January 5, 2009 - 1:00am

Aired January 5, 2009 - 09:00 ET

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Two huge stories and the world is watching this morning. Sirens well and explosions thunder in Gaza. The crisis with Israel deepens.
And in Washington, an incoming president and his new challenges. Barack Obama gets to work today on the nation's lousy economy. New details on his plans and what they could mean to you.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Today is Monday, January 5th and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM….

Joining us now from Washington, Dr. Ziad Asali. He's with the American Task Force on Palestine.

Thank you for being with us, Doctor -- a medical doctor that you are, you have an interesting story, too, because you actually trained in Jerusalem and practiced -- pardon me, Beirut -- and practiced in Jerusalem and yet you are with this group.

Tell us a little bit more about your reaction to the ground attack that was launched on Gaza by Israelis this weekend.

ZIAD ASALI, AMERICAN TASK FORCE ON PALESTINE: Yes. Well, as usual, the most tragic part about this is that the Palestinian civilians suffer. No matter who makes decision on their behalf or on behalf of anybody else, the price is inevitably and always paid by the Palestinian people.

Right now we really do have an exceptionally tragic situation in the humanitarian sense in the Gaza people where there is 1.5 million people living.

Of course, this -- this is a story that has repeated itself frequently and is destined to be repeated until we get Palestinian state where the Palestinians would have their own independent sovereign state alongside Israel where the root causes of all these conflicts start and can end.

COLLINS: Well -- it must be so very difficult -- and you, you mentioned, you know, the women, the children, and even the men who want absolutely nothing to do with Hamas -- or what its agenda may be.

What choices do you have? Do you find yourself in the middle of this barrage of bombs overhead? I just --I wonder what that life is like and where you go and what you can possibly do to survive.

ASALI: I -- think people have to be exceptionally focused on the end result here. If the end result is not going to be a Palestinian state living alongside Israel, there will be more problems and everything that anybody does will eventually crash on this cycle of violence that is, that is fed by so much passion, a sense of injured dignity, a sense of victimization on --

COLLINS: On both sides.

ASALI: On -- every side. On every side. And now, particularly, disproportionately, of course, on the Palestinian side. Radicals will always find a way to use this and build on it and to further pull the area into further conflicts on both sides, again.

COLLINS: Do you believe that if Hamas stopped firing rockets into Israel, there would be a chance of another cease-fire? There would be a chance for discussions regarding what you say is absolutely has to happen to the Palestinian state?

ASALI: Yes. Well, you know the cease-fire is now a -- humanitarian request, if not a political request for so many people. It is, it is hard for me to imagine that the Israelis would consent to a cease-fire now while they are in, in the process of an operation that is rolled out for some time, I'm afraid.

On the other hand, there will be mounting pressure in the Arab, the Muslim world, in Europe and in the United States because, precisely, because of the humanitarian disaster situation and the pictures that will keep coming out of Gaza...


ASALI: put an end to this.

COLLINS: Very quickly...

ASALI: There will be a balance at some point in time and there'll be a United Nations resolution for that cease-fire.

COLLINS: Well, hopefully. Before we let you go here, I just want to play some sound from the Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and this is what she had to say to our Christiane Amanpour regarding the military action.



TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: Until a moment in which we have Hamas weaker, in which we know that they understand that the Israelis not willing to leave realities in which our cities are still being targeted.


COLLINS: More than 500 people dead, 2,000 injured at this point by way of Palestinians.

How much longer can Hamas fight back?

ASALI: Hamas will fight back and Hamas is, in fact, will fight back for a long time. All it has to do is to have a few of its leaders survive in order to proclaim that their own survival is the survival of the movement and then they would -- might be able to say that they stood up for Israel and then capitalized politically on that.

Until we realize that there is a larger game which is the -- occupation and the need to end the occupation or create the Palestinian state, this thing will go on.

COLLINS: Well, we certainly do appreciate your perspective and your time here today.

ASALI: Thank you.

COLLINS: Dr. Ziad Asali, thank you so very much.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017