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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Israel To Start Significant Military Operations Soon; Interview With Richard Haass; Interview With Rashid Khalidi; Gaza Faces Humanitarian Crisis; Israel's Security Failure; The Origins Of Hamas. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 15, 2023 - 10:00   ET



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the program, a week and a day after Hamas' heinous terror attack, Israel continues to strike Gaza and rockets continue to hit Israel, as the world watches for a ground invasion to begin.

Let's get the latest live from Israel and then we will talk to Richard Haass about the global politics at play, the influence of America, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others in this conflict.

Then, historian Rasheed Khalidi will join me to talk about Palestinian politics and the reaction of the rest of the Arab world.

Also, just how did Israel's much lauded intelligence apparatus miss the signs of an imminent enormous Hamas attack? I will talk to the Israel investigative reporter Ronen Bergman.

Finally, the history of Hamas. How the Islamist group came to control Gaza and why it was able to pull off last week's terror attacks. We'll explore with an expert.


ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." Hamas's brutal and inhuman attack on Israel last week took the world by surprise. Most importantly and tragically, it took the Israeli government by surprise which meant a delayed response to the slaughter of its civilians. But this was no black swan event. Instead, as the scholar Amy Zegart notes, it was a white swan, something utterly predictable.

This is the fifth war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza over the last 15 years. Israel controls air, land and sea access to the strip. Israeli intelligence is supposed to have an extensive network of informants in Gaza. So what happened?

We'll need time to reach a full assessment, but it does appear that the Netanyahu government was so focused on judicial overhaul at home and a Saudi deal abroad, that it ignored the possibility of an upheaval in Gaza despite allegedly receiving warnings from Egypt.

Professor Dmitry Shumsky of Hebrew University writes more provocatively that for years Netanyahu developed and advanced a destructive warped political doctrine that held that strengthening Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority would be good for Israel. This approach divided the Palestinians, undermined the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and made it easy for Netanyahu to claim there was no path to a Palestinian state.

Shumsky cites a "Jerusalem Post" report that at a Likud Party meeting in 2019, Netanyahu made clear that he supported the money that the Qatari government was sending to Hamas. That way Bibi is reported to have said Israel would foil the establishment of a Palestinian state. Tal Schneider references the same meeting and also notes that most of the time Israeli policy was to treat the Palestinian Authority as a burden and Hamas as an asset. Like Israel's current finance minister once asserted.

The Netanyahu government was pursuing a policy premised on the notion that it could ignore the Palestinian issue and make a deal directly with the Gulf Arabs who are increasingly nervous about Iran's rise in the region and eager to tie up with Israel's booming technology driven economy. The assumptions behind that strategy exploded last week.

But there is a broader back drop for last week's terror attack. For the last two decades the Middle East has been shaped by Washington's actions. Above all by the Iraq war and the subsequent withdrawal of American power. The war upset the delicate balance between Iran and the Arabs and the Shiites and the Sunnis. When the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein's Sunni dominated government in Baghdad, Iran gained unprecedented influence in Iraq which is majority Shia.


Then began the American retreat from the Middle East which left a vacuum in the region, into which may players entered, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Israel, each trying to promote its own interests.

We think of the world that's having been reasonably stable for these last two decades until Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. But that is not true of the Middle East, where the last two decades have been bloody. Hundreds of thousands died in Iraq. Then came the Syrian civil war which displaced more than 14 million people, and killed still more hundreds of thousands. That was followed by a war in Yemen, which quickly became the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

And in all of these crises and conflicts, regional players have picked sides trying to maximize their advantages and bleed their foes. We're seeing a worldwide contest between the forces of over and disorder. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas are trying to erode the international system. If Hamas succeeds it will encourage other, Hezbollah, the Houthis, to flex their muscle as well. Defeating Hamas is a daunting challenge. That terrorist group is

hoping for a massive Israeli overreaction that produces thousands of civilian casuals and bogged down Israeli troops. Hamas is also hoping for the collapse of any possible deal with Saudi Arabia. The more brutal Israel's response, the more likely it is that that deal will collapse.

Israel's goal should be to respond to Hamas, deal with the Palestinian issue in the way that still allows for the resumption of negotiations on Saudi normalization. That is the strategic prize. The establishment of normal relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be the severest setback for Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

One lesson is clear. The United States cannot walk away from the Middle East entirely. It can forswear military interventions and it can recognize the centrality of Asia but it needs to remain politically and diplomatically active in the region. American engagement is a stabilizing force in the world. For those unconvinced, look at the emerging post-American Middle East.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said early Sunday, that 300 people have been killed and another 800 injured in Gaza over the previous 24 hours. The majority of them women and children. This brings the death toll there to nearly 2,400, while around 1,300 have perished in Israel thus far.

Israel has ordered 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza to leave and it says it struck more than 100 military targets overnight in Gaza. The IDF says Israel was fired on by Lebanon today and Hamas claims to have fired a barrage of rockets Sunday at the Israeli city of Sderot.

Joining me now from Tel Aviv where air raid sirens recently sounded is CNN's senior international correspondent Sara Sidner.

Sara, tell me, you've talked to a number of IDF people. What is the goal, as they describe it, of what appears to be an imminent ground invasion?

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: The goal, they say, is very simple according to the Israeli military. And the goal is to rid Gaza of Hamas forever. That is the ultimate goal. What they will not say, and have not said, is what that means and how that is going to happen exactly. We have seen the air strikes, of course, where they say that they have been trying to target Hamas -- areas of Hamas, trying to knock out their capabilities.

But they won't say what happens in a ground incursion, which they say just yesterday, said, look, we are prepared for the next stages of war. There is only one left. Because they've been hitting Gaza from the sky and hitting Hamas from the sky. That is on the ground where there have been about 300,000 troops, Israeli troops that have amassed there. And so you look at scenario, if they go in on the ground and it seems to be imminent that they will, what happens once they are there and if they are able, which they've been trying to for many, many, many years, rid Gaza of Hamas, what happens?


Do they stay? Do they try to govern? It is a very, very, very complicated scenario as this war rages on now -- Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Sara Sidner, thank you. That was -- your reporting from there has been terrific and I thought your conversations with the IDF spokesperson were very illuminating. Thank you. Stay safe.

Next on GPS, I'll dig into the strategy, the diplomacy, and the likely next moves with Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.


ZAKARIA: Secretary of State Blinken is engaging in shuttle diplomacy in Middle East. He arrived in Israel on Thursday then travelled to Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Egypt, and he's going back to Israel tomorrow.


He says that among his goals are preventing the conflict from spreading, getting humanitarian aid to Gaza, and securing the release of hostages. Meanwhile, the USS Gerald Ford, an American aircraft carrier, sits in the Eastern Mediterranean with its strike group and another carrier strike group is on its way.

I want to bring in Richard Haass to talk about the military might, diplomacy and much more. He's a former top State Department official and the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Richard, welcome. I want to pose to you a question about this moment the mood and the -- and the actions that follow because it feels to me like in some ways this is like Israel's 9/11 in the sense of the deep sense of outrage and emotional kind of, you know, rage that is felt in Israel. Totally justifiably, given the nature and the brutality of this terrorist attack. And I remember Americans felt somewhat similarly after 9/11.

And you were one of the few people in government at the time saying we need to think this through. We need our responses to be calibrated. We need to be thinking about the day after. You cautioned -- I think you're the only senior official to caution against invading Iraq. So I'm wondering, do you think this is a moment where a similar logic applies or is this a case where the Israelis do just need to go in big and demonstrate that this kind of thing cannot be rewarded?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: There are interesting parallels, Fareed. If anything, the Israeli reaction is even stronger than the American reaction in part because of images of the Holocaust and what Jews have experienced throughout their history. But your point, I think, is spot on. Ultimately you've got to be smart. You've got to make foreign policy with your head as much as with your heart. So I would say, yes, the Israelis must respond. They must show that

terrorism cannot stand, it cannot go unanswered. But I would say go in targeted. Go in discrete. Go after Hamas, not the people of Gaza. Also the Israelis need to focus on rebuilding their defenses outside of Gaza, in western Israel. The fact that this could have succeeded says that they were focusing on the wrong areas.

But your larger point is right. They should not get too ambitious. They should not try to remake Gaza. They've got to think this through, that even if they were to succeed militarily, and I don't think they can if the definition of success is to root out Hamas, then they would have to think what is the political authority that would fill the vacuum? There isn't one. That's why this entire approach is understandable but I fear it will be regrettable.

ZAKARIA: You know, one of Donald Rumsfeld's famous snowflake memos, and I'm -- sorry to bring up that old history, but it does seem so interesting. He said the crucial question we have to ask ourselves is, are we producing more terrorists that we are killing with our actions, and I have to say you look at some of those images in Gaza and again totally justifiably, you know, understandable how outrage the Israelis are, but the question is, what is the effect on the ground in Gaza among Palestinians? You've got 2.2 million in Gaza.

HAASS: No, you're exactly right. I also worry about some other effects. Israel has the high ground right now. It has virtually unconditional American and international backing. We know and I know that won't last. Calls for a cease-fire will grow louder by the day. I also think that if Israel does a large operation in Gaza, it increases the odds of war widening. I fear it will be difficult for groups like Hezbollah to sit still.

They'll feel the need to somehow get into the act lest they look weak while Hamas does everything. And it's not in the American interest, it's not in the Israeli interest for this war to widen. So another awkward thing here, Fareed, is I actually think the Biden administration, which has been so supportive of Israel in public. The president's speech I thought was his best speech.

I think in private they have got to speak as only friends can speak to one another and be extraordinarily direct about what in our view is wise but also not wise for Israel to do.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, let me take the other side of the position you're advocating. Tom Friedman had a column in which he says, look, the Israeli goal, and I think this is probably based on Israeli sources, is to deliver such a punishing response to Hamas that it feels it can never do this again, and the argument is that that is what Israel did with Hezbollah and Hezbollah has been quiet since those devastating -- you know, I can't remember how many days of bombings. What do you make of that argument?


HAASS: Look, it's possible, but I think it misunderstands the nature of Hamas. Hamas -- this is their identity. This is their DNA, and my view is in some ways even if in the short run, they're degraded, which they ought to be, I fear that in the long run it reinforces their argument that they're the only game in town when it comes to promoting Palestinian interest, however misguided it might be.

If Israel, though, I'd say this, Fareed. If Israel is going to do something very hard and large against Hamas, then it needs a political track. It needs a complementary policy. It's not enough just to defeat the terrorists, there's also got to be something that's been obviously missing from Israeli policy for more than a decade now which is a serious political effort to deal with the larger Palestinian issue.

You just can't beat back terrorism. You have to show there's an alternative path that actually has a chance of succeeding.

ZAKARIA: What about the issue of Saudi normalization? And one of the things I've been struck by is MBS, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, made some very strong statements in support of the Palestinians, which frankly I have never heard him make before. Maybe I'm wrong. But it was striking to me. He had a phone call with the Iranian president. If you are trying to get those two countries together, you know, Richard, seemed impossible, is normalization completely off the table?

I also want you to expand that to -- I was struck by fact that nobody has talked about any of the countries that did recognize Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, withdrawing that. So it does seem like the Gulf Arab, they're keeping their eye on the prize, which is they want to have normal relations with Israel.

HAASS: A hundred percent. But I think with the Saudi policy, both the public statement which was quite supportive of the Palestinians, didn't express anything about Israel, the call with Iran, I think that shows that even the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is worried about getting too far forward in his skis here and getting out of sync with his own population and that ought to be a warning sign.

For the last few years almost all Middle East diplomacy has been from the top down if you will, from the government ignoring the Palestinian issue, and I think what we may be seeing, Fareed, is the limits of that approach, that sooner or later the Saudis and others are going to be held back. The Palestinians still hold considerable influence over Arab populations, and you raised a larger question.

Could there be some stalling or reversing of those countries that have entered into relations with Israel? But we've already seen pauses in normalization. But if there was something that's spread to Islamic holy places, I don't think that what's been accomplished so far is irreversible.

ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, always a pleasure to listen to you, learn from you. Thank you.

Next on GPS, how is the Arab world reacting to the events in Israel and Gaza? What is the likely reaction if there were an Israeli ground invasion. I will speak with the well-known historian Rashid Khalidi in a moment.



ZAKARIA: Protesters took to the streets throughout the Arab world this week to stand in solidarity with Palestinian. I've asked Rashid Khalidi to help us understand the Palestinian and Arab reactions to this escalating war in the Middle East. He's a professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, who's most recent book is "The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance 1917-2017." He is Palestinian American and has family in the Gaza Strip.

Rashid, welcome. Before we get to Gaza and the West Bank, I do want to ask you something that I think a lot of people in America have wondered about, which is, why is there not stronger Palestinian outrage about the Hamas terror attack, the brutality of that attack, the way in which it really seemed to be utterly indiscriminate, women, children? There was a hope that if Palestinian were looking for a different path, they would at least -- this would be one thing they could condemn. How would you respond?

RASHID KHALIDI, PROFESSOR OF MODERN ARAB STUDIES, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think the utter hypocrisy of the West in ignoring indiscriminate killing of infinitely larger numbers of Palestinians, 4,000 of them, mostly civilians killed in Gaza since 2006 by aerial bombardment from Israel has desensitized people. They feel that there is a complete lack of attention to Arab humanity. So far 2,300 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians.

And we see very little of the kind of moral condemnation that the killing of hundreds and hundreds of Israeli civilians has provoked. So I think that the reaction is partly a reaction to that. And partly a reaction to the fact that no political horizon has been offered to the Palestinian for decades. They're basically told you will be subjugated, you will be second class citizens if that, you will be dispossessed, we will take your land as will and the United States has basically not just supported but financed and armed that process.

So people in the Arab world, when they see no political horizon, are willing to turn to Hamas. Willing to turn to acts that in normal times people would consider horrific. But they see the horrific toll that has been inflicted on Gaza by siege, 16, 17 years. By periodic bombardments, killing hundreds and hundreds of innocent civilians. And I think they say, well, where is the -- if humanity is humanity?


If you want us to condemn the killing of civilians in Israel what about the killing of civilians in Gaza and elsewhere in the occupied territories?

ZAKARIA: But truly the right response, Rashid, would be to condemn the killing of civilians in Israel and in Gaza. In other words, not to be indifferent to both.

KHALIDI: I don't think people are indifferent to both. I don't think that is the issue. I think that they feel that these demands for condemnation of the horrific terrorist massacres by whoever it may be, Hamas in this case, are never matched by demands of Israeli spokesman, of Israeli politicians, of Israeli academics for condemnation of the horrific terrorist massacre of -- in this case 720 something children in the last six days in the Gaza Strip. If this is horrific and terrorist, that is horrific and terrorist.

I hate -- I abhor the idea of killing of civilians but civilians are civilians, children are children. Jewish children aren't more important than Arab children. Jewish civilians, Israeli civilians are not more important. But that is the way the west is treating this, unfortunately.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask this --

KHALIDI: That hypocrisy unfortunately undermines the whole -- this whole argument.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the question of the political option. Because this is -- you know, there is so much heat around this that I want your take. It is all true, not the Netanyahu government, I will grant you, but two prior governments, the Olmert government and Ehud Barak, did try to have a -- what I think was a serious offer of a Palestinian state. And in both cases the Palestinians essentially walked away.

Abbas, from what we can tell, never responded to Olmert and Arafat essentially launched an intifada. So, it isn't it fair to say that the efforts by different Israeli governments and this one, not Netanyahu's, were not met by Palestinian in a productive way?

KHALIDI: Well, I can't -- in the two minutes that we're going to have, I can't go into the details. But none of the Israeli proposals, not from Rabin, not from Olmert, not from Barak, involved complete Palestinian sovereignty and independence. None of them involved the end to occupation. None of them involved an end to settlements.

You can't have a Palestinian state with hundreds of thousands of Israelis settled there. You cannot have a Palestinian state if you don't control your borders. In other words, what was on offer was never anywhere near the minimum of what is required for a just, equitable two state solution. That was never on offer in any of these Israeli offers. However far they went.

I could go into detail if you want. But I think that is the problem. And the last thing I'll say is these things were quite a while ago. We've been 10 or 15 years without anything of this sort being offered by anybody.

ZAKARIA: I want you to ask about your family in Gaza and what you are hearing on the West Bank?

KHALIDI: Well, I have more family, obviously, in the West Bank than in Gaza. These are in-laws who are in Gaza. They seem so far to be safe. Some of them had to move. In the West Bank, the situation is quite terrifying. Sixteen people were killed yesterday. A couple of hundred people have been killed by the West Bank in the last week. Settlers are roaming unchecked, the armed settlers, and people are very afraid.

ZAKARIA: Give me -- we're running out of time but I do want your take on this issue of a wider war. Do you see -- do you worry about that? Is that a prospect?

KHALIDI: I think we are seeing ethnic cleansing in Gaza. A million people have been displaced already. Israeli strategists and generals have talked about emptying Gaza, about moving a large part of the population of Gaza. If that happens, heaven forbid, and if the casualty rate continues to climb, there is a possibility of an expansion of this war not just to Lebanon but perhaps even wider.

And I think that people should think very carefully about what happened the last time this level of ethnic cleansing took place in 1948. It produced Arab-Israeli wars that went on and on and on from '48 until this day. People should be aware that if you move that number of Palestinian, the rage and anger in the Arab world will not abate.

Arab governments that are undemocratic and unrepresentative may kowtow to Washington but the people in the street are not going to. And we've seen that in huge demonstrations in Baghdad, in Sanaa, in Amman, all over the Arab world, even in Egypt. So, I think we should be very careful what -- we're allowed to see on American TV screens is the not the full picture of what is going on in Gaza because Israel has kept reporters out.


The death toll keeps going up and the expulsion of people, if it is made permanent, means that we're going back to a 1948 type scenario and that is terrifying. That ethnic cleansing created this conflict in a certain respect. And I shudder to think of what might come if that happens again.

ZAKARIA: Rashid Khalidi, thank you for being on. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Next on GPS, Israel's intelligence gathering abilities are said to be among the world's best. So, how did the country not see the horrific Hamas attacks coming? We'll hear from Ronen Bergman who will have some answers when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Israel has one of the most sophisticated spy networks in the world. It spends billions of dollars each year on military technology and talent all to protect itself in what can be a hostile neighborhood. But last Saturday, Israel was blindsided.


Joining us to understand what went wrong is Ronen Bergman, one of Israel's leading investigative reporters. He's a staff writer for "The New York Times Magazine." He has covered the country's intelligence agencies for decades. His most recent book is "Rise and Kill First, the Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations."

Welcome, Ronen. Simple question to you. You are the man to ask this. What happened? How did Israel not anticipate this attack?

RONEN BERGMAN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, YEDIOTH AHRONOTH: So, you know, Fareed, it happened exactly 50 years and a day after the previous, what was considered and until last Saturday, the biggest blunder in the history of Israeli intelligence, the surprise attack on the 6th of October 1973 of Egyptian and Syrian army. The result is amazingly frighteningly the same, a surprise strategic attack that Israel knew nothing about and caused Israel unbelievable damage.

But it is different. 1973, there was a lot of information, much intelligence from all kinds of intelligence. They saw the Egyptian army. They saw the Egyptian -- the Syrian army, but they interpreted the intelligence differently.

This case, there was nothing. Until the last night where there some kind of a scarce alert, Israel was either not monitoring the right channels, not recruiting the right agents, or maybe it was Hamas who learned from previous experience, who learned from masters in Tehran, the force of the revolutionary guard, and was able either to create the parallel channel, or maybe even understanding which channel under the surveillance of Israeli intelligence and feed those with false information, with information that made Israel believe that Hamas relatively, to Hamas, is under one of those moderate -- relatively moderate, if Hamas doesn't, they said is deterred.

Just five days before the attack, the national security adviser of the country said in an interview Hamas is deterred. He knows what would happen to it, in another case of defiance. Well, he didn't know -- the national security didn't know anything.

And so, no intelligence. No ability to understand that we are talking about massive operation, 2,000 perpetrators crossed the fence that day. So, there are 3,000, at least, people involved. This must create intelligence noise and none of that was picked up by Israeli intelligence.

ZAKARIA: You pointed out in a very interesting article in the "Times" that Hamas also seems to have known more about Israel than most people realized. That they had maps. For example, is this photograph of a Hamas operative terrorist looking at a map which is clearly fairly detailed. They knew about the kind of weaponry.

Tell me -- there is the picture we're showing of that map. Tell me, what do you think -- first of all, you know, how did they get that and what does that suggest about ground operations? In other words, if Hamas has planned this carefully for the attack can we imagine or assume that they will have prepared for what they assume would have been a likely Israeli invasion?

BERGMAN: We'll start first with this kind of leakage, massive leakage from Israel to Hamas. The ability of Hamas to understand what are the vulnerable points on the fence, how to cripple the cameras and the automatic machine guns, what sort -- what base it should attack to create this kind of blind spot, this fog that didn't allow the commanders, the ones that were not killed, to understand that massive troops are just crossing the fence.

But from the story that Patrick Kingsley, "The New York Times" bureau chief in Jerusalem, and I published, this is coming. Those pictures are coming from a GoPro that counter-terrorism units of the Israeli army took from the head of a Hamas team leader shortly after he was killed.

Now what it shows, is a group of Hamas perpetrators. Ten of them on five motorcycles going -- they're not stopping in the way. They have a specific goal which is a secret intelligence hub not identified on maps.

They go there. They don't go to the main gate. They know to go to the side -- to a side gate that is not meant, exploding that, going into the base, looking for the bunker, the secret bunker, and when they don't find it, the commander tells one of the soldiers, give me the map. And he's holding a map of that base. Now this is -- this could be a map based on satellites.


But the identification, where is the secret bunker, how to get there. And we have this from all other groups -- designated groups that crossed the fence, the broken fence in 40 different places that day. Hundreds of different groups, each allocated to a different place, with a clear map of the area and understanding who are the enemies, what are the challenges.

After that, Israel would need to have a very serious investigation on why Israel was not able to understand Hamas secrets, while Hamas knew quite a lot about Israeli secrets, and used those horrifying, horrifying videos -- those videos are not coincident on the social network. You see even --

ZAKARIA: Ronen --

BERGMAN: -- when they raided that base. Sorry.

ZAKARIA: Ronen, we have a minute. I just want to ask you about who is being blamed here? Because I was struck by a Jerusalem post poll, I don't know, you know, how accurate it is and I make that caveat. But four out of five Israelis said that they held Bibi Netanyahu responsible for the failure. And there seems to be a real sense that the Netanyahu government was too focused on, you know, judicial overhaul, too focused on West Bank expansion. They kind of took their eye off of Gaza. Do you think there is something to that?

BERGMAN: More than something. And it was published so people could see that. Now the intelligence community did not bring precise alert. But for months, some of it published, the leaders of Israeli defense establishment and intelligence community came to Netanyahu, showed him top classified intelligence, saying this is how Israeli enemies sees the political crisis.

They believe that Israel is weak. They believe that this is the time to strike. Mr. Prime Minister, they told him, you must stop this so- called legal reform or judicial overhaul, because if you continue, they will use this opportunity to strike us.

Netanyahu did not listen. In many of the cases, he even refused to see the leaders of the intelligence and the military. He continued -- contrary to the advice, he continued this legal reform. He continued to polarize the country, in a way that was perceived by Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah as here is our enemy in its weakest point. If we want to strike, we, the axis of moqavemat, the axis of resistance, this is the time.


ZAKARIA: We have to go, Ronen. That is -- that is -- as always, it is so informative to talk to you. Keep up this amazing reporting you're doing. You give us stuff nobody else does.

BERGMAN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, what you need to know about Hamas, how did it get so strong, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Just what is Hamas? What does it believe? How was it able to mount last weekend's massive attack?

Joining me now is the "Reuters'" journalist Stephen Farrell. He was previously "Reuters'" Jerusalem bureau chief. He is the co-author of the book, "Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement."

Stephen, welcome. Take us to, you know, 1987, I think is when Hamas was founded. This is a point of which the Palestinian liberation authority is the PLO, headed by Yasser Arafat, is seen as the voice of Palestinian resistance, the main political movement. It had an armed wing. It did terrorism.

Why did Hamas -- why was it founded and what was the -- you know, what was the goal?

STEPHEN FARRELL, CORRESPONDENT AND VIDEO JOURNALIST, REUTERS: Hamas was founded in 1987 in the opening days of the first Palestinian uprising, Intifada. It is an offshoot of the Muslim brother hood and the aim was really clear aims.

First, they wanted all of Palestine, as they call it, from the river to the sea. They want part of it, like the PLO was prepared to settle for they wanted all of it. They wanted it under their control. And they wanted an Islamized Palestinian society.

So, they see themselves and the Muslim brotherhood set them up to be an armed group, as they would put it resisting Israeli military occupation. As Israelis will put it, a terrorist group. And the goal is to take all of the land to Islamized their own society and to, first of all, marginalize and then supplant Yasser Arafat's PLO as the leadership for the Palestinian people. Simple as that.

ZAKARIA: And why do they have -- why do they have appeal on that front? Was Arafat seen as -- you know, why did Palestinians turn away from Arafat?

FARRELL: Yasser Arafat, by no means a figure that Israel has any great love for, had any great love for, was always deeply suspicious of, but his PLO, had in the 1990s, for many different reasons decided that they would sit down and talk. That they would negotiate with Israel.

They were -- they agreed the Oslo Peace Accords in the 1990s. They were at the table and Hamas did not want that. It did not want to take some of the land. It did not want to see a more secular, more moderate Palestinian authority or liberation organization prepared to share the land.


Hamas wanted all of it. They are the hardliners of hardliners. So, they set about, laying down the roots, establishing their network in the '70s and '80s, through soup kitchens and social work and a political wing and a religious wing through the mosques, laying down the roots. And then in the 1990s effectively they bombed the Oslo Peace Accords into oblivion, blowing up buses, sending gunmen to Israel.

The Israeli right wing, obviously, assassinated their own prime minister. So, this wasn't like it was one hardline group trying to derail the peace. There are people on both sides who want all or nothing.

So, the '90s, it bombed the peace process into oblivion. And in the 2000s it escalated it to the point where Abbas -- Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas became more and more marginalized, nothing to show for negotiations, nothing to show for peace talks.

If you talk to the Palestinian leadership over many years, they'll say, it is an incredibly difficult job we have here. We have nothing to show the younger generation for years of peace talks. We have no Palestinian statehood. We have no freedom. We are under Israeli occupation.

What do we have to say when they say --

ZAKARIA: Stephen, let me ask you -- let me ask you about a charge that is often made which is that in its early years, the Israeli government actually helped in some ways Hamas to flourish. Is that true?

FARRELL: We looked into this when writing the book. And I think it is -- and Israeli officials told us it is fair to say, I think they regarded the early Islamists in Gaza as their enemy's enemy, undermining Yasser Arafat, a useful tool. So, they turned a blind eye. We certainly didn't establish that they armed them but certainly Israeli official told us we warned them, we warned our leaders, do not let these people rise in Gaza. We've seen what happened in Iran. But the word came down, Arafat is the threat. We don't trust Arafat. And our enemy's enemy -- divide and rule.

ZAKARIA: We have 30 seconds, but I want to ask you do you believe that the -- a majority of people in Gaza support Hamas? You know, there is a lot of complicated polling here but I just wanted you to give us a bottom line, how would you describe, you know, popular support for Hamas?

FARRELL: It is impossible to say. There have been no elections since 2006. Anyone who trusts an opinion poll run by one side or the other, I mean, good luck.

I don't have a crystal ball. But I can say Hamas was under a lot of criticism for its government. I think what it's done is calculated that by this shock, awful terrible scenes we've seen, at the end of the day, people may blame Israel for what has happened and that they may end up benefiting out of this and that is going to be played out in the coming weeks and months.


ZAKARIA: We have to leave it at that. Stephen Farrell, we'll have to have you back. So much more to talk about.

Thank you all for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.