each other. And these two are neighbors. These two are people who have so much in common. They have to learn to live together.

Or, Fareed, you give the example of India and Pakistan, who fought three wars. If the Indians could show very wise restraint, I think we need to take lessons from the subcontinent for the Middle East.

ZAKARIA: Professor Pearl, when you think about the problems of Muslim-Jewish relations, do they strike you as fundamentally about politics, about land, about religion? You know, where does the nub of this lie? And therefore, how can we solve it?

PEARL: We have here a very deep clash of ideology. Muslims are extremely angry at Jews, because Jews support a state which Muslims perceive to be an outpost of European imperialism. And Jews are angry at Muslims for almost the same reason, for not accepting Israel as an indigenous entity in the Middle East, but as an outpost of European imperialism.

So, this is a basic clash. And what we see today in Gaza is opening the wound that wouldn't allow it heal, and, as a matter of fact, got worse and worse since 1948 on the ideological dimension. The two parties got to be farther apart than where they were in 1948.

And all the attempts to patch the differences with the various tricks do not work unless we hit and discuss the real basic issue that I've just outlined.

ZAKARIA: And Akbar, how would you frame this in a way that, say, radical Muslims in Pakistan would feel that you were -- you know, you were helping the matter, you were somehow ameliorating the tensions?

AHMED: Fareed, that is a challenge not only in Pakistan, in most Muslim societies. But I really believe that the mainstream, the mass of the Muslim world, is moderate -- quote, unquote "moderate" -- the term I don't like using, but we use it for lack of a better term.

And that, if somehow we can involve them in a wider dialogue -- for example, Judea Pearl and myself. His son is killed brutally in Karachi. And yet, Judea and I have become great friends. We have constant dialogues. We have huge audiences turning up.

And that's changing how people, the dynamic of how Jews and Muslims relate to each other. This needs to happen much more vigorously in the Middle East. And the leaders on both sides need to be looking at each other through a human frame, not seeing each other as potential enemies, as potential people to be targeted and blown up.

ZAKARIA: Professor Pearl, do you feel that, until the Israeli- Palestinian issue is solved, the kind of hatred that resulted in the murder of your son will only grow?

PEARL: I think it will. Yes, it will grow.

But I was also -- I would like to support what my friend, Akbar, is saying, in the sense that I was optimistic to find the willingness from Pakistani Muslims, that participated in our dialogue, to listen and to accept and to accommodate the historical process that led to the State of Israel, and to overcome the ignorance that divides the two cultures and they set them apart.

So, that willingness to listen and to accommodate gives me great hope.

ZAKARIA: You gentlemen are doing great work. Keep it up. Thank you.

AHMED: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: We will be back.


ZAKARIA: That's it for this week. No time for questions. No time for books.

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