Israeli President Shimon Peres is a true believer in peace his nation and the Palestinian people. He is a strong supporter of the Two State Solution that would see the birth of an independent Palestine living alongside the Jewish nation of Israel. Speaking about renewed violence between Israel and Gaza, Peres declared that “Israel wants peace” and he demanded that Hamas cease all rocket fire on innocent Israeli civilians.
Although some Israeli’s criticize Peres as unrealistic in the face of Arab hatred, he is widely respected in the Free World. Peres received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012 and at the time, Obama lionized Peres for his efforts to bring peace to the troubled Middle East.
“The United States is fortunate to have many allies and partners around the world. Of course, one of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel. And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and bring our two nations closer as the leader we honor tonight—our friend, Shimon Peres. In him we see the essence of Israel itself, an indomitable spirit that will not be denied. (President Peres) wants peace, security and dignity, for Israelis and Palestinians and all Israel’s Arab neighbors. And even in the darkest moments, he’s never lost hope in — as he puts it — a Middle East that is not a killing field, but a field of creativity and growth.”
President Peres gave an in-depth interview on the current fighting between Israel and Hamas. He spoke to The Israel Project’s Arabic language outlet, Israel Uncensored, earlier today. In this stunning and frank conversation, which we reprint in its entirety, he talked about the realities on the ground and sent a message of hope to the people of Gaza.
Mr. President, do you think that Israel’s response to the firing of missiles by Hamas, roughly 1,000 attacks in Gaza thus far, is proportional?
At such a time, when the tension between the two sides is at its peak, it is important to clarify that Israel does not want war. The Arabs and the Muslims are not our enemies and we reiterate that we want to renew negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the “two-state solution.” Nevertheless, it is important to make clear, particularly to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and to the entire Arab world: Hamas and other organizations in Gaza are firing missiles on Israeli towns on a daily basis. Hamas is the one that initiated this latest escalation. There is no county in the world that would be prepared to absorb missiles raining down for such a long time on its cities and towns, on kindergartens and schools. It is an intolerable situation and the Israeli leadership had to make a decision in order to bring this to an end.
There are those who say that the timing of this action is related to elections in Israel. The Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak triumvirate wishes to be re-elected and all means are justified, including an action in Gaza. Do you agree with this claim?
I do not believe that the reasons underlying this operation are political or related to the elections. No politician in Israel would endanger our children for votes. We undertook this operation because we had no other choice, in order to protect our citizens, just as any other nation being attacked by missiles would have done.
You must remember that it was not Israel that initiated the timing of the present escalation. Hamas, continuously and ignoring repeated warnings, escalated the firing of missiles on Israel, allowed various organizations to shoot at Israel from the Gaza Strip, just like in the Wild West, and even carried out an attack against Israeli soldiers. In certain respects Hamas left the Israeli government no other choice but to act in order stop the firing against its citizens.
Another new aspect of the present campaign is Hamas’s ability to fire towards Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Did this surprise you?
We were not surprised by Hamas’s capabilities. The assessment was that this would be one of the organization’s responses. I am pleased that despite the huge effort they invested in that, and despite various false claims on their part – they did not succeed in harming Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem or causing damage. We have the best technology in the world and we are using it for our defensive needs. The “Iron Dome” system, which up to now has been able to intercept a significant number of missiles being fired by Hamas, offers a kind of “protective umbrella” for Israel’s citizens, Arabs and Jews alike. In Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, in Beersheva and Rahat.
How do you view Egypt’s role in the present crisis?
Egypt is a highly important country. The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is not only a strategic asset for both countries, it is also an important foundation for stability in the region. Recent events are a very good example of this – Egypt could be a factor that stabilizes the situation and finds solutions that save human lives and contribute to peace and calm. We welcome Egypt’s involvement in trying to bring an end to the current crisis. I think that Egypt also understands that aside from statements in support of Hamas, Egypt cannot allow the organization to drag it into instability in Sinai and the country.
At the present time there is, in fact, dialogue taking place between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Egypt and the USA. Do you see any possibility of direct contacts between the two sides? Is it perhaps time for Israel to begin seeing Hamas as a partner?
Regarding a ceasefire, Hamas must stop the firing immediately as a precondition for any ceasefire. It is important to understand – Israel’s firing on Hamas targets in Gaza is the effect, not the cause. We are firing at missile launchers, weapons cashes and so on because they are firing on citizens in Sderot, Beersheva and Tel-Aviv, not the other way around. It is important not to believe the Hamas propaganda, which is attempting to give the impression among residents in the region that Israel is the aggressor. We have no interest whatsoever in operating in Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza completely in 2005. If Hamas would stop the firing by their military wing, and would stop allowing other organizations to run rampant, they would see quiet on the part of Israel.
With regard to political negotiations – Hamas continues to call for Israel’s destruction and acts against it with violence. Therefore, Hamas cannot be seen as a partner. But you need to remember, and I remind the Israeli public of this as well, even in these trying and tense days: Not everyone on the Palestinian side is Hamas. There is another camp interested in dialogue with Israel, that doesn’t agree with the way Hamas is exploiting civilians as human shields for terrorist activity, that believes that we can live side by side in peace. We must talk with that side and find ways to reinforce them.
Do you have a message for the people living in Gaza?
My message is this – we do not wish you harm. Hamas and the terrorist organizations are the ones who are bringing disaster upon you and they are the ones dragging the sides into confrontation. For more than 12 years residents in the south, families and children, have been suffering from Hamas rockets. We are making every effort not to harm Palestinian civilians who are not connected with terrorist organizations despite the fact that the entire world already knows that Hamas hides behind civilians and conceals its weapons in homes and even in mosques. I hope that peace is achieved quickly, and I have not abandoned the hope that one day the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians will be different.