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CNN Larry King Live
Hezbollah Rockets Hit Deeper Into Israel; Eight People Killed in Haifa; Death Toll from Israeli Attacks in Lebanon Tops 100; World Leaders at G8 Summit Call for Peace
Aired July 16, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Hezbollah rockets hit deeper into Israel and eight are killed in Haifa. While in Lebanon, the death toll from Israeli attacks tops 100.
In Gaza, Israeli warplanes blast the Palestinian Foreign Ministry again. The U.S. military arrives in Beirut to start evacuating Americans caught in the crossfire. And world leaders at the G-8 summit in Russia call for peace.
With the Mideast on the brink of all-out war, we've got the latest. With Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton in New York, plus potential presidential candidate Senator John McCain and more, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. Special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE and of course you know the reason why. Let's check in first with our correspondents on the scene. First in Haifa, Anderson Cooper, the anchor of CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360." What's happening in Haifa right now?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, darkness enshrouding this city. We have heard some booms off in the distance. We can't tell if it is outgoing Israeli fire or Israeli bombardments in southern Lebanon or if it's incoming Katyusha rockets hitting somewhere in this area.
We do know that of course on Sunday, that dramatic attack, eight people dying in a train depot. Workers at the depot, more than 10 others injured, a very bloody scene indeed. I was at the blast sight just a short time ago, looking at it. They have cleaned it up, but a lot of the rubble still remains.
That was just one of some 20 Katyusha rockets, which the Israelis claim have hit the Haifa area on Sunday along. Of course, the attacking in Lebanon though continues. Lebanese officials say more than 100 civilians there have died. Several hundred wounded. We heard again on Sunday from the leader of the Hezbollah, the rhetoric ratcheting up, saying more surprises are to come.
Israeli military officials responding, asking people in southern Lebanon to move out, warning them that there was going to be heavy bombardment of southern Lebanon. And really, Larry, no one knows today what this new day of this escalating conflict will bring. All bets are off at this point. KING: Nic Robertson, our CNN senior correspondent is in Beirut. First, what's the situation regarding Americans there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INT'L CORRESPONDENT: Two helicopters came in today, Larry, CH-53 Sea Stallions. They board a team of experts who are going to manage and plan the evacuation of up to 25,000 Americans who are in Lebanon at the moment.
I was over at the embassy. People were showing up outside to register on the list so that they can be contacted as soon as a plan is in place. Embassy officials told me that they want to begin this evacuation in the next couple of days. Likely people will be air transported, possibly taken by sea to Cyprus. That is the plan. The embassy tells me they have people calling in from all over the country at the moment, asking what they should do.
The message is sit tight until you get the call. The evacuation is going to come soon. In the rest of the country, heavy shelling in the south, the south of Beirut today is in flames at the moment tonight in the area around the airport when a fuel storage depot was hit. There was an effort of diplomacy today.
The prime minister here met with the E.U. Foreign Affairs and Security Chief, Javier Solana. The two men came out. They didn't really have a concrete plan other than to call a Hezbollah to turn over the two Israeli soldiers they abducted last weekend, end the violence, both though say getting this action now was critical because the violence could escalate. And even tonight, we've seen two Lebanese army bases up in the northern port city of Tripoli hit tonight, Larry. The violence continues at the moment. As I say, flames on the south side of Beirut outside the main international airport -- Larry.
KING: By the way, if you want information, if you're calling from overseas concerning Americans in Lebanon, call 01-202-501-4444. That's the overseas number. If you're calling in the United States, it is toll-free, 1-888-407-4747.
Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Olmert is saying he's going to give his all, takes whatever it's going to take to get it done. What's it going to take, Christiane?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INT'L CORRESPONDENT: Well there's a general consensus that there isn't the normal framework as there have been in years past to actually for the United States or other countries to get in and try to resolve this by cease-fire and negotiations and talking to all the relevant parties. In the past, you would have seen a lot of shuttle diplomacy.
You would have seen all of the avenues open to the Syrians, the Lebanese, to other countries directly or indirectly and you would have seen the United States intervening very, very intensely, mostly because, by great consensus, the United States is the only country that actually has the massive amount of weight that can be brought to bear most particularly with the Israelis and with the people in this region. Right now, it appears, from what U.S. officials are briefing and what appears from their own statement, that, yes, they are urging restraint but they have all, by consensus said that Israel has the right to defend itself and it appears that perhaps they would like to see Israel continue to try to do as much and inflict as much damage on Hezbollah as possible. In the meantime, in the last few hours, it has been an announced here in Israel that Hezbollah rockets have actually penetrated the furthest south that they have in these last few days of exchange of fire between the two sides and, of course, everybody waits to see whether or not this is going to emerge into a wider regional war, more specifically whether it will engage Syria and Iran. At the moment there is no sign of that. But the threats and the warnings are out there for those two countries to stay out of this.
KING: Christiane Amanpour, we'll check back with all three correspondents later. They'll be with us throughout the show.
Let's go to New York now and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. Do you support what Israel is doing?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I do, and I think that this is a situation where a country has been attacked. Their soldiers have been killed and captured. I think, if the similar incident took place in the United States of America, I'm not sure we would be advocating restraint and responding to an unprovoked attack.
KING: Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House was on "Meet the Press" today. I want you to listen to what he said and you comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're in the early stages of what I would describes as the Third World War and, frankly, our bureaucracies aren't responding fast enough. We don't have the right attitude about this. And this is the 58th year of the war to destroy Israel and frankly, the Israelis have every right to insist that every single missile that leaves south Lebanon and that the United States ought to be helping the Lebanese government have the strength to eliminate Hezbollah as a military force, not as a political force in the parliament, but as a military force in south Lebanon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is World War III.
GINGRICH: I believe, if you take all the countries I just listed that you've been covering, put them on a map, look at all the different connectivity; you'd have to say to yourself this is in fact World War III.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Senator McCain, do you agree?
MCCAIN: I do to some extent. I think it's important to recognize that we have terrorist organizations which -- who are dangerous by themselves, are now being supported by radical Islamic governments, i.e., the Iranians, which makes them incredibly more dangerous because they are trained, equipped, motivated and assisted in every way by the Iranians. So that it's the Iranians that gave them the rockets that they are reigning down on Haifa as we speak.
It's the Iranians who provided them with the missile that struck the Israeli war ship. And so, I think that it's very clear that Iran is becoming more and more belligerent and needs to be reigned in. They are penetrating -- they have penetrated southern Iraq to a significant degree or in sending people into southern Iraq. They are continuing their development of nuclear weapons and now this latest provocation. No one believes that Hezbollah would have acted the way they did without at least the approval, if not the encouragements of the Iranian government. This is serious.
KING: Your fellow senator, Dianne Feinstein was on our own "LATE EDITION" today with Wolf Blitzer. Comment on what she said. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it needs hands on and I think that is advisable. I think there are people that know this situation backwards and forwards who could be of help. And one of them would be two former presidents, Senator Clinton, who knows this -- excuse me, President Clinton, who knows this area like the back of his hand and President Bush one, and I think that would not be a bad combination to be sent to the area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you make of that, Senator?
MCCAIN: Well, I believe that we have many avenues to pursue but, in all due respect, until we insist on the enforcement of the Security Council Resolution 1559, which requires the disarming of Hezbollah, who are controlling southern Lebanon, as you know, and the Lebanese government can regain control these -- it's difficult. As Christiane pointed out earlier, there is not the normal shuttle kind of diplomacy between governments because these activities are being carried out by terrorist organizations, although we know who the godfathers are in this scenario, Iran and Syria.
Larry, this is one of the great challenges we faced. I think that we have to make our European allies understand and I'm glad to see the statement out of the G-8, although there seems to be some difference interpretation of it, but this is the most serious challenge that we've faced in the Middle East in a long, long time. And if terrorist organizations are allowed to exist with state sponsors such as Iran, we've got troubles every place in the world. And finally, I'm sure the North Koreans are paying close attention to our reaction to this crisis.
KING: You pessimistic?
MCCAIN: I'm very worried and nervous, but I still believe that we have the wherewithal, the capabilities, and the leadership in the world to prevail.
KING: Senator John McCain, thanks as always. We hope to have you back, maybe tomorrow night. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.
KING: Member of the Armed Services Committee, more of LARRY KING LIVE special Sunday night edition right after this.
KING: Joining us from Tel Aviv is Shimon Peres the Israeli deputy prime minister and former prime minister. First, Mr. Prime Minister, how well do you think Mr. Olmert is handling this? Do you hear me all right? All right. We'll check out the prime minister.
Let's go to New York and Ambassador John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Why hasn't the United States agreed to the call for a cease -fire, Mr. Ambassador?
JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well in the first place, in both the Gaza Strip and in southern Lebanon, Israel is exercising its right to self-defense. Three Israeli soldiers have been kidnapped. And this crisis could end very quickly if the kidnappers, Hamas in the case of the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah in the case of the attack across the blue line, released the people they had kidnapped.
KING: We have asked, Mr. Ambassador, for Israel to show restraint. You want to break that down? How does that work, restraint how?
BOLTON: Well, there's no question but that Israel's entitled to exercise its right of self-defense. That's what the United States would do in comparable circumstances. But I think any responsible military, any responsible military in a democracy takes into account the consequences of its action and particularly when it's faced with the very difficult task of going after terrorist groups that deliberately hide in civilian populations to try and shield themselves from the consequences of their terrorist acts.
One has the very difficult political and military dilemma of how to behave responsibly while exercising the right to self-defense. And I think that's what we've been trying to indicate. It's a very difficult burden. I think Israel has been doing the very best that it can.
KING: Thin line isn't it?
BOLTON: It is a very thin. We have legions of lawyers in the United States who look at these things when military action is contemplated. I think Israel, as a responsible government, is trying to exercise the same kind of restraint in its own actions for its own benefit.
KING: Do we believe that Iran and Syria are directly involved in the actions of Hezbollah?
BOLTON: You know there are allegations about weaponry coming from Syrian and Iran and allegations about their personnel being involved. I don't -- I'm not in a position to comment on that. But, we do know that Iran is the central banker of terrorism. Responsible people estimate they may fund Hezbollah to the tune of $100 million a year. Syria also funds Hezbollah, as well as other Palestinian militant groups in Lebanon in funding of Hamas. So that funding alone makes a very big difference for the capacity of those terrorist groups to act.
KING: You've often, in the past, before assuming this role and even after assuming the role have been critical of the U.N. How is it dealing with this crisis?
BOLTON: Well, we have already vetoed in the past few days a very unbalanced resolution that was brought before the Security Council, casting the first U.S. veto in almost two years in order to avoid aggravating the situation. There is a staff-level delegation in the region now. We hope to have it report back to the Security Council perhaps by Thursday.
I think we do have the benefit now of the statement by the leaders of the G-8 in St. Petersburg so we're obviously watching the situation very closely. But, you know, you have to be in a position where the Security Council can do something beneficial. Simply engaging for the sake of engagement doesn't necessarily add to what's already a complex situation.
KING: What do you see directly, Mr. Ambassador, as the United States' role?
BOLTON: Well, I think the United States, President Bush, Secretary Rice, have already been extremely active, even while engaged in the G-8 summit. And I think what we need to do is to try and look at the big picture here. In the case of Lebanon specifically, we have a framework for what we want to see happen there. We want a Lebanese government that's democratically elected, that's in full control of its sovereign territory.
We want all of the militias disarmed. We want Syrian influence in Lebanon extirpated. We want to see a free and independent democratic Lebanon again. That's what we hope this U.N. staff delegation can begin to accomplish. That's certainly our objective. That's what we should be talking to the leaders in the region about, the Arab League and others, and that's really our objective there. The objective in Gaza as we have said many times is two peaceful states, one Palestinian, one Israeli living side by side together in peace without one of them being a terrorist base.
KING: Senator McCain wouldn't say if he was optimistic but he would say he is gravely concerned. Are you?
BOLTON: Well, I think you have to be concerned about this kind of situation. But, let's be clear. The basic cause of this problem is the unjustified kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on the one hand by Hamas and the other by Hezbollah. So, if they would return those captives, I think that is the critical first step to restoring peace in the region.
KING: Do you think they will?
BOLTON: I think that they are going to continue to face the kinds of consequences we've seen over the past several days if they don't, as Israel exercises its legitimate right to self-defense.
KING: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
BOLTON: Thank you.
KING: Great calling on you. Really appreciate it. Ambassador John Bolton, the U.S ambassador to the U.N. The former prime minister, now deputy prime minister of Israel, Shimon Peres is next. Don't go away.
KING: We're having difficulty making contact with Shimon Peres. As soon as we do, we'll go to him. Let's check back in with our correspondents and meet our panel. Aneesh Raman is our CNN international correspondent and he's in Yabouss, Syria. That's the main border crossing between Lebanon and Syria. What's the situation there, Aneesh?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN INT'L CORRESPONDENT: Well Larry, it is as well the only way out for thousands of people who have been fleeing the violence in Lebanon. Behind me is the main border between Syria and Lebanon. Officials have told us hundreds of thousands of people have poured in here over the past few days. It is quiet tonight behind me. You see some taxis. There are 15 of them by my count. We are told usually there are no taxis here. This is a sign they are simply waiting for the influx of expected people to come tomorrow.
A short time ago I spoke to a family who's here. A bomb detonated on a factory near where they live in Lebanon. They have just come out. They're waiting for other family members. Throughout the day stories from people who have crossed over here are being so close to bombs with their children by their side that they simply couldn't take it anymore. Most of the people who have come through are poor Syrians, workers in Lebanon.
They didn't even have money for cars. They simply carried whatever they could on their head, walked their way for hours from inside Lebanon. The Lebanese side of this border crossing we are told was a scene of utter chaos, thousands of people pouring into it trying to get across. And a lot of Lebanese that I've spoken to, virtually everyone supported Hezbollah, not a surprise given Syria has such a strong connection to the country and they chose to come here.
But a lot of them were dropping their families off, having just escaped bombings and then going back in. And I asked why they would go towards the violence. And they said simply that Lebanon was their home. If they were going to die anywhere, it was going to be there. So the Syrian government has relaxed a little bit to let more people in. They are aware they're under the gun in terms of international pressure for their relationship with Hezbollah. And so this is one area they're trying to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in some sense, their image in all of this. And the people that are coming, Larry, though are still afraid that the violence happening just over the border could soon come here. That this could soon be the next front in this escalating war -- Larry.
KING: Thanks Aneesh. Aneesh Raman in Yabouss, Syria. Nic Robertson in Beirut, do you see any hope there at all? Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?
ROBERTSON: Well, there's certainly hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel but there's no tangible evidence at the moment that it's there. It's too soon to say from the talks that have been going on here. There's a concrete path that's in place, that everyone can work along, towards -- towards a comprehensive cease-fire. And I think there's an analysis here among some politicians that while, perhaps, from the Israeli perspective, perhaps from the U.S. perspective, this is the time to neutralize Hezbollah as a military force and leave them as a political force.
People you talk to here in Lebanon, they see these strikes not against Hezbollah just but against Lebanon as a whole and that does put a lot of people -- sets their minds against Israel, puts some people who wouldn't otherwise support Hezbollah behind Hezbollah and threatens while Lebanese army bases are hit, while their radio transmitters are taken out, threatens to weaken the government at a time when, if the idea is to weaken and neutralize Hezbollah but leave this government firmly in place, perhaps the analysis here is that a military confrontation with Hezbollah right now is not the best in terms of the long-term prognosis for this fledgling democracy that everyone, the United States and everyone wants to see do well here -- Larry.
KING: Thank you, Nic Robertson. Anderson Cooper, back to you in Haifa. After all these years what keeps the Israelis motivated? Don't they get a little down over all this?
COOPER: You know I think anyone who has visited Israel will tell you that there is among Israelis a spirit and it is a spirit of -- you know, forged, obviously from their history and a belief very much in this land and their right to it. Obviously, that is highly controversial in this part of the region. There are others, as well, who have you know as equally firm beliefs in their right to the land.
But, in an instance like, this you don't hear a lot of dissension. You don't hear -- and again this is early days. Who knows long-term, you know, dissension often rises over time -- but resolve seems to be strengthening. I'm talking both on the Israeli side and on the Lebanese side and certainly amongst Hezbollah. The rhetoric we are hearing seems to be ratcheting up and becoming stronger and more entrenched.
There are, as Nic and Christiane have pointed out throughout this hour, there are not a lot of people talking about sort of paths to solutions. The position seem to be hardening and that hardening is really based on very firm beliefs in the right of each side.
KING: Christiane Amanpour, you know the region as well as anybody, reporting it. Do you see any hope here?
AMANPOUR: Well, look, from all of the guests that you've had, senior officials, for instance Ambassador Bolton. You've had Senator McCain. You've heard the president of the United States, the secretary of state out of the G-8, the message is very clear. Let Israel deal with Hezbollah. While, as I say, they call for restraint. Naturally, because civilians are being killed to the most extent in Lebanon. There is no sense of calling for a cease-fire. And this is fairly unusual because, as I say, in the past, the United States has been so heavily engaged.
Right now, it's not. Right from the beginning of the Bush administration, they sort of, you know, publicly took a hands-off attitude saying that Israel was way too difficult. The whole Israeli- Palestinian issue was too difficult, too much prestige and presidential power being expended for not much return. But, the thing is that back then there was a huge and intricate mechanism for precisely trying to contain what we're seeing right now. It has happened before.
It happened back in 1996 when then the Paris government had a response to Hezbollah provocations in southern Lebanon but then there was a peace process. There was a process. There was a mechanism. Right now, there is not. So, as I've said, there is nobody to talk to on the Syrian side, at least nobody between the U.S. and Syria. No -- none of the mechanisms to any Palestinian sort of those who are actually in government, Hamas, none of the mechanisms that have existed before.
So, it's very difficult to see how, without trying to start that, this is going to end. And I was talking to a Lebanese diplomat today, whose face was just contorted with desperation and worry. How are we going to have a cease-fire under fire, they said. Yes, we don't want Hezbollah dictating our existence here in Lebanon, but our government is potentially on the verge of collapse. And we need help in actually having a cease-fire before we can try to do the very necessary job of disarming Hezbollah and extending Lebanese sovereignty throughout the whole country, most particularly in southern Lebanon where Hezbollah reigns.
KING: Christiane Amanpour on the scene in Jerusalem. We'll have all of our panel back. We'll be joined, by the way, by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Senator George Mitchell, and Robert Malley the special -- served as special assistant to President Clinton for Arab- Israeli affairs.
But when we do come back we will have made the connection and we will go to Tel Aviv and talk to Shimon Peres right after this.
KING: We're back and we welcome Shimon Peres Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, the former prime minister. He joins us from Tel Aviv. There are some who are saying, Mr. Prime Minister, that your country may be overreacting. How do you react to that?
SHIMON PERES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Well, if somebody would fire a missile from Burbank to Hollywood, would you react in trying to defend your land? I mean, we were attacked without any provocation, for no reason, by an irresponsible group of terrorists. I do not believe there is anybody responsible that would like to see us submit to it, or lose its heart because of it.
KING: How well -- and you've held the post, he's knew to it -- how well in your opinion is Prime Minister Olmert dealing with all this?
PERES: I think he does a fine job. He's determined. He's clear. He doesn't accelerate. We are very careful not to herald civilian life, very careful not to destroy civilian infrastructure, and very determined to bring an end to this danger.
KING: when President Bush asks you to be -- while he supports whatever you do, it's your problem militarily -- but he asks that you show restraint. What does that mean to you?
PERES: Well, we appreciate very much the position of the president of the United States. We have to defend our life. We shall do it. It's a situation where the Hezbollah wouldn't listen to anybody, neither to the Arab League, nor to the United States, nor to the United Nations.
They are on their own. They are destroying Lebanon because they are fanatic, run by a foxy (ph), dangerous man. And I think it will save Lebanon too. Lebanon is not our enemy. We have nothing to ask from Lebanon or to press Lebanon for. Neither should Lebanon ask from us, because we left completely Lebanon in accordance with the United Nations resolution and the Secretary General of the United Nations has praised us for doing so.
KING: So, what is your goal?
PERES: Our goal is to bring an end to the attack. Our goal is not to let a terroristic group, or terroristic groups, governing the Middle East. There are two right now. One is Hamas in Gaza, the reason I left Gaza completely. The other is Hezbollah in Lebanon, the reason I left Lebanon completely. And both of them are under the auspices of the Iranians, who send them arms and money, and encourage them to destroy any chance for peace.
KING: Do you fear an attack on Tel Aviv.
PERES: May happen. But, it won't change. Or does it matter if they attack Haifa or Tel Aviv. We are the same people in the same mood. And let me say, I'm an old hand, as you know. I never saw people so determined, so united, feel they did do what we have to do, that we don't have an alternative. We know that nobody can defend us. We have to defend our life. As nobody can stop the attackers because they wouldn't listen to anybody.
KING: What do you think of Iran and Syria's role in all of this? PERES: Well, Iran is a problem for the rest of the world. They make a mockery of world opinion, not only in the case of terror, but also in the case of the nuclear bomb. They think they can play around, because the world is divided. And it's not for us to handle the Iranian issue. It's a world problem, and the world should handle it.
Syria is having a double standard. On the one hand, they say they are not in the camp of terror but, in fact, they host two terroristic headquarters in Damascus. They are sending arms to the Hezbollah, and they will be able to continue like it for any length of time.
KING: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, always good to see you. We've had...
PERES: I want to say one thing, Larry. Even the Arabs, this time -- thank you.
KING: Go ahead. Whatever you wanted to add.
PERES: Yes, I wanted to add that, for the first time, the Arab countries, many of them, if not most of them, are calling for Hezbollah to stop it. The Lebanese government is asking for the same. It never happened before. And we feel that we're doing the right thing, and we shall not permit the devil to govern our destinies or our region.
KING: Shimon Peres, the former prime minister, now Israeli Deputy Prime Minister.
When we come back, we'll meet our panel and get their thoughts. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now, our panel. In Northeast Harbor, Maine, George Mitchell, former Senate majority leader, international peace negotiator, served as chairman of the Sharm el Sheikh, the international fact-finding committee on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Here in Los Angeles, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the republican of California, chairman of the international relations subcommittee on oversight and investigations,
And in New York is Robert Malley, who served as special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, is now director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the International Crisis Group.
Let's get first the thoughts of Congressman Rohrabacher on what you've heard so far. Do you see any optimism here?
REP DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm listening to a lot of people who don't really have anything to say about having an aggressive policy. We're letting other people control the agenda.
The United States government, the strongest power in the world, is letting the government of Iran, who's headed by a nut case, to set the agenda for us. He's the one that sent 240 missiles over to the Lebanese Hezbollah group, who then ended up shooting them at Israel. We should be having those -- the Iranian government, which is not popular, the Mullah regime in Iran is not popular -- they should be on the defensive.
KING: You are saying the United States is not active enough.
ROHRABACHER: The United States is actually being reactive rather than pro active. We are not putting those guys on the defensive.
KING: Senator Mitchell, how do you react to that?
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think, Larry, there's a point to be made here. You've asked everyone tonight if there's any reason for optimism. Although not much happens that's logical in the Middle East, I think if you look at it logically, Iran and Syria benefit when they use Hezbollah as a proxy to stir up trouble both against the Israelis and against American interests in the region.
But, if they themselves are in danger of getting drawn directly into a wider regional war, I think it would cause them second thoughts, especially Syria, which shares a border with Israel, given Israel's overwhelming military superiority. I should think the last think the Syrian government wants is a direct open war with Israel.
And I think that to the extent they are now making calculations, they may be thinking that pretty soon it may be time to direct Hezbollah to return those two Israeli soldiers before the war reaches into Syria itself. I think it's a very serious consideration.
KING: What do you make of what Congressman Rohrabacher says about the United States being reactive?
MITCHELL: Well, as I've said before, I think the United States should be much more active, directly involved in trying to create a halt to the escalation, and then a de-escalation, and somehow return to conflict.
I continue to believe there is no ultimate military solution to the problem of trying to establish a peaceful process for a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, a Jewish state, living side by side in peace, which ambassador Bolton said, earlier this evening, is the American policy and has been for many years. I don't think that can be achieved by force.
The Israelis have to strike a fine line. You, yourself, used the word earlier tonight a "fine line." Can they destroy Hezbollah in Lebanon without bringing down the Lebanese government? Because, if the Lebanese government falls, the current government, it is possible, perhaps likely, that it would be replaced by a government which has more Hezbollah, and is much more pro-Syrian, than the current government. A very tough line to draw.
KING: Robert Malley, what do you see?
ROBERT MALLEY, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT CLINTON FOR ARAB-ISRAELI AFFAIRS: Well, what I see is that, for the past six years, roughly, there's been a vacuum in the Middle East. There's been -- since the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the year 2000, the collapse of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations the same year, the outburst of violence in the Palestinian territories -- there's been no common frame of reference, there's been no real U.S. involvement, there's been no referee.
And what happens when there's a vacuum is that things get controlled by fear. Hamas fears that its leadership is going to be annihilated. Hezbollah fear the same. Israel fears that Katyushas are going to be rained down on its cities. Well, we saw in the last few weeks that all these fears, now, are not inhibiting the actors anymore, and they are escalating this conflict.
And the United States does not have the ability, because it's not talking to the parties in the region, to intervene in the way it has in the past. Now, these kind of conflicts, which are tragic because civilians are the currency, they're the -- that's the blood that is being shed, they only get resolved in one of two ways. Either because the parties are exhausted by the blood-letting and they can't take it anymore, or because a third party comes in with a diplomatic resolution and new rules of the game. And, unfortunately, at this point, we are far from either one of those happening.
KING: Let's check with Anderson Cooper. What's up on AC 360 tonight, Anderson?
COOPER: Larry, extensive coverage from all across the region, live reports from our correspondents in all the countries being affected now by this ongoing crisis. We're going to have, also, the latest on the bloodshed on both sides of the border, Larry.
As we've been talking about here in Haifa, the third largest city in Israel hit hard yesterday; eight people dying in one Katyusha rocket incident. More than a hundred Lebanese civilians, according to the Lebanese government, have been killed. We'll look at bloodshed on both sides of the border, Larry.
KING: Anderson Cooper, the top of the hour, AC 360. That is at 10:00 eastern, 7:00 pacific. Back with our panel. We'll also hear from Dr. Mohamad Chattah, the senior advisor to the prime minister of Lebanon. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now from Beirut, Dr. Mohamad Chattah, a return visit for the senior advisor to Lebanon's prime minister. Dr. Chattah, your prime minister met with the United Nations envoys. Anything to tell us on hopes in the diplomatic area?
DR MOHAMAD CHATTAH, SENIOR ADVISER TO LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: Not yet. But I tell you, the only way to get out of this mess is talking. And that's what we're intent on doing.
KING: Would you say the situation is getting worse?
CHATTAH: It's bad; it's probably getting worse. I said it before and I have to say it again, this is morally outrageous. All the reports today talk of tens of people dying, tens of thousands leaving their homes, more bridges, more roads destroyed. This is morally unacceptable. It's also politically mad. I mean, this is not going to give Israelis what they want: peace and security and sleeping in their homes instead of their shelters.
It is also sad because at the same time that the "civilized world," quote-unquote, is looking for a better Middle East, a more progressive and moderate Arab-Muslim world, we see more and more get radicalized by the pictures on television of civilians dying, of families being torn apart, just because of some stupid decision that peace and stability and good things are going to come out from the barrel of a gun. This ain't going to happen. It hasn't happened before. It's not going to happen now and there's no military solution to this problem.
KING: That was Dr. Mohamad Chattah, senior adviser to Lebanon's prime minister.
Back to our panel. Congressman Rohrabacher, are you, therefore, because of the governments not doing what you want, are you pessimistic. Do you think it is going to be worse?
ROHRABACHER: I'm not pessimistic about the opportunities that we have. I may be pessimistic that our government does not take the type of aggressive stance that is necessary for us to create the world that we want to live of in. We're letting other people create our own options and then we're reacting to what they do.
For example, I believe what's happening right now is that the Israeli prime minister and the United States are being tested by the Iranians and by radical Islam, which has declared war on us, to find out how far we'll go. And I think Prime Minister Olmert is doing a good job. I heard him in Washington D.C., was very impressed by him. But what we've got to do, as the strongest power in the world, we've got to start doing those things that, five years from now, will lead to a world in which the Iranians cannot do what they're doing here, which is trying to destabilize the West.
KING: Robert Malley, does he have a point?
MALLEY: Well, I would say the United States does have to be more involved, although I wouldn't, with all due respect, advocate the kind of involvement that the congressman Did. As I said, I think the United States has to be involved diplomatically. As your Lebanese guest just said, this is only going to be resolved through a diplomatic package, which means talking to the parties.
We have excluded ourselves, not only because we're not talking to organizations that we deem to be terrorists, which is understood, but we also don't talk to them who talk to them. We haven't spoken to the Syrians in a long time. We don't talk to Iranians.
So, in other words, we don't have the influence and the capacity commensurate with the power and the interests that we have in that region. And it's very hard to see how there's going to be an outcome that's good for us if we're not involved.
KING: Christiane Amanpour, do the people in Israel, do the Israeli officials, want this, what congressman Rohrabacher is suggesting?
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, that goes way beyond what anybody here has been talking about. I mean, I was struck by what Shimon Peres said to you, the deputy prime minister, that it is not for us to handle Iran, it's for the world to do so and he said similar things about Syria, while obviously warning them to stay out of this.
But, I think that the Israeli officials who briefed reporters, both political officials and military officials, they know, too, that there is no military solution to this, that what they need to do and what they want to do is to inflict as much damage on Hezbollah as possible to try to cripple as much as possible its missile delivery capability.
They talk about all the attacks they've made in Lebanon to be designed to do precisely that. The blockade to prevent any military, any arms coming in, the roads being blown up to prevent potentially any arms, or other thing coming in, to prevent those two Israeli soldier being smuggled or secreted out of Lebanon.
So, they know that it's about trying to roll back Hezbollah's military capacity rather than completely cripple and destroy Hezbollah. They believe, at least that's what some of them have been briefing, that this is, essentially, something that's got to be dealt with beyond the military way. Something that has to be dealt with in a mechanism to, first of all, stop the immediate military threat. After all, it was and is by general consensus, this has been provoked by Hezbollah creating an act of war, crossing a border, taking soldiers, killing soldiers.
So, what they want is to get some kind of mechanism to basically, eventually, have the U.N. Resolution 1559 fulfilled, which is to disarm and to create a fully sovereign Lebanese government without armed militias. But its going to take some time. And as Robert Malley has said, it's probably going to take the active and heavy-duty involvement of the only country with the most credibility, strength, influence, and possibility, and that is the United States of America.
KING: Thanks Christiane. Thanks for your outstanding reporting as always.
We'll take a break, get George Mitchell's thoughts in our remaining moments. Don't go away.
KING: By the way, you can e-mail your questions about the crisis in the Middle East to CNN.com/LarryKing, and we'll get it on the program tomorrow.
George Mitchell, what to say? You've been a veteran of all of this, seen all these statements coming and going. Seen lights at the end of the tunnel and then non-lights. Where are we going with this?
MITCHELL: It was, I believe the famous German Clauswitz who said that war is diplomacy by other means. I think that's what you're seeing here, Larry. At some point, sooner, I hope, the shelling, the rockets, the missiles will stop, and there will be some form of diplomacy to pick up.
I believe the United States is necessary. I believe it's indispensable, and I believe our government must play a more active role, both in hastening the day when the rockets and the missiles stop and the destruction is over and the rebuilding starts and the discussion starts again and diplomacy continues by more traditional means.
KING: We have only 30 seconds. Should there be a cease-fire?
MITCHELL: There's not going to be a ceasefire until the two Israeli soldiers are returned, that's very clear. I hope that happens soon. I think there are many things that can follow from that. That will, I think, save face for both sides, although that's really a very minor consideration now, considering all the death and destruction.
KING: Thanks, George Mitchell. And we will have back Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. He'll be in Washington, but we'll have you back from Washington, we have studios there (INAUDIBLE).
KING: And Robert Malley, we'll certainly have you back. From New York, the special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs.
We thank all of our panelists and all of our guests tonight for adding to our knowledge of the situation, which all what this program is about, to add to your knowledge.
This has been a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
We turn it over now to Anderson Cooper in Haifa with his special show tonight, "MIDEAST ON THE BRINK" -- Anderson?
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