Hamas cannot possibly say that it is firing rockets at Israel because of the “occupation”, President Shimon Peres said on Sunday.
Peres made the remarks during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who arrived for a series of talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority because of the escalation in the south.
“The State of Israel has been left with no option other than to defend itself,” Peres told Fabius. “It cannot be argued that Gaza is occupied. Israel left Gaza willingly (during the disengagement in 2005 –ed.), yet they target our children as they are leaving for school. The question, therefore, is why are they firing? We must understand that we are talking of millions of innocent people in southern Israel who cannot close their eyes for fear of the rockets.”
Peres emphasized that Israel seeks peace and is not interested in war, but clarified, “Israel’s goal is to put an end to the firing on the south and to enable mothers a quiet, continuous night’s sleep that has not been possible for some time. Our goal is to return to a normal routine.”
Foreign Fabius thanked Peres and said, “I know the situation is difficult for the Israeli population, but there are fatalities in Gaza as well. I have come to Israel under the directive of President Hollande who has recognized that there is a state of emergency in the region.
“We must prevent war in the long run, and arrange a ceasefire as soon as possible in the short run,” he added. “France is a peace-seeking nation; we maintain relations with everyone and will do all in our power to assist in returning quiet to the region.”
Fabius later met with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Following the meeting, Lieberman said that Israel was prepared to discuss ideas to ensure the security of the region – but only after Hamas and other Gaza terror groups commit to a complete end of all rocket attacks on Israel, now and in the future. Until it is clear that the rocket threat against Israel has ended, there could be no discussion of a cease-fire or any other arrangement, he said.
“We appreciate the efforts of France to prevent residents of the region from falling victim to war and to help both sides reach a long-term arrangement that will include an end to the terror imposed on Israelis citizens,” Lieberman said.
However, he added, “neither Israel nor any other country can accept a situation where a million people are unable to live normal lives, not going to work or to school, having to manage their lives according to the alerts of incoming missiles.
“We appreciate all of the recommendations provided by our friends,” Lieberman added, “but the first condition must be an absolute end to the rocket attacks on Israel by Gaza Arab terrorists. As soon as the attacks end, we will be happy to discuss any plans."
While in Israel, Fabius also met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
On Sunday, a Hamas spokesman quoted on Channel 2 said that Israel has sent a representative to Cairo for mediated talks with Hamas regarding the possibility of a ceasefire but that these talks have failed.
Senior PLO official Nabil Shaath said on Sunday night that there is full coordination between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal regarding the negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza.
However, Shaath predicted that a ceasefire is unlikely in the near future because Gaza terror organizations are refusing to accept Israel’s conditions for a ceasefire.
Mashaal reportedly told Shaath that Israel is setting a condition that Hamas cannot accept, and that is that the terror group commit to stop firing rockets at Israel and refrain from attacking civilians.
At the same time, Shaath said, Hamas is conditioning the ceasefire on Israel completely removing the naval blockade on the region, avoiding military entry into Gaza and carrying out targeted killings of terrorists.