Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

CNN INTERNATIONAL: Netanyahu Announces Delay Of Controversial Judicial Reforms; Israeli Labor Union Leader Calls End Of General Strike After Government Paused Judicial Reform Legislation; Three Children, Three Adults Killed In Tennessee School Shooting; West Condemns Putin's Plan To Station Nukes In Belarus; Young Ukrainian Volunteer Shares His Story. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 13:30   ET




KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you with us.

I want to go back to our breaking news story. Israel prime minister says he is delaying a bill in Israel's legislation that could overhaul the country's judiciary. Now, we just learned after a day of strikes across many sectors as well as massive protests, the Trade Union group says the strike stops now.

In just the last few minutes, prime minister Netanyahu addressed the nation, saying, a small minority was trying to rip Israel apart and criticized members of the military, refusing to train and serve over the law. Many of Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing coalition argued that changes are needed to balance the government giving more power to the legislature. Now, he's critics argue that either roads checks and balances and undermines Israel's democracy.

I want to bring in professor Gideon Rahat. He is the chair of the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Good to have you with us. I want to get your --


KINKADE: -- reaction first to the prime minister's words, saying essentially that he's not going to shelf, this judicial reform but suspend it for now.

RAHAT: Yes. Well, Netanyahu was waiting to see what will happen. And now, he's coming like, you know, the great moderator, but I think that he is responsible for the rift that happened and he's also responsible for the danger for Israeli democracy and many Israelis so that this danger is coming and protested against it.

And I think that only by having so many forces against this reform and for having some kind of negotiations did he stop with promoting this anti-democratic reform. KINKADE: We are looking at live pictures right now from Tel Aviv there. Protesters on the streets. We've seen three months of protests across the country, cumulating in a mass general strike. We've just got the news in that the Labor Union leader is calling for an end to that general strike. Do you think things will calm down given that Netanyahu has delayed this judicial reform essentially?

RAHAT: I think they might calm down for a while, but it all depends on the way that Netanyahu -- whether Netanyahu will continue to look at the different forces within his government, pushing tower, the extremes or whether Netanya will really take responsibility.


And the problem is that he's part of the problem in a sense that he has problem himself with the judiciary. So, he cannot get involved without being involved with his own personal issues. So, it's going to be very complicated. I think we might have a possibility here, especially with the moderation of guns and others, but it really depends on whether Netanyahu is going to play again with his cards or would he really be serious about getting some type of compromise that will keep Israel as a democratic state with a strong judiciary system.

KINKADE: Yes. And, Professor, the justice minister who supports this judicial reform has warned that the protests could lead to the fall of the government and the collapse of the Likud Party. If this continues at this pace, do you see that happening?

RAHAT: Well, I'm not sure that it can happen, but I think that part, the more moderate part of the Likud was not really happy about the things that occurred, they felt that they were pressure too much by the more radical forces. So, I think that this might -- at the time being, might hurt the Likud a little bit.

But on the long run, I'm still -- I'm not sure. And of course, we are not going to have elections in the near future. So, the Likud can still gets -- to gets back its power if Netanyahu will take it to -- more to the moderate form, more to negotiations, more to type of consensus politics rather than a dividing politics.

KINKADE: And Netanyahu survived the last confidence vote. Do you think we could see another vote like that? And if so, how soon could that happen? Would he survive it?

RAHAT: Well, in Israel we have constructive vote of no confidence. So, it's really easy for him to survive these votes because of the extreme right-wing cannot really threaten him because they would not support an alternative government. So, I don't see how he can be ousted through a constructive vote of no confidence unless he really lose so much support from within his own party, from at least a third of his own party, and that's another story. But at the time, I don't see how he can really be ousted in a vote of no confidence and being replaced by another prime minister without having new elections.

KINKADE: And so, given the fact that he has said that he will delay this judicial reform until there's more debate, what sort of debate do you think we will see and how soon could he potentially try and put push this bill through again?

RAHAT: It's a very good question, because we could have a debate and we could have negotiations already in place. He waited to see how far he can go without these negotiations, and he decided that it's impossible because of the pressure from all over the place, from the local government, from the unions, from business, from everything.

So, now, he might do -- try to do two things. One, he may negotiate, but the other maybe to try to slow down and to promote his reform piece by piece, hoping that the protests wouldn't have -- wouldn't survive for a long time. Protests have short -- can live for a short time. So, he might think that he's buying time and that he will be able to promote his reform piece by piece after piece, you know.

And then, in the -- not in the near future, but within two months, he may restart the whole process and instead of doing a blitz, like he did right now, he will do it step by step.

KINKADE: We will see how this plays out. We will continue following this after a short break. Professor Gideon Rahat, good to have you with us. Thanks so much.

We are going to take a quick break. We will be right back with much more. Stay with us.



KINKADE: Welcome back. We have a developing story out of the U.S. State of Tennessee. Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville. That's what officials at the children's hospital at Vanderbilt told CNN affiliates.

The Nashville Police Department says the shooter was engaged by offices and is now dead. The person is described as a female who appeared to be in her teens. The incident is the 19th shooting at an American school of universities so far this year in which at least one person was wounded, that's according to a CNN tally.

The Kremlin says Western reaction will not affect the plan announced by the Russian president over the weekend. Vladimir Putin says he intends to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, a close ally of Moscow. The European Union's top diplomat calls the plan a threat to European security, while NATO denounced the announcement as dangerous and irresponsible.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow and filed this report a short time ago.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what Putin said is that Russia is planning to station a number of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, the first time since the 1990s that any part of Russia's nuclear arsenal has been stationed outside the country. Putin added that a storage facility is scheduled to be completed by July. So, by the summer, potentially these small but powerful battlefield weapons could be deployed.

But while Putin's frequent references to Russia's nuclear missiles and weapons are alarming for the rest of the world, they don't necessarily mean that we're taking a step closer to Armageddon. Much of this maybe for domestic consumption, to show Russians that Putin still has the initiative when actually progress on the battlefield has been pretty stagnant. Certainly, the U.S. State Department has reacted calmly to the announcement, saying, they don't see any reason to adjust their nuclear posture, no any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

Where this Russian decision will be felt though is Belarus, Moscow's ally, in what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine. Putin made it quite clear that the tactical nuclear weapons were not simply be handed over to Belarus but would remain under the command and control of Moscow. And what that means is that Russia will likely be stationing even more of its troops there, slowly but surely moving into Belarus, gradually tightening its grip over that country.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


KINKADE: Well, the -- the story of this conflict isn't just the big view of the battlefield positions, it's also found in the accounts of those fighting it. Many are young, often lightly trained volunteers, some belly out of their teams.

CNN's David McKenzie met one young man who is paying a high price for his time on the front lines.



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The video diary of a young Ukrainian volunteer, corps sign (ph) Akula or shark. He signed up on the very first morning of the invasion. Ready to defend his nation.

In the beginning, he says, he didn't feel the burden of war. But then, Akula was sent to the eastern front.

When was this was the most difficult time in my life, he says, it's impossible to describe it with words.

Where words fail him, these images tell his story. The story of thousands of young Ukrainian soldiers. Akula says he's suffered severe concussions from artillery and rocket strikes. He's now at a mental health rehabilitation center near Kyiv.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Did you think the conflict would be anything like you've experienced when you volunteered that day? To be honest, I did not expect such a war, he says. When I went to war, I thought everything would be different. And when you get there, it's not what you think. It's scary, cold, hungry and lonely.

Akula says it's peaceful here. At the Forest Glade Center, soldiers get up to a month of treatment. The hardest decision for them is to send them back to fight and perhaps die.

Most important thing now is that they survive and stay alive, says the head of mental health. After the war, we will help them with their health and socialization in this country. Now, every decent man should join the war, young and old. Their job is to save Ukraine.

And Ukraine is urgently calling for volunteers like these. They don't release casualty figures, but a senior U.S. official estimated months ago that perhaps 100,000 soldiers had been killed and injured. That figure undoubtedly higher now.

Just weeks ago, many of these recruits hadn't held a rifle, but their commander, a trained psychologist, carries the Ukrainian flag on his back to raise above liberated towns.

At the moment, I feel less afraid for myself and for my fighters, says Lieutenant Kafesd. Some of my team have not seen combat, and I have a great responsibility to lead them forward.

I just want people to clearly understand, says Akula, that the guys who have been there since the beginning are not going to stand forever. He says he isn't physically or mentally ready. But in a few days, he could be sent back to fight.

This is my job, he says, and I have to do it. Who else if not us?

David McKenzie, CNN, Kyiv.


KINKADE: Well, after the break, we'll go back to our breaking news. Israel's prime minister saying that he is delaying a bill that could overhaul the country's judiciary. But will that be enough to end the widespread protests? We'll have more on that story in just a moment.



KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I want to go back to our breaking news story. And Israel's prime minister says he will delay the second and third votes on the legislation to overhaul the country's judiciary. And in response, the leader of the Histadrut Trade Union has announced the end of a general strike.

Now, it's nearly 9:00 p.m. and the protesters are still on the streets of Tel Aviv. Live pictures coming into us just there. Benjamin Netanyahu says the controversial reform plans will be pushed back to the next legislative term to give a "real chance for real debate." Now, the proposed changes sparked massive protests and strikes driving the country to a standstill. Mr. Netanyahu called for those who oppose the plans an extremist minority who are ready to tear Israel apart.

Our senior international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is on the streets of Tel Aviv right now and joins us live. Good to have you there for us, Nic. So, we heard from Netanyahu not long ago essentially saying that there is still a need for judicial reform. But right now, his plans will be delayed. What exactly was your take on that?

ROBERTSON: He has laid out very clearly however he expects people like the defense minister, whom he fired yesterday, and the heads of the Israeli Defense Force and other security bodies to make sure that they fall in line with the government that if there are any reservists or any service duty members out there who feel that they want to protest against the government, he is saying, that cannot happen. It is up to the security officials to make sure that the country remains united, that it is strong, that it is ready to face the challenges.

And he really gave a sense of what he feels is happening, what others on both sides of the debate here have felt like is happening, that this country is pulling itself apart. He used the parable about a baby, where two mother's claim the baby. The king of the time offered to cut the baby in half. So, he is likening it to a situation where the country is being torn apart.

This area where I am, outside the Supreme Court, not far from the Knesset, has been a site of gathering for pro Benjamin Netanyahu, pro his government's views for the judicial reform. Now, I have to say, looking at the crowds here, it is thinning out. Quite a few people are leaving, quite a few people taking their families back home. Young children headed away from here.

But the sense that this isn't anyway over, I think at the moment, is really open for debate because the reality is the deadline has been pushed away, the core issue hasn't. And really, the prime minister's expecting even critics within the defense forces, and this is what triggered yesterday's situation with the family that the defense minister must fall in line. So, this is far from over.

KINKADE: Yes. And as you say, those are pro Netanyahu's supporters behind you leaving in Jerusalem. But we've got live pictures from Tel Aviv where people are still out on the streets in droves, chanting democracy. I'm wondering, Nic, if you're hearing anything about the planned protests for tomorrow, whether they will go ahead, given that the head of the Labor Union says he's calling for an end to the general strike? Have you heard anything about any other plans for protests in the in the coming hours tomorrow?

ROBERTSON: Well, that the country has witnessed today, of course, is the huge number of demonstrations in so many different towns and cities across the country. That's what's made the protest today remarkable, added onto the biggest general strike the country has ever witnessed. So, we know the strike is now being stepped back from tomorrow. The nurses who have threatened to go on strike, a huge deal for the country's medical services, that has now been dropped.


But I think at the moment, because we have seen over the past few months, these protests, these street protests come out because of people's concerns about what might happen, I think their concerns about what might happen haven't gone away. So, I think it would be most likely to expect some protests to continue, perhaps not in the numbers, perhaps not in all the locations that they've been seen in today, but I don't think the protests that are against the government and its judicial reforms, those are not going away, but they may be slightly diminished tomorrow.

KINKADE: All right. Our Nic Robertson, international diplomatic editor, on the streets of Jerusalem for us. Good to have you with us.

And we will continue to cover this story. Israel's prime minister now announcing a delay to the judicial reform that led to those widespread protests. We'll have much more next hour. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I'll be back with much more in just a moment.