Sderot Mayor to Hamas: Let's Talk

Moyal says "I'm ready to talk to the devil," offers Hamas a ceasefire. Hamas in response: we will not talk to the thieves of Sderot.

Gil Ronen ,

Eli Moyal, the mayor of the shell-shocked Negev town of Sderot, said in a weekend interview that he is ready to talk to Hamas. The statement comes about a week after he demanded the assassination of the Hamas leadership and for Gaza villages to be razed.

In an interview for the British paper "The Guardian," Moyal said: "I would say to Hamas, let's have a ceasefire, let's stop the rockets for the next 10 years and we will see what happens."

He later clarified that he is not calling upon the Israeli government to talk with Hamas, but that he personally would be willing to talk to Hamas if it would help.

Moyal said he was approached by an Israeli intermediary to engage in talks with Hamas in Egypt but the meeting fell through because it was "complicated."  "I believe that if they call me again I will be ready to do it. I will do the best I can to have that meeting," he added.  "For me as a person the most important thing is life and I'm ready to do everything for that. I'm ready to talk to the devil."

Moral High Ground at Risk
Moyal said Israel was at risk of losing the moral high ground if political pressure for a massive military operation grows.
"Let's stop the rockets for the next 10 years and we will see what happens."

"Maybe one day in the future we will lose our patience and our values and invade," he said. "Imagine 20 kids [in Sderot] being killed in a kindergarten by a missile - then the Israel government would have to act and would lose its morality. If we don't talk we go deeper and deeper into war. If we don't talk we should fight."

He added that a major military escalation would be needed to stop the rockets and that it would come at the price of "innocent people being killed on both sides."

Hamas: No Way
Moyal's offer was quickly rejected by Hamas. A Hamas website carried the following response: "The Zionist colony of Sderot, which steals our occupied land in northern Gaza, will continue to be a legitimate target for the jihad warriors of the Al-Kassam Brigades, as are the other colonies and Zionist positions surrounding
"The Zionist colony of Sderot... will continue to be a legitimate target."
Gaza, as a part of the ongoing response of Al-Kassam to the continuing Zionist crimes, which take the form of massacres in Gaza and the West Bank."

Al-Kassam spokesman Abu Ubeideh added, "The dream of the thieves of Sderot to live in peace, security and stability is a dream that is far from realization, and it will not be attained as long as our countrymen are being killed and their houses are being bombed."

He added: "As long as the situation is as it is, we will react with a bombing for every bombing and the residents of the Zionist colonies have to pay a steep price."

Just two weeks ago, Moyal said that the idea of talking to Hamas was "an insult to my intelligence... How can you talk with someone who doesn't want to talk with you? ... If they want to stop shooting, let them stop!" 

Moyal: I Was Misunderstood
Eli Moyal said later Saturday that his statements to the Guardian had been misunderstood. He explained: "In the interview, I said that we must not talk to Hamas, and that the Israeli government must not talk to Hamas. Following my answer the reporter asked me what I was willing to do for the residents of Sderot in order to stop the current situation, and I answered her that as a citizen, in order to protect the lives of the citizens of Sderot, I am willing to go anywhere and talk to Hamas and the devil himself."

Former head of Shabak (General Security Service) Yaakov Perry also called for talks with Hamas Saturday. Speaking on Voice of Israel government radio, he said that Israel bore a responsibility to bring back the abducted and the MIAs, and the heavy price for that must be paid, even if the condition of the abducted soldiers is unclear. He called for quick action so that the mistakes made in the case of Ron Arad are not repeated.

Arad was an IAF Phantom jet navigator who was captured by a Shiite militia in 1986, after his plane crashed in Lebanon. His whereabouts are not known.