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Israeli government in a state of ‘collapse,’ says former U.S. Middle East peace envoy

December 4th, 2014
02:40 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Former U.S. Middle East peace envoy Martin Indyk told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that the Israeli government has entered a state of “collapse.”

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two key ministers of his coalition cabinet and announced that he would call for parliament to be dissolved, paving the way for new elections.

“They [the government] started to come apart over the peace negotiations last year. But since then, with the war in Gaza and then the increased conflict in Jerusalem, there's been divergent responses to all of this, which has just created this, I think collapse is the best word for it, in the ability of the government to function,” Indyk, who is now Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution, said.

“There is also a sense that this government wasn't able to function effectively, combined with right-wing parties and the center parties in this coalition were coming apart.”

Also at the heart of the rift is a divisive nationhood bill backed by right-wing members of the cabinet as well as Netanyahu, which was designed to give Arab Israelis individual rights, but not the “national” rights Jewish Israelis would have.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Israel • Latest Episode

‘Israel is democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards Arabs,’ says Arab-Israeli MP

December 1st, 2014
02:58 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

With a controversial nationhood bill on hold and the governing coalition wobbling, a prominent Arab-Israeli politician decried what he described as “inflammatory declarations and bills” aimed at gaining right-wing votes.

“There are two or three pyromaniacs in the Israeli cabinet,” Ahmad Tibi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

“The nationality bill is totally proof of what I said during the last decades: that in Israel, Israel is democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards Arabs.”

A proposed bill, backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, passed a hurdle when it was approved by Israel’s cabinet during a testy meeting last week.

It would enshrine Jewish teachings as the basis of the Israeli legal system and would give Arab Israelis individual rights, but not the “national” rights Jewish Israelis would have.

“Jewish and democratic, the definition of the State of Israel for the last thirty years, is an oxymoron,” Tibi said. “You cannot be democratic, believing in equality between all citizens, and define yourself as an ethnic definition, ‘Jewish.’”


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Israel • Latest Episode

Palestinian Authority President incited synagogue murders, says Israeli Minister

November 19th, 2014
02:01 PM ET

By Henry Hullah, CNN

The Palestinian Authority President incited the Palestinians who attacked a Jerusalem synagogue, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinetz told Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

In the worst violence seen in Jerusalem for six years, four worshippers and one police officer were killed when two Palestinian cousins attacked a local synagogue during morning prayers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came forward to condemn the attack, as have Mahmoud Abbas – also known as Abu Mazen – and the Palestinian Authority. But Abbas' words have not appeased Benjamin Netanyahu nor his Intelligence Minister.

“Those two Palestinian terrorists were inspired maybe by ISIS who are now using knives to kill people, but motivated and incited by Abu Mazen," Steinetz told the program. "It was Abu Mazen who, two months ago, called all devoted Palestinian Muslims to defend al-Aqsa Mosque by all means against who? Against the Jews who contaminate the mosque.”

“Everybody know that it's the Palestinian President is calling Palestinian Muslims to defend the al-Aqsa mosque by all means, this would lead to riots and bloodshed and terrorist attacks as we saw since he made this declaration in the last few weeks.”


Amid mounting tensions, Israeli and Palestinian officials clash over fundamental issues

October 31st, 2014
11:51 AM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

As tensions between the two countries reached a new level on Thursday, Israel’s Economy Minister and the Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. offered opposing viewpoints on how the two sides can find common ground.

Clashes broke out following Israel’s decision to close access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or the al-Aqsa Mosque, as Muslims call it. The move came after the shooting of far-right Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who had advocated for more Jewish access to the holy site.

“What we need is for the Palestinian leadership to stop incitement, because they have been calling for these sorts of actions and indeed the words do kill,” Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Economy Minister, told CNN’s Michael Holmes, in for Christiane Amanpour.

The Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Ryiad Mansour reacted to the accusations by saying that it is Israel that is provoking Palestine.


He was Hamas royalty. Then he spied for Israel.

October 17th, 2014
07:33 AM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Mosab Hassan Yousef was supposed to be a leader of Hamas.

His father, Hassan Yousef, is a founder of the militant organization and was its leader in the West Bank – but after being picked up by Israeli intelligence, he was turned, and became an Israeli spy.

“They disowned me,” Yousef told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. “Since that moment we have not spoken.”

“I did make some choices under difficult circumstances, and I believe that they were the perfect choices.”

His incredible story – and that of the Shin Bet agent who turned him – is the subject of a new documentary, The Green Prince.


EXCLUSIVE: Qatar's Emir: We don't fund terrorists

September 25th, 2014
04:11 PM ET

Click here to watch part two of Amanpour's interview with the Emir of Qatar.

By Mick Krever, CNN

(CNN) - In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism and pledged support for the fight against ISIS for the long haul.

"We don't fund extremists," the Emir told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. "If you talk about certain movements, especially in Syria and Iraq, we all consider them terrorist movement."

"I know that in America and some countries they look at some movements as terrorist movements. ... But there are differences. There are differences that some countries and some people that any group which comes from Islamic background are terrorists. And we don't accept that."


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Israel • Latest Episode • Syria

U.N. Gaza Inquiry Chairman: 'The International Criminal Court is sitting in the wings'

September 4th, 2014
01:50 PM ET

by Henry Hullah

The war between Israel and Hamas has left both sides accused of committing war crimes as Gaza lies shattered.

In less than two months a reported 17,000 homes were destroyed while tens of thousands have been left destitute and without a place to live.

On top of this, Israel is confiscating around 1,000 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem. Human rights expert Professor William Schabas is chairman of a U.N. inquiry in to the conflict.

He's received criticism in this role and the Commission of the Inquiry he is leading has been labelled a 'Kangaroo court' by the spokesperson for the Israeli foreign minister. Schabas seemed optimistic about the prospect of speaking with unenthusiastic officials.

"They can't prevent us doing an inquiry by refusing to give us access."

"I'm hopeful that we're going to convince Israel to cooperate with the inquiry. You know, five or six years ago, there was a controversial inquiry that was presided over by Richard Goldstone."

"He later said that if he had known things when the report was being prepared that he later learned, the report would have been different. I think that's a powerful lesson for Israel about the interest it has in actually coming forward and cooperating with the inquiry."


Filed under:  Gaza • Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

‘Traumatization is everywhere,’ says Red Cross President in Gaza

August 5th, 2014
03:00 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

There is a deep feeling of trauma in Gaza, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen from Gaza City.

“Traumatization is everywhere,” Maurer said. “I was shocked indeed by the impact of the shelling over the past couple of weeks on the neighborhood, but also a couple of hours later to see the children, women, and men who have been exposed to that shelling in hospitals – to see how wounded they were, and how difficult it was to cope with the numbers and the seriousness of the wounds of all those civilians who were in the hospitals I visited.”

Maurer was able to visit Gaza because of a shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that seems to have held after going into effect early Tuesday.

During his visit, he tweeted that he had “never seen such massive destruction ever before” – strong words for the president of the Red Cross, who has no doubt seen quite some destruction in his time.

“Even if we are on the first day of a seemingly holding cease-fire, my clear opinion is that much more will have to be done over the days and weeks to come to scale up our operations in terms of health response, water and sanitation, sewage, economic livelihoods,” Maurer told Pleitgen. “A lot has been disrupted over the past couple of weeks.”

“In terms of response, I was on the one side positively surprised by the quality of work, by the engagement.”

“It will be a challenge. We are certainly motivated, and even more so after this visit today, to put as good as possible our resources into mobilizing this response.”

“We will have objective difficulties; we will have to engage with the Israelis in order to channel as much aid as possible through the crossing.”

Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

Israel calls ‘hypocrisy’ in international criticism

August 4th, 2014
03:34 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Criticism of Israel from some of its staunchest allies smacks of hypocrisy, the Israeli intelligence minister told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

“Sometimes I feel there is some hypocrisy in the criticism,” Yuval Steinitz said. “Maybe [the] United States, Britain, France, and NATO forces can teach us from their experience how to minimize collateral damage – for example, in their experience in Belgrade; their experience in Iraq; in Fallujah in Iraq; or in Afghanistan.”

“The IDF is doing more than any other armed forces, including Western armed forces, to minimize collateral damage.”


Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories

Could Israel face war crimes charges?

July 31st, 2014
04:17 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

“Today the world stands disgraced.”

That is how the head of United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs shelters for Palestinians, reacted to the shelling of a Gaza school that was serving as a U.N. shelter for 3,000 Palestinians.

Twenty people were killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The United Nations blames Israel for the attack. Israel has not given a direct explanation, but says many Hamas rockets misfire and fall within Gaza; it also says that Hamas purposefully fire weapons from civilian areas and that the Israeli military does not target civilians.

UNRWA says that it had sent the school’s GPS coordinates to Israel 17 separate times to ensure it would remain safe.

“You see the Israelis shifting over the last several days to ground weapons,” CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr says. “You see them using tanks, mortars, artillery.”

“The real pinpoint accuracy comes if you’re going to go back to relying on airstrikes, because that type of munition – bombs out of aircraft – these days are guided to their target by a laser using GPS coordinates.”

Even the United States, Israel’s closest ally, said Thursday that the shelling of the school was “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”

Could Israel face war crimes charges?


Filed under:  Israel • Latest Episode • Palestinian territories
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