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State of the Union

Interview With Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog; Interview With Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley; Interview With Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Aired 12-1p ET

Aired October 15, 2023 - 12:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Next stages of war. Nine days after the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas, Israel ramps up for a ground war in Gaza.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It's only the beginning.

TAPPER: But how will civilians, including Americans, avoid the violence?

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog joins me live next, and then Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Marco Rubio.

Plus: on edge. As President Biden strongly backs Israel...

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, respond to this attack.

TAPPER: ... a divide over the war is splintering the Republican field.


TAPPER: How would a Republican commander in chief approach the Middle East? Former U.N. ambassador and presidential candidate Nikki Haley is here exclusively ahead.

And house of cards? As U.S. officials promise Israel more support, House Republicans are still in odds over their choice for speaker. With Congress paralyzed, will they be able to deliver aid?


TAPPER: Hello.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is rather terrified that this brutal war between Israel and Hamas is about to get much bigger and much worse, more desperation in the Middle East this morning.

This was the scene after an Israeli strike in Gaza just hours ago, as people rushed to save survivors stuck under the rubble. Now the Israeli government says, after eight days of a brutal air campaign, it is now preparing -- quote -- "significant ground operations," a reminder that Hamas embeds itself within the Palestinian population, in response to the devastating terrorist attacks in which 1,000 Israelis were slaughtered, the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

And that was, of course, accompanied by the kidnapping of more than 100 innocent people from Israel.

And, this hour, Israel is warning the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist group, about any further escalations from the north after the two sides escalated, exchanged fire earlier today.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza, a population of 2.3 million, are trying to flee. There are reports from inside the country that Hamas, which uses human shields, has set up blockades to stop its own people from escaping.

Earlier today, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told me that Hamas is blocking civilians, including Americans, from using the only viable exit from Gaza, the Rafah Crossing, into Egypt's Sinai Desert. Sullivan also told me that water service has been restored by Israel to Southern Gaza.

Earlier this week, Israel cut off supplies of electricity, food, water, and medicine to Gaza until Hamas frees its hostages, including some Americans.

Joining me now in Tel Aviv is CNN's Rafael Romo.

Rafael, what is the mood on the ground there as Israel prepares for this next stage of the war?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, let me tell you, in the last few minutes, we saw four flashes right above us, followed by very loud booms.

It was rockets launched by Hamas in our direction that were, thankfully, intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome, the air defense system that has been working so, so good here. And that gives you an idea about what's happening here.

And, as you can imagine, Jake, there's a lot of concern and also uncertainty, especially given the fact that the Israel Defense Forces may be on the verge of starting a ground incursion into Gaza on Saturday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited with the troops that had been deployed to the border with Gaza.

He told the soldiers that the next stage is coming. Israel's military says its forces are increasing operational readiness for the next stages of the war. In a statement, it said that -- quote -- "IDF forces are currently preparing to implement a wide range of operational offensive plans, which can include combined and coordinated strikes from the air, sea and land."

And, Jake, the airstrikes on Gaza haven't stopped either. Israel claims its military killed a Hamas commander who played a key role in last Saturday's attack. There are new signs that this conflict is being followed very closely beyond Israel's borders.

On social media, the Iranian Mission to the United Nations warned of far-reaching consequences if Israel does not stop its attacks on Gaza. Add to the mix the fact that the Pentagon has ordered a second carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. But those two U.S. warships are not intended to join the fighting in Gaza or take part in Israel's operations.

But the message, Jake, for Iran and Iranian proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, is very clear: Do not get involved -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Rafael Romo in Tel Aviv, thank you so much.

Joining me now in studio is Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog.

Before I start, of course, I want to offer my deepest condolences to the Israeli people about what happened eight days ago, just a horrific, horrific attack, a terrorist attack. I think I speak for all of my viewers and everybody at CNN when I say our hearts are just broken by what happened.


MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. I really appropriate that.

TAPPER: The -- this ground incursion that we expect in the next -- do we -- do we -- can you give me any sort of sense of timing? Let's say, in the next week? I know you have 300,000 reservists on the border.

And is it an operation to rid Hamas of its military capabilities, its terrorist capabilities, or is it an operation to destroy Hamas completely?

HERZOG: So, as you noted, Israel was attacked.

Hamas waged war on Israel, and they carried out one of the worst terror attacks in world history, if not the worst. And we have no choice but to strike back. And we are determined to destroy the Hamas war machine, so that they cannot threaten us again.

We do not want to be in that game where, every few years, they launch a war against us or provoke us. That's over. And we are determined to destroy the war machine. We are preparing a ground operation. I'm not going to go into details and timetables and all that, but we are at war, and we're going to fight that war.

TAPPER: And what is the plan for after you accomplish the objective? What does the end state after the operation look like?

Will Israel reoccupy the Gaza Strip? Will any Palestinians who fled Gaza be allowed back in?

HERZOG: So, we have no desire to occupy or reoccupy Gaza. We have no desire to rule over the lives of over two million Palestinians.

And, certainly, we want people to go back to their homes. We're talking about innocent civilians. And we are doing everything we can to keep them out of harm's way, while Hamas is doing everything it can to keep them in harm's way. That's the situation we are at.

I think talking about the day after is a bit premature, because crushing the Hamas war machine will require time. The questions you raise are valid, and I think we will have to enter discussions with our partners, with the international community about the day after.

TAPPER: A "Haaretz" editorial this week said -- quote -- "Israel's most urgent task is to bring back the Israelis held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip."

And they point out that your finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, reportedly argued in a Cabinet meeting for Israel to -- quote -- "strike Hamas brutally and not take the issue of the captives into account too much."

And what "Haaretz" is arguing is, why not? Why isn't the -- why aren't the captives, why aren't the kidnapping victims the number one priority?

HERZOG: Well, certainly, the issue of the kidnapped Israelis and others is very much -- it's high on our agenda. We're well aware of that.

We're still in the process of forming a picture, understanding how many people are there, what is their condition, what is their identity. And, certainly, this is a consideration.

I don't want to comment about statements by this or that politician. All we say is that Hamas perpetrated a war crime and crime against humanity in taking hostages, and that we hold them accountable to any harm that comes to any of the hostages.

TAPPER: Hamas is claiming that Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 13 of the hostages in Gaza.

Do you have any idea if that's true?

HERZOG: I don't know. I would be very careful about what they say. There's a lot of misinformation and propaganda there.

So, I would be very careful and take -- I would take what they say with a grain of salt.

TAPPER: You said a week ago it was premature to discuss any deals for exchanging hostages. Has that changed? Is there any discussion about any prisoner swaps, hostage swaps?

HERZOG: We're not at that phase.

And, as I said, we're in the middle of war.


HERZOG: And we still have to know how many hostages there are and what is their condition.

TAPPER: So, you obviously distinguish between Hamas and the 2.3 million Palestinians, many of whom are prisoners of Hamas, in Gaza.

Israel has warned the 1.1 million in Northern Gaza to evacuate. And the U.S. officials, the U.S. has even said that's a tall order. The U.N. has said it's impossible to get them all out.

What's the latest on these humanitarian corridors and letting the innocent victims of -- of Hamas in many ways get out?

HERZOG: So, I'm glad you asked the question.

Our enemy is Hamas. It's not the Palestinian people. It's not the innocent civilians.


TAPPER: But many of them are dying because of Israeli bombardment.

HERZOG: So, they are used by Hamas as human shields.


That's why we called on them to leave their homes, because, as we intensify the war against Hamas and Hamas war machine, we don't want to harm any civilians. And we ask them to move to the south of Gaza.

Hamas, in contrast, is asking them to stay, is forcing them to stay.

TAPPER: Right. They're setting up...


HERZOG: ... blockades.


HERZOG: They are confiscating -- confiscating car keys and so on. We see all that. They want to use them as human shields.

Already, 700,000 people left their homes. And we are in the process of establishing a humanitarian zone, a big humanitarian zone, in the southern part of Gaza with the U.N. We're working very closely with U.N. agencies, so that they will go there, it will be a humanitarian zone, and they will get all the essential provisions, like water, medicine, food, and things like that. We are in that process.

TAPPER: But are the Egyptians letting -- first of all, we heard that Hamas wouldn't let Americans trapped in Gaza out the Rafah Crossing.

HERZOG: That's true. That's true. We are in the process of facilitating their exit.

They are already in the crossing, and Hamas preventing them -- preventing them from leaving Gaza.

TAPPER: And those are the Americans.

And then we know that El-Sisi has been reluctant to let the Palestinians out of the Rafah gate, because he doesn't want a refugee camp. He doesn't want them going into Egypt.

HERZOG: As I explained, this -- the humanitarian zone that we are establishing with the U.N., I want to emphasize, we work very closely with U.N. agencies.

Humanitarian agencies is inside Gaza, in the southern part of Gaza, be able to host hundreds of thousands of people. And they get all the food and provisions and essentials. That's where we are.

TAPPER: And you want them -- you want aid to be able to get into Gaza, not just people getting out of Gaza? You want aid in?

HERZOG: Yes. I'm talking about aid getting to a humanitarian zone that we are creating.

And, again, I want to emphasize, we are doing everything we can to get innocent civilians out of harm's way, while Hamas is doing everything they can to get them in harm's way.

TAPPER: And I know you want to punish Hamas by cutting off supplies, electricity, water, et cetera, but that is hurting civilians. It is hurting...

HERZOG: Well, let me explain.

We're not punishing Hamas. They waged war on us.

TAPPER: I understand that.

HERZOG: And when...

TAPPER: But when you cut off all those other things, it also hurts the people.

HERZOG: So, we did not cut electricity to Hamas. All electricity power lines leading from Israel to Gaza were destroyed by Hamas rockets. Let's be clear on that.

We're not punishing anybody. We are waging war on Hamas. And that's the reality. It's a war zone. They destroyed the only crossing from Israel to Gaza. They destroyed all the electricity lines. They destroyed the water line lead -- from Israel to Gaza. That's the situation.

We are operating under international law. And any essentials that the Palestinian population needs, we will facilitate. That's why we're establishing this safe zone.

TAPPER: All right, Ambassador Herzog, thank you so much for being with us.

And I am praying for peace.

HERZOG: So are we.

Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

For more, I'm going to talk to the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, about what he is learning.

He will join us live next.




As we enter day eight of this war and what appears to be an imminent ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces, there remain so many outstanding questions about what role the United States should play in not only aiding a key ally, Israel, but rescuing the Americans currently being held hostage by Hamas.

Joining us now is Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He is the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you have seen the top intelligence. What should we as Americans be prepared to see when a ground invasion happens, which we're all preparing ourselves to witness?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Well, I think, again, never commenting on intelligence specifically, but I think much of the commentary you have seen out there that people have been saying is accurate.

The first is an incursion into Gaza to try to root out Hamas, I believe the Israelis have the ability to do it, especially with us, our resupply role that we're going to play. But it won't be an easy task. I mean, there's no doubt Hamas has booby-trapped the place. They have taken a defensive posture, and they're hiding behind civilians.

I mean, we have seen the reporting just today, open-source media, about how they're preventing civilians from moving and people from getting out of the way. So it's part of their tactics. I think, obviously, related to that is, what is Hezbollah and behind them Iran planning to do as a result of this as this moves forward, as this goes on?

And, look, wars are painful, difficult things. They're not pleasant. They're not the kinds of things that anyone should be cheering on. But, sometimes, unfortunately, in human affairs, they become necessary, in particular to get rid of this terrorist group.

What is the reaction going to be from Hezbollah? Are they going to launch a second front? Because I think that changes this dynamic substantially in very serious ways. This is a very delicate moment, a necessary moment, unfortunately, but it's also one that we shouldn't take lightly. I mean, it's deeply troubling, at the same time as we know what Israel has to do here.

TAPPER: How long should Israel and the world be prepared for this war to last? And what do you think is the end goal?

You heard the ambassador say that Israel does not want to reoccupy Gaza. But if they get rid of Hamas, what happens? Who takes control of Gaza?

RUBIO: Well, and that's a difficult question, right?

The Egyptians certainly don't want any part of assuming any of the responsibility here. Understand, Hamas is a descendant, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. And they certainly don't want that in their country either, which complicates this further.

I can't speak to Israeli tactics or what their plans are after the fact. I certainly think that's going to be one of the things that's going to be problematic. As far as the time frame that's involved, I don't know if anybody can tell you. What I'm pretty certain, I think the Israelis would say it, everybody would say it -- is, this is not one of those 72- hour or two- or-three-week deals here.


Hamas is deeply embedded. They hide in tunnels. And it's not just Hamas. There are Islamic Jihad and other groups that are involved in this as well. So, this is going to be a complicated process. I think Israel, with our support, has the ability to carry out the job.

But it's going to be painful. It's going to be costly all around. They know that. They have messaged that. And I think this is a months-type situation, not days- or weeks-type situation, from everything I have seen. And I hope I'm wrong, obviously. I hope it's quicker than that, but that's the direction everyone seems to believe this will go in.

TAPPER: Governor and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was on the show earlier talking about how the leaders of Arab nations, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, et cetera, et cetera, could be doing so much more, and don't, obviously talk a lot about the Palestinians at other times, but really pony up very little when it comes to actual effort.

What could they be doing, not only in getting Hamas to release the hostages, but in terms of helping the Palestinian people have a thriving democracy on the banks of the Mediterranean, if they wanted to, if there was some sort of Arab League security force that could help with that effort?

RUBIO: Well, and I think one of the things we're learning, OK, and we're reminded of is, I don't care what country you are. No country in the world wants mass migrations of people from other places.

I mean, it was a mass migration of refugees that changed the dynamic of Lebanon completely, re-altered the demographics, plunged the country into a long civil war and has brought it to the point it is today. Egypt doesn't want that. Jordan doesn't want that. None of these countries want that.

None of them are ponying up and saying, send everybody to us.

TAPPER: Right. Right.

RUBIO: So, I think, certainly, they could play a role in that regard, in terms of helping accommodate people coming there and providing that.

The other is, obviously, the role they play, in some cases, some of these countries in being supporters of Hamas in the past. Look, the Qataris, I think, are a strategic ally and someone we work with on many issues, but they have also been a supporter of Hamas.

Now, my understanding is, they're trying to play a constructive role in this regard, but, at the same time, I think we have to -- this should be a lesson to all these nations and governments that, if you're trying to play an outsized role in the region by having these groups that you have relationships with, it will end up backfiring on you, particularly a group like this that is committed to the establishment of an Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian state that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.

So I hope this will be a lesson that groups like this should not be coddled or encouraged. The hope is to find responsible actors that you can partner with and engage with in the region. That just hasn't existed, which is what makes this part of the world so difficult.

And that's why I think we have to take things one step at a time in that regard. And step one is to eliminate Hamas as a military threat. They simply cannot continue to be a military threat after what they have done. And then there are a lot of complicated questions.

And anyone who tells you they have somewhere in their jacket a simple plan to fix all this in the long term is not being honest. There are a lot of complex twists and turns and difficult decisions to be made. But the one that's pretty clear at the front end is, Hamas has to be eliminated as a military threat.

TAPPER: So, you said that any civilian casualties in Gaza are 100 percent the fault of Hamas...

RUBIO: Correct.

TAPPER: ... because Hamas launched the attack eight days ago and is currently using these civilians as human shields, embedding within the populace, et cetera, preventing Palestinians from fleeing.

Still, it is an ugly reality, an ugly fact that 700 Palestinian kids have reportedly been killed in the last eight days. Do you think that Israel has done enough to try to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza? Is there anything more Israel could be doing, anything more Egypt could be doing, anything more the U.S. could be doing?

RUBIO: Well, and I think those efforts are under way.

I think you have seen Israel, for example, try to -- and has been doing it from the very beginning -- telling people to get out of there, to move. And you have seen some efforts to move. You have seen efforts from Hamas to prevent that from happening.

Ultimately, the other thing to remember here is, look, wars are terrible, ugly things. And, unfortunately, in human affairs, they are necessary sometimes, because nations have a right to self-defense. Hamas cannot be allowed to continue to exist.

And they follow the same pattern over and over again. They kill Israelis, and then they run and they hide in their tunnels. They put civilians in front of them. Civilians get killed. The world screams at Israel, you need to stop. Israel stops. And then Hamas comes back and kills more Israelis in the future. That pattern cannot continue.

As far as what more can be done, I think a lot of those efforts are in place to ask as many people as possible to move to the south. There's reports this morning the Israelis say they have turned on the water again and hopefully some of the power to that part, where that could be a safe haven.

But it's important to remember here Israel is not saying, we are going to attack civilians for the purpose of inflicting terror. They are trying to target Hamas strongholds. That's what they're targeting. If civilians are in those strongholds, it's because Hamas has placed themselves there, unfortunately, sadly, tragically.


But, nonetheless, what choice does Israel have? They cannot coexist with this element that is willing to do what we just saw a week ago yesterday.

TAPPER: Lastly, the House of Representatives is now on day 12 without a speaker, which hinders all of Congress' ability to do anything.

It's unclear whether any of the current candidates are going to be able to get 217 votes. This means that the House can't even pass a resolution condemning Hamas, let alone support for Israel, let alone all of Congress being able to pass any new aid packages for Israel or for Ukraine.

At what point does this chaos within the House Republican Conference start to jeopardize national security or American leadership in the world? And what is your message to your House Republican colleagues?

RUBIO: Well, I -- it's -- I don't vote in the House. I'm not a House member. I don't think they listen or care what senators think about their affairs. I can't control what happens there, so they need to obviously work through that process and figure it out. And I hope that they do, obviously.

Well, here's the one thing I do want to say. With Israel, much of our aid and support to Israel is codified. In fact, we codified it with my bill, along with Senator Coons, two years ago. That doesn't mean we're not going to have to come back at some point and put additional funding, but, luckily, the reason why we codified that support is because I always suspected and feared that a crisis involving Israel would move much faster than the ability of Congress to respond.

At some point here soon, we will need a speaker. We will need a functioning House, and there are things we're going to have to do to help Israel, including fund the government in less than 35 days or keep it open.

So that's all going to have to happen. And I will watch and hope, like everybody else, that the House will be able to work through that process. I'm not going to try to steer it or influence it. I don't think I have any influence over what the House does. And, hopefully, we will be in a situation here soon where that won't be a factor.

But the good news is, is, the administration right now has ample authorities to do what they are doing. And that is position not just the equipment that's already accessible, but resupply, should Israel need it here over the next couple weeks.

TAPPER: I'm not going to put words in your mouth, but you anticipated some of this clownishness, it sounds like. So, you're to be commended for your prescience.

Again, that's my words, not yours.

Thank you so much, Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank you.


TAPPER: I appreciate your time today.

Coming up: She was U.N. ambassador. Now she wants to be president. How would a President Nikki Haley handle the major challenges facing the U.S. right now both at home and abroad?

She joins me next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

As the Israeli government warns of a new phase in its fight against Hamas, brand-new polling just into CNN shows how Americans are feeling about this war. The U.S. public broadly feels Israel's military response to the Hamas terrorist attack is fully justified.

But the difference by age is quite stark; 81 percent of Americans over the age of 65 feel the response by the Israeli government is fully justified. But just 27 percent of Americans 18 to 34 years old feel that way.

The humanitarian crisis is also top of mind for many Americans; 71 percent of Americans feel a lot of sympathy for the people of Israel; 41 percent feel a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people.

Former U.N. Ambassador and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Nikki Haley joins us now.

Ambassador Haley, thanks so much for joining us.

If you were president right now, would you consider using the U.S. special operations to rescue American hostages being held in Gaza? You just heard Jake Sullivan say that one of the complications with that is, we don't know exactly where the hostages are, but I'm wondering how much you would consider such a thing.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me, Jake.

I think it's important. You have to tell hard truths to Americans. And when you're talking about this, when you showed those percentages of what people think and what they think we should do, you have to be honest with them. This is messy, right?

I mean, we desperately want to get those American hostages out. But if you saw those kids in the hands of those terrorists, like, with a mom heart, it made me sick to my stomach for all those parents having to see their children in those terrorist hands. So, of course, we want them out.

But why isn't it so easy that we can do that? It's because we don't know where they are. And I have been in those tunnels that are massive, that are sophisticated, and that Hamas uses to hide equipment and ammunition and to do their dirty work and maybe to have those hostages.

But where are those tunnels? They're underneath hospitals. They're underneath schools. They're in hard-to-find places. So this is incredibly tough. I feel for the Israeli families. I feel for the American families. And I feel for any other families who've lost a loved one or have someone in a hostage situation, because it's really bleak right now. And it's hard for anyone to feel good about this.

TAPPER: Yes, we just showed images that your office gave us of when you visited Israel in 2017 and the IDF took you to those tunnels near the kibbutz Ein Hashlosha.

You said that, because those tunnels in Gaza are near civilian sites, it's going to get bad. It's already pretty bad, obviously. There are more than 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza. More than half of them are children.

Do you think the U.S., Israel, Egypt needs to be doing more to help these innocent Palestinian civilians get out of harm's way? Although you just heard Jake Sullivan say, one of the problems is Hamas is keeping the civilians in Gaza. They don't want them to leave.

HALEY: There are a couple of things at play here.

Hamas is going to do everything they can to not have them leave, because, guess what, they want them all to die. One, they want to use them as human shields, but, two, they want to blame Israel and show images of dead children and say, look at what Israel did.

But don't ever forget what Hamas did. Don't ever forget those girls running for their life. Don't ever forget those babies that were killed in cribs. Don't ever forget the people that they were dragging through the streets. And what were they saying, Jake? They were saying, "Death to Israel, death to America."


That's who we're dealing with. But I dealt with this at the United Nations. You're going to hear all of those Arab countries vilify Israel for what's about to happen. You're going to hear all of them say, how dare you not do more for the Palestinian people?

And you know what? We should care about the Palestinian citizens, especially the innocent ones, because they didn't ask for this. But where are the Arab countries? Where are they? Where is Qatar? Where is Lebanon? Where is Jordan? Where is Egypt? Do you know we give Egypt over a billion dollars a year? Why aren't they opening the gates? Why aren't they taking the Palestinians?

You know why? Because they know they can't vet them, and they don't want Hamas in their neighborhood. So why would Israel want them in their neighborhood? So let's be honest with what's going on. The Arab countries aren't doing anything to help the Palestinians because they don't trust who is right, who is good, who is evil, and they don't want it in their country.

So they're going to come and blame America. They're going to come and blame Israel. And don't fall for it, because they have the ability to fix all of this if they wanted to. They have the ability to go in and tell Hamas right now to stop what they're doing. They have the ability to tell Hamas to let those people out. But you know what? Qatar is going to continue to work with Hamas and

their leadership. Iran is going to continue to fund all of this and not say anything. And who's silent? Every one of those Arab countries are going to be silent. But expect for the finger to point to Israel, and the finger is going to point to Israel -- to America.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to this statement that Governor Ron DeSantis made about all -- I guess he's talking about all of the 2.3 million Palestinians.

He said this on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at how they behave, not all of them are Hamas, but they are all antisemitic. None of them believe in Israel's right to exist.


TAPPER: Now, just for our viewers' edification, according to recent polling earlier this year from The Washington Institute, which is a pro-Israel group, using the polling of a Palestinian center for public opinion, 62 percent of Gazans wanted the cease-fire with Israel to stay in place.

Fifty percent of Gazans want Hamas to stop calling for Israel's destruction, want Hamas to accept the permanent two-state solution based on the 1967 borders; 70 percent of Gazans wanted the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank to take over Gaza.

So I'm not really certain that Governor DeSantis has a real read on the difference between Hamas and the people of Gaza. What was your response when you heard what Governor DeSantis said?

HALEY: I dealt with this every day for two years.

And what I can tell you is, you have to realize that, whether we're talking about Gazans and Palestinians, all of them don't -- you have got half of them at the time that I was there didn't want to be under Hamas' rule. They didn't want to have terrorists overseeing them.

They knew that they were living a terrible life because of Hamas. You had the other half that supported Hamas and wanted to be a part of that. We see that with Iran too. The Iranian people don't want to be under that Iranian regime. They don't. We saw what happened to Mahsa Amini. We saw how they treat them.

There are so many of these people who want to be free from this terrorist rule. They want to be free from all of that. And America's always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists. And that's what we have to do.

But, right now, we can never take our eyes off of the terrorists. I mean, what Hamas did was beyond thuggish, brutal, and sick. What the Iranian regime is doing to help them is terrible. But let's look back at, what did Biden do? Biden turned around and fell all over himself to get into the Iran deal. Obama did it before that.

You gave all of this money. And what did you do? You empowered Iran to go and strengthen Hamas, strengthen Hezbollah, strengthen the Houthis to spread their terrorist activity. We went and strengthened those sanctions and decimated Iran's economy. And what happened? Biden has loosened the sanctions.

Now we have got the fact that he gave $6 billion in hostage money. OK, now you have frozen it, but we have all these American hostages. Guess what they're going to want? If you gave them $6 billion for five people and released hostages, guess what they're going to be asking for all these others that we have?

So we have created this scenario where you have given Iran -- the Iranian regime too much power and too much pull and to be able to do this. We have got to be strong. We have got to have Israel's back. And, remember, as awful as these images are, and we have the back of Israel because they have been hit terribly, we have to have the back of them when they hit back as well.

TAPPER: So, speaking of having Israel's back, I want you to take a listen to what Donald Trump had to say about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few days ago.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has been hurt very badly because of what's happened here.

He was not prepared. He was not prepared and Israel was not prepared. And, under Trump, they wouldn't have had to be prepared.


TAPPER: He went on to call Hezbollah, which the U.S. classifies as a terrorist group, very smart. He called the defense minister a jerk, and he went on and on.

This was, I think, Wednesday, so four days after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. What was your response when you heard that?

HALEY: It's why I continue to say it is time for a new, generational leader.

We have got to get past the headlines of the past. I mean, look, he congratulated the Chinese Communist Party not too long ago. He's saying Hezbollah is smart. I can tell you, at the United Nations, when I was there -- and I dealt with all of them every day -- you don't go and compliment any of them, because what that does is, that makes America look weak.

It doesn't make America look strong. It doesn't make America have friends with them. What you do is, you show strength. You let them know what we expect of them. So, complimenting Hezbollah and going and complimenting the Chinese Communist Party or criticizing a leader who has just watched so many of his citizens brutally murdered, it's the wrong place at the wrong time.

This isn't about Trump. It's not about him. It's not about what happened in the past. We have got to look forward. This is going to be tough days ahead for everyone involved. This is not the time to sit there and bash a leader. This is a time to sit there and give him the support he needs, give the Israeli people the support they need, and to help us get through this in the best way possible.

TAPPER: Before you go, the House still doesn't have a speaker for the first time in American history. This is nearly two weeks after Kevin McCarthy was stripped of his leadership.

They still can't even pass a resolution condemning the Hamas attacks. It's starting to look like there is not one House Republican who can get 217 votes. Republican Congressman Austin Scott said the chaos -- quote -- "makes us look like a bunch of idiots" -- unquote.

Is he right?

HALEY: Well, I will tell you what's right is, under the Biden administration, we have seen chaos within...


TAPPER: You can't blame -- you can't blame that on Biden. You can't blame this on Biden.

HALEY: No, you can -- well, you have to let me finish.


HALEY: We have seen chaos with inflation. We have seen chaos with the lack of transparency in education. We have seen chaos on the border. We have seen chaos with crime on the streets. And now we're seeing chaos around the world.

What I am saying is, you can't fix Democrat chaos with Republican chaos. They need to get it together. They need to get in a room and figure out who this is going to be and come out unified. That's what Republicans need to do. This is not a good look. This is not good for our country.

We saw what happened to Israel when they were distracted. America looks so distracted right now. When America is distracted, the world is less safe. We can't sit there and act like this is September 10. We better get it together and remember what it felt like September 12, because we have got a lot of threats around us and a lot of chaos around us.

And we need some strength. We need some stability. And, again, I will say we need a new, generational leader to right this ship.

TAPPER: Ambassador Nikki Haley, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: Coming up next: Their lives were forever changed by the brutality of Hamas, but those who lost the most eight days ago, well, they have a message for all of us that you might want to hear.



TAPPER: A warning of some graphic video here as we take stock of this really, really awful week.

Eight days ago, terrorists with Hamas invaded Israel and slaughtered hundreds of innocent people, hundreds, seniors at a bus stop, babies in their cribs, little kids at home, young people at a music festival.

It was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And none of this was about liberating the innocent people of Gaza from the oppression of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza. That blockade began after Hamas, which the U.S. and E.U. classify as a terrorist group, after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, and refused to disavow violence and refused to recognize Israel.

The people of Gaza indeed deserve to live without a blockade. They deserve to live in freedom and with democracy and human rights and without fear of their government, which Hamas denies them.

If any of this were about freedom and rights, why would Hamas have slaughtered, for example, Danielle Waldman? Danielle was 24. She was at the music festival. Do you know who her dad is? Her dad is Eyal Waldman. He's an Israeli tech CEO who had employees in the West Bank and Gaza to improve relations.

Here's Eyal talking to my friend and colleague Erin Burnett literally hours after he found out his beloved Danielle had been killed.


EYAL WALDMAN, FATHER OF VICTIM: I want to talk about peace. I was one of the first persons that have employed Palestinian employees.

We have treated our Palestinian employees the same as the Israeli employees, hoping for peace. Even today, our hand is reaching out for peace. We want to learn to live together, not to continue killing each other.


TAPPER: And this is Eyal's Instagram feed. "Please post this on your social feeds," he writes.

"Every day this man," Netanyahu, "sits in his chair as prime minister will cause suffering to all sides," he writes. If any of this were about freedom and human rights, why would Hamas

have killed Hayim Katsman, a peace activist who opposed the Netanyahu government for being too oppressive of Palestinians?


I spoke with Hayim's sibling, Noy Katsman.


NOY KATSMAN, BROTHER OF VICTIM: The most important for me, and I think also for my brother, was that his death won't be used to kill innocent people.

And, sadly, my government, our government, my government is using, cynically, the death of people to just kill. Like, they promised us it was going to bring -- it's going to bring us, like, security. But, of course, it's not security, because they always tell us, oh, that if we're going to kill enough Palestinians, or they're going to -- so it's going to be better for us.

But, of course, it never brings us peace, and it never brings us better lives. It just brings more and more terror and more and more people killed, like my brother.


TAPPER: One of the most disturbing parts of watching this disaster unfold from the United States is watching students on college campuses here embrace the symbol of the Hamas terrorist paragliders who attacked Israel that day, slaughtering innocent civilians and babies and women and the elderly, this symbol, as if it's some sort of rebellious icon.

Here's one from the University of Washington in Seattle, but they have cropped up all over college campuses.


TAPPER: I'm wondering what you think when you see your fellow Americans -- and, again, protesting for Palestinian rights, great. Do it. Those people deserve human rights.

But when you when -- you see people embracing the symbol of the Hamas murderers who murdered your cousin, what do you think?

DANIEL ZAKEN, COUSIN OF VICTIM: Well, first off, it's extremely shocking to see.

And I don't know if these people are misled or if they actually believe what they're supporting is helping the Palestinians. But it's simply not. It's -- they're supporting the wrong cause. The fight that Hamas is trying to fight isn't going to get the Palestinians anywhere. They're just causing more and more suffering in the region.

Their goal is to annihilate the state of Israel. They say it. They openly say it, and they're proud of it. And that's not something that's going to help bring dignity to the Palestinians. I think it's in everyone's best interests to get the most out of there and hopefully build a better future for everyone in the Middle East.


TAPPER: It's very difficult to see that better future now.

But we can all pray that the humanity of those three we just heard from will ultimately rule the day, not the brutality and barbarism that we saw from Hamas eight -- eight days ago, and not the death of innocents that we continue to see in Israel and in Gaza.

I wish you shalom, salaam alaikum. May peace be upon all of us, all of us.

We will be right back.



TAPPER: Thank you so much for joining us today.

Stay with CNN all day for the latest developments out of Israel and Gaza.

My colleagues Dana Bash and Sara Sidner will pick up our coverage next.