Israeli citizens in the southern part of Israel are under constant attack. The situation in the south is not part of an ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. For too long, the international community has taken the situation in the southern part of Israel as acceptable – and it is not.

Briefing by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the Foreign Diplomatic Corps in Israel
May 18, 2007

Opening statement (Open to the press)

Clearly, Israeli citizens in the southern part of Israel are under constant attack. During the last few days, more than 60 missiles have been fired in order to attack civilians, in order to attack children, in order to attack families. During the past few days, children cannot go to school, families have had to leave their homes. The situation is intolerable and unbearable.

The situation in the south is not part of an ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, since last year we are facing a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority, and the current situation is the result of an internal crisis in the Palestinian Authority between Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, and other factions in Palestinian society.

There is no reason to target Israel. The only reason is in order to negatively impact the situation, in order to bring Israel back to the Gaza Strip, in order to blame the common enemy of the Palestinian people – which is, unfortunately, Israel. But there is no reason for these attacks.

I would like to say that we also have some expectations from the international community. I know that all of you would like to see peace in the Middle East, and believe me, so do we. This is our goal. This is the reason why Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip. This is the reason why Israel dismantled settlements in the Gaza Strip. This is the reason why Israel removed its forces from the Gaza Strip. This is the reason why Israel kept the greenhouses in the Gaza Strip intact and delivered them to the Palestinians. This is the reason why Israel is making every effort to make the lives of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip easier.

But I would like you to understand that the way to stop it is not only by embracing the moderates; it is not only by demanding that Israel ease the lives of the Palestinians; it is not only about passages. Sometimes, there is the need to show determination, to put pressure on the extremists, to put pressure on these terrorists – in order that they and the Palestinian people will understand that this is something which is not tolerable. This is something that also affects their lives.

During the last few days, Israel has made some decisions and we are going to have another government meeting on Sunday. But I just want to say that I think that, for too long, the international community has taken the situation in the southern part of Israel as acceptable, as part of the routine in Israel – and it is not. Enough is enough.

During this briefing, you will hear more about the internal situation within the Palestinian Authority, and I will try and explain what the options are, so that you will also understand.

Of course, I would also like to take this opportunity to send our message of understanding and empathy to the people of Sderot. And I believe that I am not doing this only personally, but that you share with us the same feeling and understanding, and the need to help and understand their situation.