On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Dr. Christos Christou, Doctors Without Borders International president
- National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
- Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, chair of the Senate Intelligence committee
- Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, House Foreign Affairs committee chair
- Isaac Herzog, President of Israel
Clickto browse full transcripts of “Fac the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.
And this week on Face the Nation: pressure on Israel for a cease-fire, even a humanitarian pause, increases, while the conditions inside the Gaza Strip continue to deteriorate.
Israel’s efforts to decimate Hamas continue, but the humanitarian situation and escalating Palestinian civilian death toll have intensified the protests around the world, as some Gazans attempt to flee the hardest-hit parts of the region. Others struggle to stay alive in areas that are under attack and running out of resources.
We will have reports from the region, and we will speak with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Plus, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul joins us from Tel Aviv.
Then: There are some bright spots for Democrats following last week’s off- year elections. Can they win on issues, despite an unpopular president?
Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner joins us.
It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.
We begin the sixth week following Hamas’ brutal attack in which 1,200 Israelis died. That number has been dropped from 1,400, according to the Israeli government, as remains are still being identified.
Negotiations over releasing the 200-plus hostages continue behind the scenes. Publicly, it’s a war that includes allegations, counterallegations, and disturbing images. We will continue to do our best to bring you only factual information and context.
We want to begin our coverage today with Debora Patta, reporting from East Jerusalem.
DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): They came in their thousands, chanting, “Now, now,” Israelis demanding the immediate release of the nearly 240 loved ones abducted by Hamas on October 7, a reminder, when it comes to pain, there are no winners after more than five weeks of war.
In Gaza City, fierce street-to-street battles around several hospitals, including the largest, Al Shifa, now a front line. Hollow-eyed doctors and nurses work in torchlight in a health system that is on its knees. They came to save lives, but fear that, together with their patients, they could die here.
Dr. Mohammed Obeid sent out this desolate message.
DR. MOHAMMED OBEID (Surgeon): And they hit those people many times. The situation, as I said before, very, very bad. We are nearly sure that we are alone now. No one hear us.
DEBORA PATTA: Medical staff want guarantees that the around 600 patients still inside can be safely evacuated.
The Israeli military has kept up its drumbeat of accusations. Hamas, it says, is using the hospital as an operating base, a charge the group denies. Palestinians continue to flee southwards, but it is a perilous journey.
“My son was shot dead in the chest,” Ghaith Hasune (sp?) sobs. “I had to leave his body behind.”
(GHAITH HASUNE SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DEBORA PATTA: And when they do reach the south, even as far as Rafah, the bombs continue to fall.
(MAN SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DEBORA PATTA: “We’re not involved. We don’t have fighters in our house,” this man weeps. “I just operate a donkey cart.”
This is the true cost of this war, thousands of civilians killed, sometimes with only a number to identify them, men, women and children now being buried in nameless mass graves.
DEBORA PATTA: And the Israeli military says it’s now opened an evacuation route from the Al Shifa Hospital.
But, Margaret, for many of the patients there in a critical condition, this is simply not possible.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Our Debora Patta.
CBS News producer Marwan Al Ghoul filed this report last night from Gaza.
MARWAN AL GHOUL: In Gaza City, there are more and more severe suffering. It’s a matter of die or life in Gaza City, as no enough food, no electricity, no fuel at all.
But if I want to talk about Gaza City, I have to talk about Al Shifa Hospital. This hospital contains 500 medical beds, but all occupied by injured people and sick as well. These displaced people live in the hospital and the courtyards.
I had a call phone with Dr. Samir Al-Bosh (sp?), who told me that smell of deaths everywhere in the hospitals, as there are 100 dead bodies in the hospital. But they don’t know where to bury those bodies, which attempted, the administrations of the hospital, to dig mass grave to bury the bodies over there.
Dr. Samir said that the hospital and doctors cannot apply any services to the injured people, as no fuel, no electricity, and everything ran out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Producer Marwan Al Ghoul reporting from Gaza.
Christos Christou is president of Doctors Without Borders International, and he joins us now from Rome.
I understand many of your doctors are working at Al Shifa Hospital, and said two infants died due to lack of electricity, the inability to keep incubators on. There are 40 premature babies who need to evacuate. Will the Israeli military help these children evacuate?
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU (International President, Doctors Without Borders): So far, we don’t have any news about any coordinated action about evacuating at least these neonate patients.
And we don’t have any news about any proper evacuation. What we see are hundreds of patients that they have underwent surgery very soon and – very recently, and now they cannot be just – take and walk out of the hospital.
And next to them, we have newborn babies that they needed – premature babies that they needed support. They were supposed to be in incubators. No incubator works this moment in Al Shifa. And, actually, Al Shifa doesn’t work. It’s not functional.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The prime minister of Israel has said there’s no reason why we can’t just take the patients out of the hospital.
What’s your response to that?
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: To evacuate – to evacuate the hospital, you need time. You need weeks. It’s not within 24 hours.
And we said that several times in the past also, that it takes a lot of good organization to evacuate the hospital. And next to this coordination, it takes also a cease-fire. We have reports that people trying to leave the hospital also have been shot down.
MARGARET BRENNAN: By who?
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: And we had also accidents – snipers. And we don’t – and we don’t know what is happening also sometimes inside the hospital in several places where they are bombed. There are airstrikes in the hospitals as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Israeli military denies attacking the hospital complex. I know it’s a large complex.
But they claim that Hamas, as you know, has a command center in that hospital. I realize you are speaking about very sensitive matters, but the lives of your staff are also in danger here. How does this get resolved?
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: First of all, we need to understand that, at this right moment inside hospitals are people – are people in need, our patients, our children.
Our children, we have this acronym, the WCNSF, wounded children of non- surviving families. We have several families that they are there. And these are patients. We need to understand that. We have to protect the hospitals. Any attack in the medical care at the moment is an attack on humanity.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But Israel’s military is going to go at that hospital if it is indeed Hamas’ command center. I’m sure you understand that.
You say it would take weeks to get everyone out. Is there any planning?
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: Well, there’s no planning. Everyone now lives – even – even the health workers have been so overwhelmed and exhausted. And they are in a position at the moment that they cannot even offer anything.
So, yes, what seems more likely is not a proper evacuation, but it is a panic, is a panic that will end up with rubbles.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Allowing fuel in has been a big sticking point for Israel, which worries that Hamas will get the fuel. You need the fuel to keep the generators on.
Do you have any source of fuel to keep the electricity on, to keep these people alive?
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: At the moment, there’s no fuel in the hospital. And we run out of fuel also in other hospitals.
And I cannot speak on behalf of all the hospitals this right moment in Gaza. I know that there’s no electricity. We do not have connection in Internet. All these testimonies that you get also from our colleagues like Dr. Mohammed Obeid before was from yesterday.
We lost contact later at night. We don’t know what is happening in this right moment. And we know since a long time that people do not have even access to drinkable water.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.
It is – I don’t even have the words to respond to what you just laid out, Doctor. But thank you. And we wish your doctors well, along with their patients.
DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Jake, welcome back to the program.
The fighting seems very intense in and around Gaza. Doctors Without Borders has called on the Israeli government to – quote – “end its unrelenting assault on Gaza’s health system.”
Does the U.S. believe that this is an accurate description of what’s happening? Is the U.S. telling Israel not to hit hospitals?
JAKE SULLIVAN (U.S. National Security Adviser): Well, Margaret, without getting into intelligence information, we can just look at the open-source reporting that Hamas is using hospitals, as it uses many other civilian facilities, for command and control, for weapons storage, to house its fighters.
And this is a violation of the laws of war.
That being said, Margaret, the United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals, where innocent people, patients receiving medical care are caught in the crossfire. And we’ve had active consultations with the Israeli Defense Forces on this.
In fact, just yesterday, the Israeli Defense Forces themselves said that they – on the record, publicly, said that they are looking for ways to be able to ensure the safety and security of individual patients in those hospitals, while they also try to figure out a way to deal with the fact that Hamas is operating in a way that’s outside the bound – bounds of any civilized concept of how you would think about using a hospital, using human shields.
So it’s an active conversation, but the bottom line is, we don’t want to see firefights in hospitals.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
You don’t dispute, then, the Israeli assertion that Hamas has a command center underneath Al Shifa Hospital?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: I’m not going to get into a specific assertion related to a specific hospital, because that would be getting into intelligence matters.
But, broadly speaking, we can see from open-source reporting that there is a track record, a pattern of Hamas historically and in this conflict using hospitals and other civilian facilities for these purposes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the hostages, roughly 240, still being held by Hamas.
We had the opportunity to speak with Congressman Mike McCaul from Israel, where he had just met with the Israeli prime minister. And he told us that Israel is considering Hamas’ proposal that Israel release Palestinian women and children from prison in order to obtain the hostages held by Hamas.
Is that something the U.S. thinks should happen?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, Margaret, you’ll understand if I’m very careful in how I answer this question, because the negotiations are delicate. They’re high-stakes.
What is at stake is the recovery of a significant number of innocent people, including innocent Americans, currently being held hostage by Hamas, a murderous terrorist organization. It is the case that there are active negotiations under way between Israel and Qatar, who is communicating with Hamas, and the United States is involved in those discussions, very much involved in those discussions.
But I’m not going to get into the specifics of what’s on the table, only to say that we are actively working to ensure the safe return of every American being held hostage and every other person being held hostage by Hamas.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are still roughly 400 Americans stuck in Gaza, according to the State Department. Will they get out?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: We are determined to ensure that they get out.
Many have gotten out. Many are still there, as you mentioned, not just American citizens, but also their immediate family members. And we’re trying to create a circumstance where every one of them can get safe passage out of Gaza. The gate has been open and closed. The lists have included Americans some days and not other days.
But the bottom line is, today, the gate is open. We are moving American citizens and their family members out. And in the days ahead, we hope to ensure that every American who wants to leave Gaza is able to do so safely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake, this past week, a top State Department official testified to Congress that the Gaza Health Ministry’s estimates of 11,000 Palestinian dead may in fact be an undercount.
Does the White House share that assessment?
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: We don’t have fidelity on the numbers of casualties, fatalities in Gaza. We don’t know how many are fighters and how many are innocent civilians.
But, as I have said before, and as Secretary Blinken has said before, we do know there are thousands of innocent civilians who have been killed in the military operations that began after October 7. And every loss of life of an innocent person, whether it’s Palestinian, Israeli, anyone, is an absolute tragedy.
And we grieve for every one of those lives. And we continue to reinforce the proposition that Israel has the right, indeed, the responsibility to go after Hamas who continues to represent a threat to the State of Israel. But it must do so in a way that’s consistent with the laws of war.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And Secretary Blinken also said too many Palestinians had died to date.
I want to zero in on the future, which I know you have talked about from day one, what will happen in Gaza next. And you’ve pressed the Israeli government on this point.
Secretary Blinken has been clear that it’s the West Bank and Gaza that needs to be under unified control, and the Palestinian – Palestinian Authority likely to govern that. It doesn’t sound like the Netanyahu government is on the same page as the Biden administration, because the prime minister said something very different just yesterday.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, from our perspective, the way forward – the basic principles of the way forward are straightforward.
And this is something that Secretary Blinken laid out publicly this past week, no reoccupation of Gaza, no forcible displacement of the Palestinian people. Gaza can never be used as a base for terrorism in the future. And Gaza’s territory should not be reduced.
Secretary Blinken also said that, ultimately, we do want to see the reconnection, the reunification of control between the West Bank and Gaza under Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian Authority is the current leadership on the West Bank.
But, ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Palestinian people to decide their future, who governs them. And the United States will support a process…
MARGARET BRENNAN: There haven’t been elections held in ages.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: Well, that’s right, Margaret. There haven’t been elections held since the early 2000s.
But, post-October 7, we can’t go back to the way things were on October 6. And that goes for ensuring that Hamas cannot represent a continuing threat to Israel. And, in fact, Hamas spokespeople have said they want to repeat October 7 again and again until Israel is wiped out, that they want to be in a permanent state of war with Israel.
That was on the front page of “The New York Times”…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: … out of the mouth of a Hamas spokesman.
So, Israel is going to prosecute this campaign against a terrorist group. But we also can’t go back to October 6 when it comes to governance.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JAKE SULLIVAN: And it will ultimately be up to or should be up to the Palestinian people to decide what their future governance looks like. And that should involve a reconnection, as Secretary Blinken has said, of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake Sullivan, thank you for your time.
Face the Nation will be back in one minute. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re back now with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner of the state of Virginia.
And the Democrats were – were celebrating what happened in Virginia this past week with your elections.
You said it was – you told the White House what happened in Virginia was the first election of the 2024 national election cycle.
What do you mean by that?
SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-Virginia): Well, I meant that, while there was a lot of focus on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, the Ohio abortion question, in Virginia, a purple state, where not only abortion, but gun rights, voting rights were all on the ballot, in terms of Democrats’ positions versus the Republicans.
And I think it sets the stage well for the president. And I think one of the things that has not gotten into the analysis – I mean, clearly abortion was a big issue, but I also think Virginia very reliant on the federal government, we have a lot of defense establishment, a lot of federal workers.
I think the overall craziness that’s come out of the House of Representatives left a message that, even when the Republicans in Virginia would try to appear moderate, I think Virginians were afraid, if they got total control of the state government, it would be the extremists, the MAGA crowd, that would drive the bus, the same way that’s happening, unfortunately, at the national level.
And I think that played into the Democrats, you know, taking back the House, keeping the Senate and stopping some of that agenda.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the president’s own approval rating is low.
So, when people draw a direct line and say Democrats did well here, so therefore, a year from now, President Biden’s coasting to victory, do you agree with that? Or do Democrats have a Biden problem, given that his approval ratings are – are not high?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Listen, the president’s approval ratings are tough. I’m the first to acknowledge that.
But I also think the president has repeatedly said, at the end of the day, this is not a choice between Joe Biden and a perfect alternative, particularly if the choice is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I think Virginians, I think Americans will reject that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That also comes down to a question of enthusiasm and turnout, right, in tight elections.
And we’ve seen some particularly young progressives on this issue we’ve been talking about, Israel and Gaza, be very vocal in their frustration. And in tight races, states like Michigan matter a lot. And there are over 200,000 Muslim Americans in that state.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Mm-hmm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you see this divide on this issue hurting the president with Democrats?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I think it has a potential to.
And that’s why I think all of us are urging Israel – clearly, Israel has the right to defend itself, has the right to take out Hamas. Hamas is holding many of the Palestinians, people, using them as shields.
But we all saw those images on your show today. They’re horrific. So, what Israel has to realize – and this is why we’ve been pushing for these pauses, why we’ve been pushing to make sure that the settler violence on the West Bank is controlled. This is a battle for hearts and minds for Israel, not just a military battle.
And those hearts and minds go across our country. They go across the region. And if they are – if there’s not more consideration about Palestinian casualties, you could see this already tragic event spill over into violence on the West Bank, coming out of Lebanon, and obviously making it harder in America to maintain our traditional support for Israel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
America is Israel’s number one arms dealer. That’s what we do. So, does something need to change, in terms of this potential aid package that is being debated in the Senate?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think questions have been raised about how this aid will be used. I have raised some of those questions privately.
We also have to pair that with humanitarian assistance. And that is absolutely critical. We’ve, again, seen these horrific images.
But I also think, as we think about this package, we also need to realize – – I – I hear a lot of the Republicans who want to bash Iran, bash Iran, bash Iran.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: And I get it, all right? The Iranians are bad guys.
But they then seem to forget the connection between Iran and Russia. And some of these very same folks who want to help Israel, but then want to walk away from Ukraine? I think walking away from Ukraine at this time would be a historic mistake that would pay negative repercussions literally for years to come.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident that package, Ukraine and Israel and border and Taiwan, can pass?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I’m confident, if we can put all those pieces together. And I believe that, not only money, but we do need to make some policy changes on border.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: The devil’s in the details, but I think, if we get that package combined, it will definitely pass.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to take a break and come back and talk to you on the other side of it.
So, please stay with us, Senator.
We have more Face the Nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yesterday, more than 300,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched through Central London, calling for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Far right counterprotesters clashed with police, and almost 100 people were arrested for trying to disrupt the main demonstration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.
Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We continue our conversation now with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia.
You, in your position as head of the Intelligence Committee, have been tracking a lot of the competition with China, particularly in the technology space. The White House seems to be very focused on establishing military-to-military ties with China. What are you watching for out of this summit with Xi Jinping?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I do think re-establishing these military ties and communications are important because we saw when we shot down the Chinese balloon, nobody picked up the phone on the other end. And unlike Russia, where we’ve had 75 years of conflicts but lots of back-channel communications, because our – our contest with China is newer, we don’t have that level of communication, so I think that’s very important to be reestablished.
I also think the president needs to push President Xi on the continuing intellectual property theft that some years accounts for close to $500 billion of intellectual property being stolen. And I firmly believe, when we’ve seen no retreat from China in terms of its level of technology investment, I absolutely believe that national security in the 21st century is more than tanks and guns. It is who wins the battle for artificial intelligence and quantum computing and advanced energy. The level of Chinese investment, for example, on rare earth minerals coming out of Africa is huge. And we need to be able to counter that with America and with our friends.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, our – you want guardrails, I imagine, set up with China on artificial intelligence and the like, but legislating around a lot of this is really hard and it’s not moving very quickly.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Margaret, let me tell you, I did the bill that was terribly bipartisan, 13 and 13, Democrats/Republicans –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: About saying we need an approach that’s not simply focused on TikTok, but on all foreign technology that might pose –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: A national security risk from China or Russia or Iran. And suddenly we had the extremes on both the left and the right come out against that legislation. It needs to move because, particularly now as you see literally 40 percent of young people get all their news from TikTok. So I hope those kind of issues will be – we can get some energy behind them now coming after this summit.
But this technology competition, we’ve had military competitors like Russia. We’ve never had an economy that’s making the investments the way China is in these new technology domains.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Microsoft, this week, came out with a report that said Russia, Iran and China will interfere in the 2024 presidential race. Not – they were certain about this. And other close presidential races worldwide.
Is your legislation going to stop something like that?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I think our legislation will take on an issue like a TikTok, which is, I am afraid, could be used as a propaganda channel for the CCP, the Communist Party of China. And my beef is with the CCP, it’s not with the Chinese people or the Chinese deaspra (ph).
But around artificial intelligence where I think we need to be humble because candidly we’ve done nothing on any guardrails on social media and on technology writ large. The two areas where artificial intelligence could have an enormous negative effect tomorrow is interfering in our public elections, but it also could have a tool in terms of interfering in our public markets. And I’ve been surprised we’ve not seen more manipulation, for example, of stocks using AI tools. So, my hope is, perhaps we can get a coalition between those who favor making sure our public markets are not interfered with as well as those who were concerned about interference in our election to build the kind of coalition because taking on big tech –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I’ve been there for years and got a – pretty much a zero record and nobody in Congress has got a good record on this. I think we need that kind of coalition because the election interference could be enormous.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, is that “Washington Post” report that Ukraine was behind the attack on Nord Stream accurate and is attacking civilian infrastructure acceptable?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Margaret, I’m not going to comment on anything that comes out of classified intelligence. We do know that Russia has a history of misinformation and disinformation, but we’ll continue to follow that issue.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for your time today.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we spoke earlier today with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, from Tel Aviv.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you’re wrapping up what has been a pretty quick and busy trip to Israel. You met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Did you get a sense that his government is close to wrapping up this military operation?
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): No, I don’t think so. I think it’s – you know, the air strikes, I think the ground game is just now starting.
And I will say, Margaret, when we walked in, the first thing we saw was the horrific Hamas video showing the gruesome killings of these barbaric terrorists. And it was a very intense, kind of powerful, moment.
You know, the prime minister was in tears. Really teary-eyed about what happened. And, remember, this is sort of like their 9/11. And they – they want to eliminate the threat, you know, as they should. And I think that – and we talked a lot about the ground game operations, humanitarian, and we also met with the minister of defense as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you just raised humanitarian aid. I know the U.S. is the largest donor to the U.N. relief agency that operates inside of Gaza. Many in the Republican caucus do not support any aid going to them or to Palestinians, even Palestinian civilians living in Gaza. Do you believe that the aid package going through Congress needs to include this kind of help?
MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, I do. And I think the Israelis do as well. I think, you know, I talked about this with the prime minister. They have put a buffer zone in the middle of Gaza to create this humanitarian zone in southern Gaza. They opened up the Rafah gate, that’s Egypt. About 100 trucks a day are coming in. But it has to be like food, water, and medicine. It can’t be fuel because Hamas can use that to light their tunnels and operate them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are still roughly 400 Americans stuck inside of Gaza according to the State Department. Did you get any update on how they’re doing?
MICHAEL MCCAUL: We did. And very sensitive negotiations with the Qataris. They’re kind of the lead broker, if you will, of this negotiation. You know, I’m meeting with, right after this interview, with a bunch of families of the hostages. And I met with them in the United States. Very dicey issue.
And I think what Hamas wants would be a swap of prisoners in Israel of Palestinians in exchange for these hostages, both Americans and Palestinians, in the Gaza. That’s an ongoing thing. I hope it can happen. A cease-fire would be very difficult without an agreement to release all hostages.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To be clear, are the Palestinian Americans who are trapped in Gaza being included in that hostage negotiation? Is that what you’re saying as well?
MICHAEL MCCAUL: No, this is a –
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
MICHAEL MCCAUL: No, I’m sorry, it’s the Palestinian – Palestinians in – in prison in Israel that are being, you know, negotiated in exchange for prisoners of both Israelis and Americans held captive in Gaza.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. So that Hamas proposal is being entertained. Interesting to know that.
I want to ask you about what Congress can deliver in terms of aid to Israel. Do you think that the new speaker of the House has the clout necessary with your caucus to move through a package that includes Israel aid, Ukraine aid, and other national security items?
MICHAEL MCCAUL: Our aid to Israel is urgent and time is of the essence. We have to deliver this package.
Now, I know that we have offsets, and that’s fair, but I don’t think we can play political games with this to support our ally because, you know, if – if they fail, and we fail, it would have a very bad effect across the Middle East.
Into Ukraine, that’s vitally important as well. So is Taiwan. And so is the last line of defense, the southern border. So, really, if you think about it, all these threats are really tied together. Now, whether we handle it all altogether or separately with say Ukraine and border security, all that has yet to be figured out. The stage to, if you will, a CR that the speaker is trying to implement, I think will actually move the process forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that – that deadline in terms of government funding is next week, November 17th. Yesterday the speaker made this proposal, it’s kind of an unusual way to do it, called a laddered, short-term funding deal.
MICHAEL MCCAUL: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House says it’s just not serious and it’s a waste of time. Are we going to see a government shutdown?
MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, you know, we have the power of the purse. And, look, we need – we need more time. The CRs always hurt the military, always hurt our national security. And so the first CR until January could resolve the four – last four appropriation bills that we can’t pass to date. So we could pass those and then have until February to negotiate with the Senate to get this done and put it on the president’s desk. That will also give us time –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but first you need the votes to actually pass this. So – so can Republicans vote together to pass this proposal, this short-term funding agreement?
MICHAEL MCCAUL: We’re going to have to. I mean, there’s no choice here. I mean the world is on fire from where I sit. It is too, you know, urgent. We can’t sit back and do nothing. And talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu, they needed this yesterday, in his words. Ukraine needed it yesterday. The border, for certainly, need it yesterday. And we know that Chairman Xi is threatening Taiwan and the Pacific.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
MICHAEL MCCAUL: So, you know, I think what the Senate’s going to do, they’re going to come up with a package, probably after Thanksgiving, that they will send over to the House.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And we’ll see if that government funding proposal can get passed by next week to avoid that shutdown.
Congressman, thank you for joining us from Israel this morning.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, who joins us from Jerusalem.
Good afternoon to you, sir.
ISAAC HERZOG (President of Israel): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Your country lost 1,200 of its civilian citizens on October the 7th. And I know you’re still reeling from that. But what we’re seeing in Gaza right now with Hamas and this concentration of very intense fighting around al-Shifa Hospital, if that is indeed Hamas’ command center, does that mean this war ends if you take control of it?
ISAAC HERZOG: Well, the war we’ve – we’ve taken on against Hamas is a war that – which matters to the entire well-being and safety of – of the world, I would say, and therefore our main aim at this stage following the atrocities we’ve gone through on October 7th is to uproot the capability of Hamas. It doesn’t end in Shifa Hospital. They are based all throughout Gaza.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you have personally met with many of the families of the roughly 240 hostages being held by Hamas and other terror groups. Can you explain why Israel is reportedly now considering releasing Palestinian women and children from your prisons in exchange for some of these hostages held by Hamas?
ISAAC HERZOG: Well, I don’t want to give any illusions. Qatar is trying to mediate. So is Egypt. In order to get a humanitarian release of a – of some of the hostages, we demand all the hostages. That’s the worldwide demand. But there are – there are talks, of course, behind the scenes. I cannot confirm any details.
What I can say is that there is nothing substantial right now on the table. The United States is also heavily involved in it. So, there’s nothing tangible that I can report.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I asked because in the past Israel has flatly refused that Hamas proposal to release Palestinians from prison. Are you saying that’s a false report?
ISAAC HERZOG: It’s not the same. It’s not the same. There are four dozens say that Israel is willing to release our – murderers who are sentenced for a life sentence. In my speech in Congress, to a joint session of the House in – in July, mid-July –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ISAAC HERZOG: I said that the entire problem with the peace process in the region is terror (ph). Terror is undermining the entire ability to move forward. All of those who remember decades of trying to make peace with our neighbors know that we can make pace with those who adhere to the agreements and fight terror. Unfortunately a nation, which supports and aides terror, we cannot be a partner.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ISAAC HERZOG: And we’ve seen the atrocious results.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand. And the United States of America considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization and has for – for decades. They’re very clear on that.
But as you just mentioned, you have long been an advocate for peace with the Palestinians, but there are many in the current government who before October 7th were not and do not favor two states for two people.
Do you still believe that is the way ultimately to have peace.
ISAAC HERZOG: Why would anybody agree right now to any progress with our neighbors when we don’t see truly their ability to fight terror and many, many of them, including those in Gaza, are hailing and smiling and celebrating in the most atrocious way the world’s greatest atrocity almost since World War II.
May I also add and tell you that part of the whole issue is that it’s kind of a culture that celebrates these awful atrocities.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which culture?
ISAAC HERZOG: These atrocities cannot be agreed – accepted in any way. It means it has nothing to do with the conflict. It has nothing to do with the borders, with settlements or anything. This is simple. Simple, clear, barbarism, Jew hate, other hate, which is advocated by ISIS, Hamas, al Qaeda, which, if we weren’t here, then Europe will be next and probably the United States is the end game for all of them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand, and I’m not discounting in any way anti- Semitism around the globe, which is on the rise.
When it comes specifically, though, to the long-term security of the Democratic and Jewish state of Israel, it sounds like you have lost some hope for that peace process. But I wonder, given what you are seeing happen in Gaza right now, and the wish you have for security for your people, aren’t you concerned that more individuals will be radicalized by the level of civilian casualties right now?
ISAAC HERZOG: If we eradicate the capabilities of Hamas, we’ll give hope to the Palestinians in Gaza too, to run their life decently, as we’ve expected in the accords we had with the Palestinians. We enabled the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza and they lost it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
ISAAC HERZOG: They lost it to a brutal coup of Hamas in 2007.
But the issue is, I kept on asking President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in – on numerous occasion, would you go in if Israel takes Hamas out? And he said no. Now I don’t know exactly where he is at and if they’re even capable of doing so. But one thing is clear, we first and foremost have to give safety and security to Israel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. But even the United States government says that death toll of 11,000 Palestinians may be an undercount. They say they can’t separate civilians from Hamas fighters. But it’s still a tremendous amount of death.
So, given that, how can you say with certainty that Israel’s military and intelligence is hitting the right targets right now, that the dying that is happening is necessary and helpful to your security?
ISAAC HERZOG: I thank you for this question first of all because I want to express my utter pain and sorrow for any innocent casualty on the Palestinian side. We are doing our utmost, according to international humanitarian law. First and foremost, we alert people. I mean what’s the story here? The enemy, these terrorists, fought and tried to kill us and send missiles and terrorists from their homes. So, we have to go to these homes and we have to blow up all their infrastructure, tunnels, missile, everything.
So, we go and we sent leaflets, we call and we phone and we send text messages to all the civilians in that area, we tell them move out, we give them time to move out and we’ve opened humanitarian corridors and we have increased dramatically the humanitarian aid to those who are moving out to a safety zone.
Unfortunately, there could be casualties. Some of them are also by Hamas fire. And their reporting and the numbers are unclear to me. But I’m saying outright, we are doing our best. Unfortunately, these things happen, and we are sorry for it, but, at the end of the day, we have to uproot that infrastructure because we have to defend ourselves according to our right and duty to defend our people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Herzog, thank you for your time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats celebrated a series of high-profile wins in this past Tuesday’s elections, including an abortion rights amendment in Ohio and full control of the state legislature in Virginia. But there was another notable outcome, liberals won a series of school board races in red and blue states alike. Why?
Here’s chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): When election season rolls around, school board races haven’t always gotten a lot of attention.
WOMAN: If you’re going to yell, just do – stand up, yell and leave.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): But that was before school board hearings around the country became a flashpoint for fights over book banning –
MAN: They’re molesting our kids’ minds.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): Diversity –
MAN: What am I being arrested for?
NANCY CORDES (voice over): And LGBTQ plus rights.
WOMAN: The movie had not been approved and it was not appropriate.
WOMAN: Know that you are making Orlando (ph) County unsafe and an unproductive working and learning environment.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): 2021 saw a surge in conservative school board candidates pushing back on pandemic-era school closures and mask mandates. This past Tuesday, the pendulum appeared to swing the other way, with more liberal candidates picking up school board seats in states like Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia.
WOMAN: I started to see the effects of some of the chaos and disfunction on our school board in our classrooms.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): Valan Rodas (ph) is a teacher and newly elected school board member in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.
WOMAN: You’re not going to cut my mic off when I go to vote.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): That board drew national attention in 2021 when it voted to pull what it called sexually explicit books from school libraries.
WOMAN: From there it just seemed to continue spiraling into other distracting culture war issues that aren’t the problems that are needed – needed addressing to help our students.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): On Tuesday, Spotsylvania’s school board flipped from a 4-3 conservative majority to 5-2 for progressives.
NANCY CORDES: What message do you think voters were trying to send about the school board?
WOMAN: I believe they want us to work together.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): April Gillespie is one of the two remaining conservatives.
WOMAN: I believe they’re tired of the fighting and the lawsuits and – on both sides. Just everything. Both sides. I think that they want us to move forward and focus on the business of the division and not so much the politics of things.
NANCY CORDES (voice over): Last Tuesday’s school board races are being viewed as a test case for 2024 when voters in all 50 states will go to the polls. Democrats are hoping this issue, like abortion, will help to drive turnout and make up for what polls show is a dip in enthusiasm for the team at the top of the ticket.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s Nancy Cordes reporting.
We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Today some tragic breaking news. The Pentagon has just announced that five U.S. service members were killed yesterday in an aircraft training mission in the Mediterranean Sea. Our condolences to those families and our deepest respect and thanks for all of those who serve or have served in the military.
Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.