Journalist Christiane Amanpour’s eponymous international affairs show (airing on PBS and CNN International) is obsessed with getting Israel to back down from its war on the terrorist group Hamas and make potentially dangerous concessions to Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Thursday’s Amanpour & Co., devoted almost entirely to anti-Israel points, featured not one but two guests in a row who together with the host pushed and prodded the Israeli government to accept a two-state solution, even while Gaza continues to be ruled by terrorists. (A third guest, president of the Jesse Jackson-founded PUSH Coalition, made the left-wing argument for a ceasefire that would benefit Hamas.)
Amanpour hosted Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service turned far-left darling, “pushing for negotiations for a two-state solution” -- the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. But Israel has border-drawing concerns, “right of return” concerns regarding so-called Palestinian "refugees," and concerns that militant Palestinian groups like Hamas who intend to destroy Israel must be monitored for the sake of Israel’s national security.
None of those concerns made the cut with Amanpour.
Ayalon ….without a framework of two states, Hamas will not be destroyed. Hamas will flourish again. And of course, they're all -- the major goal of bringing back all the hostages. But we have to understand this war is on two fronts. One is the battlefield, but the other is a war of ideas. And Hamas will be defeated only on the second front, the war of ideas. The major defeat for Hamas is a future of two-states. And unless we shall discuss the future of two-states, there is no way to defeat Hamas and to create a better political horizon for Palestinians and for Israelis.
Amanpour: But your prime minister, even yesterday, was out in the field saying, no. We will not agree to a two-state solution, even though the United States, his main ally, is saying this must be, and all the Arab states who he wants to normalize with say this must be. So, who's going to win this battle on the exit strategy and the day after?
Her next guest was a member of the British parliament, Alicia Kearns, a Conservative Party politician with a pro-Palestinian outlook. Each pushed the hazardous, pro-Palestinian two-state solution.
Amanpour: And as Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to resist the idea of a Palestinian State, Israel's allies keep applying the pressure. Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron has even said they'll consider recognizing a Palestinian state, a move he believes would help make a two-state solution "an irreversible process to end this war."
Kearns: So, we do need Israeli buy in, but at the same time, no state has the right to determine the sovereignty of another. And that unfortunate position we're in. And we cannot allow irredentism to play a role, but we also can't allow Israel to say that the Palestinians have no right to their own homeland. If we believe in a two-state solution, it follows that we therefore recognize and will recognize Palestinian statehood, but that second piece has been missing from the puzzle….
Amanpour gushed: "It's really interesting because it seems to be almost coming to a head in the last couple of weeks. The Americans are talking about it. Now Cameron has advanced it. You've had the Europeans, and even Israelis who are not in the government. You just heard former Shin Bet chief, Ami Ayalon….And the only thing that is going to make Israel and Palestinians safe, secure, and eliminate anything like October 7th again, is a political resolution and a two-state solution. So, that's also gaining quite a lot of traction in certain quarters in Israel."
Kearns, a conservative MP, bashed the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu as “ultra-orthodox, far-right.”
At the end they discussed the atrocious scandal within the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), many members of whom participated in the October 7 massacre. Kearns hemmed and hawed about UNRWA’s presence in the region, then tried to compartmentalize the killers from the good the group does.
A transcript is available, click “Expand.”
PBS Amanpour & Co.
1:32:51 a.m. (ET)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Meantime, heavy fighting continues in Gaza's Khan Younis area. Forcing nearly 200,000 Palestinians to flee, according to the U.N. My next guest knows the security and diplomatic maze there very well. Ami Ayalon was head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, and he's been pushing for negotiations for a two-state solution. And in a rare interview, he joined me from Haifa. Ami Ayalon, welcome back to our program.
AMI AYALON, FORMER CHIEF OF ISRAEL'S CHIN BET: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So, from your perspective, as a long-time military and intelligence, you know, chiefs and operatives and experience, is Israel winning this war?
AYALON: Well, it's very, very difficult to give you a short and clear answer because since we do not discuss the day after, meaning we do not discuss the essence of victory. So, if I cannot define victory, I'm not sure that anybody can tell you that we are winning something that we don't know exactly where we are heading. So, we have great achievements on the ground, in the battlefield. But there is a huge gap between winning the battle and winning the war. So, unless we shall decide exactly on the day after, or what is the meaning of victory in this war against Hamas, I cannot give you a clear answer.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, that's important to hear from you, because, you know, none of us have that answer, and it hasn't been stated by your government. So, what I want to then ask you is, the mission, according to your government, is to defeat Hamas on the battlefield and to rescue the hostages, the remaining hostages. My question is, can that be something that happens at the same time? Can a military operation rescue the hostages and defeat Hamas at the same time?
AYALON: Of course, there are two views. One is the only way to persuade Hamas to give back the hostages is to create a military pressure. And the other is that they will choose, in this case, what we call a Samson Option. And we shall lose all of them.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me put it another way then. Let's just talk about this ceasefire negotiations. As far as we can gather and -- or pause hostage deal. I don't know. You know, there are many different ways to describe it. As far as we can gather, the idea would be to get all your hostages, the remaining hostages, out in return for some formulation of releasing a lot of Palestinian prisoners, plus some kind of pause. They've What is your opinion on a pause? What would that do on the ground?
AYALON: I don't have any view about it, unless I know where are we going on the day after, if the package is exactly what you said. And on the day after, we shall create a framework of future of two-states. I will vote for it.
But if, you know, the future or the later day after will be, you know, ceasefire for one month, three-month, whatever, I know exactly that without a framework of two-states, Hamas will not be destroyed. Hamas will flourish again. And of course, they're all -- the major goal of bringing back all the hostages.
But we have to understand this war is on two fronts. One is the battlefield, but the other is a war of ideas. And Hamas will be defeated only on the second front, the war of ideas. The major defeat for Hamas is a future of two-states. And unless we shall discuss the future of two-states, there is no way to defeat Hamas and to create a better political horizon for Palestinians and for Israelis.
AMANPOUR: But your prime minister, even yesterday, was out in the field saying, no, no, no. We will not, you know, agree to a two-state solution, even though the United States, his main ally, is saying this must be, and all the Arab states who he wants to normalize with say this must be. So, who's going to win this battle on the exit strategy and the day after?
AYALON: It's a great question. Of course, I believe and I hope that we -- when I say we, is the people, is the majority of the people of Israel.
Netanyahu today do not represent more than 20 percent of the Israelis. But you know, in democracy, we shall have to go to elections. So, today -- and we know it, because we have polls, and this is the most that we can do -- 70 or 70 percent of the Israelis would take the package that you offer if all the hostages will be brought back and we shall have a ceasefire or whatever you call it, and we shall have to, you know, release Palestinian hostages, but again, they will accept a future reality of two- states. My prime minister do not represent the Israeli people. And unfortunately, you know, he's leading us, and we should have to wait until reserves will come back. And we shall take to the streets and we shall explain in many, many actions and words what we, the Israeli people, do really want. And hopefully, we should have elections in a few months. And we should find the right the right way to a better future.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you what you think -- because you've written about this and you've talked about it. What is the biggest misconception that your government has, and maybe a lot of Israelis have, about Palestinians? You've talked about misconceptions.
AYALON: Right. There are two levels of -- first of all, on the political level, the misconception was led by Netanyahu during the last 14, 15 years when he was in power. And we call it managing the conflict or shrinking the conflict, whatever you call it. The idea was that we have to rule and separate, meaning we have to make sure that Hamas will stay in power in Gaza. And in order for -- to do it, he increased or he empowered the power of Hamas letting Qatar to send money and, you know, doing everything in order for Hamas to stay in power. And on the same way, to decrease the power of Abu Mazen, because Abu Mazen do not believe in violence. So, Palestinians -- the perception of Hamas, in the eyes of Palestinians, although most of them do not accept the theology or the religious ideology of Hamas, they see Hamas as the only organization who fight for their freedom.
So, most Palestinians, you know, left Abu Mazen. Today, Abu Mazen will not get more than 15 percent of support among Palestinians. And this was a misconception because the idea that we can control the level of violence by Hamas is something that we do not understand. We -- you know, it's not understanding the idea of Hamas.
Hamas is an organization, it's not only a military organization. Hamas leading an idea of a greater Palestine from the Jordan to the sea during the '90s, they did not get support from more than 15 percent of the Palestinians because, finally, Palestinians want a better future and they
accept the reality of two states. So, this was empowering Hamas, decreasing the power of Palestinian Authority on the political level.
On the intelligence level, again, the idea that Hamas is deterred was a huge mistake, because I used to say, we measure hardware and they measure software. Meaning, we saw, after May 21, that when they suffered a major defeat on the military ground, because they lost many combatants and terror activists and military infrastructure, but they doesn't care. What they do care is the support of the Palestinian people. And we saw that after this military defeat, the support of the Palestinian people was doubled.
So, the idea that Hamas is deterred and they will not attack, you know, brought us to believe that, OK, if they will not attack, we moved all our troops to the West Bank and to the north. And this what brought to the horrible events of the 7th of October.
AMANPOUR: Mr. Ayalon, it's really interesting to hear you sort of analyze this. So, I want to ask you, do you believe -- you've talked about Hamas as an idea? Do you believe that in the day after that you envision, the two- states, you know, elections, all of that, both in Israel and on the Palestinian side, that Hamas -- the idea -- the political Hamas will have any role in a future solution, or do you see them -- go ahead. Tell me.
AYALON: No, of course. I mean, I cannot destroy ideas. And for me, I have to talk to everybody who accept the idea of two states. If Hamas want to play a political role, first of all, he will have to agree to the -- all the -- you know, to the decisions of the PLO, because the PLO is a representative of the Palestinian people, and he will not be accepted to the Palestinian people unless he accepts the resolutions, U.N. resolutions, Security Council resolutions, and the idea of two states, which Palestinians -- majority of Palestinians and majority of Israelis can live with.
So, once he accept this concept, you know, we -- I have to remind myself and to you we have about 15 percent of fundamentalist, radical Jewish supremacy, racism, whatever you call them, they believe exactly as Hamas believe that this land -- we -- it belongs to God, and we are not allowed to give it to anybody. And it is the same for Hamas. You know, they speak in the -- in a language of Islam and we speak in the language of Judaism, but there's a two minority. You know, the tragedy of the region that during the last 20 for -- 20, 30 years the two minorities led us to kill each other, you know, Jewish terrorist assassinated our prime minister. And Palestinian Hamas terrorist, you know, killed our civilians.
But finally, there are two minorities, less than 20 percent of both sides. And we, the majority of the two sides, with the role, the major role of the International Community. And today, especially today, when, you know, President Biden is perceived as a ultimate leader because he filled a vacuum of leadership in Israel, And I believe that he is -- at least in the eyes of the Israelis, the political power to lead us to the right way. And the right way is the reality of two states.
AMANPOUR: That is so interesting you say that because every time he can, Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects anything that President Biden is saying in this regard.
But one final question, you are a former naval, you know, leader as well, and I wonder what you think and how you think the whole I mean, there's a whole shebang in that area, whether it's Houthis firing, whether it's the U.S. and the U. K. trying to stop them firing, whether it's just, you know, the Iranians and their proxies and Hezbollah, where do you see this heading? Are you afraid that it's really going to explode into a much wider war?
AYALON: If I'm worried, I'm worried. I'm not afraid. You know, fear is not a strategy. So, yes. But I'm worried. We have to be very careful. You know, finally, it is not a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis anymore, it is a regional conflict and in some aspects with global impact.
We have to create an opposite coalition led by Europe, America, a coalition of stability, meaning U.N., Europe, America, and in the region led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Emirates, Morocco, and Israel to confront the axis of instability. And I think that what we see in Bab al-Mandab is part of it, but the whole picture, again, we have to be part -- we Israelis, we have to be a legitimate member in this coalition of stability, and we cannot do it unless we choose the reality of two states.
AMANPOUR: I really hear you. And I think that you clearly want to get that message out. You've done almost no interviews since -- in fact, I think this is your second interview only since October 7th, and you want to make clear that there needs to be an exit strategy with a political solution.
Can I ask you a slightly more local question? There is a big crisis right now with the U.N. agency that has been designated to look after Palestinian refugees UNRWA. As you know, the U.S. and others have suspended funding, the Israelis have shared intelligence that suggests -- you know, I don't know how many, but many are -- have been involved in October 7th.
So, that is a horrible thing. But my question to you is, what is the option to UNRWA? Is Israel going to provide the aid? Does UNRWA need to be disbanded? What is the future of trying to, you know, cater to the needs of the Palestinians in Gaza?
AYALON: Well, I totally -- first of all, I totally agree with you know, we have to stop. What UNRWA is doing now during the last, I don't know, several years, we just saw it now. I believe that Israel do not have any interest and I don't think that we have the -- you know, the legitimacy to do it, in the eyes of the Palestinians or -- and it will not be supported by the Israelis.
I think that the U.N. with the support of the donors to UNRWA, we'll have to find another framework, organization, and I know that there are several other international organizations who should do it. I don't know enough about UNRWA itself and whether UNRWA itself can, you know, repair this horrible, you know, intervention in what happened during the 7th of October. So, I really believe that we should not oppose.
It is very, very important for us, the people who suffer in Gaza will get their support. The last thing that we can say -- that we want to see is a humanitarian disaster. And unfortunately, if we should not do something about it, this is exactly what we should see.
AMANPOUR: Ami Ayalon, thank you so much for joining us.
AYALON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And as Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to resist the idea of a Palestinian State, Israel's allies keep applying the pressure. Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron has even said they'll consider recognizing a Palestinian State. A move he believes would help make a two-state solution "an irreversible process to end this war." The U.K. is also playing a key role defending the Red Sea against the Houthis. Cameron is currently on his fourth visit to the Middle East, consolidating Britain's role as a key U.S. ally in this crisis.
Alicia Kearns is chair of the U.K.'s Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament and recently returned from a visit to Washington. And she's joining me now live in the studio. Welcome to the program.
ALICIA KEARNS, CHAIR, U.K. PARLIAMENT FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE AND BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Let me first ask you about what the foreign secretary say, former prime minister. So, he is known around the globe, and he doesn't say things off the cuff, and he said it to a private reception of Arab diplomats. Can you tell us, were you surprised that your government in the form of the foreign minister went this far? It's the first time that the British have ever said that.
KEARNS: So, I hadn't expected it and I don't think many people could say they had. For me, we've seen a real change in tone, attitude, and behavior from the British government since David Cameron came back as foreign secretary. And he would have known full well the weight of those words that he said, only last night, the night before.
The question is, does he mean it? Are we genuinely moving to that posture and that position? Or is he using it to save the Israelis? We still have tools in our toolbox. We will move to this place that you don't want us to. But fundamentally, I think it's the right move. And I think in the same way as anyone who would deny Israel's statehood should be condemned, anyone who should deny Palestinians the right to their statehood should also be condemned. And there's a lack of balance, I think, too often on that.
AMANPOUR: Let me read this specifically. This is what he's written in the mail on Sunday. We must give people of the West Bank and Gaza the political perspective of a credible route to a Palestinian State and a new feature -- future. And it needs to be irreversible. This is not entirely in our gift.
But Britain and our partners can help by confirming our commitment to a sovereign, viable Palestinian State, and our vision for its composition.
And, crucially, we must state our clear intention to grant it recognition, including at the United Nations.
So, as I've been saying, you know, the Israeli prime minister publicly has been, you know, saying, no, we don't want that. But just, for people who don't understand the subtlety of what Cameron has said, because generally, the West accepts a two-state solution. What's the missing piece that he's filling in now?
KEARNS: The missing piece is giving Palestinian statehood. So, recognizing Palestinian statehood, which is something the U.K. hasn't done and a number of our allies haven't. So, what he is saying is --
AMANPOUR: The United States haven't.
KEARNS: The United States absolutely haven't. So, what he's saying is full recognition, not just by the U.K., but also, he's saying the U.K. will lead an effort at the U.N. to see them recognized. And that must mean that he's had a conversation with the United States behind the scenes, because we would need them to come alongside.
So, I think it's quite a big announcement. It's a big policy shift. And that will have a very strong impact on all the international relations that are going on, but it's the sort of big shift I want the U.K. to be leading on. We are good at hardcore diplomacy. We are the right people to be delivering that message.
AMANPOUR: And then just to point out what you say, it's the first time. And the PLO representative here, in other words, the group that actually recognizes Israel, the Palestinian Authority. He says, this is a very significant moment in relation to what Cameron said. This is the first time a U.K. foreign secretary does say that the recognition of the state of Palestine is not linked to a final agreement with Israel, i. e., finally removing Israel's veto over Palestinian statehood. Is that a correct interpretation? I mean, you've got to have Israeli buy in, don't you?
KEARNS: So, we do need Israeli buy in, but at the same time, no state has the right to determine the sovereignty of another. And that unfortunate position we're in. And we cannot allow irredentism to play a role, but we also can't allow Israel to say that the Palestinians have no right to their own homeland. If we believe in a two-state solution, it follows that we therefore recognize and will recognize Palestinian Statehood, but that second piece
has been missing from the puzzle. So, this is an enormous shift. Husam is absolutely right to say that. And now, let's hope that we see other partners around the world move in the same way.
AMANPOUR: It's really interesting because it seems to be almost coming to a head in the last couple of weeks. The Americans are talking about it. Now, Cameron has advanced it. You've had the Europeans, and even Israelis who are not in the government. You just heard former Shin Bet chief, Ami Ayalon. I mean, he basically said that we can't even judge what's going to happen next because we have not had an exit plan delivered by the government. And the only thing that is going to make Israel and Palestinians safe, secure, and eliminate anything like October 7th again, is a political resolution and a two-state solution. So, that's also gaining quite a lot of traction in certain quarters in Israel.
AMANPOUR: I just want to read you a quote that I keep coming back to. And for me, it's the heart of the issue. It essentially is the chief Palestinian negotiator and the chief Israeli negotiator around Oslo.
And at one of the meetings, the Palestinians said, this is Abu Alaa (ph), as you know, we have learned that our rejection of you, to his Israeli counterpart, will not bring us freedom. You can see that your control of us will not bring you security. We must live side by side in peace, equality, and cooperation.
So that was, you know, back, you know, in the mid '90s. And it's still the truth. Correct? I mean -- do you see any other way to bring Israel, the security it needs, and the Palestinians, the freedom and the statehood they need? Because even yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu was out in the West Bank. I think he was saying, never going to agree to this deal.
KEARNS: You are absolutely right. And it is heartbreaking that something can be so present today that was being said in the 1990s. You cannot bomb an ideology out of existence. How many times have we tried that over the last two decades? The only way that you reduce the radicalizing narrative -- and let's not forget the treatment of Palestinians has been the number one radicalizing narrative for every terrorist group pretty much in the world that come from an Islamic background. We have to have long-term security and peace.
But it's not just about the diplomatic. How Israel prosecutes this war -- and I wish they'd called it a counterterrorist operation. How they prosecute it will also determine that stability, which is why we need to see such a shift. And the language we continue to see from the Israelis is not bringing us closer to a solution where there is stability for all.
AMANPOUR: How much does it trouble you that the Israelis have a major problem with UNRWA, the U.N. organization that is designed to help with relief in Gaza for the Palestinians. That they have shared intelligence and the Brits have also suspended funding that a certain number of them, we don't know how many, they said 12 first, now they say maybe 10 percent of the 13,000 members are Hamas and some of them, some 12 or so, actually contributed, operated, conducted really terrible things on October 7th.
KEARNS: If UNRWA staff committed anything to those crimes against humanity, that is an enormous betrayal of trust, not least of the U.N., but for their fellow Palestinians. How dare they put at risk an organization that is working to bring aid?
The State Department said only today no organization is better placed or is delivering aid more effectively than UNRWA. UNRWA have now said they will run out of aid by the end of February if they do not get more support because they're being defunded.
I actually raised this question myself with the head of UNRWA in November when I met with him in person in Parliament, and I challenged him on the security clearances and checks they were doing for their staff. He was confident that there were regular checks taking place, because this is a question that the British Parliament has been discussing for a while around textbooks and also just delivery of aid and participation with Hamas.
They are operating in a very difficult environment, but that's why the U.N. needs to finish this investigation as quickly as possible, make sure it is independent, as we understand it will be, and then we need to make sure that aid is getting back into Gaza. Because otherwise --
AMANPOUR: And the charges are really serious.
KEARNS: They're incredibly serious.
AMANPOUR: Against that dozen.
KEARNS: They are absolutely serious. And if those people are guilty, they need to be going through a criminal prosecution. But the problem is, that if UNRWA isn't there delivering aid, and the State Department said no one else can pick up that space in the way that they were, we risk being, I believe, in breach of our ICJ interim ruling, which said that Israel has to allow sufficient aid in, and there are repercussions for all of us with our responsibility to protect, but also there is an active crisis going on the ground.
We cannot allow collective punishment, and we cannot allow people not to get the aid they need. So, we're in a very difficult position. We can have no truck for those who had anything to do with Hamas or defended them. But at the same time, we do need to get aid in, and the entire organization is not broken. I think it's important we don't allow certain narratives on those who want to push that to achieve.