Guests: Imad Moustapha, Rafael Frankel, Daniel Ayalon, Faerlie Wilson
ANNOUNCER: Beirut, a city in flames. Israel flexes its military muscle on the Lebanese capital, and still no sign of an imminent cease-fire.
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I repeat, hostilities must stop.
ANNOUNCER: Today, as diplomatic efforts continue, a call goes out for
international peacekeepers to stop the bloodshed
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FMR. NATO COMMANDER: Hezbollah must move out of the way.
ANNOUNCER: But who will provide the peacekeepers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who wants to do peacekeeping in Lebanon would do well to remember what happened to the Marine battalion landing team in 1983. It was wiped out.
ANNOUNCER: Now from Beirut, here is Tucker Carlson.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Welcome to the show. We‘re coming to you from the roof of our hotel in Beirut, a city that was rocked by dramatic explosions this afternoon. We heard at least four of them looking off into the distance. They were big blasts. We saw a cloud of smoke rising from the southern part of the city.
Israel launched at least 100 airstrikes across southern Lebanon today, while Hezbollah rockets rained down on the Israeli city of Haifa. The death toll has hit at least 422 here in Lebanon, 42 in Israel have been killed in the two weeks since the war broke out.
Now Israel says it will turn southern Lebanon into a no-go zone for Hezbollah until an international peacekeeping force arrives. That‘s on the eve of the multi-nation conference that begins tomorrow in Rome.
Well, NBC News has correspondents throughout the Middle East covering every angle of this crisis.
We go now to Haifa, Israel, where NBC News‘ Tom Aspell is standing by.
Tom, what‘s the latest there?
TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Tucker.
Well, today, about 100 rockets fell—fired from Hezbollah on northern Israel. That‘s about par for the course every day since the war began. And it says something, that Hezbollah is not finished yet, in spite of the huge amount of firepower that Israel is putting in, in the form of airstrikes and artillery.
And, of course, you‘ve got Israeli troops on the ground in southern Lebanon. They have pushed about five miles north of the border around the town of Bint Jbeil, and as you say, suspected to be trying to create some kind of buffer, rocket-free zone so that they are moved north and out of range of the Israeli border.
Today‘s Katyusha fire into Israel killed one 15-year-old girl in a village over near Tiberius at the eastern end of the Galilee. And down here in Haifa, around midday, 16 rockets fell, thought to be fired from Tyre, the southern Lebanese port city, more than 30 miles to the north of here.
Those 16 rockets, some of them fell in the sea. Some fell in the city. Five people were injured here today in those attacks.
But it does show Hezbollah far from finished yet, and it certainly lends some credibility to Israel‘s reasons to try and push them further back from the border so that they are out of range. But to do that, they‘ll probably have to go about 20 miles to the north. And, of course, they‘ve got plenty of time until that international force is found, located, trained and deployed.
Then Israel pretty much feels as though it continue—it can continue going after Hezbollah, not only on the ground in southern Lebanon, but in those command and control centers up where you are in Beirut—Tucker.
CARLSON: Tom, as you implied a minute ago, it is—it‘s pretty remarkable that even after all the firepower Israel has been pouring into southern Lebanon, as these Katyusha rockets continue to fall on northern Israel, has anyone from the Israeli government explained how that‘s possible, where these things are coming from, why the Israelis haven‘t been able to eliminate them?
ASPELL: We‘ll, I think probably the sheer numbers of rockets involved. You know, the Israelis say since this conflict began they have flown over 1,500 air missions into Lebanon, they‘ve fired 30,000 artillery rounds into southern Lebanon in an effort to locate these launchers. What they normally do is spot them from the air or from overhead surveillance of one kind or another, triangulate the position, and then put either an airstrike or an artillery strike on them.
They have had remarkable success in counter-battery fire, as they call it, so far, but there are a lot of rockets and missile sites to go after. The Israelis estimate they have destroyed about 2,000 rockets and launchers, but they say Hezbollah could have as many as 6,000 or 7,000 left yet—Tucker.
CARLSON: Tom, is Haifa still partly deserted? Are people still living underground? Or have they fled south to Tel Aviv and cities like that? Or are people coming back?
ASPELL: Well, yes. The mayor of Haifa told us a few days ago that he estimates about 10 percent of the city‘s population has moved south a little bit further out of range. Parts of Haifa are still opened.
I noticed today that the bus services were operating, although at a diminished level. The municipal workers are still there cleaning the streets. But I would say you could compare it mots with any normal town on a very early Sunday morning.
By no means any traffic jams around. Most small businesses and government offices are definitely closed. So it‘s pretty much a ghost town, especially when the sirens go. And today we‘ve had probably five or six warning sirens. And during those—that period of time, most people get off the streets, try and seek some shelter near a shop doorway or something.
But they are still exhibiting a certain amount of curiosity rather
than fear when the sirens go. I think everybody leans out of a window to
see where they‘ll fall. And once every few days, they do fall, and
sometimes with tragic consequences, as we have seen twice in the past week
CARLSON: Yes. NBC‘s Tom Aspell in Haifa, Israel.
We go down to the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, where NBC‘s Beirut bureau chief, Richard Engel, is standing by, I believe, by videophone—
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, I am. You talked about earlier, Tucker, Israel tying to create a no-go zone here in southern Lebanon. And as I am hearing Israeli jets in the sky, all day we have seen bombardments of the villages around Tyre.
People here are telling us that Israel is trying to create not only a no-go zone for Hezbollah, but a no-go zone for people as well. There‘s been a steady flow of refugees coming in to this city, including some Lebanese-Americans. Several dozen of them are actually staying at this hotel. They had nowhere else to go, they felt.
They were in a village right along the border with Israel and say that it has been pounded by artillery fire and airstrikes. They were holed up there from really the beginning of this conflict without food or water or medicine. They were able to coordinate with the U.S. Embassy, but had to drive out themselves, just tying white flags and towels to their cars, and drive here.
And some of them had to leave relatives behind. There were tearful reunions that we saw over the phones. It is a—I think you can call it a quite desperate humanitarian situation along the border with Israel that is coming this—this direction.
CARLSON: Richard, a question I think I have asked you before. We are getting roughly the same casualty numbers I think everyone is getting, 422 killed here in Lebanon.
Does that—does that seem right to you? I mean, with all of the destruction you have witnessed in this country, 422 seems an awful small number. Do you think it‘s accurate?
ENGEL: The people we talk to say that it is not accurate. Just today I spoke with a family that says they know of six people who are still trapped under the rubble in a house that was destroyed. Another family that we spoke to said there are four other relatives of theirs trapped under a building.
So, there are people here that say that this death toll is preliminary because certain towns and villages are effectively cut off from the world. Aid can‘t get there. Ambulances are having difficulty arriving.
Two ambulances, as they were leaving Tyre on Friday, were hit by an Israeli airstrike. So they are also in danger. So, to answer that question, according to people we are speaking to, no, that is a low estimate.
CARLSON: Tom Aspell in Haifa just told us that the IDF is saying it believes some of those Katyusha rockets fired into Haifa today came from Tyre. Are you getting a sense that there are outgoing rockets from where you are?
ENGEL: Yes. That is the sense, that there are outgoing rockets from
from this city. And some of them have been filmed, in fact.
Now, Hezbollah has made it very clear that they don‘t want journalists to film them. In fact, some of representatives from Hezbollah who are active in this city have come up and told journalists here, don‘t film the outgoing rockets.
So it is a city that is definitely in the crosshairs. Most of it, however, is on the outsides of the city.
Just behind the camera I saw a very bright flash just a few minutes—just a few seconds ago as I was talking to you. So there are parts of this city that are active war zones and active front lines. The downtown part where we are staying so far, however, has been quiet, but from here you have a vantage point of the areas where the Katyusha rockets are being fired from, and where Israeli shells and airstrikes are trying to take those positions out.
CARLSON: And finally, Richard, tell us about your dealings, if you feel comfortable doing so, with Hezbollah, which obviously is a presence in Tyre. Have you talked to any of the leadership there? What kind of run-ins have you had?
ENGEL: I was just talking with a Hezbollah representative a few minutes ago. They do—this is an organized group. They have representatives. They have press attaches. They have people who come and try and talk about their medical activities.
A lot of—filming the Hezbollah activities now is almost impossible. They are not taking journalists on tours at this stage yet. Most of their military operations and their humanitarian efforts, because they also give out aid and give out medical supplies in Tyre and in the surrounding areas, those operations are now being conducted in secret because they feel that they are being attacked. But certainly Hezbollah representatives are here.
They are trying to direct some of the media coverage. I was watching
a Hezbollah representative yesterday standing over the—standing at the -
behind the cameraman, basically watching some of the Arab media file their reports. So there is a certain degree of pressure that they are trying to put on reporters, but so far it has been directly—directed mostly at the Arab media—Tucker.
Richard Engel in Tyre, Lebanon, a dangerous place.
Still to come, there is wide agreement this crisis will not pass until Syria is involved in the solution, and yet the United States refuses to talk to Syria. Why is that? We‘ll tell you.
And Israel‘s prime minister vows to continue the fight against Hezbollah. Is diplomacy doomed?
We‘ll have all that when we return from Beirut, Lebanon.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
We‘re joining you tonight from Beirut, a city under siege. We‘re here, of course, to cover a conflict between two countries, Lebanon and Israel, but there are other players in this drama. One of the key players is Syria, a country we haven‘t heard that much about in the United States. Well, that‘s about to change.
Dr. Imad Moustapha is Syria‘s ambassador to the United States. He joins us tonight from Washington, D.C.
Dr. Moustapha, thanks for coming on.
DR. IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMB. TO U.S.: Good evening.
CARLSON: Let me just start with the news. A representative of the Iranian government said tonight that if Israel were to attack Syria, Iran would step in to defend your country.
Is that—is that the kind of defense you want?
MOUSTAPHA: Well, of course. I mean, Iran is expressing its sympathy and sentiments to Syria, which is not bad. But what we really want is to deescalate the situation in the Middle East right now.
We have been calling for an immediate cease-fire the moment Israel started its hostilities and atrocities it is committing in Lebanon. And this is what we really want, to calm down the situation, cease-fire, immediate cease-fire, and then promptly negotiations leading to the exchange of prisoners.
CARLSON: Wait, but Syria has been arming Hezbollah within Lebanon, thereby destabilizing the democratic nation of Lebanon. Isn‘t it largely Syria‘s fault that this crisis exploded?
MOUSTAPHA: Well, this is how—how you are describing the situation. Many Lebanese, an overwhelming majority of the Lebanese, will disagree with you. Please do remember that Hezbollah is represented in the Lebanese cabinet and also in the Lebanese parliament. However, this is not the discussion now.
Right now, the discussion, since you are concerned about the democratic nation of Lebanon, this democratic nation...
CARLSON: Well, wait. I‘m sorry, wait. Wait. Mr. Ambassador, hold on.
This is a discussion. Now, let me put it to you this way. If there were an armed political party within Syria that was being sent weapons by another country hostile to the Syrian government, Syria would resent that. Would you not? Of course you would. That would—you would find that outrageous.
So why is it not outrageous that Syria is arming a political party within Lebanon, if you see what I mean? And why isn‘t that central to this discussion?
MOUSTAPHA: Yes, I see what you mean. You are offering a hypothesis while Israel is actually massacring the Lebanese people. You are concerned about the democratic mission of Lebanon while Israel is totally destroying Lebanon today, killing civilians, women, children. And the discussion...
CARLSON: Well, wait. I‘m not defending Israel.
Hold on. We will in just a moment have the Israeli ambassador to Washington on and I will ask him pointed questions about Israel‘s behavior here in Lebanon, questions I think are worth asking.
But you are not from Israel. You are from Syria. Syria is arming a faction within this country and I want to know why you‘re doing it. That seems to be a fair question.
MOUSTAPHA: First, let us emphasize the following. The Middle East—the Middle East has been suffering for the past 30, 40 years of the Israeli occupation. Everywhere Israel is committing atrocities and massacres. For you to say that Hezbollah has no right to defend itself against Israel is your decision. However, many Lebanese, including...
CARLSON: But I‘m not saying that. I‘m not—wait, Mr. Ambassador.
I‘m not suggesting that.
MOUSTAPHA: ... including the government that sells—the Lebanese government...
CARLSON: Hold on. I am not saying that Hezbollah—excuse me. I am not saying that Israel—that Hezbollah has no right to defend itself. I‘m not saying that at all. I don‘t believe that. I think everybody has a right to defend themselves in a war.
I‘m merely saying that it strikes me as odd and destabilizing to Lebanon that an outside country, Syria, your country, is arming a faction within Lebanon. That‘s my point, interference into the affairs of Lebanon.
Why are you doing that?
MOUSTAPHA: Well, first, don‘t believe—don‘t believe the Israeli lies that are very blatant and superficial that Syria is arming Hezbollah. Syria does not produce arms. We do not—we support Hezbollah politically. We think that Hezbollah and Hamas and the national resistance movement in Lebanon and Palestine are fighting against an aggression, against the Israeli occupation.
So, Syria does not provide arms to Hezbollah. Actually, we only provide political support for Hezbollah. And the Hezbollah leadership has time and again said that they do not need from Syria anything else except for the political support that we offer them.
CARLSON: Well, I think—I think, with all respect, Mr. Ambassador, you may be parsing words here. Here‘s the allegation: that Iran supplies weapons to Hezbollah and they are funneled through Syria into Lebanon, where they are used by Hezbollah against Israel.
Is that not true? Do you not facilitate the movement of arms from Iran to Hezbollah?
MOUSTAPHA: This discussion is leading us nowhere. The United States of America is actually providing the Israelis with weapons that Israel is using to kill and massacre the Lebanese people.
CARLSON: Yes. That‘s true. That‘s true. And the United States admits it, unlike you.
MOUSTAPHA: May I—may I suggest something?
MOUSTAPHA: Let us discuss the possibilities for a solution, because this is leading us nowhere.
MOUSTAPHA: We believe in Syria that it is time for constructive diplomacy.
CARLSON: OK. Then give me the short version of what you think a conversation, a constructive conversation with the United States would be. If Condoleezza Rice were to show up in Damascus tomorrow and begin talks about how to deescalate this conflict, what would Syria‘s position be? Boil it down for me.
MOUSTAPHA: We would immediately tell Secretary Rice that this is time now to discuss the whole situation in the Middle East and find a comprehensive solution to all this crisis. This crisis would not have happened two, three weeks ago had it not been for the Israeli continuous occupation of our territories.
We offer peace, total peace, complete—complete comprehensive peace and normalization of relations with Israel in return for our occupied territories.
MOUSTAPHA: Israel has repeatedly rejected our offers because they want to keep occupying our land, brining more and more settlements from outside into our occupied territories, build settlements, expand, expand and expand.
CARLSON: OK. Just for our—just so our viewers understand, you‘re talking about the Golan Heights.
MOUSTAPHA: No. We are talking about all occupied Arab territories, including the Golan, of Syria.
CARLSON: OK. Right.
MOUSTAPHA: Including the West Bank and Gaza, including the Shebaa Farms. Occupation is the mother of all evils, and it has to stop.
CARLSON: All right. Dr. Moustapha, from Washington, thanks.
MOUSTAPHA: You are welcome.
CARLSON: Coming up, bombs and rockets continue to rain down on Lebanon. Condi Rice heads to Rome for multi-nation talks. Will her shuttle diplomacy have any effect on the conflict itself?
That story when we continue from Beirut.
CARLSON: Welcome back from Beirut.
As we‘ve been here covering this conflict, our faithful producer and friend Willie Geist has been back at headquarters covering the coverage of this conflict.
He joins us now for “Beat the Press”—Willie.
WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER: Tucker, you may not call me your friend after this one. I‘ve been waiting for this moment since we started doing “Beat the Press” a few weeks ago.
CARLSON: Oh, good.
GEIST: Today‘s first target, Tucker Carlson himself. While reporting from Beirut this afternoon on “THE MOST” with Alison Stewart, Tucker explained what it takes to survive in the middle of a war zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISON STEWART, “THE MOST”: Today Israeli forces resumed their bombardment of southern Beirut after a brief lull when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the city yesterday.
MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson has now made his way to the Lebanese capital.
Tucker, fill us in.
CARLSON: Well, Alison, about an hour after we got here, we found ourselves sitting on the patio of our hotel having a lunch of Stilton cheese, walnuts and Perrier...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: Did you get in 18 holes today, too, Tucker?
CARLSON: I had a vigorous game of squash here, Willie. No, look, it‘s the truth. And the truth is that this is a very odd city.
It‘s a city where luxury is still possible and death is taking place right next door. It‘s bizarre. And by the way, I love Stilton. And I eat it even in war zones.
GEIST: Well, on behalf of the viewers, I would like to thank you from covering the war from the perspective of the Four Seasons hotel. It‘s gone largely unreported in the Media, and I‘d like to thank you.
But Tucker, honestly, has been dodging bullets for a week, so he‘s entitled to a little cheese and water once in a while.
Well, next, we spend a little time with our friends at “FOX and Friends.” They were following a story this morning out of Indiana about a sniper on the loose. During an interview with a former homicide investigator, co-host Steve Doocy tried his best to crack the case and make a connection to another sniper in the Midwest a few years ago.
There was one small problem with his analysis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, “FOX AND FRIENDS”: You remember a couple of years ago there were some random shootings, I think, around Columbus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s right.
DOOCY: Is there any possibility it could be the same nut with a gun?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, Steve. That guy was actually arrested, as you well know, in Columbus, Ohio, and he was sentenced to 27 years in prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: So what I‘m saying, Steve, is that makes the possibility very slim that he‘s also the same nut with the gun. But, hey, what‘s a little bad information among friends?
And finally, the results of yesterday‘s unofficial poll asking all of you if you could name the tune of NBC News correspondent Mark Potter‘s cell phone ring tone. You overwhelmed us with suggestions, but before we reveal the results listen one more time to that mysterious riff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”: How are the Israelis reading the relenting in the attacks from the rockets from Hezbollah? Do they see the lesser rocket fire today as evidence of a weakening Hezbollah or that Hezbollah is signaling some kind of willingness to negotiate?
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There are two ways of looking at it. One is that perhaps the fighting has intensified to the point that much of their capability has been stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEIST: That never gets old, does it? We actually received a huge number of e-mails in response to this. A little disconcerting, actually. More than any other subject we‘ve covered. But that‘s another story.
Here are the top four that we received.
Number one—these are the fop four guesses—“Tubthumping” from Chumbawamba, the timeless classic from the late ‘90s.
Number three, “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf. That‘s incorrect.
Number two, “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers.
And number one, we received tens of votes for this one, “December, 1963,” Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
We had our experts actually analyzing this one. It‘s not “December 1963.” I know it sounds like it, and I don‘t have the right answer, to be totally honest with you.
Keep them coming. We‘re going to keep listening and comparing. We don‘t have the right answer yet.
Sorry. It‘s not “December 1963.”
We want your help in beating the press. Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen.
The number, 1-877-BTP-5876. That‘s 1-877-287-5876.
Now let‘s send it back to Tucker in Beirut.
CARLSON: Willie Geist, news you can use from headquarters.
Thanks, Willie. I‘m in suspense about the ring tone.
Well, still to come, Israeli warplanes dropped bombs across southern Lebanon today as Israel itself vowed to keep fighting Hezbollah. We‘ll get the very latest from Israel‘s ambassador to the United States.
That‘s coming up.
CARLSON: Still to come, how long will this war continue? We‘ll be joined by a man who knows the Israeli ambassador to the United States. He‘ll be with us in a minute.
Plus, not so easy to get into Beirut these days. We know how it‘s done. We‘ll tell you when we come back. But first, here are your headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have no doubts that there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib. And we must not let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: That was U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice meeting with the Israeli prime minister today in Jerusalem. She called for a, quote, “urgent and enduring peace.” Well, what does that mean, and how do we get there?
Joining us now from Jerusalem as well, the “Christian Science Monitor‘s” Raffi Frankel. Rafael, you there?
RAFAEL FRANKEL, CORRESPONDENT, “CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”: Hi. How are you doing, Tucker?
CARLSON: I‘m great. Tell us about the reception that our secretary of state received in Israel? Is she being taken seriously? Is he saying things that are consonant with the Israeli position on this?
FRANKEL: Well, I think she‘s being taken very seriously. Obviously, she‘s the foreign representative of the Israel‘s closest country. So they‘re rolling out the red carpet for her. And yes, she‘s telling the Israelis basically what they want to hear, which is, “We‘re not giving you any specific timetables. We‘re on your side, here. We‘re going to help you along through the diplomatic process. We‘re going to give you cover in the international community and the United Nations for basically as long as we can. And, you know, we‘re not going to agree to something in the end that significantly diminishes your security in the north.”
And she even said that, you know, when this is all over, it should be a durable cease-fire, which means something much different than the security regime that existed before this conflict arose.
CARLSON: Walk us through, very quickly, what that does means. What is a durable cease-fire? Like so much diplomatic language, it‘s imprecise and confusing, if you‘re not keyed in to what exactly it means. What does it mean?
FRANKEL: What it means is that they will not abide a situation where Hezbollah can basically have its finger on the trigger to start a regional war any time it wants to. It means that Iran won‘t have a proxy force or Syria won‘t have a proxy force that can do the same thing every time the international community is putting pressure on them, which is basically what people feel like has happened here.
So, you know, we talked about it last night, that there‘s going to be
it looks like at the moment some kind of international force that comes in, takes the place of Hezbollah in the south, and therefore gets the buffer zone.
And the idea is to put some room, some distance, between Hezbollah and Israel so that they can‘t fire these rockets into Israel and touch off a war any time. Because as bad as the Israeli response has been this time, if we have a cease-fire and Hezbollah pulls something like this again, it will make Israel‘s response look this time like peanuts.
CARLSON: But is that physically possible? I mean, we‘re getting reports tonight—and they sound credible—that these Katyusha rockets are coming from the city of Tyre. It‘s a big city in southern Lebanon.
You can‘t make it into a ghost town. You always have Lebanese living there. Presumably, they‘ll be anti-Israeli Lebanese, as most Lebanese are. You can never secure southern Lebanon unless you essentially take it over and kick everyone out. How is this going to work?
FRANKEL: Well, I mean, this is a problem. This is something that has to be worked out, and this is why we don‘t have a cease-fire yet. Israel and the United States are saying that unless we get a really strong international force with teeth—and we‘re take talking a force that‘s 10,000, 15,000, 20,000-strong of combat soldiers, not people that are just there to keep the peace, but combat soldiers—who will fight Hezbollah when they try to do this stuff, then the deal is off.
And if that‘s the case, if we can‘t come to some kind of deal here, you‘re going to see the fighting go on for quite some time because Israel has basically taken a stand, here. And at this point, it doesn‘t look like they can back down from it because they‘ve already committed ground troops in there.
The defense minister has said that they‘re going to hold on to at least a swath of southern Lebanon until an international force comes in there. So unless they get this deal together, this fighting is going to continue for a while.
CARLSON: It‘s very hard to imagine in ground troops with teeth. That‘s something that we‘ve seen very rarely in world history, it seems to me. It‘s also an open question, who‘d want to do that? Who‘d want to be a peacekeeper in southern Lebanon? Who‘s going to pay for it? All these open questions. Tell me about public opinion in Israel.
FRANKEL: I completely agree.
CARLSON: Opinion around the world seems to be turning against Israel.
Yes. But tell me about how Israelis themselves are viewing this conflict. In Europe, which tends to be anti-Israel in the first place, people are saying incredibly harsh things about Israel‘s attacks on southern Lebanon, the effect on civilians. Is public opinion turning in Israel?
FRANKEL: I sense very little turn of public opinion here. As far as I can tell, the people are still very much behind the government. They see some gains being made in the very strong Hezbollah villages in southern Lebanon.
They‘ve had a couple—the army says they‘re really doing some damage to the Hezbollah infrastructure. And the people really feel like they‘ve gotten themselves into something, and they have to keep going with this. Again, they can‘t let Hezbollah continue to sit there and start a war and threaten the north as much as they want to, whenever they want to.
And so there are some in the press that are beginning to question maybe some of the army tactics. But the overall military campaign still has very, very strong support in this country. And I don‘t see that lessening unless something really drastic changes, or unless there‘s a deal on the table that Israel really would be stupid to refuse.
CARLSON: All wars are fluid, of course, and rhetoric and predictions change as the conflicts grow and continue. But it is amazing to look back just to last week when you and I were in Israel together, and we were hearing directly from government spokesman that there would be no occupation of any kind of southern Lebanon.
And, in fact, the implication was there‘d be no ground troops. That, of course, has changed. How many troops are in southern Lebanon approximately now, would you say?
FRANKEL: Well, we‘re looking, I would say, at a little more than 1,000, if not 1,500 that are probably operating in Lebanon. Maybe not at all at a given time because they‘re coming in and out. And there‘s at least 3,500 that are on standby.
Plus, they‘ve called up additional reserve units of about 5,000. So in the very near future, they could have about, let‘s say, 8,000 troops on or near the Lebanese border or operating inside Lebanon in total.
So they‘ll have a pretty strong fighting force up there. If they really wanted to make a push, they would probably be able to. As far as I can tell, that‘s still not their plan.
They‘re operating under the assumption that they have about two weeks, maybe even less, to get this thing done. I‘m talking to U.S. officials, and they‘re still telling the same thing. Now, remember, when we spoke a week ago, there was a report in some of the press that said Israel would only have a week.
And now it‘s been a week, and it still looks like they have a good amount of time. And despite what the press is saying, I‘m still talking to people, and they‘re saying there‘s no time limit.
The time limit only comes in in regards to when we can get a cease-fire done that is durable, that is realistic, that won‘t allow the situation, as it is, to continue. So it could keep going for a little while.
CARLSON: Rafael Frankel from Jeruslaem. Thanks, Raffi. I appreciate it. For more on this, we turn now to the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon. He joins us live.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming on.
DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: You‘re most welcome.
CARLSON: How will israel ever ensure that Hezbollah doesn‘t rain rockets down from southern Lebanon short of evacuating the whole bottom third of Lebanon and keeping it empty?
AYALON: Well, in the long-term is a new political struck which will be based on U.N. Security Counsel Resolutions 1559, whereby there will be the total dismantlement of the Hezbollah, and also maintaining, monitoring over the international crossings in Lebanon so Syria and Iran will not be allowed to continue and send all the shipments of armaments and the state-of-the-art weapons that they have.
In the short-term, we will have to keep neutralizing the Hezbollah fighting capabilities, which we are doing now. And I believe, as time progresses, we will have more and better successes as we go on.
CARLSON: I think most Americans understand—I certainly understand
why Israel went after Hezbollah. I think Hezbollah provoked this conflict. Here‘s one thing I don‘t understand, though. Israel dropped thousands of leaflets over southern Lebanon saying to civilians, “Take the road north. We‘re going to be bombing this area,” which is a humane thing to do. But then Israel proceed to bomb the road that the evacuees were taking, killing a number of civilians in so doing. What was the idea behind that?
AYALON: Not quite, Tucker. What we have been doing is only bridges and strategic places whereby the Hezbollah was trying to advance their long-range and medium-range missiles to get to the south from the north, where they have in Tyre, in Sidon, or even in Beirut.
But we have kept quite a few roads for any civil population that want to go north that they can do it. And the reason we did it because we did not want to hurt the civilian populations. We like to distinguish between the Hezbollah terrorists and the population.
As you know, Tucker, the Hezbollah specifically locate themselves inside populated areas. They use them as human shields. And this is a tactic which has been notoriously known for the Hezbollah to do. And for us, what takes so long is to distinguish between that and work very, very carefully.
CARLSON: And I‘m in no way defending Hezbollah and its proven use of human shield. On the other hand, there are credible reports—I think really beyond question—of civilians being hit by Israeli warplanes.
An ambulance hit yesterday—these are not from the Hezbollah press office. These are from NBC news reporters who were there. There‘s really no doubt about it. And I wonder why Israel almost never expresses remorse, at least publicly, for mistakes like that.
AYALON: We do. There are mistakes. Unfortunately, there are no clean wars. And we are engaged in a very fearsome war. The formidable arsenal and fortifications that the Hezbollah has built over the years is just something that has never been seen in the area.
So certainly, there are some mistakes whereby there are some casualties on both sides, Israelis and Lebanese. We very much regret it. So with the ambulance, I am very well aware of, and we very much regret it.
CARLSON: Are you concerned that if the fighting goes on in this country in Lebanon for much longer that the government here could collapse, and that Lebanon could become a failed state once again—not for the first time in the last 25 years—and therefore a haven for even more terrorists than it is now?
AYALON: Quite the contrary, Tucker. It was, in a way, a very failed government. The Hezbollah created a state within a state. And we see now that this Hezbollah was much stronger than the Lebanese army, and I can tell you, much stronger than many states.
We see here a terror organization with state-like capabilities, with strategic capabilities. So I don‘t think things can get worse. Only better. But it will take two things. Military victory over the Hezbollah is a necessity, but it‘s not sufficient.
What will be sufficient if the international community will come together and will make sure that 1559 is implemented and then bring in a humanitarian and economic benefits for the government. I think this will help the government and further isolate the Hezbollah in the long run.
CARLSON: Very quickly, and finally, Mr. Ambassador, you‘re aware that your description of the Lebanese government as, quote, “a failed government” is diametrically opposed to the Bush administration‘s description of this democratically elected government as a kind of beacon of light for the rest of the Middle East, this democratic experiment, you know, the new Middle East rising from the ashes of the old, et cetera, et cetera. You don‘t buy the Bush administration‘s rhetoric on that, obviously?
AYALON: No, I do. But because they were democratically elected, because they were a beacon of democracy, I think they were the target, first and foremost, of Iran and the Hezbollah. And we know for a fact that they could not control their southern borders.
They could not control either Beirut. In Beirut, there is called what is called The Forbidden City. It‘s the Hezbollah neighborhood where even government officials and Lebanese policemen couldn‘t come in. This is a fact which we want to change.
CARLSON: All right. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
AYALON: Thank you.
CARLSON: Coming up next, a 24-year-old American woman living in this city doesn‘t want to be evacuated. Beirut‘s a great place to live, she says. She‘s here with us. We‘ll meet her in just a moment.
CARLSON: Welcome back. On the yesterday‘s show, I spoke by telephone to 24-year-old Faerlie Wilson of San Mateo, California. Even as the bombs have been dropping here in Beirut and westerners have been flooding by the tens of thousands, this magazine writer has stayed behind. Well, she joins us now in person.
Faerlie Wilson, welcome.
FAERLIE WILSON, AMERICAN IN BEIRUT: Thank you.
CARLSON: I was a little confused by your decision to stay here in Beirut until first we came here and saw what, really, a genuinely pretty city this is. And then, after I read a piece you wrote about nightlife here in Beirut—you write about how Ricky Martin and 50 Cent performed here recently.
Quote, “The after-party for 50 Cent was typical, over-the-top Beirut-y (ph) that held to the city‘s most decadent nightclub. Ferraris and Lamborghinis crowded the parking lot. Plasticated Lebanese girls in short skirts and spiked heels danced on tables as waiters passed out champagnes.” Pretty good.
CARLSON: Is that what it‘s like here in the non-war season?
WILSON: Lebanon—which is, I think, very hard for a lot of Americans to believe—is one of the best nightlife places. I mean, Beirut is a party city. And anyone who‘s visited here, whether it‘s for a day or has lived like I have now for half a year—you know this. Even in the winter, more so in the summer, people are out until 8:00 a.m. every day of the week. It‘s over the top, and it‘s fantastic.
CARLSON: Are they still going with the war going on?
WILSON: Things have definitely slowed down.
CARLSON: Have they really? A bombing campaign will do that.
WILSON: At lot of the bars and clubs have shut. There are a few places that are still open, and they are still packed.
CARLSON: Are they, really? So tonight, if—it‘s quite late here; I won‘t even say what time it is, but it‘s very late—if we were to go out, there are places open right now?
WILSON: Oh, absolutely. Yes.
CARLSON: Even though Israeli warplanes threw a lot of bombs into the city?
WILSON: It‘s one of the old legends of the civil war that even then, as the bombs were falling—and then, you know, the bombs were a lot closer than where we are for us here, where most of the bombing is happening in, at least, the suburbs—people would still go out and party. The Lebanese love life. They love to have a good time. And they love for people visiting the country to have a good time. So if you were to go out tonight, Tucker, I guarantee you will have a good time.
CARLSON: Well, maybe we will. Now, you said something on the show last night that stuck with me and kind of worried me a little bit. You said that you were in New York for 9/11. You said that you were in London for the underground and bus bombings there, and then you moved to Beirut and this happened. I may be a little concerned about standing next to you. You‘re on the riser (ph).
WILSON: Well, OK. My official response to this is that a good friend of mine who was with me in New York and London and is here now was also in Pakistan for the earthquake last year and here for February 14th when Hariri was assassinated. So we‘ve decided it‘s her, and I just have the bad luck of often being...
CARLSON: Is this person in journalism?
WILSON: She is, in fact.
CARLSON: That‘s incredible. She should be an assignment editor. So is your family upset about you being here?
WILSON: No. I mean, at first, obviously, they were really concerned. But they trust me. And my brother visited me earlier in the spring, so he‘s been able to re-assure them that I‘m safe here. I promised them that if bombs actually start hitting near where I live, I will leave the city.
I will go into the countryside
CARLSON: Have you felt threatened at all since you‘ve been here?
WILSON: Well, the first few days—I mean, I‘ve never been in a war zone before. And it was terrifying.
CARLSON: It‘s a little disconcerting at first, isn‘t it?
WILSON: The bombs are far away, but they sound like they‘re next door. The whole apartment shakes. And so I was absolutely terrified the first few days. But now, it‘s like—as horrible as it sounds, you get used to it.
CARLSON: Yes. Faerlie Wilson, your guide to Beirut nightlife. Thank you very much.
Coming up, not easy to get here, as good as the nightlife may be.
We‘ll explain how we did it when we come back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. We‘re joining you from Beirut, Lebanon. It wasn‘t clear we were going to be joining you from Beirut, Lebanon. We arrived in the region a week ago this morning, and we‘ve been trying to get here ever since. Not very easy.
We arrived first in Israel. Spent about five days there. Found it pretty much impossible to get—in fact, it is literally impossible to get from Israel to Lebanon. So we flew to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus where we tried to get a boat across. Easier said than done.
Now, we had to take a boat because the airport in Beirut has been destroyed by Israeli warplanes. It is possible to go over land through Amman, Jordan and Damascus, Syria, and then drive down through the north of Lebanon, though it takes a very long time, and it‘s not at all certain you‘ll get past the border checkpoints.
So we figured it was the wisest course of action to try and take a boat. The State Department is very against Americans coming here. Officially, it is recommending against it, so we made no progress at all getting an American ship over. We tried the Indian Navy. They were very nice, as Indian naval officers tend to be, we learned. But in the end, we couldn‘t get a ride on their boat.
So we wound up riding with, yes, the French on a Cypriot/Greek converted car ferry chartered by the French government for French expatriates returning back to Lebanon and for Doctors Without Borders. So we took that in and landed this afternoon in Beirut, Lebanon.
Not exactly clear how we‘re going to get home, but we‘re glad to be here for the time being. Thanks for joining us. We‘ll be here again tomorrow night. See you then.
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