CNN Interview with Fadi Elsalameen – Comments on Situation in Gaza
Aired July 28, 2014 – 14:30 ET on CNN
BALDWIN: Fadi Elsalameen is a senior adjunct fellow with The Security Project, a commentator on Arab/Israeli affairs. He joins me from Washington.
Mr. Elsalameen, welcome.
FADI ELSALAMEEN, SENIOR ADJUNCT FELLOW, THE SECURITY PROJECT & ARAB/ISRAELI AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Thank you for having me.
BALDWIN: So I just want your response to the fact that, you know, you have Democrats and Republicans, very top-ranking members of Congress, attending this national Jewish leadership conference in the city from which you join me now, supporting Israel. Your response?
ELSALAMEEN: First of all, there’s nothing new here. It’s obvious Republicans and Democrats support Israel. But what’s really missing is the Jewish voice that is also very pro peace. You have — first of all, the American-Jewish community does not stand for children being murdered in Gaza, does not support women being killed, does not support a whole population being under siege. This is a Jewish voice for — that is very clear. What I’m hoping for — this is a humanitarian crisis before it is a political issue — that this Jewish voice is heard as well among Republicans and Democrats, and this is a legitimate and growing voice. There are Jews trying to volunteer, to send humanitarian aid to Gaza. This is — not everybody agrees with what prime minister of Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing, not everybody agrees with this. And this should be noted and clear.
BALDWIN: I’m glad you bring up the point of peace, absolutely excellent point. Since you bring up children, do you think Israel is deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza?
ELSALAMEEN: I think what is happening now is beyond any doubt that there are children that are dying. It doesn’t matter what their intentions are. It doesn’t matter who is to blame. What the facts are the facts. There are children that are dying, and we must stop this catastrophe. This is a humanitarian crisis. There are children and women dying. There are people that have nowhere to go. There are people that have no food, no water. We need to do something about it. And I’m hoping you allow me to use this opportunity as an appeal to the American people, to American generosity, to support organizations like the United Nations groups that are helping people. I have been in touch with friends in Gaza. They have one clear message. And I have talked to them before coming on your show. I said, do you have any message to the world? And their message is this. We want to live. We want to live. So please, help us help them.
BALDWIN: But Fadi, I just have to push you and be fair on the other side, as well. Because Israel’s number-one argument is that it is Hamas placing these civilians, placing these children, in harm’s way on purpose to make Israel look heartless. Your response to that?
ELSALAMEEN: My response is this. First of all, playing the blame game does not — doesn’t yield any results.
BALDWIN: Both sides are blaming both sides. ELSALAMEEN: I understand. But that doesn’t help anybody. If you —
if you want to look at this from an American perspective, forget the Israeli and the Palestinian. You had Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama, pushing for a cease-fire from day one. They worked on a peace agreement. When Prime Minister Netanyahu frees 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for one Israeli soldier that Hamas captured and refuses to engage on any kind of prisoner swap with Secretary of State John Kerry, this is a clear message that Netanyahu likes to engage with Hamas. That’s the partner he prefers to deal with. How else do you explain him not allowing Secretary of State John Kerry to succeed in his efforts?
BALDWIN: I can’t explain it, because I’m not Secretary of State John Kerry, nor am I Benjamin Netanyahu. The question, though, for you is, what is the priority? When we talk about — you bring up peace, the goal for a permanent cease-fire. What is it that number one, what is it that Hamas wants? To stop this.
ELSALAMEEN: The priority right now — I’ve spoken with some of the Palestinian and the Egyptians who are involved in putting the cease- fire together. There’s a Palestinian delegation that is coming under the leadership of President Mahmud Abbas to Cairo. The Israeli’s will be involved in this, the Egyptians, and apparently there is some kind of agreement is being formulated towards an immediate cease-fire, immediate cease-fire, that will be followed up with political — with political results, meaning, that satisfied both needs. Hamas are asking that some of the siege is to be lifted. So there will be some opening in the crossing on the Egyptian side —
BALDWIN: So it’s border crossings, correct, the blockades would be priority number one, open them up?
ELSALAMEEN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BALDWIN: OK. What about the tunnels? What about the tunnels. Because you know, you hear that they certainly — depends on the perspective. You have to look at both sides. On one side, they say absolutely, they’re trying get in foot and water and necessary essential elements to get in for the civilians of Gaza. At the same time, weaponry, arming Hamas. Which is it? Or both?
ELSALAMEEN: Look, when there is a — when there is one Palestinian state that is strong, you have to have a monopoly on force, and you have to have a monopoly on borders. When you have no control over borders, people can’t bring in food, water. They can’t move. Hamas is trying to answer its needs and other people. Everybody knows, those tunnels don’t always bring —
BALDWIN: But what is their primary purpose of those tunnels?
ELSALAMEEN: They serve two purposes. Everybody is — it’s very clear. They’re bringing weapons and they do also food and water and other necessities, because the borders are not open.
BALDWIN: And that is the priority number-one for Hamas, to open those borders. But we wait. The world waits.
ELSALAMEEN: No, it’s just Hamas’ priority. Sorry, it’s not just Hamas’ priority. It is a Palestinian priority. You have two million people under siege. How else are you going to live?
BALDWIN: I understand. I know. I understand. I understand.
Fadi Elsalameen, thank you so much for coming on, and sharing your voice with us. I really appreciate it.
ELSALAMEEN: Thank you so much.